Expert Interview with Jennifer Soltys on Sweepstaking for Mint

If you're a shopaholic who also likes to pinch pennies, there is a way for you to enjoy the thrill of the big score without parting with your hard-earned cash: sweepstakes.

Just ask giveaway aficionado Jennifer Soltys, owner of lifestyle/consumer blog Sweep Tight, who said that entering sweepstakes has helped curb her shopping habit.

"There was a time when I used to shop like crazy," she says. "Once 'things' started showing up, I didn't get the itch as often."

Here, Jennifer shares about how she got into sweepstaking and tells us about her biggest wins, as well as offers tips on signing up for giveaways online. Read on:

Can you tell us about Sweep Tight...when and why did you start your site?

I started Sweep Tight back in March of 2010, I believe. I had been entering (and winning) a lot of sweepstakes back then, and people were starting to ask how to get into it. I figured starting a blog would be the best way to update people who were really interested. I had no clue what I was doing and it was quite a mess! After I did some research and learned more about the blogging world, I started to take it more seriously. Now we write a wide variety of lifestyle articles in addition to posting giveaways and sweepstakes.

Who should be reading Sweep Tight and what will we find on it?

There really is something for everyone, but our biggest audience tends to be moms. We now have a small team of contributors, so the topics have expanded quite a bit.

How did you get into sweepstaking, and why do you love it?

My grandmother suggested I get into it after seeing an episode about it on Oprah. Back then it was filling out papers and mailing them in, and she knew I loved to deal with paper (weird). Now, it's basically all internet, and sweepstakes are evolving on to all the social media channels. I love it because it's really zero risk and possibly a high reward. It's pretty much the only hobby that you can wake up to an awesome email or phone call letting you know you won something huge!

What have been some of your favorite or most memorable sweepstakes/giveaway scores?

The biggest was a $10,000 gift card to Van Dyke's Restorers. We were able to get insanely beautiful bedroom furniture and much more. A trip to NASCAR races in Atlanta where I was one of 10 people to meet Jeff Gordon and try to win his Tahoe. I didn't win the vehicle, but the experience was so fun. A $3,000 diamond necklace, which I wore on my wedding day. Several gift cards, electronics, T-shirts and miscellaneous swag. I won a Wii that I was able to give my niece and nephew, and a few other trips.

Are all sweepstakes/giveaways created equal? Are there kinds you like better than others? Why?

Not at all. Big sweepstakes run by huge corporations tend to be highly advertised and therefore get a lot more entrants. Blog giveaways are almost always a lot smaller and easier to win. Twitter parties are an even better way to score prizes. They seem to have great odds since they are still quite a bit new. My personal favorites are still the ones you can enter by just filling out a form. Sweepstaking for me is a relaxing activity that I don't want to put a lot of thought into. When I have to jump through several hoops to enter, I lose interest. Now that I run my own giveaways, I don't find the time to enter anything anymore, though!

What are the best ways to find giveaways and sweepstakes online?

Shameless plug alert: JustSweep.com! I am a co-owner of the giveaway and sweepstakes directory site. Bloggers submit their own giveaways, but we try our best to screen them and make sure they are all legit. SweepSheet.com is a paid subscription site that I love, too. They have all the big nationwide sweepstakes, instant win games and much more. Online-Sweepstakes.com is a great site, too, and it's free.

Are there any risks/dangers involved with participating in sweepstakes or giveaways? What are they and how can we avoid them?

Not really, if you are entering legit ones. Sometimes you have to make sure you aren't signing yourself up for a magazine or something you don't want. Always look for boxes to "uncheck" when filling out forms. Reading the official rules is always important, too. I get a lot of advertisement emails due to sweepstaking. Clearly, some of them do give out your email, which is disappointing. Watch out for scam emails telling you that you won, too. If you win a sweepstakes, you should never have to pay anything or attend any seminars. You may have to fill out a prize redemption form, but never, ever send anyone money!

What advice do you have for other bloggers who want to make a side income from their site?

Be prepared to give it time and a lot of work. Develop relationships with PR companies, other bloggers and learn from everyone. The most valuable things I have learned have been from other bloggers. Get a core group of great people and always support each other. If you love what you are doing and create great content, the money-making opportunities will eventually come. Oh, and learn SEO right away. The sooner you know how to properly SEO your blog and posts, the better.

What are some of the easiest ways you've found to monetize your site?

Not sure if any of them are easy! But, I make the most from sponsored posts. I belong to a few ad networks, several blogger outreach forums/companies, affiliate networks, etc. There are many, many ways to earn money from your site. You just have to see what works best for you. I have lists of the sites that I work with available on Sweep Tight.

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