A Brief How-To in Contesting

One of my hobbies is entering contests and sweepstakes. To date, I have won cash, gift cards, a weekend getaway, a cell phone three tablets. I guess you could say that I do ok at it. And because of this people want to know what my secret is. Well, the truth is that like anything else, it takes work.

The following is a Sweepstakes 101 that I originally wrote for crokki.com

Contests, Sweepstakes and Giveaways – Is there a difference?

Technically yes – but to most people…not really. The technical difference between a sweepstakes and a contest is that a sweepstakes is based completely on luck (e.g. a random draw from all eligible entries) whereas a contest has an element of skill involved (e.g. a photo contest in which the entries are judged). A “giveaway” is a term that can be used for either of these as well as used for “freebies promotions”.

Now that the technical definition is out of the way, please understand that most people – including the sponsors of contests and sweepstakes often do not know the difference and will use the terms interchangeably.

And – for the remainder of this article, we will be using the term “contest” to refer to both contests and sweepstakes.

So you want to be a contester: getting started

If you had to choose between being a contester who wins thousands of dollars worth of prizes every year and being a contester who only rarely wins, what would you choose? Do you assume that the one who wins more is spending countless hours chained to their computer? What if I were to tell you that many contesters only spend a couple of hours each day (less time than many people spend watching television), and are still able win thousands in prizes each year!

Would you be interested to know what these people are doing that others aren’t?

The simple answer is that winning contesters have developed a process that works for them. So for the benefit of you newbie contesters out there, I am going to share my process with you. Feel free to copy it exactly or to modify it in a way that works for you.

Read the rules

It’s one little check box on most web based contest forms “I have read and understood the rules”. Everyone puts the check in the box, but the reality is that very few people actually take the time to read the rules.

While there are many reasons that you should read the rules, one reason you should always read the rules is to find out how often you are allowed to enter a contest. Many contests allow one entry per day but if you don’t know this, you may end up only entering once while your competition is entering multiple times – and therefore decreasing your chances of winning.

Keep records of your daily, weekly and monthly contests

My personal average of “daily” contests is about 100. Because I enter so many “multiple entry” contests, it is essential that I am able to keep track. Many contesters will keep their contest list with the links in a Word document or Excel spreadsheet.

My personal preference is to use a Google Drive (www.google.com/drive/) Spreadsheet because it is free and I can access it anywhere I have internet access. I use separate sheets for “daily”, “weekly” and “monthly” contests and have columns for “Contest Sponsor”, “Prize” and “Contest Link”. If a UPC is needed to enter the contest, I will list them in the next column along with any important notes that I might want to remember for that particular contest.

Once I have completed all of my regular entry contests, I will then search out any new contests that may have started. Contest sites are a good place to start. You can also find new contests in company e-newsletters and through other contesters you may be friends with through social media.

When I find a new contest, I read the rules to determine how many times I can enter it and then add it to my spreadsheet accordingly.

Other Tools of the Trade

So how long does it take to enter 100 (or more) contests? It can take a long time without the right tools! Many contesters – myself included – use form filling software which can greatly increase the speed at which you can enter contests. Remember, the more contests you enter, the more often you are going to win!

The software I use is called RoboForm which can be downloaded at www.roboform.com . Although there is a paid version of this software, I have found that the free version is sufficient for entering contests.

Basically the software allows you to fill out web forms with one click rather than keying in all of your information each time.

A few words of caution on RoboForm

I cannot stress enough, how important it is to read the rules. Although using a form filler is legal in many contests, there are some contests in which it is against the rules. Before using RoboForm for the first time in any contest, read the rules and make sure that you are not going to get disqualified for doing so.

Secondly, although I consider Roboform to be an excellent tool, it is not a perfect one. Occasionally, it may not fill out a form correctly. For example, some contest forms may require that you include your telephone number with no dashes – Roboform may not see this so you may have to do this part of the form manually. Or sometimes, if the web form has not been programmed properly, Roboform may put information in the wrong sport – such as putting your postal code where the form is asking for your telephone number. In other words, you still need to use your human eyes to ensure that Roboform is working correctly.

Contesting Tips in a Nutshell

So now that I’ve shared my personal process, I’d like to recap some of the most important tips as well as to share a few new ones:

  • Have a process and keep track of your regular contests
  • Try to do your contesting around the same time each day – some daily contests reset every 24 hours – by entering at the same time each day, it will help you ensure that you can enter the maximum allowable times.
  • Read the rules – ensure that you are eligible, know how many times that you can enter, and if it is a skill based contest, pay special attention to the judging criteria.
  • Enter as many times as the contest allows – the more you enter, the more you win.
  • Use RoboForm or a similar program unless it is against the rules.
  • Thank the sponsor when you win. Although this last point doesn’t necessarily help you win more contests, it is just a nice thing to do. Especially in the case where the contest is run via social media, it is nice to let the sponsor know that you are happy to receive the prize. Remember, behind the company is a person that will feel good when you say thank you!
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