The first step you need to take is to do a patent search. This will tell you whether your idea has already received patent protection. Start here (https://www.google.com/?tbm=pts&gws_rd=ssl) with Google Patent search. You’ll also want to search the USPTO database (http://patft.uspto.gov). Conclude your search with a simple worldwide search here (http://worldwide.espacenet.com/?locale=en_EP).
Conducting a general search (e.g., text search using Google) for inventions similar to your own that haven’t been patented is also a good exercise. This will reveal whether others have already productized your idea, and if so, how your idea is different - and hopefully superior. You’ll often find that there are many expressions of unpatented ideas floating around the marketplace. This is a rich source of information for you if you’re considering patenting your innovation.
Remember, it may be tempting to skip all the “boring” tasks as a founder especially if the business is bootstrapping. However, such tasks will pay dividends to you later on down the road if something unfortunate should occur. That being said, check out LawTrades (www.lawtrades.com), where we connect inventors to affordable, accomplished lawyers on a daily basis.