Katie Barnes
Katie Barnes

How to write a winning competition entry

By Katie Barnes | 01 February 2020 | Expert Advice, Feature

Katie Barnes Scratch Stars 2

With the Scratch Stars Awards 2020 open for entry from 1-28 February, multi-winner, Katie Barnes, reveals her tips for a winning entry…

Preparation is one of the key elements to success. Are you looking at entering the Scratch Star Awards this year? In this blog, I share my top tips to give you the best application that stands out.

  • Choose your categories wisely

There may be a few categories which will seem relevant to you but make sure you focus on what you are most proud of and choose the category which will best allow you to talk about it. You can enter up to two as an individual, and up to two as a business or team.

  • Read the small print

Some categories have specific criteria which you have to meet, such as minimum qualifications. Research this in the rules and requirements before starting your entry.

  • Be organised

I have a portfolio of my work: images; CV; achievements; articles; newspaper clippings etc that I constantly update through the year. By keeping all this information in one place, it is easily accessible and means that things you wish you had included won’t be forgotten. It’s also great for clients or students to see and gives you a sense of accomplishment.

Select your best highlights from this portfolio for your awards entry. As well as this portfolio, I also have all my certificates including insurance and award certificates in another folder and regularly update my CV to include each new training I attend.

  • Use only your best images

Ensure your work stands out above your competitors by submitting pictures of the best quality and content. Firstly, select your favourite images of your work that are applicable to the category you are entering and put them in a folder. To narrow these down, consider:

  1. Are the images excellent quality?
  2. Are the nails in focus, free from shadowing and do they have good lighting?
  3. Is the design/technique on the nails applicable to the category you are entering?
  4. Are the images free from clutter, background mess etc?
  5. Do the images you have selected show a variety of skills/techniques applicable to the category you are entering? E.g. short nails, extreme nails, smile lines, design etc rather than five images of the same technique?
  6. Use images that showcase as many techniques or skills in one image depending on the category.
  7. Check if the images must be submitted in a particular format or size.
  • Keep it to the point

Remember that the judges have hundreds of entries to sift through. Write in a way that takes the judges on a journey that allows them to truly understand where you have come from, and what you have achieved. 

  • The first starting point is to bullet point your achievements over the last year, from salon work, competition work, charity and volunteer work and consider anything which you have done that sets you apart and has contributed to the industry positively. Speak to family and friends to help you with this as often you can forget important content.
  • Use this to tell your story and journey, keep your achievements in date order and let each one flow naturally into the next.
  • Show your personality and what makes you unique but remember to always keep it professional.
  • Don’t waffle and keep the information to the point.
  • Keep to the word limit. If there’s a 50 word limit, the answer doesn’t require a lot of important, however if there is an 1000 word limit, the judges will usually be looking for more information than a couple of lines.
  • Use spell check and get someone to proof read your entry.

  • Don’t leave it until the last minute

Working under pressure at at the last minute like this can cause mistakes and regret of missing something important. I recommend that you copy and paste the entry form into a Word document which you can return to and improve through the application window before submitting it near the deadline date.

There’s nothing worse than pressing the submit button and realising you forgot content which you wish you had included. Technology is great, however there are times when it isn’t. Don’t leave your entry till the very last minute because it would be a shame for technology issues to cause your entry to miss the deadline.

  • Use it as reflection and set yourself goals from it

A lot of people are afraid to admit the things that went wrong, thinking it will be viewed as failure. Overcoming these issues and setbacks are part of our journey and that could make your entry stand out from the rest. Maybe you have entered before? What have you learnt from this and what steps have you put into place to contribute to your success this year?

Whatever the outcome – win, finalist or not making the shortlist, the process of preparing an awards entry is a valuable exercise for any business. Completing and awards entry form allows you to reflect on all you have achieved over the past year, which we can so easily forget. Look at areas where you feel that you could improve or add to and use this to set goals for yourself.

Good luck!

Love Katie B x


Entry for the Scratch Stars Awards 2020 is open until 28 February 2020. Click here for more information.