How to win money entering competitions
Hoping to win money from competitions? Some people make thousands of pounds a year from winning prizes, and this is how they do it...
No, we're not pulling your leg. It really is possible to make good money from entering competitions, and some people do it professionally. There's even a special name for it: 'comping'. Believe us now?
There are thought to be tens of thousands of competitions running in the UK at any one time, featuring prizes ranging from sports cars to multipacks of toilet roll, and even hard cash. Either way, there's a hell of a 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 – good job you found this guide then.
What's in this guide?
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 free stuff, but doing so on this scale takes some serious dedication – read on to find out how to 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 tricky!) 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.
And, before you get started, it's worth putting 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.
Treating competitions like a job
The best way to start making money from competitions is by getting into the mindset of treating this as your job, and doing the following things:
- Plan to spend a set amount of hours a day on it
- Set up a personal system for tracking the competitions you enter (e.g. spreadsheets)
- Create a 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 (e.g. X number of cash competitions and X freebie competitions).
However, 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.
Note: When you first start out, things will be slow and you can expect to wait between three to six months before you actually win anything. It's rare to have a quick turnaround with these things, so the key is to be patient!
How to win competitions
These are the best ways to enter competitions and win:
- Use 'autofill' to complete digital forms quickly – To do this, simply add your details once and your computer will remember them so you can quickly add them with a click next time. Also, save a draft email with your details for any comps that require entry by email.
- Optimise your computer for competition entering – For example, the 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. Also, Split Tabs lets you have multiple webpages open on your screen at the same time – perfect for multitasking between comps.
- Put effort into competitions – This is particularly relevant for creative competitions on social media. Brands want 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 a record 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, so be careful). It also ensures 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 – You'll often be notified of a win by email, and if you don't respond quickly, the prize could roll on to the next contestant. Try filtering your inbox by 'congratulations' and 'winner' so you can easily spot these emails, but read everything carefully as it's not always clear from the subject line that you've won (and check your Junk folder, too!).
- Opt-out of marketing spam – Thanks to GDPR, you now usually 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 giffgaff.
- Check competition 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 midweek 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 – look for forums where you can get tips. Big-name compers like Martin Dove have also written loads on the subject so he's worth checking out – he once won a yacht through comping, so he knows his stuff!
And 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 two 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 Festival worth about £600.
Georgia, Save the Student reader
Which are the best competitions to enter?
There are so many competitions out there, and 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 be successful as a comper is to enter competitions tactically.
Cash competitions 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.
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 for a profit if you don't want them, but if you neither want the prize yourself nor think it's worth flogging, it's best to not waste your time entering in the first place.
Remember that a prize you're not bothered about could make somebody else very happy, 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 summer holidays or day trips, which will involve bookings being made in your name.
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 (who will then 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 spam in exchange for entering.
How to avoid spam competitions
Here are some top tips to make sure you only enter legitimate competitions:
- Stick to competitions run by brands you already know and trust.
- Get some antivirus software to protect your computer. As you'll be browsing a lot of new sites each day that you've maybe never been on before, this will help you vouch for their legitimacy.
- Aside from paying out for the odd stamp here and there to send in your entries, you should never have to pay 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 sites that offer 'exclusive' contest lists specifically aimed at compers. Don't bother paying to view lists like these – they will usually just include the most popular competitions, meaning if you're out looking for this stuff each day, you will already know about them.
Remember: 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!
Best places 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, included some of our own. 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.
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, internet 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 usually be required to retweet something a brand has posted, so you might want to make a separate Twitter account just for competitions 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 often 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 there rather than your inbox.
We'll also keep you updated on any good competitions we come across in our Facebook deals and competitions group. We run a few great competitions of our own, so keep an eye out!
Another tip is to search for local comp groups in your area. 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, though, so any competitions you enter that involve sharing posts will appear on your main feed.
You can find loads of great competitions on Insta, including on our Instagram!
Follow us and your favourite brands, and also try searching #competition in the search bar to see what comes up.
Often you'll just need to like/comment on a post and follow the page to enter, but sometimes brands ask you to enter more creatively. If you need to create a post to enter a competition, search other entries to see what you're up against and make sure yours stands out.
And, if you do need to share a post to enter an Instagram comp, remember to make your profile public as brands won't be able to view it otherwise.
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 usually as good as national stations.
Also, TV game shows like Pointless and The Chase are always looking for new contestants – check out our guide to the best quiz shows to win money on.
Magazines are a really good place to look for competitions, but they often 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 confectionery wrappers. Standing in your local shop and staring at the chocolate bars and fizzy drinks, you're guaranteed to see mentions 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.
Another super easy way to make money online is by doing paid online surveys – our guide goes through the best sites to try.