imagesI spent 2013 entering as many competitions as I could, documenting statistics along the way. The philosophy was something like “enter 10,000 competitions for the year and the odds are in your favour to win loads”.

#It seems that fate listened to my philosophy, stroked it’s chin then set about diverting the universe’s karmic energy away from me. Or something spiritual like that.

Random

I believed that the key to winning was to enter a massive amount of random draw competitions and wish for the best. Don’t get me wrong – I did get a few decent wins, and while I was winning I didn’t see any reason to change. It was only after a dry patch of a few months that I began to think about the futility of focusing solely on the expectation that my name would be pulled out of a hat..

I started to think about the random element of the draws, and the odds that I was playing. Let’s take a mid-sized competition draw with around 2,000 participants, for example. Your  single entry has a 0.05% chance of being drawn. Turn it around. You have a 99.95% change of losing.

That was my mistake. Thinking. I shouldn’t have done that. It never leads to anything good. I decided instead to make a  New Year’s resolution to create my own luck.. I couldn’t control fate, but I could control the competitions that I chose to enter. I reckoned that, by focusing solely on creative competitions, I could turn my brain to producing winning entries. Lots of followers on my website had told me that they shun random draws in favour of creative competitions because they are fun and have a low rate of participation / greater change of winning. Perhaps I could bend destiny to my will!

My mind pictured a scenario where I would focus on producing witty short films for video competitions or write a short story that would have people rolling of their seats with laughter / sobbing with heartbreak as the situation required. I envisioned a reality where my children’s artistic achievements would wow the competition judges and win me some stuff. I could foretell prizes dropping through the letterboxes in massive amounts when I flexed my fingers and entered caption and complete the phrase competitions. My holiday snaps would win me iPads and my travel tales would bring me riches! How come I’d never thought of this before?

Creative

The Prize Finder was a perfect place to start. It has a link which shows skill-based competitions. I logged in, clicked the link and perused the prizes that would soon be mine.

There were a few photo competitions. That’s great, but I didn’t have any suitable pictures. I realised I’d need to go outside on a sunny day for most of them. Fair enough – I noted that. Colouring competitions. Again, great, but I tend to do competitions when the kids are in bed. Okay. I noted that too and decided to put some time aside, if I remembered. Prizes for photos of food? I’d already eaten my dinner. I’d have to do that tomorrow.

And there was the problem. My routine of sitting down with the laptop when I had a spare moment to enter some competitions did not lend itself to creative competitions. I was used to battering through a few pages of competitions in a half hour, not dwelling on one prize for such a long time. It would require a different mindset and more time. The key to winning, or at least adequately entering, a creative competition was planning.

I resolved to look for creative competitions with closing dates of at least a fortnight away. I’m going on holiday soon to a Scottish Isle.. Loads of opportunity there to take pictures with competitions in mind. If the kids have paints out, I’ll do a quick search for painting competitions that they could enter. The next time my wife makes an amazing dinner (every night, then!) I’ll take multiple photos.

In realising that creative competitions are a different beast, I also discovered the value of the random draws.

They are so quick and simple to enter. You can enter dozens of them while watching the television without taking much brain power. Yes, a thousand other people might be entering them at the same time but the massive amount you can easily enter does give you a sense that you have a chance of winning something.

The key, I suppose, as with a lot of things in life, is balance. Quick hits of random draws to boost your competition entry number and a few skill based competitions for the soul. I’ll let you know how this approach works.

Originally published in Compers News