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Sandra Grauschopf

What's Wrong with Entering Contests When You Have No Real Chance of Winning?

By February 14, 2013

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Creative contests take more time and effort to enter than randomly-drawn sweepstakes, and some people skip them altogether because they think they have no chance of winning. I encourage people to enter contests, anyway, even if they think that other people surely have better writing, cooking, or photography skills. After all, a story with a lot of heart, or a photo that perfectly captures a fleeting moment that's directly on-point for the theme of the contest, can win even when the technical ability falls a little short.

That being said, there's a difference between thinking you probably have no chance of winning, and actually having no chance of winning. And you're doing yourself and the contest's sponsors a disservice if you're entering the second kind of contest.

So when do you actually have no chance of winning? When you're ineligible, or you don't have an entry that legitimately matches what the sponsor is looking for in the contest. That's a big difference from simply thinking that your entries won't be good enough to be worth trying to win the contest.

Some examples include:

  • Contests that aim to reward people doing volunteer work in their community. If you haven't legitimately been working to improve your community, you're not going to win.
  • Contests for parents, when you don't have a child. Even if you know a child that you can use for your entry, if the rules state you need to be a parent or legal guardian, you'll be disqualified.
  • Contests (and sweepstakes, too!) for business owners, when you don't have a business registered to you.
  • Contests asking you to write an essay about a situation that you've never experienced. Fiction usually doesn't count!
  • Wedding giveaways for engaged couples, when you're already married.
  • And many similar situations.

When the prize is really juicy, what's wrong with throwing your hat in the ring and taking your chances with having your entry disqualified? Well, if you do that, you're doing a disservice not only to the contest's sponsors, but ultimately to yourself. Why? It's a waste of time for everyone involved.

If the contest sponsors have to spend time weeding out a lot of ineligible entries, they may well decide that it's not worth running contests in the future. Not only does that mean you won't win the current contest, but the sponsor may well not hold a contest that you could be eligible to win in the future.

Furthermore, you are taking time that you could be spending entering sweepstakes and contests that you could legitimately win, and spending it on getting disqualified instead. There are so many great chances to win that it's a better idea to focus on winnable contests.

So don't let your self-doubts keep you from entering contests when you have a story you could tell, a picture you could share, or an idea for the perfect recipe that fits the theme. But when you know you'll be disqualified even if you do enter, sit that contest out and focus your efforts on prizes you can win.

What do you think? Do you agree or disagree? Answer the poll question, and click the "comments" link below to share your thoughts.

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February 14, 2013 at 3:20 pm
(1) David says:

I recently entered the contest to win a tip to Canada that incudes a train ride. They wanted to know of trips that didnt turn out as expected. I imagine they expected to hear vacation related stories and I could think of none that really had catchy, unexpected ,traumatic events/endings. So, I told my journery to get a cochlear ear implant which is often referred to as a long journey to relearn to hear with one. I heard beautifully for about a month with the implant,better than I had heard in about 30 years. Then,suddenly, my brain quite responding to the implant leaving me deaf as a result. My doctor cannot find another case like this out of the approximately 300,000 worldwide implants to date so my case could be in recorded history in the business of implants. Now, if that isnt a journey with an unexpected surprise and traumatic ending, I dont know what is. No wonder, I enter conrtests and hope my luck improves-LOLOL. Least , I havent lost my humor

February 14, 2013 at 4:50 pm
(2) Sandra Grauschopf, Guide to Contests says:

David, I’m so sorry that happened to you. But I do think that is a very creative take on the contest! I hope the judges will agree :)

February 15, 2013 at 7:58 am
(3) Greg M. says:

I never enter creative contests, regardless of whether I am eligible or not. The reason is simple: it is not worth my time. I only enter sweeps because it is like gambling but with zero cost (except for a few minutes of my time each day, which I’d waste surfing the internet otherwise). Creative contests can take up a lot of your time. And time is money.

If I *already* have something ready (a recipe, photograph), then fine. But I’m not going to spend more than ten minutes making a video or writing a 500 word essay when the chances are one in a thousand (or whatever).

As far as eligibility, I often wonder about the sweepstakes that have such weird requirements. “Getting married in the next 12 months.” “Pet owner.” Etc. What happens if the marriage is called off? Or your pet dies? “Congratulations!!! You’re going to Jamaica!!! What’s that? Your dog died. I’m sorry to hear that. Oh, I’m also sorry to say that you WON’T be going to Jamaica. ”

Money reserved for a prize ought to be considered as money already spent, for advertising (usually the sole purpose of a sweepstakes). I bet that most sponsors (of well-run sweepstakes) don’t care one bit about who gets the prize. It simply fulfills the legal requirements of giving away what they said they were going to give away. The only reason I can see for silly eligibility requirements is if they want to get double publicity with the sweepstakes (by showing some smiling winner’s face, who fits their target demographic). That’s not the case with most sweepstakes. Once they are over, you never hear anything more about them. Who cares if someone who is already married or who doesn’t own a pet got the prize???

February 17, 2013 at 6:31 pm
(4) David says:

Greg, I may feel like you if I didnt have to retire at 53 due to being now deaf in one ear and close to that in the other. I am hoping my time on contests does turn into a trip and or money. So, maybe my time on entering a creative contest, maybe a few times a year, will be fruitful.

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