How to Win Prizes at Instructables

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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 Instructables.com 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 www.instructables.com. 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 Instructables.com 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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    22 Discussions

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    AmalMathew

    8 months ago

    I got 5 featured instructables in a month ,but i didn't get any prices

    4 replies
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    chienlineAmalMathew

    Reply 7 months ago

    Pssstt!! Now they might send you a gift pack or something maybe when your Instructable got included in their weekly newsletter or when they just thought you deserved it. I think this is a new way of rewarding replacing the 4-featured in a month. So, keep making things, keep writing, and you will get a surprising message in your inbox ;)

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    chienlineAmalMathew

    Reply 8 months ago

    Upss... sorry my friend, unfortunately, like @randofo said that four-featured-instructables giveaway is no longer in effect. It was 2016 when I got notified in my inbox.

    Don't worry, they are working on (or maybe they already have) another way to reward Authors, so just keep writing and sharing your ideas with us. Maybe on your 25th featured instructables or on your tenth Homepage Featured Instructables that they will send you something? Let's stay tuned and figure it out ;)

    Currently you can join and fight on running contests and you can try "I Made It!" Madness! where there are less participants and more chances to win ;)

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    AmalMathewchienline

    Reply 8 months ago

    Thank you for replying,You have given a great instructables,you have given very good information about how to win contest,

    already I have entered in "I Made It!" Madness! .I won't leave Instructables because , making always makes me to thing to build something that matters ,always making makes me happy :)

    Thank You :)

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    Creative Mom CZ

    8 months ago

    This is a great overview! Pity the four featured is no longer in effect because there was a month when I got many featured (compared to my total published ones).

    I write instructables about things I like doing, that I usually do with or for my kids and family but the problem is that I am new here and I get very few views, likes, comments...even on instructables which won 1st prize. I don't know what to do about that because I've won contests and got like 3 comments while other entries which did not place seemed to get more attention from the members. Consequently, I think I have some instructables that are original and neat ideas but very few people look at them because I have just a few followers. Not complaining, I think this is the downside of being new here, though it is a bit frustrating because I am publishing quite actively.

    Anyway, thanks for this food for thought!

    3 replies
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    MatlekCreative Mom CZ

    Reply 7 months ago

    Hi! Publishing Instructables concerning things you do with your kids and family and that you like to do is the perfect way to make good Instructables (that is why you won 3 contests!).

    Concerning the views, I think you can increase your traffic by being more active on the website. It looks like you have written only 30 comments. Do not hesitate to post comments on Instructables you like, or to give some bits of advice to the authors. This way you will be more visible on the website, and authors are more likely to read your Instructables.

    The views on your profile increase as follow: published instructable (recent) < featured instructable < homepage < facebook < newsletter < other websites (Pinterest, Facebook, Thingiverse...). Unfortunately, if the instructable is not featured it is really hard to have readers. So you can post it and link it to other websites by yourself (before someone else). As an example, I often publish my 3D designs on Thingiverse and I link the instructable related to the designs.

    I hope it helped :)

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    chienlineCreative Mom CZ

    Reply 8 months ago

    You joined Instructables about six months ago and you have written so many featured instructables. That is "Awesome!". You are doing good. You are already a winner here. Okay, I'll try to explain a lil' bit.

    The love sign (read Favorite) is a little different from Instagram's love or Facebook's like. Some users use it the same way as Instagram or Facebook, but I (and I believe some people out there) use it more like a bookmark. Things I think they are "cool" or "useful", I will put them in my favorite list as a collection. When I forget the title and want to make it one day, I will search in my favorite list rather than the whole Instructable database. So I won't put so many favorites in the list or it will be hard to find one.
    The comment. Mostly people with the same interests will comment, or people having trouble in following the instruction will ask. Growing followers needs time. Keep learning and writing good instructables will make it happen. You can join classes to expand your skill in other topics. Step 5 : share your work on social media will increase your views and maybe followers and comments.

    The view. The more the better. It means people read your instructables. Either only the introduction or the whole steps, they like it or not, it doesn't matter. Some people will find it useful, unique, awesome, and if they run a website somewhere out there, they might share your instructables on their sites or Pinterest or somewhere else. Believe me. You will notice this kind of thing happens when you search your "title" at Google and see that some DIY sites are sharing your instructables.

    Keep making, keep sharing, believe me there are a lot of Moms out there just about following you -- the winner with three trophies by now. ;)

    Don't worry about the views, comments, or faves. Keep collecting the complete colors of Robot tee shirt :D

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    Phil B

    8 months ago

    I submitted a comment to the Instructsble by Mrballeng that you linked. I have won prizes in a contest a couple of times. I have also been a judge in a couple of other contests. From my experience as a judge, a winner first has to gather favorable response from ordinary site users to make the cut for those considered by judges. I took that responsibility very seriously and looked for entries that were good practical clever ideas presented well. If they would save the maker money, that was a bonus in my mind. I took my time judging and looked at my choices again several times before submitting them. Usually my choices were very close to those of other judges unknown to me. Then our reduced field went to folks at Instructables for final mudging and I have no idea how that worked. The times when I did win something, it was part a good idea that appealed to quite a few others and I was making the submission at the right time. No real strategy beyond a good idea done well at the right time would have helped me.

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    chienlinePhil B

    Reply 8 months ago

    Thank you, Sir for your input. Surely iTeam need help from good Authors to help narrowing the finalists.
    As I said I am not an insider as well and I wrote this Instructables simply to deliver rough guidelines and also alternative ways to win prizes from Instructables apart from contests. Also to encourage dissappointed Authors who have written good instructables but felt like there're conspiracies because they didn't win any contest.

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    Phil Bchienline

    Reply 8 months ago

    Encouraging disappointed authors is a very good thing. A nice aspect of Instructsbles in general is their "be nice policy." We have likely all had someone criticize one of our Instructables in very unfair and cruel ways. I have found those people usually have never submitted an Instructable themselves. I once posted about an idea that worked very well for me. When this guy tore my idea apart, I said I hoped he would publish his first Instructsble soon so we could comment on his work. Anyway, I just wanted to share my experience as someone who had decided never to enter snother contest, who did finally enter some other contests and won a couple of prizes, and who has also been asked a couple of times to participate in the judging.

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    randofo

    8 months ago

    Hello!

    Thanks for the great overview.

    As the person who currently oversees contests on this site, I would just like to chime in for a moment about Step 4. Don't make what you think we want to see. Make what you are passionate about. What we like seeing is when people make things they really care about.

    But... if you want an inside tip, one thing that always grabs our attention is when a project is unique and there has not been 50 other similar projects posted to the site.

    Unfortunately, the four featured Instructable giveaway is no longer in effect. However, we are currently looking at new ways to reward authors. Stay tuned for that!

    Also, if I may ask, how many unpublished drafts do you have? It sounds like you might have quite the collection!

    5 replies
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    chienlinerandofo

    Reply 8 months ago

    Hi, Randy,

    I have guessed that you must be one of few who keep watching contests entries ^^ and about Step #4 : Analysis, I didn't write it that clear because I'm afraid it will become too long and be my private diary. Homepage featured instructables are good instructables featured by one of you, then your instructables are the root of all good instructables. Yes, you are human as we are. No one is perfect. We learn how you write, how you explain step by step, how you think, just like we are learning from teachers at school. Most of the time we can feel the emotion from comments. "I love the way you cut that hole." I used to cut a hole that way, now I know that is a special way unlike others. "Do I have any other unique-ways to share?" That question will make us think and write another instructable ^^ There are many members in iTeam covering a wide area of DIYs, er.. I mean all kind of DIY projects. That means whatever the topic of our projects, someone in the team must have the same interest. Then we analyze his/her instructables and comments to produce good write-up for ourselves.

    "Unique", yes, either products or ways, why that word didn't cross my mind in the process of writing this instructable? English is not my mother's tongue and Google is my best friend, teaches me vocabulary and grammar.

    So sad to hear that four-featured-instructables has been dismissed. Yes, that is understandably that we now have so many authors and many instructables to read by limited iTeam. Can't wait to figure out the new way of rewarding ^^

    Ahh.. Draft-ing is just crossing my mind. Technically (I am a technical Guy indeed) it will increase your chance to win. As soon as a contest starts, early birds get more votes. Some would say your instructable will be buried down by time, but with great partnership with Step #5 : Social Media, you can re-share your work once a week. People will get there with a single click without digging the Instructables pages. As I mentioned before, I am not a real bounty hunter myself. I do use "draft" as notepad and sticky note sometimes, but not collecting projects to be published on certain time joining contests. Instead, I use contest themes to spin my brain, to think what can I make in my spare time :D

    "2 drafts" you saw on the screenshot, one was this How to Win Prizes at Instructables, the other has stayed there for years, the Bose Box contest which I cannot delete even with the old editor. I just can't hold myself from clicking the orange "Publish" button soon I finished my writing :D

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    BrittLivchienline

    Reply 8 months ago

    I was thinking about writing a "how to win an instructables contest", you beat me to it.

    I agree with the other comments. Especially that you should not write what you think the instructable admins would like to see. There are actually more than 50 people who can feature instructables (I can, too, but I rarely do (we are obviously not allowed to feature or own stuff)).

    Be creative, build what you are passionate about and take good pictures! Getting inspired by contests is great, but I've stopped building things just for contests. This way if you don't win you still have something you love (or especially if you made it for somebody in mind, you will have a great gift).

    You say that: "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."

    I guess if those rules would actually apply I wouldn't have won a single contest... In my experience something creative, fun and new always beats a simple, easy to replicate project. Those are great tips if you would like many views (especially over time), but not at all essential to winning a contest.

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    chienlineBrittLiv

    Reply 8 months ago

    Hi, BrittLiv, it's good to know that there are more people can feature instructables, even outside the iTeam. Now there will be no more doubt, no way that one's instructable is missed from reading by iTeam.

    <br>I love making things. Mostly I think of things that can help myself with my daily activities, DSLR Cowboy Holster ; Wireless Router Remote Reboot ; Arduino Auto Knock ; and some other instructables, the rest were just for fun, jazz-up the contests. I also write my own codes for business inventory and some scripts to ease my daily works :)

    <br>Sometimes I am just boring and out of idea about what to make. Then I check the contests page to boost my brain. Surfing the net and thinking, inventing, and it works. As you said, I love what I make and enjoy the making process. Winning a prize is awesome, but "thinking and making" fill my days ^^

    <br>"Easy to replicate" was not my intention really, what I mean with "the easier the better" is the step by step provided are easy to understand and easy to follow to replicate the process. And the "easy to get materials" means people can buy it in the market if they don't have it at home. Not like one of my instructable : Side Table From Old Swing Chair, yes, that was a limited swing chair and no one can replicate the steps if they don't have the same chair :D

    That table stays in my room and does a good job as a table until today :)

    <br> All inputs in comment section are positive and I will make an edit later, with the words from the True Professional inside iTeam :)

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    chienlinechienline

    Reply 8 months ago

    Ouch.. now I am messing around with code, tags.

    Using "enter-key" do bring the text to next line

    but "double-enter-key" does not separate to a new paragraph. <br><br> Last time I use double "BR-tag" it jumps down two lines. <br> Yesterday I use single "BR-tag" and the tag is printed. <p> Should I use "P-tag" instead? Just curious... :D

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    Yonatan24randofo

    Reply 8 months ago

    We shouldn't make projects you'd want to see - we should make projects you would have never guessed you would wanted or would have imagined seeing!

    Great I'ble BTW!

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    Yonatan24

    8 months ago

    I think out of everything, pictures are the most important.

    Obviously, it's a balance of everything, but I think a very well documented I'ble with poorly taken pictures normally isn't as good as a "simple" straight to the point I'ble with excellent pictures. After all, many of us would still enjoy watching National Geographic type documentaries without the narration. (Ok that might not be a good example)

    Speaking of pictures, if I were you, I would add the Instructables Robot in the thumbnail, and maybe also text saying something like "Congrats! You have won the...". Just seeing the thumbnail doesn't make me think of Instructables.

    1 reply
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    chienlineYonatan24

    Reply 8 months ago

    Yes Yon, you're right about good photos. 5 minutes project can be stretched to few hours when we are taking good photos for step by step. Sometimes we find out that we don't have enough photos to explain the step or the photo we have is not good enough, then we have to go back there to take another one. That makes people desperate when they compare the effort they have done and still don't win anything. That's why I share tips to win something, to encourage them keep writing. Good to hear that some enjoy the making process just like me and do not bother about winning or not.


    In my cover image I just want a simple picture represents the title, yes that is my own hand :D and I did think of The Robot before. Just didn't want it hanging/hovering on the white spaces, and the black space on the throphy was just too small. Then I decided to leave the Robot and put that orange text there :D