Author Topic: Selling electronics as a non-professional?  (Read 844 times)

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MosFett

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Selling electronics as a non-professional?
« on: February 15, 2018, 01:31:14 am »
Greetings! I have a question about what is expected from those who produce professional electronics. Electronics and electronic components produced professionally seem to span a wide gamut of complexity, ranging from the humble stripboard to medical electronics and beyond, so naturally the expectations differ for each market.

Any hobbyist who wanted to produce and sell stripboard would seem to me to be qualified to do so because there ins’t much he/she needs to know. Send a fine design to a board house and you’ve got a professional level product ready to go.

At the other extreme, companies like Fluke or Boeing make products that undergo rigorous testing and certainly involve large design teams because the products are not only top of the line, but also relied on by businesses or governments, and oftentimes people’s lives are on the line!

Somewhere in between, you’ve got people like our benevolent overload, Dave, or Fran blanche who independently design and sell electronics (talking about you µCurrent and Frantone electronics products). Their products aren’t simple, but Dave and Fran also have lots of experience, meaning they are able to say with confidence that their products are up to the job.

Here’s my question: As an eventual professional in a related field (I’m a physics student who will probably walk the line between EE and physics throughout my career, doing things like experimental condensed matter physics work), what level of electronics background is appropriate before starting to think about selling electronics? I’d be interested in starting a super small business eventually, not to make money, but just because I think it would teach me a lot and would be an interesting endeavor (definitely a much smaller operation than what Dave is running with the µCurrent). I’ve read the Art of Electronics with great devotion, but don’t have a formal EE background. Without getting a degree in EE, but having a background in electronics nonetheless, would it seem appropriate for a person in my position to sell simple electronics (I’m not talking strip board here, but maybe something like audio equalizers) eventually? What kind of design review process or other quality assurance measures could a committed hobbyist take?

Ps. I’d also be curious if any of you guys have started operations such as this or know of people who have, just for curiosity’s sake.

Woof, that was long. Thanks for reading!
 

Offline bitseeker

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Re: Selling electronics as a non-professional?
« Reply #1 on: February 15, 2018, 01:49:37 am »
As you said, the possibilities are all over the map. A few things to consider:

- Get the basics of operating a business under your belt, even if you don't plan on going pro with it. It'll serve you well.
- Check out Dave's video on selling hardware.
- Start with a project that interests you and potentially fills a need. You can bounce ideas off folks in the projects forum and gather constructive feedback. I've seen various such beginnings find interested buyers and either get sold directly to forum members or go for crowd funding.

Although planning is a good thing, getting started without being trapped by analysis paralysis is also a major factor in going beyond the theoretical.

Of course, enjoy the experience, too. ;)
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Offline cdev

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Re: Selling electronics as a non-professional?
« Reply #2 on: February 15, 2018, 04:00:40 am »
If its something you can buy cheap on the net, its likely people will, instead of buying them from you.

Only do it if you have a niche and know its a unique one.
"What the large print giveth, the small print taketh away."
 

Offline EEVblog

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Re: Selling electronics as a non-professional?
« Reply #3 on: February 15, 2018, 04:06:25 am »
Without getting a degree in EE, but having a background in electronics nonetheless, would it seem appropriate for a person in my position to sell simple electronics (I’m not talking strip board here, but maybe something like audio equalizers) eventually?

Yes, and countless people do it every day.
Having an EE degree in itself does not mean you are up to the task of testing a product for engineering completeness in specs and performance and production variance, and insert whatever else here.

Quote
What kind of design review process or other quality assurance measures could a committed hobbyist take?

Just make your product and start selling it to a small group, people will quickly tell if what's wrong.
 

Offline CatalinaWOW

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Re: Selling electronics as a non-professional?
« Reply #4 on: February 15, 2018, 05:11:53 am »
Electronics is like any other business.  Perceived value has to be greater than your costs, including any value you place on your time. 

The last is one that you need to think through for yourself.  Some will swear that you must value your time at professional rates.  Only true if you are forgoing pay at professional rates to do this product.  On the other extreme, some will value their time at zero.  May be valid if you are enjoying the work you put into the product more than sitting on the couch watching television or whatever other alternatives you might have.  But that enjoyment has to apply to all aspects of the selling.  Marketing.  Bookkeeping.  Manufacturing.  Compliance.  Order Fulfillment.  Product documentation.  Product Support.  And all the other pieces. 

Be wary of turning an enjoyable hobby into a burdensome business.  This happens all the time, and it leads to a marginal business and can poison the enjoyment of a hobby.

The expertise required to sell a product is variable.  If you can answer any questions that a customer will ask about your product you have enough.  For a strip board it is easy.  For life support equipment it is nearly impossible.


 


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