1. Your DIY project shouldn't look home-made-ish. The trick is to make things that are very easy and simple so that they can be done with excellence. When someone says "Oh, I love that. Where did you get it?" you know you've won.
Ex: A semi-famous DIYer did both of these projects. The etched glass jar on the right was no harder than the Christmas tree glass on the left, but the one on the right looks totally pro. The one on the left kind of looks like their kid's first DIY attempt. ;)
2. Pick your DIY project well. It should be something fashionable enough that you would actually buy. Look in high end stores for inspiration. There are so many ugly DIY projects out there. If you wouldn't pay good money for something, it's not worth trying to make on your own. Repeat after me...if it's not something you'd buy, it's not good DIY. I'm a poet. ;)
Ex: I found both of these headbands on etsy. I've also seen versions of these headbands in stores. The difference is the ones on the left I might find in Walmart and the one on the right I've seen at J. Crew. BIG difference. I repeat. BIG. DIFFERENCE.
3. Stick to your strengths. I've had people tell me that I'm more talented than the average joe. While that is super flattering, I must say I don't agree. I just play to my strengths! I can't sew (as of yet). I also can't draw very well. So you won't see me sewing homemade pillows all crooked and drawing large canvases of stick figures for my walls. That would be silly. What I CAN do is use a hot glue gun, take a decent picture, cross stitch, and arrange tablescapes. So, that's what I do!
Ex: My drawing skills are pretty level with Robert's (see below), but Robert is 5 and I'm almost 30. Sooo, I stay away from drawing things for my house. But, I can cross stitch!! The two images below Robert's masterpiece are masterpieces of my own that ended up on my art wall. I love how simple and almost modern they are. Cross stitch is my fave. :)
4. Finish. To make sure your DIY project is done with excellence, hide seems, finish stitches, think about closures, etc. It's all in the details. A sloppy finish will be the first thing people notice when they really look at your project. It may also be the difference of whether you'll keep your project around for a season or a decade. Do it once and do it right!
5. Materials. A lot of shows on HGTV and such have their designers use low-end materials to save money. This works for television because it photographs better than what it really looks like in person. Do not be fooled. Using Belgian linen instead of polyester could be a make it or break it moment in your project. It's like the difference between fake flowers and real ones. From a mile away, the fake ones may pass as real. But when you get close, only real flowers can make you go oooohhhh and aaaaahhh. Fake peonies are a crime against nature. OK, stepping off my soap box now.
Ex: Both of these skirts are DIYable. But one is made of cotton and the other chiffon. Take away the bedazzling and I'll still take the chiffon any day!
I hope these little secrets/tips help you and inspire you to try your own DIY project soon!