I have tried inventing almost full-time an idea of mine about a mechanical machine that when attached to other machines doubles the force they can apply. I searched online if similar ideas/inventions already exists especially the database of patented inventions to know if my idea is unique and who are my potential competitors. I also researched to know if my idea is worth anything financially.
These are the first things you should do even before trying to transform your idea to a prototype. Too many inventors get so caught up with the idea of their upcoming fame and fortune once they created their idea to a working invention that they forget that inventing is a business with many other areas of concern not just the creation of the invention.
If you found out your product is unique you should determine if you can defend it from copycats based on your existing legal and financial resources. There is nothing more frustrating than devoting a large part of your time and money in inventing something only to find out that you are unable to defend from copycats who would surely copy your invention if it is profitable to them.
You should also determine who your competitors are. Your invention may be new and superior to the other products in the market but your competitors could be so established that they can market and sell their inferior products better. Your invention may be too new and innovative that potential customers may be intimidated by it. There are many customers who prefer what is standard already and may resist change.
Be aware that the price of a product is one of the main considerations of a buyer when purchasing it. After inventing, manufacturing and selling your product is your price right enough that customers will want to buy your product while still giving you a decent profit? If you cannot scale your invention to reach a profitable price then you could even lose money instead of earning money from your invention.
Of course you have to transform your idea into a prototype either physically or even in paper to see if your idea is really valid. You should however have the previously mentioned concerns in your mind as you transform your idea into a prototype to make your prototype adaptable to real world conditions. If your idea/invention cannot adapted to real world conditions it may work but it will be a failure as it would not be adapted by society.
Transforming an idea to an actual tangible product can also be very difficult, expensive and time consuming. Since your idea is new there would be limited study related to the matter. Even with the entire data of the internet at your disposal you might find background information about your idea very scarce especially if it a breakthrough idea.
I found this out the hard way when researching the mathematical mechanical formulas and computations I needed to create my physical mechanical prototype. Since the computations do not exist previously on record I have to create them from scratch. If you get into this stage then you will find out that online resources for mathematical formulas and computations are so basic.
Most online mathematical resources are aimed at people still studying so they mostly stick with the basic concepts. To be able to proceed with my calculations I have to self-study again what I previously learned a long time ago in school. This can be an arduous and frustrating activity for people who do not invent things professionally for a living. Consider this when embarking on an invention journey that requires a lot of technical knowledge to create.
Creating prototypes can become very expensive especially if you have to redo them over and over again as you master the physical design of your idea. This is especially so with ideas with physical forms. You can try creating your initial prototypes using computer aided design softwares but sooner or later you would have to build your physical prototypes for actual testing in the real world.
This can become very expensive if you would have to need custom or rare parts and services to turn your idea into a prototype. Rare and customs parts and services can be expensive to buy due to their rarity especially if there are a few suppliers. Consider this as you plan the mass manufacturing phase of your invention. If you do not make your own parts then your cost could become impractically big.
There are people who now use 3D printing machines to create their new custom parts but if your invention for example needs the properties of steel then it would not do. There are people who have complete workshops complete with lathe machines to create their own parts but unless you have financial resources for a quality 3D printing machine and/or a complete workshop then the chances that you can produce a real world prototype is slim.
Do not despair however that you lack the resources for a laboratory or a complete invention workshop. You can hire the services of 3D printing shops and prototype workshop companies that especially cater to people who want to create prototypes. If you are scared that your invention would become public from using these companies you can breakup your invention until it becomes incoherent to them.
You could divide the creation of the different parts of your prototype among many of these service companies and if you can have them sign a non-disclosure agreement regarding the parts they created from you.
When my idea for an invention came to my mind it took me several months to consider of even giving it serious thought. It took me several months more of research to become knowledgeable about the invention process and even several more months researching about articles related to the idea I plan of becoming an invention.
It took me several months of actually creating a working prototype for my invention. It can take days or even weeks just creating a certain part for my prototype. It can take weeks for the parts I bought to be delivered. Then there is the matter of having to redo a part again when you found out that your design does not work in the real world.
I finally completed a working prototype for my invention after more than a year from idea to actual physical form. The expenses cost me a fair bit of money. Give my prototyping experience a thought when you are about to embark on the same journey and give it a serious thought because this is just the tip of the iceberg in the invention business.