Introduction: How to Win Prizes at Instructables

About: Just an ordinary person who loves #thinking and #tinkering

If you type "how to win instructables" in the search bar on Instructables you get How to win Instructables contests by Mrballeng at the first place. Yes, you should read that one and you should follow Mrballeng for he has great beautiful projects. He has earned a gold medal for 100+ featured instructables and he has won so many prizes.

Compared to him I have many "not-so-interesting" projects, less featured instructables, and won less prizes. Now you must be asking why I post this subject and entering Pro-Tips Challenge (if it is eligible after published) as if I am a pro when I am not any better than other authors? The main reason is I read something like this somewhere : "What's wrong with my instructable? I believe my project is much cooler and better than his but he won the first prize while I win nothing, not even a runner up." Well umm... I think I have expressed the situation overly but undeniably some of you have this kind of feeling sometime.

My purpose is to help you win something and/or prevent you from leaving that soon. Are you a bounty hunter? You are just so close to win a prize from Instructables. [whispering] Pssstt... there are tons of prizes at HQ to be given out... [/whispering]

At some steps I add additional notes related to comments from the insiders. Thanks to all that help make things clearer.

Step 1: Write a Good Instructable : Checklist

First of all, you need to write a good instructable. If you go to my page, take a look at my instructables, scroll down to the very bottom (my first instructable), one word : "boring". Practice makes perfect ... err ... I would say "Practice makes better". If you have joined Instructables for a week, even just as a reader, reading several cool instructables daily which you just clicked from the homepage, then you should have known how to write a good instructable, shouldn't you? Well, I lied. Writing an instructable needs more effort than doing the project itself. That's why Instructables keep thanking you soon as you publish an instructable.

First time I joined Instructables, I just wanted to keep my projects in the cloud instead of storing them in my PCs. I always reinstall my PCs whenever they are getting slow and sometime files were just wiped out unintentionally. At that time I joined Instructables, there were only few countries eligible for the contests and Indonesia wasn't one of them. Technically I could enter a contest but I couldn't receive the prize if I won if I didn't address at any of the eligible countries. Now there are 180+ countries eligible for the contests, thanks to Instructables. That also means more challenging and competitive to win.

iTeam (starting from here I will shorten Instructables Team to iTeam) has leaked their Featuring Guidelines to the community. Being featured means you are awesome. Below this is the checklist for your instructables to be featured :

  • The title fits and explains the project.
  • The introduction should state what the project is, and the reason or motivation behind it.
  • All photos should be original, clear, bright, in-focus.
  • Projects should be broken into enough steps to be easy to follow, with sufficient photos and explanatory text to allow the reader to understand the process.
  • Grammar and spelling should be good enough so as to not be distracting.
  • Projects should be complete and contain all the information needed so others could reasonably duplicate the project (if the reader were to have the necessary skills and access to similar tools and materials.)
  • Whenever possible, the inclusion of downloadable files, PDF patterns, and so forth is desirable.
  • Video content (youtube videos, etc.) must be accompanied by photos and written step-by-step instructions, as outlined in the points above. This mean you cannot post only a single video containing all the process and detail in one instructable post without breaking out into steps with explanation.

To be featured at homepage, just make sure your project is replicable with crystal clear instructions. Provide a beautiful cover image (image that represent your project, not a beautiful scenery, artist or any other out-of-topic duh.) If reading your instructable can bring a "Wow!" effect, you are good.

If somehow you feel that you have written a perfect instructable and have completed the checklist but still doesn't reach the finalists, it is time to visit The Clinic. Don't worry when the doctors are not around, patients can help other patients too because we are a huge Community.

Step 2: Picking a Project

Should I put this step before the featuring checklist? The goal is winning a prize, then you should first know the technical guide to write a good instructable -- the featuring checklist. It is okay if you already have an ongoing project or it is just running in your head. Go to Contests page and pick one that suit your project or you are going to join. When I have time, I go to Contests page and see what can I make. Look at the time-span and decide whether I can make it or not. Browsing on the net (instructables, google) will open up your mind and see if you have any better ideas than others or you can learn from others.

You can start from either the materials or the output (result). Most people thinking "I want to make this. What materials do I need?" I can spend whole day in a hardware store moving from rack to rack, from heavy duty tools to kitchen tools to stationary. Sometimes I stand for a while thinking "What can I make/do with this?" Or when I need something I will ask myself "Can I use any other cheaper materials to achieve equal output?" Time passes by ... tick tock ... tick tock ... and I check out with nothing in my cart, duh...

Starting an instructable project there are some points to consider:

  • Use common materials (easy to get).
  • Replicable. The easier the better.
  • If it is a commonly found projects you can improvise with easier/better techniques or better results.

Most of my former projects were made of trashes, something I found near by, truck's parts and any other waste. Seldom will one admire those abstract arts. No wonder they were not even featured. Now I know that mistake but I still break the rule to win by publishing something made from uncommon trashes. Well, sometimes I just want to keep that instructable for myself (storing my projects in the cloud). And also jazz-up the contests just like the iTeam although they may not win in any way.

Addition notes :
Common materials means things that easily found around us or can be easily get at local stores or online stores. Restoring antiques are different cases, there we show the techniques of restoring and not about the object, but building something with rare materials is not replicable by other user.
"Replicable. The easier the better" -- doesn't mean asking you to make an easy project, a simple project, but people can follow your instruction easily step by step (even if you show how to build a skyscraper).

Step 3: Time Does Matter - Save Drafts

Did you know that you can save your instructable as draft? It will automatically saved as draft upon writing. We can benefit from this feature to gain winning percentage. How?

Idea comes at no particular time. Sometimes it just crosses your mind upon seeing something interesting. You have the idea of how to make it better or useful in your way. Go ahead, grab your smartphones, open Login and click on your avatar. Click the big orange button "New Instructable »". Write down your title and roughly your idea in steps. Click "save" and you have it saved in your draft. You can change everything later or you can delete your draft if you are not going to continue that project. Here you use this feature as a "notepad" or "sticky note" for yourself.

If you have some ideas, just repeat those steps. Save them as drafts and write your complete instructables (with supporting images) when you have time. Do not publish yet upon completion (this is what I can't obey myself because I am always too excited to click the publish button as soon as possible.) Re-read your instructables and do changes on words or images until you meet the featuring checklist on step#1. Always check the List of Upcoming Contests to see if your project will meet one of the contests. Otherwise you will miss a contest because you have published one just before the contest start date or you can start a new one to join the contest.

On the contrary, I use the ongoing contests brainstorming what I can make. That's why most of my instructables have so-so quality. I simply enjoy thinking and making something on spare time and not really a bounty hunter.

Step 4: Analysis

Do a research on iTeam. Check on their backgrounds, what they like, what they love. How? Click on their pages and see what they make. Read their comments to know what they love. There are many members in iTeam covering a wide area of DIYs, er.. I mean all kind of DIY projects. Some are mad scientists who make un-think-able projects.

After having some projects featured, I found that they were mostly featured at 11 p.m. Western Indonesian Time, that is 9 a.m. at Pier 9, San Francisco. I don't know exactly how the stack of new instructables read by iTeam but assuming it as an inbox of email, mostly we will sort them with the newest on top and we read from the top until those we have read before. If (just my opinion based on my analysis) I publish sooner -- let's say midday Western Indonesian Time that is 10 p.m. at San Francisco -- and no one will read at that sleeping time. And if within that 10 p.m. to 9 a.m. San Francisco time there are a hundred new instructables published, then mine will be at 101. There is possibility that my instructable won't be read. It is buried down below. This kind of problem (unread new-instructable) should not happen and I believe there must be a marking system, flag as read. However, you need a good "Title" and good "Cover Image" to attract iTeam to read your instructable.

You can also enroll some classes guided by iTeam to increase your skills and knowledge. There you will find out who is in charge of certain class and what are their expertises. When someone in the team love what you make, he/she will keep watching you, wait for your next instructable or put you in their feed list, then you are good.

Additional notes :
You have heard the insiders at comment section, then I have to make myself clear. Analyzing iTeam by seeing what they make and reading their comments to know what they love -- doesn't mean that you can be featured by making what they make. See, they are telling you that you should make unique, brilliant ideas that they haven't make or never cross their minds. We still need to analyze what they haven't made, don't we?
Use the search bar on and make sure there has not been 50 other similar projects posted to the site. Well, you don't have to count one by one, but when there are many, then the project might not be interesting no more.

Step 5: Share Your Work

Share your work through social media, Facebook, Twitter, Whatsapp, etc. Create web-link to your instructable project with a single click. People willl take a look at your project. Friends and Families will voluntarily join Instructables just to give you votes. Is that considered cheating? I would say "NO". iTeam can give their opinions in comment section.

Sharing your work in one way can be asking people to take a look and vote for you. In other way it can also be an invitation to people to join Instructables. When your best friend joins Instructables and give your work a vote, there is possibility he will see some amazing works of others and vote for their projects too. Even if he is your brother, he may vote for others as well. He may one day be an author and join a contest as your rival. Instructables will thank you for your help growing the community. Then the "sharing/asking to vote" action is not considered to be cheating although most probably that your friends and families will only vote for you to gain your chance of winning.

The more you share, the more your chance to be one of the finalists. Voting is used to narrow hundreds of entries in a contest into finalists. Do your best to get your instructable featured on homepage so that you get more audiences and more votes. If you enter a contest at the very last day, don't worry, there must be a special treatment aside from voting system if you write a really good instructable.

Step 6: Other Ways to Win

Now re-read the title : "How to Win Prizes at Instructables." Yes, it is not only about winning a contest. Publish four featured-instructables in a month and Instructables will reward you a prize for your hard work. Two times I got prizes in this way, a Leatherman Skeletool and a Leatherman Signal along with robot t-shirts and stickers. It means you have to publish at least one instructable every week and make sure it is a good one and be featured.

Don't think of "good" as something difficult or need few weeks to get it done. All we need is "ideas". Sharing ideas, no matter how simple it is, we are living at different side of the Earth with different culture. There are simple/traditional ways or some tricks that people might find useful to their lives. For example these are my very simple instructables :

Many people find it useful. They are not very special to me because I use them daily. They are always on my desk or I can easily grab the material around me and make it in a minute. So, now you can write down a list of DIY tools you use or how to get things done in your special efficient ways. Use "Draft" feature on Instructables to keep your ideas and publish them within a month. Bright ideas deserve prizes.

Another way to win prizes is by visiting the community forum once in a while. Sometimes they run a separate contest to win some prizes there. Sometimes you just need to "say something" and they put you into raffle to win gifts. Join Instructables social media such as Facebook, Youtube, Twitter and Pinterest to be notified with such events. Currently they are giving out Instructable Notebook and Carpenter Pencil to 20 selected members joining the "I Made It!" Madness!

See, now you know few ways to win something, apart from contests. Yeah, they are not "WoW!" prizes but they have sentimental values ;)

Additional Note :
Unfortunately four featured instructables in a month is no longer in effect. However, they are currently looking for another way to reward Authors. Stay tuned and keep making, keep writing.

Step 7: No Surprises

There will be no surprises to receive packages at your front door because you will be notified by email prior to receiving the prizes and they are sent with trackable FedEx Services.

I hope you don't quit Instructables and give it another try, another way to win, because you are so close to win a prize. Think about the power of millions of brains throughout the world united in here. Everybody wins the knowledge. Cheers!

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