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how to create something: a manufactured product

This is branch from a list from @lovingkindnesscomedy .

I created my product: Laptop Lifts in 2008. I still sell it on Amazon and I learned a LOT about how the world works. I use overseas manufacturing, shipping, returns, how Amazon really works for sellers and so many other things. It has been very nice side income for almost no work after the first few years.


if you have an idea that just won't go away I recommend trying it but "don't quit your day job" as they say!

here are 10 suggestions for ways that you could do it yourself.

    1. Ask a lot of questions to manufacturing companies

    Be respectful of peoples time, but, if you were like me, you do not work in the manufacturing sector. There are so many nuances to the way that something can be created. They will also help you make decisions on materials and design.

    2. Have a retail price in mind and design for that knowing that your initial cost needs to be 20% of that

    For example, my product retails for $19.95 on Amazon. It is pretty pricey but it is what I needed to do. My cost is about four dollars I can sell it for less because I'm basically selling direct. With a $20 price point you don't have any money left over for advertising. 

    3. Shipping will cost almost as much as your product.

    You can think of ways to make your product light weight, and also think of ways to reduce shipping. For example, I was looking into packaging for my product. And there were a number of companies that would make the product and a number of companies that would make the packaging and a number of companies  to make the insert and they were all asking me to mail the product from one location to another to get the work done, This would have made my product need to cost $100 and nobody would have bought it.

    I was working through my manufacturer who is based in the United States, but his factory is in China and they were able to do the whole thing.

    On another note, this is why China has been beating the US for a long time in small run manufacturing. They are willing to do just about anything to help the customer. Their answer is always yes for me and I make purchases of only about 1000 units a year. They agreed to do all of the printing and packaging in their factory. I could not get that done in the US for any price.

    The companies based in the US that I was talking to 14 years ago wouldn't even consider doing business with me unless I could buy 100,000 units. Things have changed now with modern manufacturing technology, and also a more competitive atmosphere. 

    4. Advertising can be 50% of the retail cost of a product

    Getting the word out is very expensive, and advertising is very expensive. If you want to have any money to advertise online, I would recommend a product that would sell for around $50. I have found that with a $20 product that is really not terribly exciting and hard to write ads for I would very quickly spend more on ads that I was making from the product. 

    5. Amazon is the #1 marketplace for widgets by far

    I have been selling 99% of my units on Amazon. I had other arrangements, I even had it in a retail store at one time where there were some sales. Amazon will store, list and ship your product at a low cost: their costs for me, or about five dollars a unit. That includes everything including customer service!

    6. Keep the weight down

    My product weighs 3 ounces. Since it weighs less than 14 ounces, shipping in the US is cheaper. Also, as you find that 1000 things that weigh 3 ounces actually weigh hundreds of pounds you need to plan for your shipping and storage.

    7. Try to ignore advice from people that have not done what you are trying to do

    Lots of people mean well and will say things to you to make you feel good. Some more confrontational advice that I've heard is that if someone tells you have a great idea, ask them to take out their credit card and buy it from you on the spot. That's not my style, but the point is it is very difficult to get honest feedback.

    8. Try to self finance or do a kickstarter if possible

    Try not to borrow money or take a loan out on your house to do this. Kickstarter was not really on my radar when I started it that might've been a better choice. I was able to get the first one made for about $12,000 total investment. I could probably do it again for $6000 because I wasted a lot without knowing what I needed to do. 

    9. Work with someone that will do very low production runs

    I have done production runs as small as 800 units. Depending on the type of thing you want to build, there are many companies that will do on demand manufacturing. For each unit it is expensive, but you can skip the set up costs. This is more for products that can be made on a CNC machine or other types of all the manufacturing.

    10. Most products will make less than $50,000 and many more make zero

    Set your expectations accordingly. Shark Tank is fun to watch and there are quite a few unicorns on that show. However, if you research the deals that are made and you follow up afterwords a lot of the companies were not able to make it work for whatever reason. I have been making about 7k a year.

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