Ramblin' Dan's Workshop

The Sanctum of Fine Art and Invention

MAKER - Why Not DIY?

mastheadI have been giving considerable thought about the folks who ask me about making things for them. They have lots of good ideas but no tools or skills to create the project they can imagine. That’s unfortunate. However, invention is far more than coming up with an idea. Prototype and start-up costs are a barrier. Today there are many bootstrap funding systems to help break that impediment for ideas with business potential.

The famous inventors like Edison, Tesla, Wozniak and Jobs took their initial inventions far from the idea and into actual construction. The tremendous initial development labor hours they burned were their own and I believe seldom recorded as an expense.

Once the design becomes a saleable product or a business, the accounting begins. A cash stream is created, so hiring engineers and craftspeople to do additional prototype construction and eventually mass production can begin. All costs have to be carefully considered including future development costs.

For me it is the same. It’s the passion of the creation and not the accounting of the time that dives me to ignore the clock. It is a hobby on the edge of a business and I don’t account for my time. It is my passion not my job.

If someone wants to hire me for my tools and skills to build their ideas, that is not the same. It is now a job. It needs to be handled like a business. It forces me to consider all those unrecorded hours of thought and experimentation, all the hours of learning, the trial and errors on how to actually build it. The need for special tooling and fixtures all have to be considered. What is missing is the creative design juices. It is a bit like asking and artistic painter to do a paint-by-number. HA!

Once Upon a Time

In one of my lives (about 5 years) I was a professional business consultant to HVAC contractors. I made the owners take a close look at their real costs, things they could control but lumped into “overhead” costs.  Every one of my 50 or so clients would say at some point, “If I considered all those items as real costs in my bidding, I would never win any bids.” But those real costs were the costs the owner gave me. He just never understood they could be controlled if realized.

The facts were he did win bids, but not making the profit margins he assumed. Financial records were kept for tax purposes and not for running the business. It's rare in small business to hire an accountant that is also a good business manager. The owner must have the right cost numbers to be able to manage  the business

So, I suppose I have trained myself to look at cost with a microscope on outside projects. That doesn’t work too well for a startup. Usually at some point, you just have to get started with a pile of money or time.

I have been told I am a bit harsh with newbies who ask for my help. Please understand, I do understand. I just get to the point about prototype work and the cost. Idea people have a desire to make things but not the means. They are creative and bright but usually ignorant about cost of development. They just need experience. Look up the meaning of ignorant if the word offends you. I defined the range, as these folks are usually far from being totally  ignorant. I admit that I too am ignorant in many areas, like brain surgery. Ha!

The solution is to study and practice what you want to know and become proficient. If you want to make things, then do-it-yourself (DIY).

MAKE it Happen

There is a great new service industry that has developed called Makers Groups. They are organizations that provide tools and workshop and training assistance for anyone who wants to make things. They hold conventions called a Maker Faire. Here is an example of a non-profit group in Madison, Wisconsin called Sector67. http://www.sector67.org/blog/ That is their logo in the picture. These kinds of groups are now scattered all over the country. Most of all, subscribe to MAKE e-magazine. http://makezine.com/

I am not officially endorsing the Sector67 example or MAKE e-magazine but they look great to me. If you don’t live near a city that has a group, then consider moving. I said consider. Ha! That sounds extreme, but it is your dream. Many folks relocate to learn or get what they want…

I am not going to do your homework here. Do some internet searches. Read the Make website. Check for a local Jr. College that may offer something along these lines. A hobby or a life changing career, put it into your own hands. Don’t deal with the high cost of outsourcing or hiring one-off and prototype workshops. With a workspace like Sector67, your imagination can become reality.

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