Make money from being a quiz whizz

Published by Emma Lunn on 03 July 2014.
Last updated on 01 September 2015


Which King was married to Eleanor of Aquitaine? If you answered Henry II, then you correctly answered the question that saw Judith Kepple become the first winner of £1 million on a UK game show. Kepple scooped the jackpot on Who Wants to be a Millionaire? back in November 2000.

Although such seven-figure prizes are rare, and Who Wants to be a Millionaire? has since stopped running, there are plenty of TV game shows and other competitions that see normal people winning life-changing amounts of cash. Do you reckon you could be one of them?

Be a TV star

Take a look at the TV schedule on any given day and you can bet your bottom dollar there will be a quiz or game show of some description. From Pointless or Who Dares Wins to Catchphrase or Countdown, all these shows rely on a plentiful supply of contestants.

Most TV quiz show contestants need a decent amount of general knowledge, although some such as Wipeout or The Cube require physical skill. A handful such as The Weakest Link require strategy, while some such as Family Fortunes or Deal or No Deal are largely down to luck.

To appear on a TV quiz show, you need to find out which shows need contestants. Many do a 'contestant call' during the end credits of the programme. Others have details on either the broadcaster's or the production company's website.

Alternatively, you can visit a specialist site that lists TV quiz and game shows looking for participants. was founded by Sam Dean and Jon Routley 13 years ago and has grown to become one of the biggest listings site for TV companies.

As well as contestants, it lists available audience tickets (which are often free), reality shows needing participants, and a handful of acting jobs.

Dean says getting on a TV quiz show is a numbers game. The more applications you make, the better - so don't be too selective.

"Producers don't really look for a particular type of person for quiz shows – it's more down to the skill you have and for TV quiz shows that can be general knowledge," he says. "The barriers to entry to perhaps winning £50,000 or so are very low."

You generally have to fill in an application form. As well as questions about your family, job and hobbies, expect to be asked about crazy or interesting things you've done and what you'd spend any prize money on.

For some programmes the next step is a phone call where a researcher will have a chat with you. If they like what they hear, you'll be invited to an audition.

The rewards for being a successful TV game show contestant can range from a leather-bound dictionary on Countdown to potentially £1 million on The Million Pound Drop. However much you win, it's a good idea not to go on a crazy shopping spree straightaway.

"A big advantage of game show winnings is that you don't have to pay any tax on them," says Patrick Connolly of IFA Chase De Vere.

"If you win a large sum of money, it's important you take independent financial advice to make sure it's invested or spent in the best way for you."


If you don't have the nerve to appear on TV, there are thousands of magazine, newspaper and online competitions available to enter each month. If you get lucky, it's possible to holiday for free, win thousands of pounds in cash or even drive away in a new car.

Companies remain keen on competitions as it's a cheap way to promote their products – giving away a £2,000 trip to New York is much cheaper than buying a big national newspaper ad. But bear in mind that some firms use competitions as a chance to collect valuable information on current or potential customers.

Professional 'compers' treat competition entries like a job and it's not surprising given that £300 million worth of prizes are given away in the UK every year.

Compers News ( lists more than 400 competitions and prize draws in each issue, as well as discussing winning strategies. Back in the magazine's heyday it had half a million readers a week, although it's published monthly now.

Editor Steve Middleton is a keen comper and has been entering competitions since 1976. He reckons he's won about £100,000 worth of prizes over the years.

His number one tip for success is pretty obvious - make sure you enter lots of competitions.

"A lot of people say they never win anything but you need to enter," he says, "Second, make sure you stick to the rules or instructions. About a third of entries are disqualified for making mistakes or not answering the question."

Middleton suggests compers look for competitions where you have to make some kind of effort to win. Competitions where you have to complete a slogan or take a photo receive significantly fewer entries than those where you simply have to click a link.

"Competitions on the internet or Facebook will get thousands of entries but if you have to buy a postcard to send off people can't be bothered now," he says. "There are not as many slogan comps these days but these have very few entries, so you'll have a good chance of winning."

If you want to get serious about comping, you'll need to put in the hours and enter hundreds of free competitions each week. Never use your normal email address for entries as you run the risk of it being flooded with spam. Instead, set up a dedicated email account for comping.

Middleton also highlights the supermarket as a good place to look for competitions to enter. "Lots of companies will use a competition to tempt you to use their brand and you soon learn to spot 'win' on packaging when scanning the shelves," he says.

Pub quizzes

For those who want the chance to win some regular cash and socialise at the same time, there's always the good old pub quiz. Tens of thousands of quizzes or trivia nights are held across the country each week.

If you want to be successful on the pub quiz circuit, you'll need to assemble a crack team of experts. A diverse group of varying ages and specialist subjects works best.

You need to find the pub quizzes with the best cash prizes. Ian Woolley runs Quiz Britain ( that lists venues, rules and prizes.

"Pub quizzes can be very lucrative to money-making quizzers if they do their homework," he says. "Using online directories such as Quiz Britain or the free Quizfinder smartphone app, quizzers can check out a pub's listing to see what the first prize is. Mostly it's 'cashpot to the winners', which can be a lot depending on how many are playing. Better still is when there is a 'guaranteed' first prize. Popular pub quiz nights can draw a big crowd, so expect to see a big winner's prize."

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