There are no set hard and fast rules for comping; the main one I always follow is to enjoy it. It is, after all, a hobby which can sometimes bring great rewards if you just dedicate a bit of time and effort to it (especially for those creative comps).
However, there are ways to make it easier. Welcome to the Simply Prizes School of Comping - great for newbies and any of you compers that may be stuck in a bit of a comping rut!
First things first, all compers need a dedicated email address. If you’re new to entering comps, or, like me, you’re entering hundreds and hundreds you’ll find the word ‘spam’ a rather common one! So an email address purely for competitions is a stress-buster. When I first started out, sifting through my mail to find ‘normal’ ones was not only time-consuming but extremely irritating! So I learnt the hard way, and very quickly, that setting up a different email address was the way forward.
When entering competitions you can always opt out of receiving any further info from the promoter and also third parties. Don’t do this in haste; read carefully as often the small print will have alternate tick boxes for different things, or put the options in a different order. I’ll be honest, I nearly always sign up to the promoter’s emails, purely because I’ve found a lot of extra competitions this way and if they’re only mentioned in the newsletter (which a few are) it can be a good way of catching a low entry comp. There aren’t many people that read every newsletter, and if the promoter just pops a competition in at the bottom, they are easily missed too. If you find you’re inundated with emails try Unroll Me at: https://unroll.me/. It’s a way to unsubscribe to things once it’s trawled through your inbox on your behalf – time for a cuppa!
When you’re lucky enough to receive a winning email, make sure you don’t skim read it in excitement. A lot of promoters will ask that you contact them back within a certain time span with your details etc. You don’t want to miss any prizes – I’ve been there and done that and it’s most disheartening! Make a weekly effort to check your spam/junk folders just in case any winning ones have slipped through the net. And don’t just ditch an email because there is no ‘congratulations’ or ‘winner’ in the subject line. I’ve often had winning emails from who I believe is a complete stranger from a marketing company, who just happens to be working for the promoter.
It’s good to have a routine when entering competitions. It’s a rather addictive hobby, especially once those wins start to come rolling in, and it is easy to let it get in the way of other things. As a busy mum of three (with a husband in the background too!), I never let comping interfere with family life. I always make sure I get all the household chores done in the day when the kiddies are at school, and if I’m quick I reward myself with a few comps, but my main ‘comping time’ is in the evenings once the kids are settled in bed and the hubby has got control of the TV remote. I’m free then to comp to my heart’s content - this averages out to about three hours per day
I often get asked how long I spend on entering comps and how many I enter. This is different for a lot of compers as it can depend on the type of comp you tend to go for. I am, and think I always will be, a numbers girl when it comes to comping. I try to enter as many as I can, in order to increase my chances of a win. However, if you’re the more ‘creative’ kind, then you’ll notice you enter a lot less but spend more time on each entry. This is usually fine as creative comps attract fewer entries anyway, so it all pans out in the end.
Entering competitions online can see a lot of form filling, so a great time saver is RoboForm, http://www.roboform.com/, it will remember all your details and passwords and automatically fill in the info for you. You need to double check your details to make sure they are all correct, but this is a handy tool to have.
Keep on top of what you are entering and a spreadsheet of your wins. When I first started out, I did neither and soon got myself into a pickle. We operate a ‘tick’ system on our website so it’s easy to see what you have entered, and it is a great way of making sure you don’t enter twice. Often, contests are limited to either one entry per person or per household. A spreadsheet/notebook/diary is a must for a busy comper; it will ensure that you have a list of all prizes won, where they are coming from, approximate value and the date received. That way if you’re missing any prizes you can find out quickly and chase the promoters up immediately. And it’s definitely confidence boosting to count up your wins at the end of the year to see how much you have actually won.
It may sound obvious but enter comps where the prizes are something you want to win, either for yourself or family and friends. It’s all well and good entering every comp under the sun, but if you start winning things for your dog when you don’t actually have one, it’s rather pointless and a valuable waste of comping time. If it’s a desired prize, it can be a good idea to check the small print. Prizes are usually non-transferable and I recently heard from a subscriber that won a fantastic holiday but couldn’t go because it was just her and her husband, and they weren’t taking any children! The holiday was for a family of four, from a ‘family’ orientated magazine so they offered the prize to someone else.
To keep yourself interested in your hobby, differentiate the type of comps you enter. Prize draws are quick and easy but can turn you almost into a bit of a robot. So take a shot at some creative ones; they can range from photos, short stories, poems, quirky little tie-breakers and even videos. Local ones are good too as they are restricted to ‘your’ area so the chances of winning increase due to fewer entries. And if you still like the postal route method, try to ensure you keep at least a week ahead of the closing date so you only need to use a second class stamp rather than a first. The Postcard Store, www.postcardstore.co.uk, offers eye-catching postcards at really great value so it’s worth taking a look.
Sammy’s Top Tips
Have your signature set to your name, address and telephone number – email entries often only require this info, so all you need is the email address/subject line typed in and you’re good to go!
Keep a few days ahead of closing dates – if like me you comp in the evening there’s nothing more disheartening than clicking on a link to get the message “promotion closed”!
Keep a separate file of pics that you have taken out and about and that you think could be good for a photo-entry comp. Valentines Day, Easter, Halloween and Christmas to name but a few, are times when there are loads of these types of comps around.
Treat yourself to some stickers, feathers, glitter and pop them onto your postcards! Don’t go OTT but anything that makes your postcard stand out can only be a good thing!