For example, wouldn't it be a shame if your stellar kitchen makeover was completely disqualified because the rules stipulated that entrants' photos could not show a brand name and yours showed cans of Sherwin-Williams brand paint or the Nike cap that protected your hair from renovation drips and dust? A less stellar entry could beat your amazing renovation--and fairly--if the other entrant simply followed all the rules.
Know that 12:00 p.m. means noon, not midnight.
Tip #2: Leave yourself twice the amount of time you think you'll need to complete the project and three times the amount of time you anticipate needing to prepare and complete your entry/application.
Bad things happen. People get sick, have emergencies, and sometimes need to reschedule even the best of plans. Computers and Web site servers can have glitches that prevent entries from proceeding as smoothly and as timely as they should.
Good things happen. People get last-minute invitations to amazing events; people get last-minute inspirations that lead to amazing additions to a project already in progress.
Leave plenty of time for you to meet your contest deadline despite whatever else life might add to your schedule as you work. Have back-up copies of your photos and written entry in case your computer crashes or the sponsor's server inadvertently times out or deletes your entry as you're submitting it.
What's the worst that can happen if you leave yourself extra time? You finish early?! Imagine that!
Tip #3: You might want to avoid contests that are judged by the number of votes cast online--unless the prize is so grand that it's worth devoting nearly full-time hours to drum up votes through the duration of the voting period.
You'd likely be surprised to discover how much time and energy goes into urging everyone you know to log on to a contest site, find your entry and vote for it. Often voters have to create an account in order to vote, so it really can become a time-consuming task for them. Chances are that only a small percentage of the people you ask to vote will actually go vote, no matter how "simple" you make it for them. It's not that they don't care to help; it's more likely that they already have too much to do on any given day and they just won't get around to it. Those closest to you (family, friends, co-workers, associates, etc.) and those closest to them may find the time, but third-generation friends and beyond are likely to ignore the request, and some may even be annoyed by it.
With all of that in mind, realize that in an online-voting contest you'll have to appeal to about 10-plus-times the number of potential voters you'd anticipated asking--and maybe every single day until the voting period ends. And understand that the winner/s will not be chosen on merit, but on popularity. If your obviously superior entry loses to a less qualified entry that obtained more votes, would you be okay with that or would you be very disappointed and think that you'd wasted valuable time?
Those are the main points to consider before entering a DIY contest judged by a count of online votes. I prefer contests judged by professionals who recognize and understand the work, creativity and other effort involved in an entry. Even in those, judging is subjective and the "obvious" winners don't always take away the prize. But I still think that the merit-judged contest route is usually the best bang for the effort.
Tip #4: Why stop at one contest? If you don't win the first, consider entering your project in another DIY contest. Be sure to follow the new sponsor's rules regarding entries that have been entered/published elsewhere, if applicable.
Tip #5: Always document the "Before," "During" and "After" stages of your DIY projects in writing and with photos (maybe even with video, too) and save this detailed documentation in a dedicated folder. You never know when you might discover a great DIY contest just begging for entries pertaining to projects like yours!
In your folder store all project-related notes, swatches, photos, paint color/type information, etc. Keep all receipts here, too. This information can assist you in the future in various ways, including if you ever need to purchase more of the same paint, recommend or coordinate colors, etc. Receipts will also come in handy if you find a contest to enter and need to prove that you used a specific product or if you're entering in a category for which you need to prove how much you spent (for example, if you enter your fabulous kitchen makeover in the Best Low-Budget Project category).