You can read the entire blog post here.

What is a product specification and why do you need one?

A product specification is a full description of your product, what it is, what it consists of, what it does, etc. 

This would give a potential supplier all the information they need to confirm whether they can meet your brief and what it’ll cost.  

What do to first

If you’re thinking about writing your product specification then I hope you’ve already carried out some customer and market research. 

If not, try some of the blog posts and previous episodes linked below.

Why do I suggest you do all of this pre-work before writing your product specification?

  1. You’ve hopefully used what you’ve learnt from your customers, the market and your competitors to really refine your product, down to the smallest details.  It’s important to figure out what makes your product unique from other, similar products already on the market.
  2. Doing this work in advance means you have a really clear idea of what you’re looking for and a really tight brief.  This makes the sourcing process a lot simpler, as it’s much easier to start ruling out anyone who can’t meet your specification.
  3. If you’ve done the work and are still here, it means you’ve had some validation that there’s a need for your product and that the costs stack up and it can be profitable. I always think it’s good to have that!

What kind of things should my product specification include?

Your specification needs to include everything someone would need to confirm that they can meet your brief (or not) and give an accurate quote for your product.

Here are some of the things you might include in your production specification:

  • A brief description of what your product is
  • The sizes and / or dimensions 
  • The weight
  • Material(s) to be used
  • Any specific notes on quality and finish
  • Colour(s) / patterns
  • Designs 
  • Will the product have variant?  If so, how many and what will these be
  • How you want your product packaged
  • Ingredients or components to be used or omitted 
  • The number of items in total – i.e is your product a pack containing more than one product
  • Any branding requirements – i.e. do you want a sticker on a box, or custom-made packaging
  • Any labelling requirements – i.e. do you require a washing label, or a swing tag applied

This isn’t a definitive list, as the requirements vary so much between different products and product types.  It’s just a starting point.

How do you write a product specification?

I suggest using the list above as a starting point and listing out all the details you have.

This will then form the basis of any communication you’ll send to potential suppliers and manufacturers.

I also suggest pulling together sketches, photos, etc, to help explain what you’re looking for.

USEFUL RESOURCES

Episode 5 – Want to create a product? 4 things to do first

Episode 6 – How and why to validate your product ideas

Episode 9 – How to carry out your own customer and market research

Product validation mini-course

LET’S CONNECT

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Transcript
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Welcome to the Bring Your Product Ideas to Life podcast,

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practical advice and inspiration to help you create and sell

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your own physical products. He is your host Vicki Weinberg

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Hi so wherever, and whenever you're listening to this podcast

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episode, I just want to say it. I hope you

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are having an amazing day today. We're going to talk

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about how to write a product specification for a physical

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product. But what I want to start talking about is,

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is about explaining what a product specifications actually is and

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why you need one. So Product specification is a full

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description of your product. So it's a really detailed description

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of what your product is, what it does and what

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it's composed, or, you know, as to how it's made.

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And I'm a bit later on in the episode, I

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will talk a bit more about kind of things that

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might be included in that, but it ensures it's a

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really detailed description of your Product.

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Now, in terms of why you need a product specification,

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there are actually two reasons. So the first reason is

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I am assuming that when you came up with the

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idea for your product, you have, you definitely have some

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kind of Ideas wherever you had. Just a vague idea.

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If this is the kind of products I won, or

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maybe you have a much bigger idea, you know, lots

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more of it. There's lots more detail. So you started

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somewhere and then hopefully you got some input from your

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ideal customers and you did a bit of research and

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that kind of helps you to shape what your product

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look now, it looks like, and I just want to

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stay at this point, if you haven't done that. And

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if you haven't done any customer and market research, then

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I really suggest you get going and doing that at

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first, before you think about writing your product specification reason,

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I say this, well, the three reasons I say this,

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the first is that what you've learnt from your customers,

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what you learned from your market research, what you've learnt

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from your competitors and what they're doing, and what people

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are saying about their products can really help you refine

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your product down to the smallest details.

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The second thing is that if you do this work

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in advance, you have a really clear idea of what

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you're looking for in a really tight brief. And this

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makes the sourcing process. When you actually start looking for

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someone to manufacture your price, your products, a lot simpler

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as it is much easier to start ruling out people

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who can't meet your spec, if you know what your

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spec is. So for example, if you know that, you

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know, what, if you created a product and lets say

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it's a textile product's and you want it to be

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organic cotton for example. So you have done some research

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and you've decided, okay, the best possible material for this

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product will be organic cotton. And that means that when

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you go out and looking for suppliers, if they say,

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well, actually, why can't, you know, I can't do this,

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that I can only produce a regular costs and you

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can pull those people out straightaway.

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If you haven't got a really clear idea of in

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your minds, based on, you know, the research you've done

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that, what your product is. It, it becomes a lot

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harder because Actually, that means you can start getting swayed

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because you might find someone says, Oh, I can't do

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organic cotton, but I can do the bamboo or we

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can do this other kind of fabric. And you will

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find, you may find yourself getting taken away from Your,

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you know, the original vision for your product's because you

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didn't have it sort of clear in your head and

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unwritten down. And I, by the way, I definitely suggest

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writing of what access to education now. And the reason

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I suggest that you do all of this pre-work before

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you sit down to write your specifications is that if

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you have done the work and you are still here,

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it means that you've had some validation that this need

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for your product, that the cost of that cup, and

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it can be profitable.

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And I think it's always really good and important to

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have that policy is if you just got a bit

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of a blast of music there, I think my husband's,

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I don't know how to the radio on to high

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or something. So hopefully that it didn't take a stab

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at too much. So if you haven't yet done any

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customer market research as a couple of podcast episodes, and

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when you just go back, listen to him. The first

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is episode five, which has wanted to create a product

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for things to do. First. The second is episode six

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How and why to validate your product ideas. And the

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first one is How to carry out your own customer

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and market research with Abbey Tuenis and that's episode nine

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M if you only listened to one of these, if

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you know, you have any got time for one and

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go and listen to episode nine, Abbey is a customer

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and market research experts.

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She knows all about this subject and she provided lots

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of great in depth information about how the caveat research

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yourself. So that's definitely the one I would go for.

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So let's assume you've done a lot of this. Y

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you know, this is my second reason for, for having

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a detailed product specification is that if you have a

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really detailed spec, if a supplier can now use this

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or to tell you a weather, they can meet the

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brief that you've got. And as I said before, you're

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going to waste a lot of time. If you don't

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know exactly what you're looking for, because then it's very

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hard for anyone to tell you whether they can make

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your product or not. And also you can get an

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accurate price. The Vega, your product specifications is the more

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Luce the price is going to be, because it's very

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hard for anyone to give you a quote if they

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don't have those finer details.

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So the more detailed specification you can give, you should

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be able to get back a really accurate quote. And

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that's why I think it's really worth doing this work.

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Okay. So coming on to you, you know, what kind

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of things for yours should your product specification includes? It

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really needs to include everything that someone would need to

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confirm that they can meet your brief and to give

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you an accurate quote. So that basically means as much

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detail as possible. It doesn't mean you need to share,

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but at this point, everything, they need to make it.

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So, for example, I don't suggest sharing designs, patterns, recipes,

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blueprints, prototypes, any of that stuff of anyone else at

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this stage, unless, you know, for some reason you feel

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comfortable too, but let's just assume you're going to be

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going out and looking for suppliers.

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And, you know, you don't have any contacts. So you

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don't know these people, you don't need to get all

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the information. So for example, rather than sharing designs, let's

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say you're all looking for a textile product again. And

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rather than sharing your design, do, you could actually say,

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I want my designs to be printed. And they each

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contain three carloads. I've got four designs at each of

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free colors. That's enough information for somebody to give you

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an accurate quote. You might find when you start speaking

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to suppliers, a, you know, they'd push you to, to

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get a little bit more, but they don't actually need

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that at this stage just by having a really detailed

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specification, possibly some pictures and diagrams and things like that.

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They will be able to at least confirm whether they

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can meet your brief and what it will cost. So

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please don't, you know, don't worry about giving too much

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away. Although I will say, of course, you will need

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to have this for your self. And while I don't

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suggest sharing it with anyone until you've chosen the supplier

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you'll be working with, you know, you do need to

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have all of these things ready, or perhaps not at

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the point where you are going out to start sourcing.

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But you know, as soon after, because once you find

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a supplier that you want to work with, of course,

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they're going to need all of these details that actually

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manufacture your product, even then, depending on your product details

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and what exactly it is you'll be sharing, or you

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might want some kind of formal agreement drawn up with

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them before you started sharing designs or prototypes, all of

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this kind of thing.

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'cause you obviously want to protect your product. Is there

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something to keep in mind? All right. So let's talk

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about some of the things you might include in a

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Product specification. And I just wanna say here that this

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is not a definitive list because the requirements vary so

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much between different products and different product types. So say

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for example, a specification for a food based product, or,

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you know, some kind of a beauty item will be

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really different to a textile product, for example, or electrical

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product. So these are just some of the things that

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might, you know, you might include it. And hopefully it's

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just enough to give you an idea of the kinds

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of things that you need to be thinking about.

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So you'd want to include a brief description of what

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your product is. So for example, my product's, you know,

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I will say Muslin bamboo muslin, swaddle blanket is one

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example you'd want to be thinking about the size is

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and all the dimensions of the product he might want

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to be thinking about the weight of the product, if

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that's something that is, so that, that applies for you,

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you might want to think about the materials to be

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used. And wherever that, when I say materials, whether that

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is fabric or whether that's metal, metals, plastics, you know,

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what were your product to be constructed of? Say, you

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might want to specify it. If you have any specific

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notes on the quality and the finish of your products.

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I mean, of course you're gonna want products to a

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high quality, but that I always say that is something

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that I actually do include in my specification.

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So when I was sourcing for my towel, I did

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actually say that I needed it finished a really high

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quality. I didn't want to see any loose threads and

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things like that. And I'm like, well, you know, you'd

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think that would be a given for me because quality

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is very important. That is something I wanted to include

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in my specification. Not that you have to be okay.

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So you might also want to talk about, you know,

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the color's or the pattern's you used on your product's.

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You might want to talk about the design's. You might

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want to talk about whether the product has any variance

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and, you know, so, and if so, how many variants

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and what would these be? So if, for example, do

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you have a product that comes in different sizes or

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different colors or different patterns, or do you have a,

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a simple product and then sort of a, a more

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complex version of the same thing?

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So this is all things you need to be included.

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So you might want to think about ingredients or complainants

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to be used or emitted. So let's say you're making

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abusive products and there might be certain ingredients that you

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don't want included at the same as if you're making

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food or drink. That might be certain ingredients. You say,

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actually, I don't want it. Or maybe you do want,

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maybe Your, you know, maybe your looking for shampoo when

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you really want avocado when it, or organoid or something.

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So these kinds of things that need to be included

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in your specification, you also need to think about the

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number of items in total. So if your product is

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a pack containing more than one, Product say, for example,

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I saw a pack of four muslin swaddle blankets. So

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that was something that was included in my specification.

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Another products I sell is a bamboo bowl, or that

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comes with a spoon. And that was something that was

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included in the specification because when I was getting quotes,

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I didn't want, someone's quite new for the bowl alone.

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And I wanted to make sure that the quote, it

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also, you know, also included the spoon two. So it's

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really important to be clear about exactly what is actually

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what the finished product looks like. Well, this compromised off,

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you might also want to grow your dad's do, you

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will want to talk about how you want your products

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packaged, because that was obviously a key part of the

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product overall. And then we'll talk about packaging or more

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in future episodes, but whenever you want your product, do

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you know if she wants it, package it in a

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box or a bag or whatever you have your own

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designs for that, or you want something quite plain.

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It's just, this is the kind of information that someone

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wanted me to know. And as I said before, they

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won't necessarily need all of the detail. So let's say

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that you want a bespoke box made now This, you

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don't need to provide that to the supplier now. So

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it gets a quote, but it will be helpful if

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you can say, I want to be, I want to

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be fake box made these or the dimensions. It's got

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to be printed and there going to be this number

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of colors, and I'm going to need a barcode on

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there. Just that level of detail is enough. And those

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all things you need to think through, you will also

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want to include any branding requirements. So for example, is

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your product one that needs a bit of customization.

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An example here is in the up, when I spoke

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about my bamboo bowl and spoon, I have my label,

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I have my logo on the base of the Bowl

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and I also have it engraved or say it engraved

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it. I'm not sure how w how you actually describe

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it, but basically sort of coughed into the woods on

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the spoon and the bottom of the bowl. And so

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that was a real quiet, and then I need to

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make sure it was included on a specification, you know,

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and this includes things like, you know, do you want

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a special sticker put on your product boxes? Do you

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need custom made packaging? And that you also want to

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include, you need any labeling requirements. So for example, do

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you require a washing label on your products? Do you

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require a swing tag applied?

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Do you need barcodes pitting on your boxes? Will they

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be printed, or will they be stickers that you will

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provide at a later date to be, to be stuck

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on? And I know it seems like I'm going into

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a lot of detail here, but this, honestly, it is

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the kind of detail that you need to be getting

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into when you're, when you're thinking about your products and

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hoping that by now you've got really clear idea of

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your products, and you can just go through that list

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that I've outlined there. And for all the ones that

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were relevant, you'd be able to just, you know, fill

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in the blanks as it were. And that would give

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you your product specifications. So in terms of how to

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write a product specification, I suggest using the lists, I've

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just given as the starting point and listing out all

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of the details that are relevant for your product.

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So just going through the list and going, okay, so

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here's a picture of my product. I'm going to put

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it in the, as I mentioned. So I'm going to

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talk about the materials. I'm going to talk about the

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colors, or actually I don't have any design. So I'll

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skip that one. And then just add in the things

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that make sense for your products. So I also created

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this podcast episode as a blog post. If you go

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to blog.tinychipmunk.com, you'll be able to access the post there.

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And I'll also link from it for the show notes

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from this episode. And I would say, just take this

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list, posts, paste it into word documents. It starts to

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fill in the blanks and then adding the other things

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that are relevant for your products. So this will then

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form the basis of any communication you will send to

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potential suppliers and manufacturers.

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And again, we'll talk about this and I have a

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Episode because this is what you'll be giving them, but

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obviously there's gonna be things you were going to be

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wanting backs. I know that you're going to have questions

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for any supplier that you contact. Of course, there's obvious

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ones. Can you produce my product and how much will

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it cost, but there are other things you need to

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be asking. And we promise we will talk about this

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in a future episode, but for now, I just want

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to focus on you, get in the details of your

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product's, you know, how to sort of get the details

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of your products onto paper, so you can start to

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share it. And I also suggest if you want to

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say, this is something that certainly works for me, it

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may work for you is pulling together sketches, photos, or

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anything else that you have to help explain what you

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are looking for.

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So this is something that I tend to do when

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I'm contacting someone for the first time, and to make

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sure that they've really clear on what I'm looking for.

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I like, look, I might look on the internet or

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on Amazon for images of products, similar to the one

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I'm looking at. And of course I would take out

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any details that identifies the, you know, the brand for

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that product. But just to say, okay, I'm looking for

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product that does this. And here's a picture of a

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similar one just to make it really clear what you're

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looking for. And as I say, you can include sketches.

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So when I was a sourcing, my towels, I have

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a bit of a unique embroidery on the hood. They

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have like a little chipmunk face and I actually designed

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it myself or on a piece of paper.

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And I included a picture of that just so they

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can kind of see, because when I be saying, I

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want a chipmunk face, and boy did, I wasn't quite

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sure that that was going to be perhaps translate necessarily.

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I thought, okay, he's sending a picture of, it was

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quite a good idea. So I suggest sharing any information

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that you feel would be useful and relevant and help

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someone really get what your product is about, perhaps what

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you are about as well. I mean, if you have

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a website or anything that explains a bit about you

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and your brand's, then by all means share that as

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well, because it just helps. And the potential supplier get

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a really good idea about you, your products and what

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it is you're looking for. So I really hope you

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found this episode. Helpful. If you have any questions about

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any of this, please don't hesitate.

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Get in touch. You can email me at Vicki@tinychipmunk.com. Love

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to hear from you. And yeah, please do. Let me

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know if you found this episode helpful. If you did,

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please review it, please rate, please share it with your

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friends. Really appreciate it. If you haven't subscribed the podcast

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already, please do. And then you won't miss any future

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episodes. We've got some brilliant one's coming up that I

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certainly wouldn't want you to miss. And then I guess

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the last thing I'd say is that hopefully I have

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made the sound quite simple because I, I promise it,

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it, it's quite simple. You have all of this information

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that I'm setting. You have all of this information in

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your head now, and it's just a case of getting

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it on paper, if you haven't already.

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So this is definitely something you can do. And it's

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something that, you know, needs to be done before. You

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can even think about going out and looking for someone

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to make your product for you. Even if a media,

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as a complete aside, even if this is a product

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that you're thinking you're going to make yourself, I still

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do think is a good idea to just write it

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all down and have it on paper, because these really

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small details that make up your products and also things

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that are going to be useful when you start marketing

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it and, you know, describing the product to other people

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is it's just really good information to have So I

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definitely think it's is worth it. Okay. So I really

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hope that helps and take care and to see you