Hey There! Have you ever tried to enter a competition for your professional field? It can be a big deal to anticipate, get prepped for, and have to preform for. The thought of winning something and being deemed "excellent" in your field is great...but getting to that point is the hard part.
I remember the first time I thought about it. It was a little nerve wracking to me. I wanted to enter a contest with merit, that would challenge me, but I was also scared to under preform and waste the money.
In this picture I am holding 3 nation graphic design awards and 2 national web design awards for 2018. I enter a competition every year to keep myself fresh and motivated. I've learned a couple of things along the way that I hope will help get you started in the right direction if you are hoping to enter any future competitions.
1. DON'T BE SCARED TO "FAIL" - This is usually much easier to say that to live out. I get a little nervous every time I enter a competition. The first time was the worst. I was spending my hard earned money on a steep entry fee and had literally no idea if it would be worth it. If I were to be honest, I'd probably have to say that I wasted about 5 years being nervous about entering a competition with a personal cost. It hindered me a lot because not only do you not win any awards when you don't enter (shocking), you also have a little voice of second guessing in your head.
Am I really a great designer? Am I award worthy? I wish "now me" could tell "younger me" to go for it.
Even when you don't win, you learn about yourself and your industry. You learn the likes and dislikes of your clients, followers, and mentors. You learn that it's okay to try your best at something just for yourself.
2. IT'S OK TO START SMALL - I know how it is when you start out with a business. All your time is spent working your tail off and excess cash does not exist. The thought of spending $120 on just one entry is like punching yourself in the gut. You don't have to go crazy the first time around. Start small, with one or two entries...just get your foot in the door.
3. FIND INTERIM COMPETITIONS - If you still aren't comfortable forking out cash for the first go around, there are "Interim" competitions out there to help you get your feet wet. For example...there are probably some smaller, local and free competitions in your area to test your skills out on. Sometimes the bigger competitions will also have "free categories" in which you have to make something based on only one theme but when you enter it is at no cost to you. These are great ways to test the water.
4. GET INPUT FROM TRUSTED SOURCES - I cannot tell you how invaluable it is to have a mentor in your field that you trust and has a great reputation among peers. They can give you tips on where to improve, how to gain traction, and over all encouragement for your goals. Find someone like this to give you feedback so you know what your "quality services and works" are.
5. PREP THROUGHOUT THE YEAR - Once you get to the point where you are ready to enter a competition, storing up your award worthy entries as you go can be extremely helpful. Especially if you have a ton of services or products throughout the year, this is much better than remembering where you put your favorites when competition time comes. Be honest with yourself about what actually is your best work!
6. BUILD UP A REPUTATION - One of the best ways to show you are "current" in your field is to maintain at least one award every year. I started competing in 2016 and have 13 awards to show for it since. This allows my future client to know that I am not only up to date on the techniques of my industry but that I excel in it.
6. GRADUATE - Once you have a few competitions under your belt, branch out. Instead of entering the same competition every year, challenge yourself and try a harder or a more industry recognized one. If you want to play it safe you can still enter the competitions you are comfortable with at the same time, but be sure to stretch yourself. Work up to your "dream competitions". One day you could be like one of those people you admire. You can be a mentor to someone else.
Moral of the story...get out there! Try something new! Believe in your ability!