How to Win Instructables Contests.

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Introduction: How to Win Instructables Contests.

About: Awesome Gear I've designed myself.

There are few things more thrilling than receiving a prize package at your front door. And who doesn't love a brand new robot t-shirt? Instructables always has an awesome contest running. If you've never entered one now is a great time. Of course, if you don't enter you can't win. Here are a few ways to give your instructable a fighting chance.

Note: The contents of this instructable are based on my personal experience and do not necessarily reflect the views of instructables or its parent company. All photos used are under public domain.

Step 1: When in Rome...

Instructables has a culture. To know what makes a good instructable you have to know what a good instructable looks like. Check the home page often. That's where featured instructables go. Featured means your doing things right.

Keep in mind, like real life, cultures change. For example when I first joined, circuit boards and nixie tubes were about as high tech as you saw. Nowadays laser cutters, 3D printing, and arduino are common place.

Stay in the loop by visiting instructables. Check out the latest builds. When you do, read the comments. See what people are saying. Leave a comment yourself.

Staying current will help you think of "up to date ideas" for the next contest.

Step 2: Participate

Obvious right? If you don't come to the table you can't eat. When you enter a contest you're more likely to check it often to see the entries you're up against. You can list the entries by views to see what's getting the most attention. Generally higher quality instructables rise to the top. Take note.

When winners are announced you might notice that instructables with the most views don't always take the grand prize. That will further narrow your understanding on the right amount of "click factor" for a win. While gimmicks might boost views, a quality instructable will trump.

Even if you're thinking you don't have a chance, enter anyway. Every project is a skill builder. Eventually you'll collect the "know how" needed to be on top.

Step 3: Keep Your Eye on the Prize

Often, prizes are related to the contest theme. If the prize is something electronic, an entry which includes electronics has a better chance. If the prize is a tool, include what that tool does as part of the process to your build. For example, if you're trying to win a mixer your instructable should include mixing. If you're trying win a prize that's computer controlled (ie: a laser cutter) your instructable should also be computer controlled.

In my opinion true winners are folks who can win the grand prize without spending as much money as the grand prize costs. However that often takes a very clever and unknown idea followed by a high quality end product.

Step 4: Take Good Photos

Photos are your first impression. Make sure they are clear and free from any clutter. When you take a picture all you should have in the frame is the tool your using and the item you're using it on. Trash, other tools, scraps from other steps, all should be cleared out. Also, center the shot on what the tool is doing. If your using a saw, center the picture right where the teeth are contacting the material.

For some folks pictures are the entire instructable. I often get questions which were answered in the first paragraph of the intro. The point is, the better your pictures the longer someone will stick around and possibly throw you a vote. Nothing finds a back click faster then a bunch of blurry photos.

Step 5: Tell a Story

We are emotional creatures. Adding background to a project helps connect readers to what you've done. It's also a good way to share the "fails and wins" during the build.

Everyone has said "if I had to do it again...". Well, if you did than you would have sanded before the first coat of paint, made a template first, or mixed the dry ingredients beforehand. Sharing mistakes is part of the point here. Your experience refines the creative process for the newcomer.

Doing this will help get you featured, which gives you views, which helps your vote count, which gives you a better chance of winning.

Step 6: Spirit of the Contest

Every contest has a paragraph discussing what they're looking for. Major contests include more guidance in the official rules. Though an entry may qualify for a contest, it doesn't mean it stands a chance. For example, "anything bacon related". You could draw a picture of bacon and that would fly. It will not win though.

Often the contest graphics will have images of potential entries. That's a good way to get a feel for the spirit of the contest.

Step 7: Research the Sponsor

Many contests are sponsored by an outside company. Go to that sponsor's website to see what they're all about. See their advertisements. Keep in mind sponsors may provide a judge of their own to help determine winners. If your entry complements their company it definitely doesn't hurt your chances.

If your instructable happens to use a sponsor's products, stage their logos in your photos. It doesn't have to be completely obvious or even in focus. One example is water proof pouches. Can you find the sponsor's logo in step 4?

Step 8: Check the Archives

Past contest are a great resource. You can go back to the beginning of time (instructables time) and see the winners to every contest. This not only gives you an idea of what the contest gods are looking for but also clues you in to reoccurring contests.

You might also find creative superstars like Brittliv and Honus. Follow them and every other person who has the voltage to power a grand prize.

Step 9: Meet My Friend Rejection. Yes, We've Met Before.

Don't be discouraged. Not winning will always be in the cards. I feel the best way to approach a contest is to make your entry a gift. That way your creation has a primary purpose and winning is a true bonus.

For example I have a nephew who loves the video game Team Fortress 2. Together we built a replica wooden axe from one of the characters in the game. He still has it displayed in his room. Though I never took pictures of that project it would have been a great entry in the game 2 life contest. Entering and winning would have been awesome. But the main point of the project was to spend time together and learn about power tools with his uncle. Regardless of what happens with the contest, it's already a win.

Another thing. Materials for different contests can get expensive. Having a pre-planned use for your creation is much better than having a useless object gather dust.

Step 10: Final Thoughts

So why give away the secret recipe? Instructables is an awesome website. I want it to thrive. Awesome things get attention and I want that attention right on this site. I know I'm not alone. If you have a chance check out all the exit interviews from the artist in residence program. If that's not inspiring I don't know what it is.

I love to enter contests and will keep on doing it. I also know competition forces everyone to up their game. Sometimes I'll check out the entries to a contest and say in my head "they got me". That's the entry that has out-skilled, out-documented and, out-thought my project. All it means is I have to keep working and adding to the materials I can work with and the tools I can use.

For me personally, Instructables has meant this. Spending extra time with my children because they make great camera operators and photographers when I need a hand. Being a cool Dad because I take them to the ice cream shop next to the hardware store during a project. Having something handmade to give my wife for Christmas. Having a conversation starter when I find myself waiting next to a stranger. Uncontrollable laughter with my brother when old memories come to mind.

It's more than just a contest entry. You'd be surprised.

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I have entered a few more contests than prizes I have won. At one point I resolved never again to enter another contest. I have also been a judge in a couple of contests. My task and that of other judges was to narrow the field for final judging by site members. I took that task very seriously and looked at my choices several times before submitting them. Most of my choices, but not all, agreed with the choices of the other judges. Still, the final results rested with users who responded in the open voting.

As concerns judging, I looked for good clever practical ideas presented well. If the Instructsble would save someone who made it some money, that was a bonus in its favor. I did not favor something novel just because it was novel.

When I rebelled against ever entering another contest, I was turned off by how some high quality efforts got little favor in the results, but something that looked "cool" won a nice prize, even though there was very little real substance in it. (That actually haopened.)

I wish I could say I carefully planned entering Instructables that won prizes for specific contests. I did not. In one case I won a MIG welder on an Instructsble I almost did not submit. That was because I had earlier worked very hard on a somewhat similar Instructable that got only a few views and very little response even though it was not for a contest or entered in a contest. But, I had taken photos in case I did write and submit an Instructsble. I confess I decided to give it a try when I saw the prizes offered. The rest was a happy accident. I did nothing to promote votes for my Instructsble, but let it rest on its own merits. When it became apparent I was one of the finalists and would win something, I told myself repeatedly that it would be one on the lowest tier of prizes. When I did win one of the top three prizes, i quickly sent a thank you e-mail to the sponsor and got a nice note of appreciation in return. Sayng "thank you" to someone who provides a nice prize is always good.

If I were to develop a strategy for winning, I would have some photos in my files ready for submitting an Instructable. I would wait until a contest came along that I thought my idea could compete in. Then I would write up and submit my Instructable to be within the time frame required by the rules. As it is, several times i have seen a contest that fits something I have already done, but the time frame is way off and I cannot submit that Instructable in the current contest.

What about timing? is it better to enter a contest earlier in order to have more time to accumulate votes?

I have a question:

How many times can we vote?

1 time per day?

This is very meta! Useful though!

Fun to see that you wrote an Instrucatble about how to win Instructable ;-)

Do you have any view on a French translation of the website? or even international? because I get friends willing to support and vote... but not speaking english at all therefore this is harder to get votes.. and this will anyway be more proud if I get votes from strangers ;-)

Well written and insightful!
Is there a limit to how many entries one user can enter into a single contest?

1 reply

Great idea, I can find here many good ideas for DIY

This is very well thought out and very helpful. Thanks!

Thanks for this! I'm a big fan, and it's cool that you'd give contest pointers. keep making cool stuff for me to get inspired on!

Do I have to pay if I win any contest I'm from India

I've had 3 Features, but contest wins are still eluding me. Thanks for the guide!

This is a well written and thoughtful instructable! Thank you for spending the time to write it!

Hi, if you get tons of views in a contest entry does your chance of winning increase?

1 reply

Not necessarily. The quality of the content is a much larger factor to your winning chances than views. (I am not saying views don't matter, they just are not the most important)

Hi this probably wont get a reply but how do I enter a contest? I pressed enter and it said I dont have any eligible instructables. I have two published about hair dye, and the contest I want ks about dye, so I dont know whats going on

1 reply

Hey there, your instructable has to be published during the time frame of the contest you want to enter. There are several contest entry options from the publish screen. Hope this helps.