Most of us have had an idea for an invention at one point or another. Unfortunately, only a tiny percentage of would-be inventors will actually develop and launch their product commercially, not because it is too difficult or costs too much, but because they simply don’t know where to start.

Sometimes they’ll make the mistake of sharing their idea with an acquaintance before filing a patent, only to regrettably find that their invention was “stolen” later on. So how do you take action on your inventive ideas before someone else does? Try starting with this simple 3-step guide:

1. Have a prototype built

Until a prototype is built, your invention is just an idea that has nothing tangible backing it. With a working prototype you’ll be able to convince investors to help fund your efforts, while also having something to show in your pre-launch advertising campaigns. Depending on the types of materials you’ll be working with, you may need to contact a manufacturing or prototype production agency that specialises in this field. For example, if your design involves cutting steel or aluminium, you may need to utilise a 5 axis laser cutting service like GF Laser to have some of the components cut and fabricated.

2. Learn or outsource CAD and concept drawing

One huge hurdle aspiring inventors face is having to put their ideas into a visual concept in the form of a drawing or diagram. Not all inventors are skilled artists, so many times they start with a rough draft and then have a professional polish and improve upon it. However, if you want maximum control over your concepts, and you want to be certain that the idea doesn’t escape your hands prematurely, you’ll want to learn computer-aided design (CAD) skills or at least find someone trustworthy who can help you in this department.

3. Launch a crowdfunding campaign

Once you have some good concept artwork and a prototype to work with, it’s time to go into the funding phase. You could try approaching individual investors and take a more conventional route, or you could start a crowdfunding campaign on a site like Kickstarter or Indiegogo. You can use your prototype and other marketing materials to convince people to donate towards your fundraisers, and offer pre-order vouchers or other perks as incentives. The goal here is to raise enough money to start advertising and distributing your product.

Look for distribution channels and stay confident

Finally, once your idea has been transformed into a working, design-backed prototype and is adequately funded, it’s time to start networking with local stores, TV shopping outlets, online shops, and any other retailer or supplier you can arrange a distribution deal with. The more methods of distribution you have access to, the more units you’ll be able to sell within a set time period. In closing, know that becoming an inventor is not only possible, it’s actually a fairly easy thing to do once you have a great invention in your corner.