6 Tips for Success in Minted Challenges

You’ve set up your artist profile and you’re ready to enter your first Minted Design Challenge. This is an exciting and scary time. Where do you start? How do you stand out? What are you supposed to do after you submit your design? We have answers.

1. Read the Challenge Kit Closely

Every challenge has a submission kit with prize information, details about the type of work we’re looking for, creative notes, templates, submission and file guidelines. “Read the challenge notes—all of them—and then use those to help guide your design decisions,” says Julie Green, who joined the Minted community in 2010 and has 116 wins under her belt.

Within challenge notes, Minted’s merchandising team provides clues about what they’re looking for, and the files team includes info about the things you can and can’t do from a technical standpoint. “The more attention you pay to the challenge notes, the better your chances are of getting an editor’s pick,” Julie says.

Minted artist Kamala Nahas agrees. “I know it’s not always exciting, but there’s lots of useful information in the challenge kit. It tells you everything from how to set up files for submission to the special prizes Minted will be awarding.”

Julie Green of Up Up Creative’s Paper Crane wedding invitation

2. Edit and Curate Your Submissions

Now comes the fun part—creating! It’s important to remember that challenges are not a numbers game. You don’t have more of a chance of winning if you enter more submissions. Always submit your best work and curate the number of submissions you enter in a challenge.

“I’ve learned to edit my entries and not just put up every idea I come up with,” says Karly Depew, the 2015 Minted Holiday Photo Card winner who has more than 150 designs for sale on Minted. “I’ve tried to create a style that can be recognized as my work. I’ve also found that a winning entry doesn’t always mean it will be a good seller. Sometimes, the designs that sell the best are the ones you least expect.”

Equally important to editing your designs is curating before you submit. Sometimes it can be hard to narrow down which designs to enter. Kamala Nahas is a firm believer in “culling her herd,” as she calls it, and even after 27 wins, she’s still thoughtful about which pieces she submits.

“I use social media as a tool,” she says. “I create a Facebook photo album of all my potential entries and ask friends and family to like their favorites. I’ve had a number of prints that may not have made my personal cut, but ‘my village’ liked. I nearly cut my winning entry “Malibu Surf and Sky II,” but the social media response was so overwhelming I decided to submit it.”

Kamala’s winning photograph, Malibu Surf and Sky II, which she almost didn’t submit.

3. Be Uniquely You

While it’s important to get a sense of Minted’s aesthetic and customer before you submit to challenges, it’s even more important to deliver work that’s unique and truly represents your style as an artist.

“Don’t copy trends,” says stationery designer Kimberly Fitzsimons, who has over 100 wins and has been entering Minted challenges since 2009. “Florals may be huge, but if they aren’t your strength, don’t do them. Try to find your core design strengths and apply them. It took me two or three years to identify and refine my design style. Knowing what types of designs I produce best allows me to focus my efforts for Minted submissions.”

While it’s helpful to check out your competition, never copy a design you see on Minted. We encourage you to seek inspiration and discover your style. To learn where other artists find inspiration, read our #WhatInspiresMe series published monthly on Minted’s blog, Julep. And in the words of Kim Dietrich Elam, “Be you—be original and do your own thing.”

If you ever find a design you think is a copy of your work or someone else’s, the proper way to alert us is to fill out this form.

Brush Strokes Valentine’s Day card by Kimberly Fitzsimons

4. Give and Take Feedback

One of the things that makes the Minted community so special is how supportive and encouraging artists are with each other, despite the fact that they are in competition with each other. We’ve heard over and over from artists how they have become better designers because of the Minted community.

“Once I started thinking of the challenges as a way to learn from extremely talented people, my Minted experience changed dramatically, and I started to learn and grow so much,” says Julie Green. Kim Dietrich Elam brings that point home: “If you post a design on Minted and request feedback, you get the relevant, helpful and specific critiques that you need. The collaborative effort may even elevate a design from ‘meh’ to ‘love it!’”

It’s important to ask for specific feedback through the polls and critique features during challenges, but it’s also crucial to give back to the community. Chris Griffith recommends commenting and giving feedback to fellow artists, in addition to applying the critiques you receive to hone your skills. “I learned a lot by evaluating designs, and it started to give me a better sense of what really worked for me, too,” she said.

Providing feedback and asking for advice is also a great way to get to know fellow Minted artists, it’s how many friendships start. Kim Dietrich Elam, who has been designing for Minted since 2011 and has 50 wins put it perfectly: “Like with most things, I think you get out of Minted what you put into it. The more you participate, and encourage and help others, the more encouragement and help you will get in return.”

Read more advice in “10 Tips for Critiquing Minted Art and Designs.

5. Use Artist FAQs

This may be our most boring bit of advice, but trust us when we say it’s important. You’ll likely have many questions when you begin working with Minted, and we’re always happy to help, but we ask artists to check out the very extensive FAQ section on Minted first. In the words of Minted artist Laura Bolter: “Search the Minted Facebook group page or the Artist FAQ Zendesk for answers to questions before posting questions in the community. There is a wealth of information that’s been shared in those places.”

There are over 100 articles in the Artist FAQ section which covers topics ranging from the challenge process, intellectual property, prize payments, to how to join the Minted Community Facebook group. We recommend bookmarking this page and referring to it often.

6. Don’t Give Up. Be Patient.

One of the biggest pieces of advice you’ll hear from seasoned Minted artists is to keep going. “Don’t give up. Although I joined Minted in 2011, I didn’t really start entering challenges on a regular basis until 2012. I was really awful. When I look at those first designs, I cringe. It took almost a year and a half until I got my first editor’s pick,” says Chris Griffith, who now has over 70 wins.

Karly Depew echos Chris’s sentiment. “Don’t give up too soon. You may not get a winner or editor’s pick, but that doesn’t mean it can’t happen at some point. Keep trying and submit to a variety of challenges. If wedding invitations aren’t your strength, then maybe give children’s birthday invitations a chance.”

Remember that there are so many benefits to being a part of Minted, and you don’t need a win to be a part of the community. Julie Green offers up this great advice, “Be patient. Some people are lucky enough to get wins and picks in their first few challenges, but most people aren’t. Try to think of every challenge as an opportunity to hone your craft, make friends in the community, and learn from the amazing talent of the other designers participating.”

Christina Loff is an Artist Relations Manager at Minted, focusing on outreach and onboarding. She’s been lucky enough to work with the talented and innovative teams at ReadyMade magazine (RIP), CreativeLive, Creativebug, Hello!Lucky, and Chronicle Books, where she worked as a publicist and marketer for six years developing and promoting their lifestyle and craft category. Christina has also written for various websites and magazines including CraftStylish and SFist. Follow Christina on Instagram @tweetsweet.

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Published January 19, 2016 • Learn how to become a Minted artist here.
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