Entering contests and competitions: What’s in it for you?
Matt Buell in shop with bandsaw

Matt Buell is custom woodworker in Arkansas, and the host of the 2024 #YoungWoodPro competition.

It’s time to begin the next #YoungWoodPro contest, but first I want to thank everyone for following along this last year. I am happy to announce I will be hosting and participating as a judge for the 2024 contest, continuing with incoming articles. With that in mind, this is a great time to remind you that entering a competition like the #YoungWoodPro or any other contest is a good idea. Other than the obvious benefit of potentially winning cash and prizes, I want to offer a few other reasons for participating. 

Take your measure
The #YoungWoodPro contest has several advantages that are worth your entry. Since contestants are in the beginning stages of their careers, this competition can serve as a great measure of where you are with your skills and development. 

Putting yourself out there in front of others allows you to get outside perspective on your work. This alone is of great value if you are open minded and determined. Getting your work in front of others and some more experienced woodworkers is a good way to learn or to be validated that your hard work is paying off. 

Being able to receive suggestions, compliments, and constructive criticism has been extremely helpful in my career. I consider it a privilege and an honor when people take the time to look at my work, no matter what the outcome.

Plenty of exposure
Due to the nature and process of the #YoungWoodPro being online using social media for voting (as many contests are these days), your work will get a good deal of exposure even if you don’t win. Thousands of people will have your work put right in front of them. That’s exposure that can lead to more work and broadening your online audience. That alone is worth your effort and entering the contest. 

For the winner it’s even more exposure. Speaking from personal experience, I can tell you winning opens doors professionally, so it’s absolutely worth giving it a shot. Nothing bad can come of getting your work out to as many sets of eyes as possible. You will either win a contest or learn where you need to improve. Both are incredibly valuable. 
Regarding winning though, your resume is dramatically improved. Don’t sell the gravitas of winning juried completions short. I have experienced the effects of it in positive ways firsthand.

Getting seen
To take the motivation of getting your work out there via online entry to the contest a little farther, here’s another perspective. These days there is an almost overwhelming amount of people posting their work and promoting themselves online. When I get on social media, I can’t help but notice the vast amounts of people promoting themselves. The woodworking community has no shortage of that currently it seems.

With that in mind, it might be wise to enter as many contests as possible, just increase your odds of getting seen. Call it the scattershot approach, meaning that every single opportunity to get your work out in the virtual world (within ethical reason) is a good idea. If it’s a woodworking-specific competition or contest, entering one acutely targets the right audience for you. You are basically using someone else’s social media ad revenue and audience to gain views. It certainly can’t hurt to try, and I can’t think of what a budding young professional woodworker has to lose by doing so.

Someone I know once said, “Good luck happens to those who put themselves in position to be lucky.” A combination of putting in the work and getting it in front of as many people as you can by entering online contests certainly qualifies as good positioning. As we start to gear up for the 2024 #YoungWoodPro competition, I strongly suggest giving your consideration to entering. 

#YoungWoodPro is a contest and an educational program sponsored by Grizzly Industrial to help novice professionals improve their skills in business and woodworking. Watch for the call for entries for the 2024 contest coming in January.

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About the author
Matt Buell | President/Owner/C-Level

Matt Buell of M. Buell Studio the host of the 2023 #YoungWoodPro contest and lead coach for the people who make up the YoungWoodPro audience. Buell has achieved national acclaim for his custom furniture and was honored as a member of the Woodworking Network 40 Under 40 Class of 2018.