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

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

  • james addo
    james addo
    September 17 2015, 05:01PM

    Dear Madam/Sir,

    An open National Supply Competitive Act for the supply of your products to the Government of Ghana.Urgently furnish us in full details about the standard of your product.We will appreciate it more if you can give us with detail specification/price lists to avoid making a wrong choice of product.

    Terms of Payment: An upfront payment of 80% (T/T) will be made to your account for production, while 20% will be paid before shipment.

    Mr.james addo

  • Helen Feona
    Helen Feona
    September 23 2015, 11:54PM

    The advices are correct, at least I think so. Manufactured Systems for a product to produce, should be effective. Anyone who will follow the tips of manufacture & prototpe here by Tim Ferriss can create effective product & can stay on profitable business for long time.
    Thanks a lot, Mark Hayes to share these tips with us.These will be helpful for us.

  • james addo
    james addo
    October 21 2015, 11:04AM





    Awaiting your earliest replies.
    Yours Faithfully,

    Mr.james Addo

    Accredited Agent.
    104 Tudu park James Town,
    P.O BOX, 650 Accra Ghana.

  • james addo
    james addo
    November 23 2015, 03:13AM

    Attn: Sir/Madam,

    There is an ongoing Tender in Ghana ,Your products are needed on the contract supply basis in which various items are needed through Projects Procurement Division ECOWAS commission as the Buyer to promote and facilitate long time development projects within regional states 2015.

    We will like to know if your company can handle the supply of your company product on tender with the Projects Procurement Division Ecowas Commission for the contract supply. kindly present your company products details for submission.


    Companies must submit with their bid the latest specification and details/specification of the Equipments or Products they propose to furnish, upon condition that , if the bid is accepted, a contract will be entered into within 7 working days.

    The Ecowas Committee Projects Engineer or Technical team reserves the right to determine what equipments/Products will best suit the needs of the Ecowas Commission. The intent of these specification by the Bidders is to describe the minimum acceptable specification of the above name equipment or Products.
    Send Your DETAILS CATALOG Price List on FOB OR CIF with details specification of the products.

    Payment: If the Order is given to you, An upfront payment of 80% (T/T) will be made to your account, while 20% will be paid before shipment. This project is for companies who are very ready to bid for a Tender and has understanding the meaning of biding for a Tender supply.

    REGISTRATION:Note,If you are not a registered with the Ecowas you will need to do an official tender registration with the Projects Procurement Division Ecowas Commission (EC) This must be paid immediately for official tender documents Or during submission of your bidding documents before Award.

    I am a commission agent.
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    Ecowas Accredited
    AgentAccra -Ghana

  • Sherry
    December 08 2015, 09:20AM

    I need to know where I could get a toy made from a 3D printer mold manufactured with a run of one design 250-500 pieces at a time?

  • Plasticut Australia
    Plasticut Australia
    December 22 2015, 06:58AM

    Thank you Mark for this wonderful piece of information. Really liked your take on prototyping which is indeed helpful in many cases before building a product. Looking forward to more from you – plasticut.com.au

  • China injection molder
    China injection molder
    January 04 2016, 07:23AM

    We are originated from the trustworthy organization of Jiangsu Hengtai Electronics and Plastic Co. Ltd. We make the separate identification of the company. http://www.primtechnology.com

  • Jax
    January 13 2016, 11:19PM

    Is it best to file for a patent before having someone else make your prototype?

  • Suley Dolaev
    Suley Dolaev
    January 22 2016, 06:40PM

    Timothy Ferris gives the best advice.

  • Paul
    February 10 2016, 11:31AM

    I have a prov patent and a prototype. How do I find smaller manufacturers in the US? My product is an eyeglass accessory.


  • vincent.speckdesign
    April 07 2016, 05:16AM

    Recommend one professional prototype manufacturing in China,Jevny technology could offer 3D printing,cnc milling and vacuum casting with all kinds of surface finishing.

    Any Rfq,please send mail to daniel.lou@jevny.com.
    Daniel would reply you within 2 hours in normal thing.

  • Adam Toth
    Adam Toth
    May 12 2016, 10:10PM

    I always find it hard and things that im struggling with right now is where do i search for pieces for my product that i want to create? I need an electronic counter, a tiny usb motor, buttons, simple things like that, where do i search for that kind of stuff? I purchased a 3D printer, i have my prototype but now i want to wire it up.

  • Jason
    May 20 2016, 03:44PM

    Check out www.jcadusa.com. They specialize in exactly this!

  • Rahul chandak
    Rahul chandak
    June 15 2016, 03:43AM

    Good suggestion.
    i am also applied this strategy in bussness i am just develope aal new design in kids undergarments if any one intrested in this bussiness pls cal me.
    Thank you

  • Corey Lesage
    Corey Lesage
    June 21 2016, 11:35AM

    What will I need to present to a manufacturer in order to get quotes and logistics without compromising any intellectual property, and where or how do I get it?

  • Alasha Williams
    Alasha Williams
    July 30 2016, 06:24PM

    My idea is sooooooooooooooo simple and cost just pennies to manufacture. mmmm just dont know how to make it.

    guess I will keep googling.

  • Michael haas
    Michael haas
    August 29 2016, 03:05PM

    How do I get a fitness machine built for me? If I have the designs. (Without spending 10s of thousands of dollars).

  • Todd S
    Todd S
    September 06 2016, 09:22PM

    I have 2 patents for innovative tables, and the goal is to procure licensing deals for both designs since I have no capital to invest in inventory. While I have fantastic narrated 3D virtual renderings on video to present, most of the big trade shows will not sell a booth if there is no physical product to display. So I am looking for someone who can create product samples for each. I got one bid from a company and it was $40,000 for both. If anyone can recommend other prototype companies please let me know!

  • JMB
    October 25 2016, 01:41PM

    I have a provisional patent on a simple plastic hair accessory. Have a 3D prototype done, need to start manufacturing with a first run of 1,000 to test. Any recommendations for manufacturers here in the US? This is definitely a product that will sell itself once it is known….then will need China manufacturer for mass production. Any investors welcome to contact me. jmb1666@live.com

  • An Prototype
    An Prototype
    November 28 2016, 05:55AM

    Thank you for the concise points under the video. And all very good tips on manufacturing and prototyping your physical product. I leave here their…www.an-prototype.com

  • Christina Hunt
    Christina Hunt
    November 30 2016, 04:24AM

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  • Mr. Kelly Johnson
    Mr. Kelly Johnson
    December 21 2016, 02:22PM

    I am a US based (Minnesota) product developer/ sourcing agent. I generally help small companies in the US and Canada finalize their concept into prototype and then redesign for cost savings before finding one of the lowest cost suppliers in the world that still has good quality.
    Right now I have some free time. If you have a product you need help with, I might be able to help. Let me know if you are interested.

    Mr. Kelly
    info at partdistribution dot com

  • Braden Bills
    Braden Bills
    December 27 2016, 09:45AM

    I’ve always wondered what steps go into making a product. It makes sense that someone would want to have their prototypes made professionally! That way it would at least look appealing. http://www.hillsplastic.com.au/our-fabrication/

  • Christina Hunt
    Christina Hunt
    January 11 2017, 05:45AM

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  • Mr:williams addonii
    Mr:williams addonii
    January 26 2017, 06:03PM

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    Thank You.
    Mr:williams addonii
    Commission Agent
    Country: Ghana

  • Braden Bills
    Braden Bills
    February 17 2017, 10:08AM

    It’s interesting to know how they make prototypes. It makes sense that they would want to use the most advanced systems available! They would definitely make the most accurate prototypes. http://pcbprototyping.com/new-shop-2/

  • Christina Hunt
    Christina Hunt
    March 09 2017, 11:31PM

    I want to know that how to choose the best power supply for my ASR9100 certification.
    Quality circuit assembly

  • PradeepKumar
    March 21 2017, 07:32AM

    Nice information. How do I get a fitness machine built for me?

  • Dr. Greg Sullivan, Quality Assurance Manager
    Dr. Greg Sullivan, Quality Assurance Manager
    March 21 2017, 03:20PM

    Advanced Manufacturing Technology, Inc. is a mid-sized contract manufacturing company located in Lynchburg, VA that specializes in electronic circuit board assembly. We also contract “box-build” assemblies with major companies in the USA. Our services include “product realization” whereby people can come in the front door with a prototype in a cardboard box. We consider ourselves a “solutions company” and will help you via our design team to assess and develop the manufacturability of your idea. We have the capability to take your idea straight to the consumer! E-mail or visit us at https://www.advmanufacturing.com/

  • Martin O'Brien
    Martin O'Brien
    June 28 2017, 11:51PM

    U S Patent 9,113,758 B 1. In the process of getting a prototype manufactured of my toilet cleaning brush device, together with a designer toilet bowl brush holder. any advice on how i should go about selling or licensing it. Thanks

  • steven
    July 10 2017, 03:49AM

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    Mr john
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  • Keith Henderson
    Keith Henderson
    March 09 2018, 06:08PM

    I know taking production over seas can feel like insurmountable task, but we can help you through the process from design to delivery. Feel free to check out my wesbite www.factorydirectsourcing.com or contact me directly kthenderson1@outlook.com

  • Isabel
    April 05 2018, 10:00AM

    I’m glad I came across this! This is actually pretty perfect for me right now! The thing is, if I’m honest, I don’t actually really get/understand technology stuff, which probably isn’t great since I technically run a small factory as part of my business – but I’ve always been much more involved in the product side of things rather than the nitty gritty manufacturing side. My husband has always dealt with the electronics and the machinery, but he’s had less and less time to sort this side of things out as his other work has him rushed off his feet! That leaves me in charge! Hence why I’m sat here googling away about mechanisms and software and things like that! I really want to make sure I’m on top of this side of the business, and I know that the factory floor could use a bit of tlc if I’m honest. In fact , I know this is a long shot, but potentially someone here might be able to help me! Basically I want to look at changing around some things on the factory floor and getting some new machines etc etc – basic stuff really I guess. I was talking to one of my senior workers and he told me there’s a software available that helps to simulate and predict models, which is exactly what I need really considering my lack of expertise in the area (this is the link he sent me: https://www.lanner.com/en-gb/technology/witness-simulation-software.html). I mean it looks all pretty good to me but as I said I know very little about this type of thing so it would be great to get some second opinions from other people! I was just wondering really if anyone had heard of them or used them before? I’m very much at sea here so any opinions, reviews or recommendations would be much appreciated! Thank you everyone!

  • Alisa
    April 18 2018, 11:20PM

    Rapid protype is the right choice before mass production, if you need manufacture any prototype, contact me via my email: alisa@sprototype.com

  • martopearl
    May 15 2018, 03:02AM

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    June 10 2018, 06:56PM

    I am just getting started in the invention world. I worked with a mechanical engineer and we developed a design of a device for the disabled community [of which I am a member].
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    July 28 2018, 07:02AM

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  • Anas Alshanti
    Anas Alshanti
    August 16 2018, 07:14AM

    Nothing comes close to actually getting your hands dirty; You need to be passionate about the problem that your product solves. You need to create a prototype and get it out there for many people to see, and if they like it, then you might have a winning product.

    But there is a problem, a problem i experienced when I launched my crowdfunding campaign, the campaign failed, i couldn’t generate enough money to make my first production run. This is the case with so many crowdfunding campaigns; even if you had a prototype ready, you need enough people to believe in your product and buy it so that you have enough money to place your order with the manufacturer and fulfill your orders.

    My experience with crowdfunding and manufacturing motivated me to create Leather Goods Club, and most importantly I have developed Fundliy, a crowdfunding plugin for Shopify that focuses allows you to fund your production runs, every time!

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    Tarun Jangam
    August 24 2018, 05:55AM

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  • Alex
    September 19 2018, 03:18AM

    Hi ,
    I am looking for Bluetooth speaker prototype manufacturer ,, and also need technical support too ..
    I look for some one who create my idea into real prototype…
    if any so pls comment below
    Thank u

  • M. Marc DEBERT
    M. Marc DEBERT
    September 28 2018, 01:32PM

    Dear Sir/Madam,


    Our Business Company name is SOCIÉTÉ SAS ATTINDIS, one of the biggest distribution / retailer companies based in France. Operating in all kinds of products like home appliances, Industrial Equipment’s, Groceries, Furniture, Clothing, Building Equipment/ Materials e.t.c.

    We want to express our business interest in your company’s products, as we are working very hard to establish long term business relationship between manufactures and distributors in all kinds of products so that together we can provide our customers with the best products at the best prices.


    If interested, could you please send me more details about your products including catalogue/prices, specifications, possible options, availability at the earliest {in attached or mail} which would enable me to get a peak at your latest collection and to arrive at a decision on order volume.

    Would be in eager anticipation of a prompt response.

    Yours sincerely,
    For; Société SAS ATTINDIS

    M. Marc DEBERT (President/Sales Director)
    La Paix Faîte,
    62170 Attin, France.
    SIREN : 398 400 812
    TVA : FR70 398400812
    T. 00 33 9 70 73 48 56
    F. 00 33 9 70 73 48 56

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