How to win money entering competitions
Addicted to entering competitions? Some people make thousands of pounds a year from winning prizes and this is exactly how they do it.
No, we're not pulling your leg. It really is possible to turn entering competitions into a business, and people really do it professionally. There's even a special name for it – 'comping'. Believe us now?
Marketing bigwigs reckon there are about 30,000 competitions running at any one time in the UK, featuring prizes ranging from sports cars to multipacks of toilet roll and even hard cash.
Either way, there's a helluva lot of freebies out there to get your hands on!
So, now we've got your attention, we imagine you'll be wanting us to let you in on all the tricks of the trade, right? Good job you found this guide then.
What's on this page?
What is a comper?
If you've ever entered a competition before, you'll know how easy it is to take part. Most of the time, it's just a matter of entering your personal details or answering an easy-peasy multiple choice question to be in with a chance of winning big bucks.
However, 'compers' take this to the next level, entering dozens (sometimes hundreds) of competitions a week as a hobby. They dedicate hours a day to it and sometimes make thousands of pounds a year!
Everyone loves winning freebies but doing so on this scale takes some serious dedication – here's how you do it.
How to start comping
Some professional compers say they enter an average of 100 competitions a day, but this is not a target to aim for unless you want to become a total recluse, lose all your friends and fail your degree.
We'd suggest entering around 30 competitions a week as a more realistic (but still tough!) goal. Remember that this will take up a fair bit of your precious time if you decide to give it a proper go and want to start seeing a return.
The best way to start is by getting into the mindset of treating this as your job:
- Set aside a set amount of hours a day for it
- Set out a personal system for tracking the competitions you enter (spreadsheets, etc.)
- Set up separate comping email (with a different email provider from your personal account so there's no logging in and out)
- Set yourself some targets to work towards (like x number of cash competitions vs x freebie competitions etc)
Saying that, although treating this as a profession will help you achieve better results, remember that entering competitions for a living isn't really feasible as you still have to count heavily on luck. Also, a lot of your winnings will be material products rather than hard cash, so these simply won't pay the bills.
Before you get started, put a spreadsheet together where you can keep track of all the competitions you enter and the prizes you've won. This will prevent you from wasting time entering the same competitions more than once as this can get you disqualified, too.
Note that when you first start out, things will be slow and you can expect to wait between 3–6 months before you actually win anything. It's rare to have a quick turnaround with these things, so the key is to be patient!
Which are the best competitions to enter?
With so many competitions out there, it's hard not to feel a bit like a kid in a sweet shop.
It's true that by the laws of probability, the more competitions you enter, the more you'll win, but the only way to really ace it at comping is to enter competitions tactically. Focus on the competitions offering prizes that you really want, and don't waste time on anything you're not personally interested in.
You can sometimes sell your winnings on for a profit if you don't want them, but if you neither want the prize yourself or think it's worth flogging, don't waste your time entering in the first place.
Remember that a prize you're not bothered about could make somebody else's dreams come true, so think ethically before entering.
Also bear in mind that it's not always possible to sell on your winnings – particularly in the case of free holidays or day trips, which will involve bookings being made in your name – so think carefully before you enter!
Cash competitions also pop up from time to time and tend to be very popular with compers as you know the exact value of what you're getting your hands on.
Which competitions to avoid
As you're undoubtedly aware, there are a lot of spam competitions out there. They're on a mission to get their grubby hands on your personal details so they can sell them on to other companies so they can start spamming you, too!
A lot of spam-generating comp sites will still have genuine prizes to give out, but there will be so many entries to these competitions that the chances of you winning are so slim it's hardly worth your time and effort (particularly if you have to deal with a bombardment of spam in exchange for entering). Therefore, it's a better idea to stick to competitions run by brands you already know and trust.
Get some antivirus software to protect your computer, since you'll be browsing a lot of new sites each day that you've maybe never been on before, and can't vouch for their legitimacy.
Also, aside from paying out for the odd stamp here and there to send in your entries, you should never have to pay up to enter a competition. Avoid any opportunities that involve calling up a premium rate number (listed here), as you're likely to be left hanging on the line while they rake in the cash from your phone bill.
Beware of some sites that offer 'exclusive' contest lists specifically aimed at compers. Don't bother paying to view lists like these – they will normally just include the most popular competitions, meaning if you're out looking for this stuff each day, you will already know about them.
If a competition asks you to pay out any money as some sort of deposit after you win, run a mile... and report them to the ASA (Advertising Standards Authority) on your way out the door!
Where to find competitions
There's more to the world of competitions than just the lottery (which your chances of winning are super slim). Let us take you through some of the main sources you should be scouring to find the best competitions.
Save the Student competitions
We have a whole section of our site dedicated to competitions we think may be of interest to students. Make this your first port of call!
Sign up to newsletters of brands you like, and keep a particular eye on ones that normally run comps.
There are some good sites that collate lots of competitions in one place which saves you the hassle of having to look for them. Try MoneySavingExpert's Competitions Time forum or the aptly named Competitions Database site.
If travel's your thing, Chelsea from How Many Holidays collects travel comps on her site – and while you're at it, read some of her money-saving holiday hacks.
But, as we mentioned, don't pay to access any competition databases – they're not worth the money.
Some companies offer great rewards schemes for their customers, especially phone networks and energy companies.
The Virgin Red app also has lots of competitions (and Virgin customers include everyone who's used their trains, gyms, planes, broadband or credit card). There are loads more reward apps though, so keep your eyes peeled when signing up for new services.
Try searching for the hashtag #competition on Twitter every day to see if anything pops up that's of interest to you.
You'll normally be required to retweet something a brand has posted, so you might want to make a separate Twitter account just for comping if you don't want your followers' feeds getting clogged up with all your comping efforts!
Another good tip is to follow other compers to see what competitions they're entering. Just be careful to avoid scams and check the competitions are open to UK entries – you'll find a lot of US ones on there!
Using Facebook to find competitions is more difficult, but they're normally really easy to enter. Most of the time you'll just be asked to 'like' a post or a page in order to enter into a prize draw.
Keep an eye on your filtered messages folder in Facebook Messenger (it goes deeper than just your message requests – here's how to find it), as if you win your congrats message could end up in there rather than your inbox.
We'll also keep you updated on any good competitions we come across via our Facebook page. We run a few great competitions of our own, too – so get us liked pronto!
Another tip is to search for local comp groups in your area e.g. Sheffield Comping group. This can be a great way of connecting with the comping community and finding more competitions to enter!
Don't forget that you're technically not allowed to set up two Facebook accounts, so any competitions you enter that involve sharing posts will appear on your main feed.
Instagram is really popular for fashion brand competitions in particular, but also any businesses that offer tangible products to get your hands on. Follow all your favourite brands and also try searching #competition in the 'explore' bar to see what comes up.
Make sure to search other entries to see what you're up against and make sure your entry stands out. Remember to make your profile public, otherwise brands won't be able to view it.
Pinterest is similar to Instagram in that it's a hot spot for fashion and apparel comps. Most of the competitions on Pinterest will be to win certain products, so this isn't the place to look if you're on the hunt for cash prizes.
TV and radio competitions
TV and radio shows are also a good option to try (although these can involve paying out as you sit on a phone line, so bear this in mind). Go for local stations to increase your chances of winning, as there tend to be fewer entries for these (although the prizes aren't normally as good as national stations).
Magazines are a really good place to look for competitions, but often they require a bit more effort by doing things the old fashioned way (i.e. sending in answers on a postcard). Definitely worth a try though!
These often appear on drink bottles and other confectionary wrappers. Standing in your local shop and staring at the chocolate bars and fizzy drinks, you're guaranteed to see mention of some prizes to be won.
Although, don't be tempted to waste your money on anything you won't actually eat or drink... unless the prize is really good!
Game Show competitions
If you sit at home getting all the questions right when watching Who Wants To Be A Millionaire, The Chase and Tipping Point, then why not have a go yourself? There are some huge cash prizes up for grabs and you get your face on the telly!
But don't just take our word for it! Save the Student reader Georgia is an avid comper – here's her advice:
The ones you find on packaging are best because a lot of people buy the product and don’t enter the comp, so you’ve got better chances! I often win ones on Facebook though, where you comment and tag to enter, and Twitter RT to wins. I've won 2 STS ones!
Supermarket magazines are good for comps, too. Tesco, Asda, Boots and Superdrug mags have competitions in. Normal magazines are good too if you happen to buy them or know someone who does. I won an all-inclusive glamping package to Leeds fest worth about £600.
Georgia, Save the Student reader
9 top tips for winning competitions
As we mentioned earlier, competition entering really can be a simple case of the more competitions you go for, the higher your chances of winning a prize.
However, there are also a few tips and tricks of the trade that will help maximise your chances and your winnings!
- Arrange a system that allows you to enter details quickly – Try using 'Autofill' when completing forms (simply add your details once and your computer will remember your details so you can add with just a click). Also, save a draft email with your details for any comps that require entry by email
- Optimise your computer for competition entering – For example, Google Chrome extension Linkclump allows you to drag a box across a page and open all the links at once, which is handy for trawling competition databases. Meanwhile, Split Tabs allows you to have multiple webpages open on screen at the same time – perfect for multitasking between comps
- Put that extra bit of effort in – This is particularly relevant for creative competitions on social media. Brands are looking for good ideas and a bit of publicity, so take time to offer them what they want. You'll also have much less competition for these ones
- Keep track of all your entries and winnings – This helps you see where you've had successes and also stops you from wasting time entering twice (this can get you disqualified too, so be careful!). This will also ensure you keep an eye on the prizes you're due to receive, so you don't forget to claim anything
- Keep an eye on your email for responses – It's quite common to be notified of a win by email, and if you don't respond quick enough, the prize will roll on to the next contestant. Make sure you check your emails as much as possible to avoid missing out! Try filtering your inbox by 'congratulations' and 'winner' so you can easily spot the magic emails, but read everything carefully as it's not always obvious from the subject line that you've won (and check your Junk folder too!)
- Opt out of the marketing spam – Thanks to GDPR you now normally have to opt in to receive marketing material when entering competitions, so tick those boxes and avoid the spam
- Stock up on essentials – Make sure you've always got a steady supply of postcards and stamps, just in case that dream comp comes up with a super quick deadline.
- Get a competition SIM card – If you don't feel like giving out your phone number to strangers, grab yourself a free SIM from O2, Vodafone or Giff Gaff.
- Check the rules – Read the small print, look out for trick questions and pay particular attention to the closing date! Also, make sure you're actually able to claim the prize (e.g. a holiday prize but you have to travel mid-week and you can't take the time off work/uni)
- Join the comping community – The comping game is constantly growing and evolving, so it's worth getting involved with the close-knit comper community online – watch out for forums where you can pick up hints and tips. Big name compers such as Martin Dove have also written loads on the subject so he's well worth checking out – he once won a yacht through comping, so this guy certainly knows his stuff!