People who enter -- and win -- a lot of sweepstakes say it's a combination of luck, persistence and, believe it or not, strategy. Here are several low-tech and high-tech tips so you, too, can become a winner.
Better odds with snail mail. Because so many sweepstakes are moving online, old-fashioned snail mail contests are seeing fewer entries. Anytime there are fewer entries, you have better odds.
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Follow the rules exactly. Don't get disqualified for technical mistakes. Pay scrupulous attention to the rules. For example, if the contest requires an index card, don't send a piece of paper. If you must use a number 10 envelope, don't send a smaller one.
Send a thank you note. When you win a contest, write the sponsor and the administrator thank you notes to show your appreciation. You want them to feel that their marketing is working and to create MORE sweepstakes. And you want to be on their list for future contests and offers.
Enter skills contests. You want to enter contests that have less competition. Fewer people enter contests that require a skill like a recipe or an essay, so if you possess these talents, you will have better odds.
Websites compile sweepstakes. These sites compile major sweepstakes, have forums where sweepers trade tips, and offer sweepstakes entry merchandise like envelopes and software.
Try Twitter, Facebook, blog contests. More and more sweepstakes are available on Facebook, blogs and Twitter. Because not everybody participates with these online forums -- and because the announcements can come and go awfully fast -- you may have a better chance of winning.
Use form-filler software. Sweepers swear by software that fills in your name, address and so on with the click of a mouse. Two popular programs are Roboform and Autofill. Along similar lines, the "Shortkeys" program lets you create macros to easily fill in information you are often required to enter. Another shortcut is to use the preprogrammed settings on your mouse for single-click maneuvers.
Anytime there will be more prizes or fewer odds, that is a sweepstakes to try for. For example, some contests offer a week-long trip for first prize but a weekend for second, and so on. Others are limited to alumni, or people in your state or dog owners, etc.
Local sweepstakes are often better opportunities because fewer people enter. Avoid entering heavily advertised sweepstakes or, at least, don't get your hopes up.
Radio stations are still a big source of contests. The more stations you listen to, the more contests you will hear of. Or check out local radio station websites.
Dedicated sweepers enter as many as 300 a day, 9,000 a month -- and then win maybe five things. It's a numbers game. The more you plan, the more chances to win.