The MOST important helpful tip I can give is to READ THE RULES! A lot of entries are disqualified because of not following the rules.
Here are the tips that I find helpful to succeed in winning contests.
STAY ORGANIZED. Set up a system that works for you. It can be a system with folders & paper files or with files on your computer. I do a system of both. Most contests now require a picture of your entry so I have folders of the pictures on my computer. I have a calendar just for my contests on my desk. I go thru the lists every few weeks and write the ones I want to enter on my calendar. I have a binder notebook with MONTH tabs. When I enter a recipe in a contest, I make a copy of it and file it in my notebook under the appropriate month. I also have a file caddy with folders labeled with the food category that I put a copy in.
START WITH SMALLER CONTESTS. This will help you build confidence and these seem to be easier ones to win. I do know people that started with the Pillsbury Bake-Off and did make it so you could win any kind of them!! I only entered small ones the first year I did this hobby but go for any of them you want to try. You can’t win if don’t enter!!!
ENTER CONTESTS THAT MATCH YOUR STYLE OF COOKING/BAKING. I am more of an old fashioned,homemade and comfort food kind of person. I can cook on the grill but I do not enter grilling contests. To me, I would be wasting a lot of money on ingredients and my time on these contests. The main thing would be to do the ones you feel comfortable and confident entering.
FOLLOW CURRENT FOOD TRENDS. I try to look at current food magazines, watch a lot of cooking shows and follow food blogs to get ideas. I always ask my friends and family to pick me up a paper menu when they eat out if one is available so I can study menus to see current food trends also. To be successful in contests, you can take your favorite family recipes and update them with popular ingredients.
HAVE FUN AND DON’T EXPECT TO ALWAYS WIN. I know, for myself, I NEVER expect to win a contest I have entered. I love creating recipes and try to do my best. I usually enter my recipe and then move on to the next contest. Sometimes, it is weeks or months before winning recipes are chosen so I usually have forgotten about the contest and am totally surprised when I win one. I have met the most wonderful friends doing this hobby and that is worth more than any of the prizes I have won. I see that people doing this are very supportive of each other and truly are thrilled when someone gets a win.