Introduction: How to Win Instructables Contests.

Picture of How to Win Instructables Contests.

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...

Picture of 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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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.

Picture of 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

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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.


julien.doolaeghe (author)2017-05-13

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 ;-)

Maker Saga (author)2017-02-20

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

38ren (author)Maker Saga2017-04-25

Hi, I posted the same question in the questions section of this site:

Hopefully you'll find it helpful, have a great day!


Anabistrica (author)2017-01-18

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

random_builder (author)2017-01-18

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

DIY-with-MOON (author)2017-01-14

thank you soooooo much.

steelshell fab (author)2016-10-10

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!

Purvagupta777 (author)2016-09-03

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

ohoilett (author)2016-07-04

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

JilC1 (author)2016-06-27

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

KkG4 made it! (author)2016-05-17

I got copyright for UMASK (C) 2015 (Uniform Multi-lingual Alphabets Soft Keyboard) which is a touch screen keyboard and having all world languages like English, Russian, Arabic, Spanish, French, Tamil, Hindi, Malayalam, Telugu, Kannada, German etc., All are in alphabetic order. So that even a school child can learn native language very easy, we can also able to teach more languages through this UMASK. As well as anyone can start to type very easy without memory or practice. Because it has more languages, I need proper supporters from all of the country. I have shown English for sample. For more see my blog . You can't learn, teach or type with the help of the present any computer, because it not in alphabetic order. Nowadays all people need very simple method to type language. Calculator for Maths, likewise UMASK for easy learn and type languages..

Make Zone (author)2016-04-26

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

mrw122015 (author)Make Zone2016-05-13

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)

sakshambhutani (author)2016-02-18

Thanks very much!

To enter a contest do you just submit an instructable then what? I'm hoping to follow your instrucyions

SickFlowerChild (author)2015-12-10

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

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.

Governor Keagan (author)2015-11-04

Thanks this helped alot

gabgra11 (author)2015-11-03

Thank you for this instructable! I have already entered five instructables in contests while trying to follow these rules!

JokerDAS (author)2015-11-02

Quick question about contests (advance apologies if it was already asked in the comments)... is it frowned upon to solicit votes in your instructable?

Mrballeng (author)JokerDAS2015-11-03

I don't think so. Sometimes I'll put a link to the contest into my instructable. I'll encourage people to both enter and vote. But if your instructable is truly prize winning it's not necessary.

JokerDAS (author)2015-10-30

I definately learned more than a few tips to help in the contests! Great narrative! Thanks for sharing!

clubjen (author)2015-10-03

Beautifully said!

smashman (author)2015-09-23

you have an awesome picture sense dude

hats off.

sup_b (author)2015-06-14

This is wonderful. I love all your pictures! Thx.

Corinbw (author)2015-04-16

thanks, I know how it feels to see someone's contest entry and say well I hope they win instead of me because they deserve it. I love the story and emotions portrayed in the end of this instructable. I absolutely love it. Favorite

TenaciousBalloonFox (author)2015-03-26

Fantastic insight! Thankyou.

SparkySolar (author)2014-10-19

I love this. Thank you


sabu.dawdy (author)2014-10-17

i didn't do even a single thing which you have told... explains y i never won any contest.. But you have inspired me alot :) thank you for that.

antoniraj (author)2014-10-06

very nice information you provided here. That's why you have won so many contests

enelson8 (author)2014-10-02

I love this!! This is great strategy and inspiration!! Thanks!!

BadZombie (author)2014-09-27

P.S. you have great ideas on what people are looking for also.

BadZombie (author)2014-09-27

thanks for the input. I havent won a contest yet but I hope I have a good chance with one right now.

Tecwyn Twmffat (author)2014-08-29

Since I have now won 2 robot T shirts, I thought I would write this instructable - but you did a much better job! Another tip - some of the judges will be female, so using sexy language may give us the edge over the others. Not that I've tried this myself yet but have seen others do it!

parkerpulliam (author)2014-08-18

11. Put jokes that are funny

IngenuityAtWork (author)2014-05-30

One more important thing; I learned it the hard way and the details provided in the contest instructions were ambiguous-- put your Instructible up EARLY in the contest if it will be open for voting. My first one just made it up in time for inclusion in the 'Outdoor Survival' contest but, despite its awesomeness ;-) wasn't up long enough to compete in terms of peer votes needed to advance as a finalist. So I sort of gave myself the shaft. Lesson learned. I would have saved it for another contest with what I know now... Nonetheless, it was a bummer so hope this note keeps it from happening to another newbie.

That is the exact same thing that happened to me in the last contest I entered...
I waited literally until the last minute to hit the publish button.

2ndAmendmentLover (author)2014-06-17

Thank you so much for this Instructable. It has been a great help and I will be using it in future contests. Keep up the awesomeness.

nanaverm (author)2014-05-25

Entering an Instructable (forget actually winning!) has been on my "bucket list" for awhile now. This article gives me some courage to try. Thanks

chokapi (author)nanaverm2014-05-27

I've only submitted three, but I've got a few drafts going, as well. Maybe start by creating a draft Instructable. Of the three I posted, only one did I submit on the day I made it. The other two involved more thought and preparation.

chokapi (author)2014-05-27

The last contest I entered was the survival contest. I knew I did well, I'd received over 25k views and nearly 300 faves in just a couple of weeks. It got featured, and is a finalist. Now if they'll just post the winners...

mslaynie (author)2014-05-25

This Instructable is genius. I agree with everything you've written here, and the only thing I'd add is this: there's always room for more. That's the beauty I find with creative people- there are always more ideas, more projects, and there's ALWAYS more room for more people. Sharing my creativity has led to even greater ideas, more perspectives on how to accomplish things, and the pure joy of seeing people accomplish things they never thought to try for themselves.

It's one reason I love Instructables, even though I've never entered a contest. I will, eventually... but it's about sharing ideas and seeing new ways to look at the world. Oh, and meeting awesome people like you. :D

crazypj (author)2014-05-25

I've only done 2 Instructables

Winning an upgrade is definitely something worth having even if you don't win a T-shirt or anything else. Not sure if thats available to everyone but I guess it could be?

vincent7520 (author)2014-05-25

Very nice Instructable.

I should vote 100%

However it does not give me a foolproof method to win at all time. LOL

Perfection is a long term goal !!!!… LOL

Thanx for posting and have a nice week !

Switch and Lever (author)2014-05-22

The first step should be: make sure you live in a country where you are allowed to enter the contest. If not, stop reading here.

I really wish the contests were open for more than the handful of countries there are. I've never been able to enter a single contest.

The restriction is on shipping prizes, everyone is able to enter.

Whiternoise (author)2014-05-25

This guide is pretty accurate. I only got round to writing one Instructable a few years ago and it did end up winning. The advice here is pretty on the money. You can, of course, have a sneaky look at what other people have entered and judge whether you can beat it. However, I guarantee that people will sneak out of the woodwork and enter something unspeakably amazing right as the contest ends.

My advice would definitely be to take good photos throughout. Make the construction as easy as possible for your audience. Explain everything, especially the stuff that seems obvious to you. Often people won't be able to get the parts you've used, so make it possible for them to substitute. If you're writing an electronics project, give them options for components.

Always follow KISS - Keep It Simple, Stupid. There are lots of Instructables that look cool, but nobody else has a hope in hell of emulating them. Either because the parts are hard to get hold of, they don't have some equipment or the Instructable glosses over an important step. You want to be sure that, unless you're just showing off a project, people can actually make the thing you're showing to them. Simple doesn't mean unprofessional though, a quality product will always do better than a mess of wires.

If you have to vote between two projects that both accomplish the same thing, odds are you'll choose the one that's simpler.

Also don't forget that as you write Instructables, you'll gain followers. Followers will be the people who get told when you write new material. They are far more likely to bring you votes than randoms on the site.

Whiternoise (author)Whiternoise2014-05-25

Also I should emphasise that you don't need a catalogue of featured Instructables to win! I still only have one Instructable to my name and it was exhilarating watching people read, comment and ask questions. I recommend the experience to everyone, even if you're not entering a contest.

knexpert1700 (author)2014-05-25

Now I wish I made an Instructable when making a windmill for the KidWind contest. Everyone used the kidwind kits to start off (Which was optional) but we went full on and made a windmill out of insulation, epoxy, some 2x4s, nails, a steel rod, a treadmill motor, and some carbon-fiber stuff. We were DQed though because our treadmill motor was too big :|

By we I mean 4 of my friends and I

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