Contests and sweepstakes can be fun to enter and the prizes can be great. You can win everything from a few bucks in cash all the way up to new cars or houses. Contests are easily found. You can find them on product packaging, advertised on TV or in magazines, and through associations to which you belong. They’re also all over the Internet. Some people are quite successful and win many of the contests that they enter. Do they have some super-secret method for winning? No, but they do enter a lot of contests (increasing their odds of winning something, somewhere) and they do use some of the tricks listed below to increase their odds.
Find competitions that require you to do something: Maybe you have to write an essay about your favorite vacation destination. Maybe it’s a talent or skill based competition like a photography contest. Contests that require you to put forth some effort are a better bet than random draw contests. Why? First, these contests usually have fewer entrants (either people don’t have the required skill or they aren’t willing to put forth the effort), increasing your odds of winning. Second, you have some control over the outcome. Unlike a random draw, you have some control over the quality of your entry. If you write the best essay or take the best picture, you will win.
Enter local contests and sweepstakes: Contests sponsored by local merchants (or limited to certain geographical regions) have a much smaller entry pool than national or worldwide contests sponsored by huge corporations. Your odds of winning at the local level are greater.
Follow the rules exactly: Make sure you do everything exactly as the rules state. You don’t want your entry disqualified because you didn’t use the right sized postcard, or you entered multiple times when only one was allowed.
Look for contests that offer multiple prizes: Contests that only offer one prize aren’t a great bet because every entrant is competing for that one prize. Contests that offer multiple placings give you a better chance at winning something.
Don’t pay to enter a contest: The exception to this rule is if it is a talent based/judged competition. Sometimes legitimate contests in fields like photography, writing, and agriculture charge an entry fee. This is to keep out those who are not serious about the craft or talent being judged and the money usually goes into covering the overhead for the organization running the contest. If it’s a reputable contest sponsored by a reputable organization and you are skilled in the craft, go ahead and pay the fee. For most run of the mill contests and sweepstakes, however, don’t pay fees to enter. Similarly, don’t enter contests that require you to buy something to enter or to listen to a presentation, unless you are really interested in that thing to begin with. Some contests are simply marketing ploys to get you to cough up money or buy the product. Beware.
Use a disposable email address: You’ll probably generate a lot of spam from your contest efforts. Set up a disposable, free email address to keep your primary email clean. If you’re really into contests, you might want to think about a disposable cell phone, too, since you might end up getting a lot of telemarketing calls from contests that require your phone number.
Look for contests that allow multiple entries: Or not. Many online contests allow you to enter once per day. If you’re diligent about entering, you can increase your odds. However, contests that restrict you to only one entry can also increase your odds because you’re not competing against such a large field. It’s probably a crap shoot, but if the rules say you can enter more than once, do it.
Keep to a schedule: Contest entering can become a time consuming hobby if you’re not careful. While it’s fun to win, you have to be realistic that it will not replace a full time income. Allot yourself fifteen to thirty minutes every day as your “contest time.” Use only this time for your contest hobby and then forget about it.
Organize: Keep a list of currently active contests so you remember to enter every day if it’s allowed. Track due dates for submissions and make sure that any talent based entries are submitted on time. If you’re doing a lot of contests it’s easy to lose track, so devise a system to stay organized.
Use a form filling program: This can greatly increase the number of online contests that you can enter in a short period of time. These programs enter repetitive information like name, address, email, and phone number for you, saving you tons of time. There are several paid software programs available, but there are free alternatives available from Google and Mozilla.
You may never win a new car or a house entering contests. And even if you did, the taxes due on those prizes might mean you couldn’t keep them anyway. (No winner has ever kept the HGTV Dream House, for example, because the tax burden is too great.) However, you can win some cash, concert tickets, vacations, movie tickets, gift certificates, or other items just by entering your name. You might not always win “money” but there’s a lot of fun stuff out there to be had and anything you win is something you won’t have to buy.