How to win money entering competitions
Entering competitions is fun – especially when you win! It's even better if you can win enough to make it your income… Convinced?
No, we're not pulling your leg. It really is possible to turn entering competitions into a business, and people really do 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?
How to become a ‘comper'
If you've ever entered a competition before, you'll know how easy it really is to take part. Most of the time, it's just a matter of entering your personal details into a system or answering an easy-peasy multiple choice question to be in with a chance of winning big bucks.
However, to become a professional ‘comper' and really make entering competitions something closer to an income, a bit more effort is required.
Some professional compers say they enter an average of 100 competitions a day, but this is not the 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:
- Have a set amount of hours you spend on it each day
- Have your own personal system set out for how you enter your competitions (spreadsheets, etc.)
- Have a separate ‘work' email set up (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 comping isn't a reliable income 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.
If you're in need of a more reliable income, try a part-time job instead.
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 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 competitions to enter
With so many competitions out there, it's hard not to feel a bit like a kid in a sweet shop – by that, we mean overwhelmed and a bit nauseous… Ok, not really, but to try and keep tabs of every competition running you'd have to quit studying and start living entirely off your winnings. Year's supply of toothpaste for dinner, anyone?
It's true, however, 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.
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
Credit: Alan Levine – Flickr
As you're undoubtedly aware, there are a lot of spam competition-runners out there. Competition spammers are 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.
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 an 0800 number, as you're likely to be left hanging on the line whilst they rake in the cash from your phone bill.
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 look for competitions
- At Save the Student, we have a whole section of our site dedicated to competitions we think may be of interest to students. Make this you're first port of call!
- Sign up to newsletters of brands you like, and keep a particular eye on ones that normally run comps.
- Twitter is also a great place to look. Try searching for the hashtag #competition on twitter every day to see if anything pops up that's of interest to you. To enter competitions on twitter, it'll normally be required that you retweet something a brand has posted. Therefore, you might want to make a separate Twitter account just for comping if you don't want your followers to get annoyed about their feeds getting clogged up with all your comping efforts!
- Using Facebook to find competitions is more difficult, but they're normally really easy to enter if you can manage to find them. 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 ‘others' folder in Facebook messenger, as if you win, your congrats message is likely to 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 – and we run a few great competitions of our own, too – so get us liked pronto!
- Instagram is really popular for fashion brand competitions in particular, but generally any businesses that offer tangible products to get your hands on – insta is the best place to win them. Follow all your favourite brands and also try searching #competition in the ‘explore' bar to see what comes up. Remember to make your profile public, otherwise brands won't be able to view your entry.
- Pinterest is similar to Instagram in that it's a hot spot for fashion and apparel comps at the moment. Like Instagram, 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 shows are also a good option to try (although these can involve paying out to sit waiting on a phone line, so bear this in mind). Go for local stations to increase your chances of winning, as there tends to be less 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!
- 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!
8 top tips for winning
As we mentioned earlier, competition entering really can be a simple case of the more competitions you go for, the more you have a chance 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!
- Devote some time to it: Goes without saying really but if you don't enter, you won't win! Try to put aside a few hours each week if you're serious about this comping lark.
- Arrange a system that allows you to enter details quickly: Have a word document open with your name, address, email etc. so that you can simply copy/paste where necessary. Keyboard shortcuts are also your best friend in these cases, so try to get into the habit of learning the important ones and using them. Another option is to 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).
- Put that extra bit of effort in: This is particularly relevant for creative competitions on social media. Essentially, brands are looking for good ideas and a bit of publicity, so take a bit of time to offer them what they want.
- Keep track of all your entries and winnings: Keeping track of your entries 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 that you'll be notified of whether you've won 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!
- 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. An extra tip is to never bother paying for postcards – hit up your nearest cinema for some freebies!
- 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: It's amazing just how easy it is to get yourself disqualified just because you haven't read the rules properly. Read the small print, look out for trick questions and pay particular attention to the closing date!
Things to watch out for
Credit: Eugene Zemlyanskiy – Flickr
There are, of course, a few things to be cautious of when entering competitions on a large scale.
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. Also, your chances of winning any of the competitions mentioned in these lists are inevitably much lower due to the fact they will be seen by thousands of people.
Invest in 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 legitamacy.
We also wouldn't recommend using programs like Roboform. Roboform is a service that lets you fill in online forms really quickly by having you store lots of your details and answers to questions online. This is handy as you don't have to fill your details out manually every time you enter a competition, however some systems pick your answers up as spambots and will disqualify you, so it's not worth the hassle.
So there you have it! If you've made it all the way to here, you should have all the info you need to get started on winning your millions (we hope!).
The comping game is constantly growing and evolving, so if you're planning to take this stuff seriously, 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!
Do share any of your own top tips if you have any for us, and if you do win it big – we'd love to know.