Friday, May 31, 2013

A Winning Strategy

© Andres Rodriguez - Fotolia.com

Warning: This blog post is a bit off topic today, but I've received a lot of requests for my "winning strategy" for contests and sweepstakes. People say that I'm "lucky," but as the quote goes, "Luck is a matter of preparation meeting opportunity." 

Since the beginning of 2013, I've won two sets of concert tickets, an Amazon gift card, an Apple TV, and a mini-season ticket package from the local baseball team. Yesterday, I won a Bissell vacuum cleaner and an Osprey Sling Pack backpack in the USA Pro Cycling Challenge Summer of Cycling Sweepstakes. My 12-year-old niece Julia was impressed that I keep winning so many things, and she asked me to share my tips for winning. Before school many mornings, she would text me and ask for "today's tip." I compiled the tips, and am sharing them with you here.

Jobseekers are always looking for the "secret" that will help them find a job faster, or more easily. But the fact is, just like when winning contests, the key is persistence, patience, and a positive attitude. That's just one of the tips I gave to Julia.  Tips that also apply to jobseekers are noted in red.


Day 1: Always crumple up your entry form when filling out a paper contest entry form. It gives the entry more "edges" and it "floats" to the top and is more likely to be picked. [Jobseekers: Set yourself apart from other applicants!]

Day 2: When calling a radio station to be a certain caller, use the "redial" function so you don't have to type in the number again, which wastes time. On a cell phone, hit the "Call" button twice and that will usually redial.

Day 3: Enlist a friend. The more people you can have trying to win a particular promotion, the better. Especially if you are calling a phone number -- have as many phones dialing as possible. (Remember, that's how [your sister] Emily won those hockey tickets with your phone that time!) Many online contests these days have a "social share" component to them -- you can earn extra entries if you share the entry link with your friends, family, and network! [Jobseekers: Your network is there to help you in your job search! The more people you have trying to help you find a new job, the better!]

Day 4: For big concerts and events, there will usually be some giveaways before the event as they work to make last-minute sales (unless the event is sold out). Find out who is promoting it and/or co-sponsoring it, and tune in.

Day 5: Figure out who does a lot of giveaways -- for example, First National Bank does a lot -- and "follow" what they do (i.e., on Facebook and Twitter). Make sure you have your account set to get notifications, especially if some of them are time-sensitive (i.e., "the first 10 people who comment will win.") [Jobseekers: Research who the big employers are in your area -- big companies are often constantly hiring, so if you're looking for an entry-level position, check their website often!]

Day 6: Many places have rules about how often you can win things (like every 30 days), so don't try to win stuff "just" to win stuff ... otherwise, you might be ineligible to be a winner when there's a giveaway you really want. [Jobseekers: If a company uses an applicant-tracking system, they will keep your application on file. If you apply for multiple jobs at the same company, the hiring manager can see that. Apply for vastly different jobs and they'll think you're not serious about your application. So don't apply for positions just to be applying!]

Day 7: Be sure you are eligible for the contest you're entering. Some have age restrictions. If it's a paper entry form, it will often be on the form, or on the box you put the form into. Otherwise, you'll have to look for rules on a website. [Jobseekers: Make sure you meet the requirements for the job -- or, if you don't have the specific credentials, you can demonstrate your expertise in another way!]

Day 8: Nothing you win is truly "free." With most winnings (whether tickets, lottery, or whatever), you have to declare them as income for your taxes. Of course, if you're 12, and you don't pay taxes, this may not apply.

Day 9: The more sweepstakes and contests you enter, the more likely you are to win. As they say, "You can't win if you don't play!" [Jobseekers: Sometimes you only need to apply to one job and you'll get it. But most people will find that they need to apply for multiple jobs -- customizing the resume and cover letter for each job, of course -- before they are offered a position.]

Day 10: Watch out for sweepstakes scams! Some contests are just designed to sell you something. That's why it's important to always read the contest rules. And never PAY to collect your prize. That's a scam too. Legitimate sweepstakes pay YOU, not the other way around. [Jobseekers: Watch out for employment scams!]

Day 11: Think about what info to put on the entry form. When I won "the best seats in the house" at the Detroit Red Wings hockey game, they were drawing the winners right away. The guy reminded me of that -- I had put my home number (at my house in Nebraska) on the form, but I changed it to my cell phone and I wasn't even back to my seat yet (wayyyy up high in the arena ... Jon and I didn't even have seats next to each other!) when they called to say I won tickets on the glass right behind the goal. [Jobseekers: Be mindful of the contact information you put on your resume and cover letter! NEVER use your work email address or work phone, but make sure you provide contact information so that it's easy to reach you to request an interview!]

Day 12: Say THANK YOU! When I won the Newsboys tickets from KGBI, I tagged them on my Facebook post about winning the tickets, and I also tweeted them that night to say thanks! [Jobseekers: ALWAYS write a thank you note after an interview!]

Day 13: The bigger the prize, the more likely your personal info (on the entry form) will need to be verified. Aunt Jean once won a trip to Hawaii from Baker's! And Jon and I each won an iMac computer. For big prizes like this, you have to fill out an "affadavit." They will check that against your driver's license, so make sure the info matches! [Jobseekers: Reference checks are part of the job search! Make sure the information you provide on a resume and job application can be verified!!]

Day 14: Luck is the smallest and least important part of winning. To consistently win contests, you need patience, perseverance, and a positive attitude.

Day 15: If the contest offers a daily reminder, sign up! HGTV's Dream Home contests do, and I remember to enter every day when I get the email reminder!

Day 16: Some contests require more than luck. Consider entering essay contests or even those that require you to guess the number of pieces of candy in a jar! (Don't forget to bring your Wonka candy to show your math teacher!)

Day 17: Push through "sweepstakes burnout" -- that feeling you'll never win. Just keep plugging away. It's usually when you're about to give up that something good happens! [This is another great tip for jobseekers!]

Day 18: You have the best odds of winning small sweepstakes. Look for contests at the grocery store, for example, or school. Big national sweepstakes will have lots more entries, making it harder to win. [For jobseekers, this means applying at small companies, and finding out about unadvertised opportunities.]

Day 19: The best sweepstakes to enter for really high chances are those that offer a lot of prizes. Sweepstakes that are giving away 100 prizes have 100 times the odds of winning, compared to those giving away just one prize. I won a $5 Amazon gift card yesterday in the Bausch and Lomb Ultimate Movie Sweepstakes. (Weekly winners win a 40-inch HDTV; 10,000 people were eligible to instantly win a $5 gift card.)

Day 20: Sweepstakes that are "annoying" to enter are also likely to have fewer entries: Look for writing, video, or coloring contests to enter.

Day 21: Some contests require you to enter a code, or make a purchase to enter, but almost ALL of them have an alternative entry option in which a purchase is not required. Read the official rules of the contest to find out how. Not everyone knows this, so these contests usually have fewer entries than other contests.

Day 22: Many contests let you submit an entry every day (for example, the HGTV Dream Home contest I mentioned on Day 15). The more days you enter, the more chances to win. I put it on my iCal (Mac calendar) with an alert reminder so I get reminded each day to enter! 

Day 23: Follow the rules! I read the rules for a contest yesterday where they are giving away $1000 cash in each "entry period," which is every 2-3 days...BUT the official rules say you can only enter ONCE per entry period...not *every day* and those with duplicate entries will be disqualified. It's almost like they are penalizing people who don't read the fine print! So, using yesterday's tip, I have set an alert in iCal to enter only on ONE day each "period" so I do not get disqualified. So ALWAYS read the rules!! [Jobseekers: Follow the requirements when applying for a job!]

Day 24: We talked on Day 21 about contests that require a purchase to enter. Today, we'll talk about "pay to play." Generally, you should NOT have to spend cash to enter a contest. The exception is lotteries. To win the Powerball or Mega Millions, or scratch-off lottery games, you have to buy a ticket. Powerball and Mega Millions offer the opportunity to win millions of dollars, but the odds are small that you will. The most I've ever won is $7. So, you're better off sticking to free contests and sweepstakes. Better odds, and free to enter!!

Day 25: With summer approaching, it's time to think about making sweepstakes entries a part-time summer job. If you're serious about putting these tips to work, plan on spending up to an hour a day entering sweepstakes. The next few days' tips will outline a plan. [Jobseekers: If you are serious about finding a job, you need to devote some serious time to your job search.]

Day 26: There are websites online that list available sweepstakes. Some offer daily entries, some weekly, some monthly, and some you can only enter once. You're a great record keeper. You can create a sweepstakes strategy list to track which contests you're trying to win. (Some you may have to enter using your Mom's name.) We can map this out.

Day 27: Set up a separate email address for your sweepstakes (again, probably under your Mom's name/info). This is an email you'll check each day, and this is the email address you'll use on the entry forms, to keep your "real" emails from getting clogged with spam. (I wish I had done this. I get a Lumber Liquidators email to my main account every day because of the HGTV contest.) [Jobseekers: Consider setting up a "disposable" email account that you can check every day for your job search, but that you can close later on. Unfortunately, your job search can attract spam emails!]

Day 28: I'll show you how to create an online list to manage your daily, weekly, monthly, and one-time entries, including where to look for new contests. This is your sweepstakes strategy. [Jobseekers: create a daily, weekly and monthly strategy for your job search! Track who you've talked to and who you need to connect with!]

Day 29: Start a notebook to track your wins. This will remind you of the prizes you've won, helping you to stay motivated. Second, you have to report wins of a certain size for tax purposes. Third, you can spot patterns to win more consistently. [Jobseekers: Keep a job search journal! Track the applications you've submitted, interviews you went on -- especially questions you were asked -- and job offers.]

Day 30: When developing your sweepstakes strategy, only enter contests that offer prizes that you would truly WANT. Remember to read the rules before entering. And watch out for sweepstakes scams. Good luck!! [Jobseekers: Don't apply to jobs just for the sake of applying for them. Only apply for jobs you WANT, and take the time to customize your resume and cover letter for each position!]

Day 31: We live in a sweepstakes-friendly state! States are allowed to have their own rules governing sweepstakes. Because of this, some sponsors will prohibit entry from residents of particular states. Florida, New York, and Rhode Island are commonly excluded from large sweepstakes. California and Utah are rarely included in sweepstakes sponsored by wineries or beer breweries. Hawaii and Alaska are often left out, because shipping to those states is more expensive. But Nebraska is rarely excluded. Yay, us!

Day 32: There is a difference between sweepstakes and a lottery. Sweepstakes are generally free while lotteries usually cost to enter. Do sweepstakes!! [Jobseekers: You should NOT be asked to pay to apply for a position. If you are asked to pay, it's probably a scam!]

Day 33: Figure out what kind of prizes you want to win and look for those contests! [Jobseekers: Figure out what kind of job you want and look for companies that hire for that position!]

Day 34: Learn about "odds." Your "odds of winning" is a measure of how likely you are to win. Like with last weekend's PowerBall drawing, the odds were 1 in 175 million. Not good. But smaller contests, or ones with lots of prizes being given away, will have better odds. The odds are usually listed in the Rules section. It's not that you shouldn't enter contests with "long odds" (that is, a short chance of winning), but don't get your hopes up on those!

Day 35: I'm going to reiterate the importance of reading the rules if the contest. For one, it will spell out exactly what you will win...and how to claim it! For example, I got an email Monday telling me I won a 5-pack of game tickets to the Lincoln Saltdogs baseball games...but that the first game (of 5) is THIS Thursday, and I have to claim the tickets in person at the Lincoln Journal-Star office during working hours. So...today or tomorrow, I have to make the drive to Lincoln to get them. If I had read the rules more carefully, I would have known that!

Day 36: Check out the website www.contestgirl.com -- it provides a list of open contests, and you can check the site each day. [Jobseekers: There are specialized websites that offer job postings. Find them and check them daily as part of your job search strategy!]

Those are my "Winning Tips for Julia." Let me know in the Comments below when you get your first win!

1 comment:

  1. Hey you have prepared a step by step strategy which is very useful and must follow. I like the suggestions you have shared, those are perfect for getting good results.

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