A Busy Woman’s Guide to Free Stuff

ways to get freebiesNearly every person on the planet loves getting free stuff. What’s not to love? You get something you want without paying for it. While free samples are always a welcome site amidst the bills and junk mail, getting a package with a full-sized item delivered straight to your door can induce downright giddiness. Getting free stuff is surprisingly easy, and not as time-consuming as one might think. Of course, the more dedicated you are, the more free stuff you can amass; but even someone with just a few extra hours a month can reap the benefits of internet marketing tactics.

For example, in the first month and a half of 2011 the free stuff I’ve received includes Norton Internet Security 2011, Epic Mickey for the Wii, a $15 Visa gift card from Yoplait to put towards buying yogurt for a house party, a cute insulated lunch tote, an Oh Snap case for holding Silly Bandz, a gift basket of handmade soaps and lotions, $65 worth of Amazon gift certificates, a $20 Barnes and Nobles certificate, a $15 Borders certificate, countless Artscow freebies (I did have to pay shipping on those), a three-month membership to Jump Start and a fancy lip product. That’s not even including the goodies I got for my personal review blog. Last year, I scored the entire line of Toy Story Action Links and a huge Hexbug Nano set, as well as enough gift cards to give my son a huge Christmas. The best part- I spent maybe an hour a week doing various tasks to get all these great freebies.

Here’s are some ways to get freebies:

Enter Blog Giveaways

Unlike huge giveaways on large corporate sites, blog giveaways typically have significantly fewer entries, drastically increasing you chance of winning. Many blog giveaways have less than 200 entries, but even the ones that get into the thousands have better odds than huge corporation giveaways. While few blogs give away really big-ticket items, I’ve discovered a lot of neat products that I didn’t even know existed.

I use Online-Sweepstakes, because they have a huge database and I can narrow the results to “blogs-only” giveaways. I usually do the expiring sweepstakes first, because I’m impatient. However, there are benefits to entering mid-cycle. Most bloggers use some sort of random number generator to choose the winner and in my experience with hosting giveaways, those generators usually pick a number somewhere in the middle. After you’ve exhausted the huge database, do a Google search for “low-entry giveaways.” Find a blog that lists links to other blog giveaways and enter those as well because not everyone uses the huge sweeps databases.

Blog giveaways typically have a mandatory entry and a list of steps you can take to get extra entries. Read the mandatory entry carefully. Some giveaways may require you to follow the blog. Sign up for a Google Friend Connect account, as that is the most common “followers” platform. Unless you sign up for an email newsletter, following a blog is very non-intrusive. You’ll never have to look at it unless you open up your Google Reader. However, I’ve found many fantastic blogs through giveaways and happily follow them each day. Bonus- you’ll be the first to know about new giveaways.

I’ve been pretty lucky with blog giveaways, averaging about a two wins a week. That may not sound like much, considering I enter probably 100 a week or more, but it’s significantly more wins than when I was just entering the big-name giveaways.

Sign Up For Survey Sites

This one is a little more time consuming because you actually have to answer surveys to get the goods. Survey sites are a dime a dozen, and not all of them are reputable. Even some of the more reputable ones have such high payout thresholds and low paying surveys that they’re not really worth the energy. My absolute favorite is Opinion Outpost, because they have a $5 payout threshold and you can get your Amazon certificate in seconds. They also allow you to choose how many points you want to spend in any increment. I’ve turned in $9.60 for a certificate before. Most sites make you spend your points in certain increments, which means you’ll almost always have an outstanding balance and somewhere along the line you’ll end up losing a few dollars. Synovate and Global Opinion Panel are both good for free full-size product tests, but it can take a long time to rack up enough points for a payout.

To really rack up the certificates, you need to get yourself into a community. This is a little harder, as they’re typically looking for a very specific demographic. Keep an eye out for screeners that come from your regular survey companies, they’ll mention that they’re looking for members for a special community. I’m a member of a two communities. One pays $10 Amazon gift cards every month as long as I log in weekly and complete a short survey or two. The other, Gongo’s Consumer Village, awards points for certain activities such as polls and discussion boards, and pays out once you reach a certain point level. Anyone can sign up for Gongo’s. Once you’re in, keep an eye out for those screener surveys to get onto specialized panels.

Viewpoints is another good one. Aside from free samples and high-value coupons, I received a free download of Norton Internet Security with a license for three computers for the last two years as a product test.

Hit the House Party Sites

Aside from the obvious, houseparty.com, several other sites offer you free products in exchange for hosting a small gathering and presenting the product. Pssst, sponsored by General Mills, often has house party opportunities through their My Get Together program. MomSelect occasionally offers fantastic house-party opportunities with very generous host gifts. I did the Toy Story 3 Action Links and the Hexbug Nano through them. Chances are you wont get chosen for every party, but apply to everything that interests you anyway to increase your chances.

Complain and Compliment

A five minute email to a company explaining what you love or hate about a product can net you at least one free full-sized product, if not more. Sadly, most companies respond better to complaints than compliments. Just be honest, they can smell a coupon-fisher a mile away. Don’t say “I love your yogurt because it tastes good,” say “I have been a fan of your yogurt for years. I love its creamy texture and how it bursts with flavor.” Likewise, with complaints, be specific, and be prepared to enter UPC and production codes.

Just Ask

This one doesn’t pay off nearly as often, but it still only takes seconds and could get you some good freebies. It helps if you have something to offer in return. For example, if you review books like crazy on Amazon, write to some publicists and ask if they would be willing to supply you with some reading material in exchange for reviews. If you are in charge of buying coffee for a large office, contact coffee venders and ask about samples. Everyone has influence somewhere, be it in the PTA, through hundreds of Facebook friends or just among their own family. Make companies aware of the influence you yield and you may end up with some very nice products.

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