I have been a self-employed writer for years. I love my job, but it’s not all glitz, glamour or free stuff. Instead, it is early mornings (I can’t sleep if I have a deadline looming) and several bouts of brain fog.
However, one of the greatest things about working for myself is that I can pick and choose the projects I want to work on. I’m always looking for new opportunities. Sometimes these opportunities come in the shape of online surveys, competitions, and even product reviews.
I have reviewed so many things over the years, including hairdryers (I reviewed the fabulous Dyson Supersonic, but I didn’t get to keep it). Lots of face creams, makeup, apps, and most recently, an air fryer (I kept the air fryer). You can read my review here.
How to be an online competition pro
But the downtime pass time I love the most is entering competitions; it’s all about the suspense and the surprise when you win. Some competitions tell you straight away that you’ve won, but most only inform you weeks and even months later. By that time, you’d forgotten all about it.
Such a lovely surprise when you get an email saying you’ve won a year’s worth of dog food (I don’t have a dog). No matter, though; my local dog shelter was very happy with the windfall of doggie dinners.
Free to enter competitions are a great way to win free stuff – something we could all do with right now, a way to have fun without spending any money. And, if lady luck smiles, you could even win a prize worth hundreds or thousands of pounds (that’s never happened to me, but I live in hope)
So, how do you go about winning free stuff through competitions? It’s easier than you might think. Here are my top tips:
Enter competitions that are not highly publicised and have low uptake. Look for UK competitions so you’re not competing with the entire world. Low-interest competitions increase your chances of winning as there are fewer entries.
Check the terms and conditions of each competition carefully before entering. The entry criteria will help you determine whether you can win.
Complete the entry form accurately and provide all the required information. If the organisers need additional information, they may contact you via email or phone, so make sure you have provided a valid contact number or email address.
Top-top tip: It’s worth creating an email address just for competitions; this is helpful in two ways; it’s easy to see if you’ve won because you’re not trawling through hundreds of emails to find that one magical email informing you of your win.
Also, it stops your primary inbox from becoming clogged up with competition emails. You can always unsubscribe once you’ve had your fill of free stuff.
Make sure you check the closing date of each competition and make sure you enter before it closes. Many people miss out on competition wins because they forget to enter them in time.
Follow the instructions carefully when submitting your entry. Following the instructions will ensure your entry is valid and complies with the rules.
Here are some more tips to increase your chances of winning:
- Use the automatic form filler on your phone or computer to save time. Using autofill is an excellent tip if you enter a lot of competitions.
- If there’s an option, share your unique referral link or personal code with your friends and family to earn extra entries or referral money.
- Join websites that save your details to check which competitions you’ve already completed. This comes in handy when a competition asks if you’ve entered before; check the site, and voila, no time wasting here!
- Look for competition website filters to filter by type, e.g., Twitter or Facebook competitions. Google alerts are also a great tool.
- Check the news for product launches, as many companies compete in promoting their new products and need testers to produce results quickly.
- Remember, you can only win if you enter, so go forth and free yourself with some free stuff.
How do you know if the competition site is genuine?
It’s soul destroying doing your best work to discover that the competition site isn’t all they are cracked up to be. Here are some things to look for:
A genuine website will have a valid SSL certificate; a green padlock indicates this in the address bar. The padlock system means the site is secure, and they will protect your personal information.
The site should also have contact information, such as an email address or telephone number. This way you can get in touch if you need to verify anything.
Another way to check if a site is legitimate is to do a quick Google search. If there are any negative reviews or articles about the site, then it’s probably not worth your time.
That’s competitions covered, but there’s more you can do to get free stuff, vouchers, and cash. Why not participate in online surveys? If you have an opinion (and I do), you can get paid to give it on about any subject under the sun.
Make money by completing home surveys
For instance, Mori polls focus on political subjects and social and public policy and cover topics such as culture, sport, education, and crime. Ipsos Mori will pay you (if they choose you) to have your say, and they pay for the pleasure.
They aren’t the only site; there are a lot of them, and to be fair, just being chosen to carry out a survey can be time-consuming, and you don’t get paid for that bit of the process.
But I have had success with online surveys for the UK site InboxPounds and OhMyDosh (the name is cheesy but no more than the people who do my pedicure, Ohmynails in Twickers). But all in all, it can be exciting work that pays for your Starbucks or this seasons nail polish.
I briefly talked about product reviews earlier, but it’s worth digging deeper into this subject and exploring how you can get more free stuff.
What is a product review, and how does it work?
A product review is where a reviewer is given a free product (or service) in return for an honest opinion. The view can be positive or negative and is usually, but not always, published online.
Companies use product reviews to improve their products and services. They are also used to market products; if you have a popular blog or social media following, you could be approached by companies asking you to review their products.
The best part about writing product reviews is that you can often keep the free product. It’s like getting paid to shop. Be aware you will only keep the item occasionally. Particularly if it’s something costly (like the Dyson hairdryer or a Compton folding bike – this sat in my living room for a year). Still, mostly it’s stuff you use to review the product.
Strategies for receiving free stuff
Here are some strategies to use to make the most of your time if you want to receive lots of free things in exchange for your truthful opinion:
Sign up for websites that offer free product samples. You will usually need to give your opinion about the product in return for receiving the free sample.
Look out for blog posts from other bloggers looking for people to test products. If you fit the bill, they will send you the product free of charge.
Google search panels, such as Boot Volunteer Panel or Tesco Home panel, because these are legitimate focus groups, and while Boots say ‘Volunteer,’ they mean they won’t pay you in cold hard cash for your thoughts by they will send you free stuff if you live in the UK.
You must have a club card membership, but who doesn’t have that anyway? And if you don’t, you’re missing a touch. Especially with the Boots points card; their card is one of the most generous of all the club cards.
We’ve covered free-to-enter online competitions, product reviews, and paid surveys, but how else can you earn money from home without any outlay?
Blogging for beginners
Well, you could start your own blog. It’s not as difficult as it sounds. And, if you’re passionate about something, it can be a fantastic way to share your knowledge and help others while earning cash.
The best thing about blogging is that there are no rules; write about whatever you want, whenever you want. You can even make money by placing ads on your blog or by selling products and services through your blog.
Becoming an influencer might sound like last year, but micro-influencing is rising. Micro-influencers have a much smaller but more engaged social media following and are considered more authentic than celebrities.
Suppose you have a social media presence (even a tiny one). In that case, you could be approached by brands to promote their products or services on your page.
You will need to disclose that the post is an #ad, but other than that, there are no rules. Just make sure your posts are high quality and in line with your usual content.
Become a mystery shopper
You can also get free stuff by becoming a mystery shopper. Mystery shopping is where companies pay people to visit their stores or restaurants and provide feedback about the customer service experience.
As a mystery shopper, you will usually be given free products or vouchers and paid for your time. It’s an easy way to get free stuff and earn extra cash. I wrote about my experience as a mystery shopper, and you can read all about my hilarious experiences and challenging situations right here.
So there you have it, a few ways you can get free stuff in return for your honest opinion. Whether you’re a keen product tester or just looking for a way to get free stuff, these methods should help you get started.