Winning Things Online - How to Win Stuff

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

"You can't win if you don't enter!"

If you're currently reading this blog, there's a good chance you found me through a giveaway I've run. I started entering giveaways and sweepstakes in 2010, and here are some of the prizes I've won:

* Trip for two to San Francisco plus a few extra perks (ARV $2,000)
* $100 Office Depot Gift Card
* Gift cards worth $20 or more to Target, LL Bean, Gordman's, Dollar General, and more
* Random items including (but not limited to) a stuffed orca, an IHOP t-shirt, video games, a magazine subscription, snacks, wine...the list goes on.

If you've got a fast internet connection, an email address and a lot of patience, you too can be on your way to winning.

Remember, nothing is guaranteed! The more giveaways you enter, the more chances you'll have at winning something, but they're still just that: chances. That being said, if you enter a lot of giveaways your chances start to get pretty good that something will pay off!

Also, read the rules for each giveaway carefully - you don't want to lose out on a prize because you didn't enter correctly!

I use Google Chrome to enter most of my giveaways; the browser has a good built-in form autofill that helps speed up the process by entering common data for me (name, address, email, etc). There are also some autofill browser ad-ons out there that are even more customizable and sometimes even password protected to help safeguard your information. Anything that cuts down on the number of keys you need to hit will help increase the number of contests you can enter.

Right now there are three big categories of giveaways/sweepstakes I run into a lot online:

Blog Giveaways

These giveaways are usually sponsored by the company providing the prize, though sometimes blog owners themselves will put up prizes to celebrate milestones, increase site traffic, or simply share a product they love. These can be more work than other types of giveways but usually have fewer entries overall.

Most blogs either use a form you fill out or ask that you leave comments on the giveway post for each entry.

There will usually be a "mandatory entry" that must be completed before any others count. This could be nearly anything: simply making a comment on the giveaway post, checking out the sponsor's website, following the blogger/sponsor on twitter/facebook/readers, tweeting about the giveaway, posting a's simply whatever the blogger decides entrants must do to have a chance to win.

This mandatory entry may or may not be followed by "bonus entry" methods that can earn you extra chances at the prize. This is where these contests can be a lot of work! Beware of giveaways that offer too many bonus entry methods - while you can still enter by doing the mandatory step, it's worth a lot less as far as your chances to win go. You might be better off spending your time entering other giveaways rather than doing lots of extra bonus entries on just one. If the prize is something you really want, though, go for it!

Some abbreviations to know in blog giveaways:

GFC - Google Friend Connect
FB - Facebook
RSS - A type of web feed you can subscribe to

Instant Win Giveaways

These giveaways will offer instant feedback as to whether you've won or not. Often these have smaller prizes than the more traditional, drawing-based ones, but they're usually pretty quick to do and often can be entered every day. Sometimes they have you answer trivia or play a quick game to find out, but usually it's short, sweet and to the point. This was how I won my $100 Office Depot card.

Traditional Sweepstakes

These are your basic "enter into a drawing" sweeps and giveaways. There are a large variety of these, and most really big prizes will be given out this way. Sometimes they ask you to do something (post a picture, send in a recipe, etc) but usually you just need to give them some information.

Notice: if you give a company information by signing up for a sweepstakes or giveway, they most likely will use it in some form or another. Unless they specifically say they will not, assume they will. I get some...interesting...mail sometimes, both in my physical mailbox and in my email.

You might want to set up a seperate email account for entering contests. Just make sure you check it to see if you've won anything. Companies are more and more likely to contact winners through email and if they don't hear back you might lose your prize! Also make sure to check your spam folder - lots of valid prize winner emails look like spam.

So, you're ready to start entering giveaways but...where to look? Here are a few giveaway sites that I've used: - this site is wonderful. It has giveaways galore and lets you search by different contest types, end dates, prize types and more. They offer a free membership and a premium one. The free membership will get you tons of giveways and is a great way to start out, but premium will get you access to even more and only costs from about $2.50 - $4.16 per month depending on how long a subscription you purchase. - This site has only been around for a few months but they do a gift card giveaway every day. I've won 3 since September! All you have to do is comment once to be entered - no extra entries, no fuss, no work! Your comment doesn't even have to really make sense. They also give away cards to users who have been the most active over time through their AP system. I'd suggest subscribing to their emails - you'll get a daily reminder along with a quick link to the newest giveaway post. It doesn't get much easier than this.

Well, that's it for now - I'm sure there's plenty more to be said on this subject and I'll probably be adding to this over time. Good luck and happy entering!


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