It’s happened to many of us: a brilliant idea pops into our head and we think we’ve hit a moment of genius.  Unfortunately, for most people, that’s where it ends. They don’t act on their ideas because they don’t have time or a clue about how to bring it to life.   Here are a few tips on how to do just that:

Research. 
If the product exists, you can find something about it via Google. Search a variety of keywords that relate to your idea. Poke around uspto.gov. Peruse the shelves of the stores that are most likely to carry a comparable product. Get a feel for similar or even identical products to educate yourself about the marketplace.  Even if the idea exists, it doesn’t mean you may not have a unique twist on it.

Document.  Put your ideas on paper. Don’t leave anything to memory.  If you come up with a name, jot that down, too.  Think about the colors, shape, features, packaging and more. This exercise will help you begin to develop the initial thought.

Create.  
Depending on the product, draw sketches to the best of your ability. Make a prototype that closely resembles what you envision.  If the ideal materials aren’t available, use similar materials to capture the look and feel.  You may want the product to be created from molded plastic, but for the purposes of a prototype, you use modeling clay to form the desired shape.

Share.  Most people believe they can’t tell a soul about the idea out of fear that someone will steal it. Usually you should be more concerned about getting people to care than worrying about them ripping you off. You also have to be prepared for critical feedback. Use that as an exercise to force you to defend the idea as opposed to caving.  Ask for truly candid feedback since a bunch of empty compliments do you no good. Depending on the nature of the idea, you may want to require certain people to sign non-disclosure agreements before you reveal specifics.

Pitch. Create a one sheet that’s designed for various audiences.  It may be lawyers, investors, retailers and consumers.  Focus on outlining the ideal target market, explain the product benefits, reveal the key selling points, address any problem it solves and so on.  While this document is no longer than a page, you must also be able to describe the product and its key use or benefit in just a sentence. If you can’t succinctly say it, you’ll never be able to sell it.

Solicit.  When you’ve done all you can on your own to perfect the idea, and you’re still hot on the trail, it’s probably time for professional advice. This may include patenting, manufacturing, distribution and more.  If you know anyone who’s dabbled in product development, ask for references.

Resources.  There are lots of reputable resources available to help you navigate the process—some like Mom Invented <http://www.mominvented.com> and Edison Nation <http://www.edisonnation.com> —that will do it all for you if they believe in the idea, and others like Jim DeBetta <http://www.jimdebetta.com>  will advise you each step of the way.  Fees and/or compensation models vary greatly, so research your options before settling on any one.