It can be hard to know if an idea is good enough to invest in. There are many steps along the way from a Eureka! moment to a product on the shelves or a service ready for hire. You may not know if you should even pursue the idea, let alone start spending time and money on it. There are some things you can do up front to learn. These steps can be done with little to no money. They will take time, but what you learn by taking them will help you learn about the value of your ideas.
Do an internet search for similar ideas. Find out if your idea is already out there. See if other people or companies are already offering something similar.
Quantify with numbers what makes your idea better than any competition. Qualify with words what features of your idea make it better.
Talk to friends, coworkers, and family. See if they have a need for your idea. Find out how much they would be willing to pay for it as a product or service.
Ask about it on an internet forum. People on the internet can be brutally honest. That honesty can help you improve your idea as long as you don’t take it personally.
Hit the streets. Go to places you imagine your idea would be sold. See what’s on the shelves around it. Take a chance and ask a stranger if they would buy your idea over other products.
Build a Business Plan around your idea. There are many free business plan templates on the internet such as this one from the Small Business Administarion: http://www.sba.gov/business-plan/1. Use these to evaluate the finances of your idea; both the up front investment and potential short and long term paybacks.
Write down your ideas, define them. Give them life on paper. You may find that as you write about them you learn things about them. As you write about them they will change. Your perspective on them may change. Things to write about are:
The things you write become the first real incarnation of your idea, a prototype if you will. In this state you have nothing invested and you’ll learn a lot about both the things you didn’t know and the things you thought you knew.
Sometimes we learn an idea is simply near and dear to our hearts, and maybe we are the only ones who see value in it. That’s OK! Because ideas are free. If you’re passionate about them then keep thinking. Keep learning. Write down more ideas. The more ideas you write down, define and refine the more likely you are to succeed. Don’t be discouraged if you have 100 ideas that don’t work on paper. Save them for a rainy day when something may have changed in your assumptions: a new technology, a new customer, a new method. With ideas More is More.
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