How to win competitions

Woman crossing fingers

by Lizzy Dening |

Imagine going on lavish holidays, owning a brand-new car or topping up your bank balance – for free. That’s the reality for competitions expert Di Coke from Brighton, who has dedicated time to her hobby for two decades and has the car, fridge, passport stamps and unforgettable memories to prove it!

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Di Coke (43) has been entering competitions for more than 20 years and her blog, is full of advice for would-be winners.

“I’ve had some great wins, including a VW Beetle, a honeymoon in Brazil and lots of unique experiences, such as my husband getting to play football in Milan with famous footballers,” says Di. “I see it as a hobby and it fits into my life well. I can enter competitions with the TV on or on my phone while walking. I spend about half an hour per day on it. To me, it’s a better use of my time than playing games.”

While you might think that such pricey victories are the result of a life spent in front of a screen, ticking endless boxes, in fact Di believes that being smart about the competitions you choose mean just a few minutes of ‘comping’ a day can soon add up to big wins. Here are her top tips.

The basics

First of all, it’s worth setting up an email account that’s purely for competitions – otherwise your personal inbox is likely to get swamped. You’ll need to check it fairly regularly in case you win, but it’ll stop emails from your family and friends getting lost. If competitions start to become a serious hobby, you might want to consider getting a cheap pay-as-you go phone for competitions that involve giving a phone number. This will stop your personal mobile number being shared, although you will still need to answer calls on your ‘competition’ phone in case it’s someone telling you you’ve won!

“My best advice is to enter competitions via brands you know and trust,” says Di. “If you’ve never heard of the brand, they may not be a reputable company.”

Be choosy

“Think about what you’d really like to win, then search specifically for those types of competitions,” says Di. So, whether you want vouchers or cash, holidays or experiences or a particular appliance you need replacing, search online using Google (use terms such as ‘win new car’) and make sure you follow appropriate brands on social media to stay alerted.

Work harder

Try photo, video and tiebreaker competitions to up your chances.

“I don’t enter that many competitions in actual fact,” says Di “but I choose ones that take me a bit longer to enter. I’d rather do ten where I have to do something like give a clever answer or send a photo than 100 that just involve filling in my details.

“You could even get into the habit of keeping photos of your grandchildren and pets on your phone at specific events, eg summer holiday, Christmas, Hallowe’en, as these are likely subjects for photo competitions.”

Where to look

“There are competition websites that list lots of different giveaways, but it’s worth keeping in mind that everybody goes to these, so your chances are quite low,” says Di. “A much better place to look is Twitter, as many people don’t realise you can search for specific phrases. Search ‘win family holiday’ and it will bring up more obscure competitions than you might not find otherwise.

“You don’t need to be a regular Twitter user to take part, just set up an account that you use for competitions and nothing else if you want to. Any company running a competition these days will tweet about it.”

Go local

One way to dramatically increase your chances is by entering local competitions with a smaller pool of entrants. “Again, search Twitter using phrases such as ‘win tickets Birmingham’ or wherever you live,” says Di. “Also check local magazines and listen to your local radio station. Find and follow local businesses on social media too.”

Stick at it

“Of course, nothing’s guaranteed,” says Di, “but it doesn’t cost much or it can be a completely free hobby. Just don’t give up – keep trying.”

Savvy shopping

“It’s actually really fun to go hunting for competitions,” says Di. “Look out in supermarkets for promotions. I’ve won a lot of prizes from products I’ve bought, because again there’s less competition if you need to buy something specific to enter.

“There are also competitions which involve buying a certain product from a specific store and these aren’t always well advertised. If you need the product anyway but one brand has a competition available, then buy that one instead. People throw away loads of boxes with codes on without bothering to type them in online to enter. They think: ‘oh I won’t bother, I’ll never win,’ but it’s about changing your attitude to a more positive mindset.

“The harder it is to enter a competition, the easier it is to win. Look on the supermarket websites for store-only promotions to find out what’s available.”

Many brands run competitions as a way of getting personal data. Be careful which boxes you tick or you may be inundated with marketing emails and phone calls.

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