How to Find Overseas Manufacturers to Make Your Products

by Brian on March 4, 2009

You now know what you want and you have accurate designs or a prototype of the product you would like to manufacture.  Now comes the most fun and difficult part in the outsourcing process; finding a manufacturer.

 You don't necessarily have to visit your manufacturer.  Everything can be done from your desk if you are careful.

You don't necessarily have to visit your manufacturer. Everything can be done from your desk if you are careful.

If wiring thousands of dollars to an overseas manufacturer who you have never met is daunting to you, you are not alone.  And I will tell you bluntly: many people lose their shirt when outsourcing. From your desk it is difficult to sort through who is a legitimate manufacturer, who represents a company that will go out of business after you pay your deposit, and who is just a plain scam artist, and that is why it is so important to do your research before paying anybody anything.   Also, nobody wants to be nervous about outsourcing, and that is why it is so important to develop a relationship with your manufacturer so that you can be comfortable and trust them.   The relationships that I have developed with my manufacturers allow me to feel completely comfortable when transferring tens of thousands of dollars to them.

I’m not saying any of this to scare you or deter you from outsourcing the manufacturing of your products overseas, in fact, I would love nothing more than to hear from people who have found reliable manufacturers and had their products made and successfully delivered to their destination.

Through my years of outsourcing the manufacturing of my products for Sand Shack and a few other companies, I have found that the main ways to find a manufacturer for your products are as follows:

1.  The internet

There are a number of sites out there that provide free listings of manufacturers.  These can be great sites and you will be able to find some great manufacturers this way. However, some of these sites contain hundreds of thousands of listings and it is difficult, not to mention overwhelming, to sort through all of them and settle on someone you want to work with.

The Internet is a powerful resource and has made it easy to find manufacturers at the click of a mouse, but it has also made it easy for anyone with a computer to claim they are a factory in China that can make your product.

Do your research.

After finding somebody you think represents a legitimate manufacturer do further Internet research on the company and the person.  I for instance will search the company and find their website. Check out their website and make sure it is an actual company.  Then, use the contact provided on the website to contact the company directly.  Contacting the company directly will allow you to cross check your initial contact and make sure he or she is actually a representative of the company.  The company should have an English version of their website, and if not, it may be difficult for you to do further research on them.  Also, unless you speak their language, not having an English website may be a good indication to you that they don’t have the experience dealing with English speakers or western countries, and you should probably not do business with them.  Consider doing as much research as possible on any company before starting a business relationship with them.

After finding a manufacture online many people wonder whether or not you should travel to their country and visit them in person.  Doing this will allow you to confirm their legitimacy, review their operations, and establish a personal relationship with them; all good things.  However, it is expensive, and if you are a small company you may not have the time or money to make an international trip.  Therefore, although I know visiting them may be of benefit, it is not necessary.  I have not personally met many of the manufacturers I do business with, and nothing bad has happened because I have been careful.  Although, I do have a better relationship with the manufacturers I have personally visited, and I also feel more comfortable doing business with them.  So should you visit them? The choice is yours. If you do your research and you feel like you will be comfortable working with them without meeting them in person, don’t waste your time and money with a visit. But if you are the type of person that needs to meet them before doing business with them and will be a nervous wreck if you don’t, go ahead and visit them! If you simply let the manufacturer know you plan on visiting them they will be more than happy to be your host. Chances are they will probably take you out to dinner and drink you under the table as well (especially in China). So have fun!

2.  Competitors

Another way to find manufacturers for your products is to contact other businesses who make similar products to yours and ask them who manufacturers their products. Now wait a second you are thinking, if they make similar products to me that would make them my competitors, why would they give me that information?  Well, they are your competitors and they may not give you that information. I personally won’t disclose the exact details of who my manufacturers are (although they will be in my list, I won’t say who does what for me). Despite this, your competitors may decide to help you out. It doesn’t hurt to ask, does it?

3.  Your Network

There may be someone in your network who can help you locate a reliable manufacturer.

There may be someone in your network who can help you locate a reliable manufacturer.

Everybody has a network of people they know. Consider reaching out to your friends and asking them if anybody knows anybody who can make your products. Chances are you don’t have friends who have direct connections to the manufacturer you need, but they may know somebody who can help you.  A great way to reach out to your network of friends and contacts is through social media.  If you use Facebook, Linked In, My Space, Twitter, or any other form of social networking site, it should be pretty easy for you to let people know what you are looking for and see if anybody can help. If you don’t use social media (you should be) you still have email and the good ole’ telephone.

4.  Books and Directories

Books and directories of overseas manufacturers are all but extint - and fairly unreliable

Ten or more years back using a directory of manufacturers was a common way of finding a manufacturer for your product.  Although they are still available, these are all but extinct. Everything has moved online, and any directory you find in a book will be outdated by the time you read it.

Did you know that 100,000 factories closed in China in 2008?  That figure should give you a good idea as to why any list in any book is easily outdated.

5.  Purchase a List

Purchasing a list from a company who has screened and approved certain manufacturers is a good way of finding reliable companies to deal with. If you trust the company you buy the list from it is a safe, easy, and fast way to begin your outsourcing operations.

Although you must spend money to purchase a list, whereas you can find a manufacturer through any of the above-mentioned means for free, I know that purchasing a list of reliable and approved manufacturers will ultimately save many people time and money.  You will save money by minimizing the risk involved and you will save time (which is also money) because it allows you to get straight to business from the comfort of your own home or office.  Purchasing a list is one of the best way to quickly and safely begin your outsourcing operations.

By using one of the above resources you should be able to locate a number of reliable and trustworthy manufacturers. Now you have to begin communications with them.

Do you know of any other ways to find a reliable overseas manufacturer? If so, let’s here them here. Also, post any questions about finding a manufacturer in the comment section and I will be sure to address them.

{ 58 comments… read them below or add one }

anna January 11, 2013 at 2:34 am

Hi Brian:
I have filed my patent and had a prototype made. I need a manufacturer to make about 4 dozen of my product to get started. My invention is a household product made of wood. Do you think i could find a manufacturer for my product? I can provide the prototype and all the specs. I would appreciate hearing from you.


David Ortiz January 12, 2013 at 7:21 pm

Hey Brian,

Just wondering, why would I ask people on a social media website if they can help me find a company to mass produce my product? What type of protection should I have for my idea before putting it out there or even discussing it with a company?

Thanks a bunch!

Share April 19, 2013 at 6:08 pm

Hi Brian,
I am in need of an apparel manufacturer. My invention is actually an apparel accessory. I was wondering if Tami who blogged on Nov. 28th would be willing to share her Chinese manufacturer that she has received samples that she is happy with. I also need a manufacturer who can sew leather products. Do you have any leather sewing manufacturers?
I appreciate your informational website.
If I learn of any reliable manufacturers from china, I will pass them on to your followers.

Brian April 20, 2013 at 10:15 am

Hey Share -
I’ll shoot you an email to see what I can do to help. I look forward to learning more.

Brian April 20, 2013 at 10:23 am

Hey David – anytime you have a manufacturer make a product for you you run the risk of the idea getting taken. Unless you have created something that is truly innovative and worth patenting it is often very difficult to protect yourself. For instance, I am in the apparel industry, and I can’t really do anything to protect the apparel and accessories I make other than trademarking my brand (which it is) so people can’t use my branding on anything they may make. But they can they take my colors, design, cut…. But I’m not concerned about this. The reason for this is that ideas, like apparel designs, are a dime a dozen. It comes down to execution. So if you have a great idea and want to get it made, I say protect it if you can (and if it is worth it), otherwise, run into it full steam ahead and try and keep things moving so that you are first to market with it…if you are copied, being the first to market (and successful) is the best form of protection afterall.

Hugh Mitchell April 21, 2013 at 9:47 am

I am looking for a manufacturer to help me produce my product. The product is a simple shape stamped out of metal. I hoping that you may be able to point me in the right direction. I would greatly appreciate it.

Brian April 21, 2013 at 4:53 pm

Hey Hugh – sure, I can certainly look into this for you. I’ll shoot you an email and hopefully get some more details about what you are looking for. Thanks for stopping by here. And if you have some time, you should also read an article I posted this weekend about managing the relationship with your manufacturer once you find one:

Kaye May 22, 2013 at 5:53 pm

Hi Brian, I am looking for a manufacturer to make living room products. Ex. Decorative Pillows and Curtains. If you have any contacts that you can share, it would be appreciated. Thanks

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