If you asked me a couple years ago I would've told you I thought it was impossible to win sweepstakes, that there had to be a catch or that the winners knew about some secrets or alternate way of winning. I no longer believe any of that and I can no longer claim to have bad luck when it comes to winning. While I don't believe there are any secrets to winning sweepstakes, I definitely know that there are things that you can do to improve your chances and walk away with a couple of wins. Trust me, once you have that first win you are going to be hooked and I am saying that as a person who used to be able to count the sweeps that I entered each year on one hand and even now only enter a few chosen sweeps at a time. Treating sweeps as a part time job isn't necessary to win, and you should never pay to enter any sweeps or for lists of sweeps because all sweeps are listed for free and are free to enter, anything other than that is considered a lottery or raffle.

My first sweeps win was on a large blog that I have been reading and following for years. Didn't even realize I had entered the contest for a new laptop when I commented, but I saw my name on their FB page and then went to my email and had a message from them there too. I was thrilled and a couple months later when I saw another brand I love and followed already advertising a giveaway for a custom bike, I filled out the form and won. That was all it took, I was hooked, but after randomly filling out forms I came across online I smartened up and focused my efforts in a way that improved my chances and has actually led to several wins in the months since my first win.

First, your general email is probably filled with contests and sweepstakes being offered by the brands and sites that you already follow and love. They occasionally work with sponsors that are keen to get more eyeballs on their stuff and do so with a giveaway. These are generally very short and limited to the email list of the host, so the odds of winning are generally better. I got used to checking the emails I get for those opps and since my email was already on file with them entering took less than a minute. I have had a few quick wins this way resulting in tickets to concerts, dinners and hotel stays and small electronics like headphones, iPods and speakers.

The best way I have found of improving my chances though is focusing my efforts in sweepstakes on things that I wanted to win and forgetting about everything else. I did browse some forums early on and found that there is a whole culture behind sweeping and there are some folks that do devote quite the effort to entering and winning. I had neither the time nor desire to do this, but still wanted to win so I found the balance that worked for me and I don't spend more than 10 minutes each week entering those contests I find. For example, I really liked the new iPad that came out, but before going out and buying one I decided to see if I could win one, especially because I saw several giveaways on many tech sites when it first came out. I bookmarked the sites where giveaways were happening and that I had spied on my own, but then I also set up a Google Alert for "iPad giveaway" so that anyone posting something new would land in my email every morning. This resulted in about 1 new place to enter each week-- around the time these first came out. Most places only allowed you to enter the one time, but other sites allowed you to do a daily entry, and thats were you really can improve your chances of winning. With just four or five sites bookmarked I was able to enter them all within minutes, and as luck would have it, I won one!

I repeated this process every time there was something I was considering making a purchase on/or saw a giveaway for and have had a lot of success. I never have more than five giveaways that I am entering at one time and there is rarely more than one thing I am trying to win at a time. It works for me and it has enabled me to grab things that I wanted for myself but couldn't afford or just weren't in the budget right then, or things that I knew a family member would love. I've lost count of the times I've won, but the laptop I am typing on started it all, the tablet has been a godsend when I travel and both of these items are completely accessorized thanks to my wins. I have been able to bike my way through an injury, enjoy staycations complete with hotel, dining and show that I otherwise would've never done, and every once in a while I grab a fabulous new outfit.

True, the bigger wins like all expense paid vacations and cars have not come my way, but I am super happy with the things I have won and who know, maybe one day I will land the Ultimate Vacation Giveaway!

Good luck, and I hope this has a couple folks rethinking their bad luck-- something I was convinced I had.