Anyone who has said that there is no such thing as a free lunch has never experienced the wonderful world of entering sweepstakes, also known as sweeping. Many companies, both large and small, hold sweepstakes and contests as a way to advertise their product and reach a new audience. These prizes might range from a free product to thousands of dollars. If you want to enter sweepstakes to win money and other prizes, you should read the tips below to get you started on the right path.
Difference Between a Sweepstakes and a Contest
Many people think that sweepstakes and contests are the same thing, but they aren't. A sweepstake is simple to enter. All you need to do is fill out your information such as your name, email address, phone number, and postal address and you will be entered. It is just a matter of luck.
A contest isn't won by luck. It requires skill. You might have to write an essay, create a recipe using the sponsor's ingredients, or submit a photograph or video. These will then be judged, either by the public or by the sponsor. Because they require skill, these take time and aren't as popular as sweepstakes. But because of that, the competition isn't as steep and some people have great luck with contests.
What prizes can you win? Cash and gift cards are some of the most popular prizes. The most cash I have ever won was $5,000. I've also won several small gift cards, ranging from $25-$100. There are always a few companies that give away cars. HGTV is famous for giving away a home every year.
Some of the easiest prizes to win are books and movies. A site like Good Reads gives away several books every month. Whenever a new DVD is released by the studios, the send out promotional copies to several sites for them to give away. Other prizes you can win include toys, household goods, video games, electronics, and trips.
Read the Rules
The first rule of sweeping is to read the rules. You don't want to win a sweepstake and then discover that you are ineligible. Unfortunately, the rules tend to be long and full of legalese. So discover the important things to look for. The first thing I do is look at the age requirements and the state eligibility.
Most sweepstakes and contests will be open to anyone who is 18 older. But some will have different requirements. Seventeen magazine, for example, requires you to be under 30 years old. Other contests are for kids and parents cannot enter their own information.
Most sweeps are open to everyone in the US. A good deal of them are also open to Canada, and some are worldwide. But some states have rules about sweepstakes that leave them ineligible. Florida, for example, has stricter requirements from sweepstake sponsors. So if you live in Florida you have to skip these. Utah won't allow contests from alcohol companies. Most sites that list sweepstakes will list the main rules with the contest so you won't have to read a lot of text.
Never Pay to Enter
If a contest tells you that you have to pay to enter or to claim your prize, turn and run away. Unfortunately, there are scams out there that are masquerading as sweepstakes. You should never have to pay for a prize. There are some exceptions to this. If you win a car, for example, you will have to pay for its registration fee unless that is covered by the contest. I've also seen a few contests that require you to pay for shipping, especially if it is an international contest. This is pretty rare and it is up to you to decide if it is worth it.
I do pay $30 a month for membership to a sweepstakes listing site called Online-Sweepstakes.com. I choose to do this because I like the organization tools that they offer. It saves me time and I feel that it is worth it. It is not, however, required. You can get a free membership to this site or to one of the other good contest listings sites there are. This is the best way to find reputable contests because the listings are moderated to keep the scams out.
Get a Web-Based Email Address
You will be getting a lot of email if you decide to get into sweeping. Many of the companies require you to sign up for their email newsletter in order to enter the contest. Others you may choose to sign up for so you can get a notification when they have new contests to enter. I recommend opening up a new email address just for sweeping so that you can keep it separate from your personal emails. I also suggest getting a web-based email address, such as a gmail address. This is good for filtering out spam and is handy if you move to a new address and lose your ISP email.
Get Roboform or Get Carpel Tunnel
Most contests require the same information. Name. Email Address. Mailing Address. Phone number. You don't want to be typing this out every single time. There is a program called Roboform that will save you time and save you from carpel tunnel. When you go to the entry form, you'll just need to click one button for all of your information to be filled out.
Now this doesn't work perfectly, but it is better than typing. You don't have to worry about typos when you use this program. It doesn't work on flash forms, so you'll still have to type these by hand or program a couple of macros.
Blogs, Facebook, and Twitter
A lot of contests now are on blogs, Facebook, or Twitter. For blog sweeps you have to leave a comment on a blog entry. This takes more time than the traditional entry form and not everyone thinks it is worth it. But the odds are pretty good, so you are more likely to win prizes if you do this. Many of these blogs have products for kids and their parents.
If you live in the US, you need to pay taxes on every single win. So keep track of all of your winnings so you can report them on your taxes. Don't enter for a prize if you won't be able to afford taxes. This is especially true for trip wins. It is also something to think about for jewelry prizes.
Enter A Lot, Enter Often
My number one tip for entering sweepstakes to win money and other prizes is to enter a lot and enter often. If you just enter 10-20 contests, you probably won't win. You need to enter hundreds if you want a good chance of winning prizes. Some of these contests can only be entered once, but others let you enter monthly, weekly, or even daily. To get the best results, enter as often as you are allowed to.