Tim Ferriss on Manufacturing and Prototyping a Product

Tim Ferriss on Manufacturing and Prototyping a Product
Tim Ferriss is no stranger to manufacturing and prototyping products. Before he started writing books, Ferriss built companies. One of his first ventures, BrainQUICKEN, took two weeks and $5,000 to launch. This sports nutrition ecommerce store quickly grew to $40,000 a month business.
We asked Ferriss for his best advice on how to prototype and manufacture a product. Here's what he had to say. 

Tips on Manufacturing a Product

1. Think Outside of Google

Google is great for finding manufacturers, but it shouldn't be your only source. Also check out trade magazines, and find trade shows that are dedicated to the industry you're getting into. At trade shows, you'll find all the reputable manufacturers and distributors under one roof. Also check out the well known Alibaba, and ThomasNet (Thomas' Register of Manufacturers).

2. Submit Lots of Proposals

Once you find a bunch of manufacturers, put out a proposal to all of them. Let them know you're contacting all the others. Now, chances are you don't be able to impress them with the amount of capital you have to invest in a first run, so it's important to tell them your marketing and business plan. Include how much volume you'll be capable to bring to the table if the first run is a success. Read The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing to help you with your pitch.

3. Hunt Down the Scams and Fraudsters

Do your due diligence. Take the manufacturers name and research their reputation. Try typing their name into google with "fraud" and "scam" after it to see if anything pops up. Do the same with the principals of the business. Find out who the lead executives are and search their names with "lawsuit" and "FTC" after their name.

4. Don't Judge a Book by the Cover

Manufacturer websites are notoriously poorly designed, but that doesn't necessarily reflect the quality of the company or the products. 

Tips on Prototyping a Product

1. Define What Type of Prototype you Need

It's vitally important to determine the objective of your prototype. 
  • Is it for you to assess the manufacturing?
  • Is it to sell perspective clients?
  • Is it to test or sell on Kickstarter?

2. Don't Spend Too Much Money

One of Tim's friends has made millions of dollars selling various licenses. He didn't spend tons of money to develop beautiful prototypes, in fact, most of them were made from paper and cardboard. 

3. Hire a Firm, Use 3D Printing

If you require a more professional or intricate prototype, find an industrial design firm in your city. They'll put something together and using a 3D printer will develop a prototype for you. Or - even use your own 3D Printer, like the MakerBot that's pictured above.

4. Manufacture in Small Batches

Only manufacture in small batches until you have proven you can fill the demand and acquire customers profitably. You don't want to end up with inventory you can't move. Also keep in mind that most people tweak their product and it's packaging along the way. It's important to be able to pivot and change without having to throw out a whole bunch of units. 


  • Dan
    December 28 2012, 05:37AM


  • Jayson
    January 03 2013, 02:35AM

    Great Tips

  • Giovanni Mattucci
    Giovanni Mattucci
    January 03 2013, 03:47PM

    Thank you for the concise points under the video! This post should be on the front page of Kickstarter.

  • Andrew E
    Andrew E
    February 16 2013, 03:23PM

    All very good tips on manufacturing and prototyping your physical product.
    I find these days, the step of 3D printing a prototype is almost a must – simply the best way to get your concept into your hands and test the fit, form, and appearance – even if it’s not totally full-functioning.
    Also, I think having a design on your side can always help. Yes it is expensive if they run through the entire process for you.
    But if you already have your concept scratched down on a napkin, then for them to convert to a 3D model for printing is not very expensive. It’s even cheaper if you can find an engineering/design student or virtual contractor (i.e. on Odesk). I’ve successfully worked with a number of contractors on there.

    I also agree with small-batch manufacturing to start – Instead of immediately spending thousands of dollars on plastic injection or die-cast molds in China, have a domestic manufacturer or machine shop make the first hundred units for you. You may not actually profit much at this time, buu you keep your upfront costs low and you build relationships for future prototyping and manufacturing. Plus it’s always nice to attempt to make domestic manufacture viable.

    -Andrew E, producracy.com

  • suhana
    April 09 2013, 07:36AM

    Today i came across this amazing new website named nupinch.com…i really think you guys should check it out..
    Link: http://bit.ly/XczfI3

  • Jamie Braddock
    Jamie Braddock
    May 31 2013, 06:20AM

    I am currently setting up a business and I found this article incredibly interesting and helpful.

    On another note, if anyone reading this article is interested in discussing my idea with me then please feel free to contact me at jambraddock@gmail.com. My business is now at the prototype/manufacturing stage and would appreciate any investment enquiries/advice!

  • Patricia Horn Dinkins
    Patricia Horn Dinkins
    November 21 2013, 11:44AM

    Thank you for the outline, I have been holding on to my ideas and have made small quantities to sell when I came up with the bright idea of possibly having my product manufactured. Your advice gives me more information that allows me to move forward. Thanks again

  • Mike s.
    Mike s.
    January 17 2014, 09:54AM

    Thank for the advice.. It’s very helpful and informative.

    I have applied for my International PCT and have been published… So I am ready to look into the prototype and manufacturing stage, also I am looking for investors and help with moving forward…
    If anyone is interested in discussing my idea and business with me please email me at mikesylo85@gmail.com and please put helpsylo in the subject.

    Thank for the info and the video and the advice and leads.

  • Bob Strong
    Bob Strong
    February 07 2014, 07:50PM

    I remember when I first started my business 30 years ago. Unfortunately, the company is not here today, but prototyping the product was one of the most difficult parts at the beginning. After the product was ready it was much easier to market and receive support. http://www.nwpaperbox.com/?page_id=703

  • Jackson Leavitt
    Jackson Leavitt
    April 11 2014, 06:26PM

    Whenever I thought of prototypes, I always imagined drawings of different products. I didn’t think that people tried to make them until the prototype was completely finished. Now that I think about it, it would make more sense to make different versions of the product until you found the one that works the best.

  • Carmen G
    Carmen G
    May 08 2014, 04:37PM

    I am reinventing a product, or rather, changing the use of a current product that is already well known in the sewing, fabrics, and arts and crafts industry. Would that product that is well known for its current use be a valid prototype for my own product? In other words, can I present the current product as it is today to manufacturers and just say that I’d like to recondition its current use to the one I have in mind? I don’t want to reinvent the wheel if it’s already half way there.

  • Lynwood sims
    Lynwood sims
    May 22 2014, 10:38AM

    Lot of sales coming in need to make the mobile wing flex ,com faster it’s a workout device using resistance tubing the best workout device on the planet , need a manufactory to help making it myself right now .

  • kelvin
    August 05 2014, 05:04PM

    I have a product in mind that I already have a image of, that everyone who has a home can benefit from having one or two of these. I am not one who have a lot of money but I have a great product that need to be on the market and I am sure it will make someone and myself very wealthy.

  • Kevin
    August 12 2014, 12:36AM

    I know about the difficulties in the relationship myself with Chinese suppliers. I am British myself, married with a Chinese girl here in Ningbo China. I’m part of an international trading company which helps people interested in this article in helping them find suppliers. I have made several connections with manufacturers, especially with stationery and cleaning products etc. If you are interested in importing such products from China, don’t hesitate to contact me kevin.w@hotmail.co.uk.

  • James
    August 19 2014, 10:48AM
    Good advice. I actually build and design prototypes for individuals as well as companies. I find most are looking for a finished product in the prototype stage. The prototype stage is import and you should not just pay big dollars to get a final product made without testing. It is best to start with a less expensive and flexible design. Because you WILL “tweek” your product as it develops into a final design for the consumer.


  • Nate G
    Nate G
    August 28 2014, 10:06AM

    I have an idea for a product that can be used globally and the market for it is vast - I’m talking instant millionaire !! I’m doing my research and the 2 main issues facing me are patents and prototyping. The product will sell itself. If anyone is intersted in learning more please contact me at happydadof2@yahoo.com be sure to mention your interest.

  • Ravji
    September 15 2014, 06:58AM

    Very nice tips. Thank you for sharing.
    Agile management could be used to exploit these finally.

  • Sura
    September 22 2014, 03:52PM

    If you have ideas – sura25@gmail.com
    For investment

  • Sura
    September 22 2014, 03:54PM

    Sorry …correct id to share your ideas is sura25m@gmail.com

  • Nudo
    September 26 2014, 08:27AM

    hi. there

    I wondering for to start my business i would like to venture in manufacturing channel plastic is one and more

    please be an assistant

    warm regards
    Nudo Ndou

  • Tim
    September 30 2014, 08:53AM

    Hey guys,

    Thought I might get help here. Could you please advise me on where can I find good quality engineering advice/consulting for my product ideas? I have zero experience in engineering, so it’s hard for me to check feasibility of my ideas.

    Should I get a freelancer or are there good companies from your experience who can help with that?

    Please email me if you have any thoughts on tbaghirli@gmail.com

    Thank you very much,

  • Mike Courtney
    Mike Courtney
    October 04 2014, 11:45AM

    If anybody is looking for the 3D printing and design aspect of their product, check us out at oatfoundry.com.

    Also feel free to email me mike@oatfoundry.com

  • Paola
    October 24 2014, 09:40PM

    Thank you for the great tips.
    I have one more question though… who do you suggest I contact if I have an idea that involves technology? the same industrial engineer? I have the idea but I don’t know if it is technologically possible.
    Thank you again!

  • sabrina williams
    sabrina williams
    October 31 2014, 02:38AM

    Hi, for the prototyping and short run stage I would definitely recommend Brecher Prototyping. I leave here their webiste www.brechermfg.com

  • sabrina williams
    sabrina williams
    October 31 2014, 02:39AM

    Hi, for the prototyping and short run stage I would definitely recommend Brecher Prototyping. I leave here their webiste www.brechermfg.com

  • sabrina williams
    sabrina williams
    October 31 2014, 02:39AM

    Hi, for the prototyping and short run stage I would definitely recommend Brecher Prototyping. I leave here their webiste www.brechermfg.com

  • sabrina williams
    sabrina williams
    October 31 2014, 02:40AM

    Hi, for the prototyping and short run stage I would definitely recommend Brecher Prototyping. I leave here their webiste www.brechermfg.com

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