Contest FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)

Here at Instructables we run a ton of contests! We also get asked a ton of questions about those contests. Below is a list of the contest questions we get asked most frequently and also some questions that I feel could use a little more explaining. (Let’s be honest - reading the official rules is not fun.)

Please ask addition questions in this forum topic - I'm sure there are some I have not covered!

General Contest Questions

We are currently experiencing shipping delays.  This is a problem we are trying to fix with our shipping department, but currently, please allow 3 months for contest prizes to arrive.  We apologize for this delay and are hopeful that this prize turnaround time will be temporary.  Thank you for understanding.  If you have any further questions, please contact service@instructables.com.

How do you choose which contests to run?

We do this in a few different ways.

Editorial/in-house - I plan these based on past contest themes, what’s trending in search,  which categories/channels need a little love, new site features or if there’s a certain type of content we want. Contest ideas also come from staff meetings and through the official contest idea forum topic.

Sponsored - Sponsored contests occur when a sponsor or prize provider wants to run a contest with us and they’re a good fit for the community. Often Instructables staff makes the call on the contest theme, but sometimes we compromise with the sponsor if they have a theme they really love!  

Sold/Branded - These contests come in through the Autodesk sales team and are normally focused on really large brands like Home Depot, Radioshack, Tekton Tools, etc. We have less control over these themes but still do our best to make sure they’re a good fit for you guys.

How can I sponsor a contest?

Send us an email at contests @ instructables.com to get more info, but there are some major requirements you need to hit:
  • be a registered business of some sort
  • be able to offer up enough value in prizes (this varies with theme/contest length)
  • be a good fit for our community (both your company and the prizes you’re giving!)
  • the contest theme should also be a good fit.
As of right now all sponsored contests are being sold through the Autodesk sales team.

I have an idea for a contest! How do I tell you guys?

Please post here and let us know! We can’t run all of them, but we love seeing the ideas you guys come up with.

How do I win a contest?

Post something awesome! Check out this collection of tutorials that will tell you how to write a great instructable.

Why do Instructables employees enter the contests?

We enter contests to set the bar and give an example of the type of entries we want in the contests. We're not able to win them, though!

It's important to note that several employees were authors on the site before they worked here, though, so you might see some wins in our achievements! :)

Entering Contests

Can I enter if my country is not listed in the official rules?

Yes! You can definitely enter.

However, you must have a mailing address in an eligible country to win. If you have a friend in the US or another eligible country that can receive your prize, go ahead and enter!

You can read more about our progress to add more countries to the eligible shipping locations here. It's not been going very well for a while, but I hope to share some good news with you guys in late 2014!

I live in -----, why can't I enter?!

Chances are your country has incredibly strict laws regarding gambling, sweepstakes and contests. We try our best to play by the rules, and if we can't meet the minimum requirements to run a contest in your country, we don't run them there!

That's the easy answer. The hard answer is that it's very complicated and involves lots of risk and scary legal language.

Why isn't my entry showing up in the contest? I entered three minutes ago!

Real humans look at each entry! This means it take take a while sometimes. We work standard office hours, 9-5ish PST. We tend to moderate first thing in the morning, Monday-Friday.

If you enter at the end of the work day or over the weekend, you’ll have to wait until the next business day to be accepted.

Why can I only enter 3 contests with one Instructable?

It’s all the spirit of fairness. Even if your instructable would be eligible for allllllll the contests that are open, we want you to pick the three that are most relevant and enter it there. This spreads the entries out a bit more.

It’s fairly rare that one instructable wins three grand prizes (I think it’s only happened once!) but we want to make sure that one instructable doesn’t sweep the winners in several contests.

Why was I rejected from the contest?

The number one reason for this is not fitting the contest theme - we try our best to explain the sorts of entries we’re looking for on the main page of each contest, so double check your eligibility there.

We also sometimes make mistakes or encounter bugs during the approval/denial process. (Checking the wrong box, clicking the wrong button, breaking the back end of the site) It’s rare, but it happens! We’re human and can’t help it, but we do our best to right those mistakes as soon as we know they happened!

Why can’t I enter an instructable I published before the start date into the contest?

We want to see NEW and exciting content built just for the contest. If we allowed old instructables in, we’d just see the same things over and over again. Plus, the number entries in the contests would make it very hard to choose finalists and winners.

Keep in mind that simply republishing an old project will not make it eligible - we check for that. ;)

Our Halloween contests are the only exception to this rule. For example, the 2013 Halloween Contest ended on 11/11/2013, so the 2014 Halloween Contest will accept entries from 11/12/2013 through the end date of the contest. :)

Can I edit my Instructable after it's entered in a contest?

Short answer: YES!

Long answer:
You can make any modifications you want to an Instructable that's already entered! We get so many entries that there's absolutely no way we'd be able to police it even if we wanted to - but it's never something we want to discourage.

Improvement is always a good thing as far as I'm concerned. :)

However, I must caution you: it's best to get those changes done before voting closes. The voting period matters the most because that's the time that we start looking into picking finalists.

Another slightly related caveat: don't publish a mostly empty instructable and try to fill it after the contest ends. We're starting to see this happen more often, always with a promise that updates are coming. You can never tell when we'll be reviewing it as a possible finalist, so chances are you'll get overlooked going about it that way. We are currently looking at 50-300 entries per contest, so anything incomplete doesn't stand a chance these days!

Finalist & Winner Selection

I make video tutorials, can I win an Instructable contests?

Short answer: YES

Long answer:
Most of our contest winners/finalists have documented in the step-by-step format. The more detail you can add, the better!  Having a full step by step along side your video(s) gives you the best shot at winning, check out some examples of video winners here.  We look for instructables that are pretty easily replicated via the information that is provided.

When are the finalists selected?

Finalists are selected starting the Tuesday after the contest closes. The finalist selection process normally ends Thursday-next Tuesday morning, depending on how tricky the contest is and how many people give input.

How are finalists selected?

Finalist selection is a mixture of sponsor choices, votes and staff choices. We look for all kinds of things when it comes to picking finalists, including:
  • good photos! Pretty photos put you five steps ahead of all the other entries already, honestly. We're going to want to click through and look at it as soon as we see it if it's pretty!
  • good explanation of both WHAT the project is and HOW you made it. Sometimes it can be really hard to figure out what we're looking at. (Personally, if I have to spend several minutes staring at photos and reading to understand it, I'm not very excited about it anymore.) Try to convey the project through both photos and video if it's needed. For example - if it's a rocket, upload a video of it in action!
  • a good story! I read more projects than you could ever imagine every month. I love it when an author takes time to explain why they made the project, or documents the errors they made along the way. That makes an instructable so much more enjoyable to read. :)
  • citing your sources/inspirations - look, we realize there's hardly an original idea on the internets anymore, so we can't fault you for that. But it's only fair to give credit where credit is due. We like that. Plus, it sometimes makes for an awesome story.
  • creativity! Look, I cannot even begin to tell you how many paracord bracelets, Altoid tin survival kits and Iron Man arc reactors I have looked at. My eyes glaze at the thought. Don't just go for the common and easy, take that project and put a new spin on it!!

We always suggest authors read their own work with an objective eye. Does it make sense if you aren’t familiar with the subject already? Did you provide enough description? Are the photos understandable?

How many finalists are there?

To find this out easily, go to the official rules and use Command+F (Mac) or crtl+F (Windows) to search “finalists” to see the number. There are normally 15-36 finalists in a contest.

Why wasn't my project chosen as a winner/finalist?

This can happen for all kinds of reasons, honestly. See the "How are finalists selected?" question above for a more in depth explanation of what we're looking for.

The most important thing I want to stress is that we are going through TONS of entries for every contest, so it's important to set yourself apart. Choose a clear and concise title, tell us a story, share great photos, explain the project well. If there are projects similar to yours in the contest already, make sure your project exceeds theirs in awesomeness.  

Also remember that competition is fierce in the contests, there are always a LOT of amazing entries.  When it comes down to selecting winners sometimes it's the little things because when you're comparing awesome to awesome the little things are all you can look at.  So be detailed orientated when writing your instructable.


Who judges the contests?

This is typically a mix of Instructables staff, employees of the sponsor (if there is one!), and authors on the site (your peers!). Each contest is normally assigned 10-50 judges.

Lately we’ve had an average of 15-20 judges complete the process. I always try to add as many judges as possible, because more judges means the judging is more fair and helps to reduce bias.

How can I help judge a contest?

If you’re interested in helping us judge, check out this forum topic! I’m also about to start doing weekly calls for judges in the Contest Forums, found here.

To judge, you must have published at least one Instructable.

I send out PMs to judges each Friday, and you might also receive one from audreyobscura.

How do I judge a contest/access the judging ballot?

We’ve written up an Instructable over it! You can find it here: http://www.instructables.com/id/How-to-Judge-a-Contest/

Once I’ve added you to the list of judges, you’ll be able to access the ballot.


How do you pick prizes? Can I suggest prizes?

I've got a pretty small budget prize here, so it's a mix of trying to be frugal but still give you guys something fancy. I try to order most of our prizes from Amazon.com because they have reliable shipping and tons of options.

Right now I've been going back and forth between tools/materials and fancy electronics. I love to give out tablets, cameras and supplies for more projects, because that gives you guys something to make more awesome stuff with!

If you'd like to suggest an awesome prize, do it here!

I don't like these prizes, can I trade?

Short answer: nope!

Long answer: we choose prizes well ahead of time and order prizes at the start of the contest (for 95% of what we run) and we don’t make substitutions. We typically have anywhere from 100-250 winners a month (and increasing all the time!), so it’s not feasible to give choices and sub things out. Only three of us on staff work with ordering the prizes and shipping them out, so that would be lots of work!

However, we have allowed winners to switch prizes with another winner on occasion (both parties must agree and let us know before we ship them!) and we’re fine with you selling your prize somewhere else.

How do I get my prize if I win?

When contest winners are announced, we’ll send you a message with a form to fill out. Make sure to fill this out completely and remember that we require a phone number and that we can’t ship to P.O. boxes.

Winners are responsible for any trade tax or tariffs incurred for shipping to your location. We cannot reduce the value of the prize so you pay less tax (nice try, though, you sneaky hobbit!!).

When will my prize ship?

We try to ship prizes as soon as possible! 75% of our contests have prizes that are easily shipped right away and you should receive notification of shipment within a week or so.

Sometimes we do have to order items AFTER the contest ends or wait for a sponsor to ship the items. If we think there will be a delay, we’ll let the winners know. We’ve been trying very hard to make sure we’re reaching out and updating winners about prize statuses.

Also: VERY IMPORTANT - the sooner all winners give us their contact info, the sooner we can make big orders of custom sizes. Sometimes there’s a huge delay just because we’ve got one straggler. Be a good winner and let us give you prizes, dangit!!

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sk8r5402 days ago

hello there,

I filled out the info for my team's 3rd placing in the Makerspace Challenge last month, but it hasn't shipped yet, is there a delay or did this get missed?

Sometimes it can take up to 12 weeks for prizes to ship. If you haven't received anything by 12 weeks after the winners were announced, please send a message to our support team at service [at] instructables [dot] com

Troy (tomatoskins)

Community Manager

No problem, it just seemed odd, cause I got a prize in the Tandy contest, did my shipping info yesterday and it shipped today. For Makerspace Challenge it was shirts and giftcodes, like I said, it just seemed odd, and I thought maybe it was missed.

als_liahona2 months ago

What happens when you get a message saying your prize has shipped, but then it never shows up?

Lately, they've been providing tracking numbers with the shipping notification email, so first check your email and see if you can track it. However, you can always email service@instructables.com and ask them.

ohoilett3 months ago

So I noticed the rules state that you can't vote for yourself in contests. If you do, does the vote get excluded or is the Instructable disqualified? I am trying to figure out what I need to do to make my Instructables better and this is something I've been doing incorrectly. Thanks.

Your vote just doesn't count. They'll ignore it


sixsmith2 months ago

I was wondering why instructables that are entered into contests are published before they have the "vote" option.

I'm not sure how big of an impact it makes on overall voted score, but I imagine I'm not the only person using RSS to keep up on instructables and often see them within hours of publication, sometimes without a vote button for a contest that the author indicated they were entering.

seamster sixsmith2 months ago

Contest entries must be reviewed and approved before they are actually "in" and have the vote button showing.

If an author publishes an instructable in the evening, it will get reviewed the next day. (We currently cover the weekends so things will always be reviewed within at most 24 hours, but typically much less.)

Sam (seamster)

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