This is Galen’s submission for the HP Magic Giveaway. Feel free to leave comments for this article as you see fit – your feedback is certainly welcomed! If you’d like to submit your own how-to, what-is, or top-five list, you can send it to me. Views and opinions of this writer are not necessarily my own:
Who can’t use free stuff – especially in these economic times? I’ve been winning for over two years, and I’d like to tell you how to do the same thing. To show that I’m qualified to offer this advice: I’ve won concert tickets, a considerable amount of gift cards and cash cards ranging from $5 to $50, video games, DVDs, and a Nintendo Wii package complete with 3 extra games and an extra controller. This week, I even won a pricey gift basket of cleaning products (now let’s see if I can get around to using them). Over the past two years, I’ve won over $1000 in merchandise, and I’d like to pass on some step-by-step wisdom on how you can too.
- Join Online-Sweepstakes.com. There are other online databases, but OLS is by far the easiest to use, and it’s free to register. At any given time, they list between 6,000 and 9,000 sweepstakes. You can peruse the sweeps without registering, but if you want to save the ones you’re interested in and read notes posted by others, you’ll need to do so. If you want to get really serious, they offer a Premium membership at a relatively low cost that offers some additional features – and the ability to view a couple thousand they set aside. For a $15 investment, it’s worth a shot. I won my Wii about a month after getting upgraded. There’s also a nice forum where you can learn from others and share your wins with a very diverse community of posters.
- Windows users should download Roboform from Roboform.com. Sweepstakes generally require you to fill in several fields to enter – unless you really enjoy typing your address repeatedly, you’re going to want a program like this. It also saves passwords on a case-by-case basis, and it’s free to download.
- Get your feet wet. Explore OLS and start seeing what you’re interested in, entering as you go. You need to get a feel for it before you move to the next level If you’re a do-it-yourself type of person, the best way for you to learn is experience. Just remember the Sweepers Creed: “You’ve Got to Be In It to Win It”. The more sweepstakes you enter, the more likely you are to win.
- Strategize. Maybe you’re not the type to just jump in, or you’re ready to go deeper into this hobby. There are three main factors to consider when entering sweepstakes: (a) the type of prize, (b) the method of entry, and (c) the frequency of entry.
- First ask yourself: “What do I want to win?” If you’re looking for something specific, whether it be electronics, clothing, cars, or video games, you can narrow it down using the categories on the OLS front page. If you’re not looking for anything specific, you can start with the ones about to expire, or the ones with the most prizes or the biggest prizes.
- Consider how much effort and time you are willing to put into your new hobby. This is where the method and frequency of entry come into play. The most common method is filling out an online form, but others involve an essay, a photo, a recipe, trivia, or website membership – and many blogs are now doing giveaways which require posting a comment. Fewer people enter these because they involve more time, which makes your odds better if you do enter. At the same time, blogs rarely offer valuable prizes. You must determine a balance for yourself that includes what you want to win and how you want to go about that. I personally rarely enter sweepstakes that require more than a form or membership, with the exception of trivia sweeps for which other OLS community members conveniently post the answers.
- There’s a wide range of possible frequencies of entry, but the vast majority will be one-time, daily, weekly, or monthly. OLS’s system will separate them for you if you add them to your personal list so that you can enter them each period of entry. As with method, the most people and the least chances come with the one-time entry sweepstakes. However, if you are willing to take the time to come back and enter each day, you can increase your relative chances of winning compared to the average person who only enters the daily sweepstakes once.
- Register a separate email account. Many “sweepers” designate a specific email account for use only when entering sweepstakes. The vast majority of sweepstakes you will find on the OLS site are very respectable, and you will be able to designate whether you want to receive email from the sponsor. However, some do require that you sign up for a periodic newsletter to register for the sweepstakes. You can skip over these to prevent spam, but if you have a separate account this is no longer a concern. Also, a good amount of sweepstakes will send you a confirmation email when you enter, so you may not want those cluttering up your inbox.
- Wait for the wins to start rolling in. Eventually, you will win if you enter enough times, but it may take a while for the prizes to arrive. Sponsors have to choose a winner and then get around to shipping it out, so it may take anywhere form a week to six months after the sweepstakes ends before you know you’ve won. In the meantime, don’t give up – odds are on your side, and you’ll soon have an exciting prize.
Sweeping is a fun hobby, but don’t expect it to replace your normal job unless you have an abnormal amount of luck. If you do have the time to spare, it can be a much more fruitful form of entertainment than just watching TV, although these don’t have to be mutually exclusive. Just start at the beginning and see what happens. I’ll look forward to congratulating you on your wins in the OLS forums. Happy Sweeping!