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How to win your first video contest

About once a week I’ll get a nice e-mail from a new or longtime reader of VCN that I’ve never heard from before.  They usually ask me about a post I did or about some contest that they want to enter.  I always like to hear about other filmmakers’ contest experiences so I usually ask these folks what kind of contests they’ve entered and if they’ve ever had any cool wins.  Most of the time, the responses I get are very similar.  It seems like most new video contest filmmakers exclusively enter the big competitions like Doritos’ Crash the Super Bowl contest or Gain’s “Smell Like a Million Bucks” promotion.

And that always kind of surprises me.  It’s just not very good strategy.  I understand that gigantic cash prizes can be exciting but the odds are really stacked against you in those big contests.  Consequently, most of the people who write me say they’ve never won a video contest before.  I even heard from one guy last year who said he had entered about 80 video contests but had never actually won one.  And that’s pretty messed up since video contests are so ridiculously easy to win!

If you want to win a video contest, you just have to employ a little STRATEGY.  Filmmakers should definitely enter huge long-shot contests but you should never put all your eggs in one basket.  If you want to actually start winning contests you need to think SMALL.  It seems like most video contest filmmakers want to make one big, quick payday.  That kind of plan almost never works out.  (However the guy who won a million dollars in this year’s Crash the Super Bowl contest with his commercial “” had never entered a video contest before)  If you only go after prizes that are say, over $25,000 you’re probably just going to waste a bunch of time and money and eventually get frustrated and quit.  If you want to turn video contests into a steady source of income, you have to get your first win under your belt as soon as possible.  Not only will a win boost your confidence, it will get you hooked on the feeling that comes with winning and inspire you to enter more contests.

So if you’ve never won a video contest before, it’s time you got your first win out of the way.  Next time you’re on onlinevideocontests.com, scroll past all the big money contests and look for contests with prizes under $1,000.  Go through those and look at the details carefully.  Then pick the one that sounds like you would have the best chance of winning and enter it.  You might just be the only person who does.  You see…most people are naturally lazy and greedy.  I don’t mean that as a slam against the human race.  It’s just they way we are.  The vast majority of people will look at contests with $500 or $250 prizes and figure it’s not worth their time to enter.  But that’s not logical.  If you enter the Crash the Super Bowl contest, you will be in the running to win up to one million dollars.  But your odds of just making the finals are about 1 in 1,200.  So if you enter The Crash, you’re going to spend hundreds of dollars and dozens of hours entering a contest you will almost certainly lose.

On the flip side, if you enter a tiny contest that almost no one will enter, you can spend nothing and have an incredibly decent shot at winning some cash.  For example, every year Apartments.com runs a big video contest to find the “Roommate of the Year.”  A ton of people always enter and one person wins $10,000 plus a year’s worth of free rent.  But this year, Apartments.com is also running a small weekly contest in conjunction with the big contest.  People are supposed to get on camera and in 30 seconds demonstrate what makes them a good roommate.  The prize is $250 per week.  I came across this contest about 2 weeks ago and believe it or not, Apartments.com got ZERO entries the first week!  All somebody had to do was spend an hour shooting and uploading anything and it would have won.  But nobody bothered.  By the second week, only 2 people had entered and the sponsor had to pick a winning video that was just shot with a camera phone.  I’ve won a lot of very nice video contest prizes in my day but I’m not an idiot.  I knew this contest would be an easy 250 bucks so I entered and I won last week.  Click this image to see my video:

Click to watch!

I happen to think that was a pretty hilarious entry.  But quality didn’t even matter because no one else entered last week!  My only competition was this video which had been submitted the week before.  It took me about 2 hours to shoot, edit and upload my entry.  My only expense was a $12 pizza which I of course got to eat later.  So basically, I earned $125 per/hour on this contest.  Now, I probably win 5 or 6 small prizes like this every year.  (The day I won this contest I got another $250 check in the mail from a different contest.)  An extra $1,500 can really change your life so those little contests are absolutely worth your time and attention.  Think about it this way; if you need some extra money, would you rather spend 20 hours a year entering small video contests or 182 hours a year working a part-time, minimum wage job?

If you’re excited by this idea, I have some good news for you.  There is still one more week left in Apartments.com’s weekly contest.  The deadline to enter is this wednesday at noon and once again, no new entries have been received all week.  So if you shoot and upload an entry ASAP you’ll probably discourage other people from entering and you’ll win.  I’m telling you, there is a $250 bill on the ground….go pick it up: 

The Apartments.com contest is just the tip of the iceberg.  There are always a few tiny contests like this running.  Most people don’t bother to even look at the details of these contests so they never see just how easy they are to enter.  Hell, right now Monster energy drinks is running a video contest to find a new “intern.”  The first 250 people that enter win $100 in swag.  They’ve only gotten about 100 entries so far.  All you gotta do is sit in front of a camera for 60 second and talk about Monster and BOOM….you just won your first ever video contest prize.  Here’s the to enter.

Good luck, everybody.  If you actually enter and win either of these contests let me know!

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5 Responses to “How to win your first video contest”

  1. Andrew says:

    Great post, Dan! I always enjoy reading your blog–keep up the good work!

  2. Marissa says:

    Hey, Dan – we’re loving the advice you’ve given here! We love it so much, that we’ve linked to this article on the OVC blog today. Keep up the great work!

  3. Beardy says:

    Thanks Andrew! Go enter that contest and let me know when you win. No new entries appeared today.

  4. Beardy says:

    That’s awesome Marissa. Thanks!

  5. Tony says:

    Now watch the small contests get flooded with entries! haha. Thanks for the tip!

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