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Build or Repair Websites for Maximum Profit

Build or Repair Websites for Maximum Profit

Easy Tricks to Build or Repair Websites for Maximum Profit

copyright, 2017 – 2022, Jeff Napier

Just about any business will benefit from a website. In fact, some businesses can be entirely websites.

You don’t have to be an HTML master programmer to make effective websites. In fact, you don’t have to know anything at all about HTML, Javascript, or any of that.

There are now several places where you can create your own website by simply cutting and pasting or entering text, dropping in a picture or two, and click an OK button.,, and, come to mind. However, if you want to take advantage of all the ideas below, you might want to learn some basic HTML, or just hire someone to help you with the optimization parts.

Whenever you hire someone to help you with a website, make sure to maintain all access. You don’t want the site on some guy’s server. You want it on a big national company’s server such as or Because, what if your webmaster goes broke, leaves town, or has an argument with his wife and shuts down his server?

It is very important to get all passwords associated with the site. You don’t want to have to hire the same webmaster over and over again for each little change that you could eventually make yourself, or pay someone else to make for you. I can’t tell you how many times, I, as a business coach, have had to tell business owners (gently), “I told you not to trust that webmaster.”

The most important thing websites need is visitors. There are three main ways to get visitors.

1. Buy advertising. That mostly doesn’t work. Or more specifically, with enough money you can buy visitors, but that would be fewer visitors than you would need to pay for the advertising. that was famous for that. Right before the big tech crash of 2000, this company had a popular website. It turned out that the company had spent millions of investors’ dollars on advertising, and their revenue was far below their expenditures.

There is one form of advertising that can work for many Google AdWords. You can sign up for an AdWords account for free. Once there, you bid on keywords. They should actually be called “key phrases” because most keywords are more than one word. Let’s say your keyword is “Piano lessons San Francisco.” You may find that your closest competitor has bid $2.17 per click on that same keyword. You can bid $2.18. Then, your ad will show up at more websites, and closer to the top of the paid side of Google search results, than your competitor. So, your ad is then shown on random websites. Well, not random. Targeted. This means that if someone has a website that has to do with piano lessons in San Francisco, your ad – and your competitors’ ads – will show up on that site. Or if no one has a site about piano lessons in San Francisco, then you’ll show up on websites about piano lessons, and other sites about San Francisco. When someone clicks your ad to go to your website, Google takes $2.18 from your account. You can adjust maximums, and all sorts of other settings so that if it runs wild, you won’t go broke. You can do things like change your keyword to “Piano Lessons San Rafael (a small city on the other side of the Golden Gate Bridge), which may not cost anywhere near $2.18 per click.

AdWords works particularly well because it is well-targeted. Google’s automated software does a good job of making sure your ad shows up on only the most relevant sites, and with only the most relevant search results.

Google also uses a technique that some think of as magical, and others feel is an invasion of privacy. They will display your ads to someone who has shown interest in your product or service. For instance, I was looking at Dremel tools one day on a couple of websites. For the next two weeks, ads for Dremel tools showed up in the ads on many of the sites I visited.

Think about the results: If you’re teaching piano at $30 to $90 per hour, how much would you pay to get another student? Each student would be worth hundreds or maybe thousands of dollars, right? So what’s $2.18 compared to that? Not everyone who clicks through to your website will buy lessons, but the ads are well-targeted, so a good many will sign up for lessons. Especially if your website is well-designed, which we’ll talk about in a minute.

2. SEO – Search Engine Optimization. You can do some simple things to make sure your website shows up near the top of search results in Google, Yahoo, Bing, and other search engines. We’ll talk mostly about Google, because it is the elephant in the room. My guess is that at least 70 percent of all searches are done through Google, with the remaining 30 percent handled by Bing, AOL, Yahoo and many lesser search engines. Then too, if you make a website that works well with Google, it will work pretty much the same with the other search engines.

Google ‘ranks’ pages based on how closely parts of the page match the keyword people are searching for, and on how many other websites link to a page. The first aspect, matching elements of the page to the keyword is easy. The second is more work and takes longer to achieve, yet may be less important.

By the way, don’t let anyone tell you they have a magic formula to get top ranking. There are hundreds of companies out there willing to take your money for search engine optimization that is all smoke and mirrors. What you are going to read in the next few paragraphs is the heart and soul of search engine optimization. Oh, there are some complicated schemes that might bring a marginal increase in results, but these companies that promise the sky do not deliver. That’s guaranteed.

One of their favorite tricks is to show you irrelavent results. Let’s say you’re have a Fish and Chips restaurant. Let’s say your name is “Leslie Fish and Chips Eatery.” If someone were to enter the full name of your company, of course you’ll be at the top of results. But how many people looking for a restaurant is going to look for that? The truer result would be to see where you rank when you enter “Fish and Chips Restaraunt,” and see where you are in the results. Right!

So, if people are searching for “piano lessons San Francisco,” all you need to do is put that phrase in the page title – between the <title> tags, and in the< It can be helpful to have a page filename that also matches the keyword, such as Google says that as of October 2012, having an exact match page name is no longer significant. However, I have noticed that if you have an exact match domain name, such as, Google seems to index your page – include it in their search engine listings – within a day or two, rather than within two to three weeks.

So how many people are looking for “piano lessons San Francisco?” It would be important to know that, wouldn’t it?

As of now, 210 people per month are entering that keyword. How do I know? I used the Google AdWords Keyword Planner. It’s free when you sign up at Signing up for AdWords is also free. It only costs money if you place a bid on a keyword. You can enter any potential keyword in the Keyword Planner, and it will show you how many people are searching for that. It will also tell you how much AdWords bidders are paying for the keyword and some other interesting information. It will then offer a list of related keywords, in case you find there are already too many websites optimized for your keyword.

Once you are on the AdWords home page, select the “Tools and Analysis” tab, and then “Keyword Planner.” Once that’s in front of you, select “Search for new keyword and ad group ideas.” Enter a keyword in the “Enter Your Product or Service” field, the scroll down and click the “Get Ideas” button.

You’ll see an interesting list, but that’s not the list you’re looking for. Click the “Keyword Ideas” tab. Now you see information for your specific keyword – data about the people who have entered exactly your keyword into Google, and below that, you’ll see a long list of suggested keywords based on what you entered.

So, the next step is to see how many people have already optimized websites for your keyword. Good news, well fairly good: Not many people have optimized sites for “Piano Lessons San Francisco.” When you simply enter that keyword in the Google search engine, several sites come up, some which have the term in their titles, descriptions or <H1> tags, but none seem to be doing it in all four.

As you may know, you can see the source code of any web page by right clicking (or [Ctrl] and click on a Mac) and selecting “View Page Source” in FireFox, or from within a context-sensitive menu on other browsers.

So if you were teaching piano lessons in San Francisco, you could be the top page in Google search results, and most of 210 people a month who are actually looking for piano lessons in San Francisco would click through to your website. Gosh, that could bring you 50 or 100 new students every month! So many that you could raise your rates and pick which students you want to teach.

But, if many websites already used your keyword, there are still some things you can do. You can change the keyword a little bit, checking the Google AdWords Keyword Tool and actual search results, until you get something that has enough people looking, and isn’t highly optimized. Maybe “Piano Lessons Berkeley” (a nearby community) or “Piano Instruction San Francisco,” or “Classical Piano San Francisco.”

You can optimize for more than one keyword. If you have a local business, you can make a whole bunch of similar web pages each focused on one area, or put several area names in your tags. For instance, “Piano Lessons San Francisco, Concord, San Mateo, San Rafael, Sausalito.”

If your business is national or international, such as a website designed to make money by itself leveraging Google AdSense, or perhaps selling rubber reptiles via mail order, then you might use a keyword that addresses a range of similar interests, like “fake rubber snake lizard turtle amphibian reptile.” Of course you wouldn’t put such a non-poetic name in the visible portions of your page, but you get the idea.

Next on the list is backlinks. This thickens the plot a bit. If a thousand websites have added links to your page, Google puts you higher in search results than someone who may actually have better on-page SEO, but fewer backlinks.

This is another place the charlatans go crazy. They tell you they have all sorts of ways to get instant, automatic backlinks, for only $39.95 per month. . . They also tell you that backlinks are essential. However, with a well-selected keyword you can usually ignore backlinks and still end up with lots of hits.

Don’t fall for any of that rubber snake oil. Much of what they do, when they do anything at all, is pure spam, and in the end, may weaken your position with Google. You don’t need to pay money for backlinks, and you don’t need to do spammy things to get them.

Simply asking webmasters to add a link to your site can work quite well. Many webmasters will, without cost, just because you asked. You can also trade links, as long as you don’t mind adding a reciprocal links list to your site. Better yet, you can post in newsgroups, forums, discussions. You can answer questions, or ask questions. At the end of every single post, you are allowed a tag line in almost all forums. Your tag line can contain a few words about what your site is, plus an actual link to your site.

Not only will these be noticed by Google as backlinks, but some real people will actually click through, bringing up your visitor count organically. The trick to not spamming is simple: Contribute legitimately to the discussions in which you participate. You can answer questions, postulate theories, bring up analogies. If you don’t know much about a subject, it is completely OK to ask questions, as long as you are not selling ‘expert service’ on your site on the very subject of which you’re asking questions.

What’s wrong with spam? Besides the fact that you’re interrupting people, and diluting the value of bonafide discussions, Google has become quite smart about spam, and actually penalizes a website in search results if the backlinks are of low quality.

One of the best sources of good backlinks is social networking, which will be covered in the next chapter. Social networking can work so well, that you may not need SEO at all.

Another little trick that can be helpful when you’re not at the top of the Google search results is to become a verified author through Google+. You need to join Google+, a social network, but it is free. Then using Google itself, you can look up “verified author Google+” where you will find the details. Basically, you have to certify that you are the author or owner of the content on your web page(s), then add a little bit of Javascript code to the page. When Google sees this, they put your picture next to the brief description in the search results. Google also ads some other data for you. But displaying your picture is the main thing. People are more likely to click through when they see who you are. Even if you are not particularly photogenic, they’ll click through because on some subconscious level, they feel they know you now that they’ve seen you.

Once you’ve built or updated your website, you can let Google know it’s there. This is especially important if no other websites link to it yet, otherwise Google has no way to know you’re out there, because Google finds websites by investigating links from other websites, crawling the entire Internet every two weeks or so, link by link. However, you can expedite the process through “Fetch as Google” a simple, free and easy-to-use part of Google Webmaster Tools.

If all goes well, you can have a hundred visitors within 24 hours of building a new website.

Valuable Content

Once you’ve got at least a handful of visitors coming to your site, you can do some more things to make sure it works.

If you can provide some useful content or positive eccentricity, then people will tell people who will tell people. Your site can go viral. Take a look at Especially take a look at the “Hamster Classics” and then “Interactive Dance.” This one dance page is similar to how the whole site originally looked.

It seems a computer science student made a one-page website as a thesis project. All it did was show lines of cartooney dancing hamsters with some background music. That was in the late 1990s, when it didn’t take much of a website to excite people. There was something about the cuteness of that caused everyone to email everyone else, and it went viral almost instantly. Millions of visitors came. The creator saw the potential, and quickly added more pages and advertising to the site.

It will take more than dancing hamsters to impress people these days, but if you can do something sufficiently amusing, or informative, you win the game!

Another example is There, you’ll find quite a few interesting and interactive things for children. People come to the site because there’s something useful there.

Yet another example is a website where you can buy an antenna for specialized electronics. The site has many charts with exactly the information that radio designers need, so of course this site is where the radio people go to when it is time to order antennae.

Your author has made several such sites. One of the more interesting sites is Its sole purpose is to cause people to tell people, who will tell people, and so on. If I recall correctly, I have never done any SEO with the Worlds Worst Website. This site has functionality and eccentricity.

Once you’ve got a site that gets visitors, you want to direct their time there. It would be a shame to build a large visitor count, then have all your visitors become confused and leave the site without satisfaction. Or more to the point, you want them to do something that satisfies you, also, like buy your product or service. Think of your webpage, or your website, as a funnel. The top is wide. Lots of people spill into your site. The funnel narrows, directing people downward. Or more specifically, it holds their interest. Someone told me the average web page visitor stays one and a half seconds, unless something catches their interest in that time. The funnel eventually directs them all through the spout. The spout is the action step. What do you want people to do? Click the “Buy Now” button? Give you a phone call? Come to your store? Set up the page to have this effect.

You should have a compelling title, or short bit of text in the upper left corner, since that is where most people look first. The purpose of this top left item is not to sell something, but merely to cause them to feel that your site is worth focusing on. To have them become invested in your site enough to stay on the page and read more, perhaps click through to other pages on your site. Finally, at the bottom of every place they might go within your site, you have your action step – the button to click, the phone number to call – whatever you want them to do. During this process, you may also want to convince them that your site is so excellent they should tell all their friends.

One thing you almost never want is links away from your site. In this book, I can tell you about, because you already bought the book. I don’t need to sell you anything. But if I did, I would not risk losing you to Crayola. Besides, I think I’ve got your interest by now. Hopefully, I have you well on your way to starting or improving your own business!

Social Networking

There’s a super-effective trick with the social networking sites that can bring you hundreds or thousands of new visitors, but which is oddly left out of most discussions of social networking. I’ll tell you about it after a brief introduction and ‘how-to’ in case you are new to the whole phenomenon.

The Big Three

The big three social networking sites are Facebook, Twitter and Google+. Some may argue that MySpace is one of the big ones also, but I think it was more than it is now. There are hundreds of others. And then, there are sites that you may not think of social networking sites, but have interactive features and can be used for social networking. These include Tumblr, YouTube, LinkedIn and even eBay.

For this discussion, we’ll just focus on the big three. There’d be little sense in putting much effort into ‘lesser’ sites when the same effort on one or more of the big three will yield ten times the results.


The Big Three

Let’s start with Twitter. The main concept is that anyone can enter messages at any time of up to 140 characters in length. You can also attach pictures, links and videos. But the core of Twitter is these little messages, called tweets. What in much of the Internet world might be considered spam is perfectly fine on Twitter. In other words, stating tiny little trivia about whatever interests you, as often as you like, is perfectly fine.

Amateurs use Twitter to tell you they hate today’s homework, Jane wore the wrong dress, the boss said something insane, Frank just took a picture of his basset hound – you get the idea.

Most communication of this type happens among people who have decided to follow each other. For insance, if you start following Barack Obama, you’ll get his tweets about the things that interest him – health care politics, international relations, and so on. When he writes a tweet, only those who have chosen to follow him see his messages. In his case, millions of people are following. But unless you are the President of the United States, not that many people will follow you.

Here comes a big trick with Twitter: You can incorporate hashtags into your tweets. A hashtag is a word or phrase that starts with a number sign. Phrases consisting of more than one word are compounded, like this: #MileyCirus. When you put a hashtag in your tweet, anyone who has elected to see all messages about that subject will see your message. Now, rather than the three people who are following you, suddenly thousands may see your message.

If you pick something too common, no one will be following because the number of tweets are simply overwhelming. For instance, if you do add a #MileyCyrus hashtag, chances are few people will react because there may be thousands of tweets about her every day. On the other hand if you pick something too specialized, there’ll be no one who cares. Something like #RichardBransonHighSchoolDeploma – just isn’t going to bring results. But if you use a hashtag that some people are going to be following, magic can happen.

First, they’ll get your message, and perhaps go to your website to learn more about what you’re doing. Then, if your tweet is compelling, they may start following you, so you can speak to them even in ways in which you can’t incorporate effective hashtags. Finally, they may tell their friends, mentioning you or your website, or at least your tweets, in their own tweets to their friends (called retweeting).


Can you do the same thing in Facebook? You bet. Hashtags work almost the exact same way. You can even link Twitter and FaceBook together (and even several other social networking sites), so that when you post a tweet on Twitter, it also shows up in your Facebook activity.

Facebook has a concept called Groups. There are thousands of groups. These are just what you’d think: People with a similar interest ‘subscribe’ to a group, where the photos, messages, videos, and links are all about the topic of the group. For instance, there are more than 4,000 in a group about juggling. There, you’ll find posts about jugglers who have appeared on television, pictures of people juggling three, four, five and more objects, how-to information, and more.

The magic of Facebook groups is that you can subscribe to a group and post messages that will be seen by everyone in the group. Unlike Twitter, you don’t have to depend on people searching for hashtag terms, and you don’t have to already have made friends with thousands of people. Just post in an appropriate group, and you can have hundreds, even thousands of targeted visitors to your website within hours.

Just like the rest of the world, you don’t want to spam groups. You can’t subscribe to a group about orchids, and post about inexpensive Rolex watches. Well, actually you can, but you’ll probably be banned from the group. Besides, it is just plain not nice. Spam weakens a group. Have you ever seen a group that has lost the spam war? It’s disappointing. You might want to read about a vegetarian diet, but every post is about weight-loss products. As a group is dying, you see nine out of ten spam posts, and have to sort through them to find a little bit of good stuff.

But you can post on-topic material, and leverage your presence in the group. You might find a group about Manchester United. There, you can say whatever you want about the other soccer teams. The Manchester fans in the group will love you for it. Then, at the bottom of your post, you can have a signature line, complete with a link to your website. In fact, you don’t even need a signature line. You can add links to posts – as long as they aren’t wildly off-topic. You don’t even have to do that. Many people will wonder who you are, check your profile, the links you have posted there, and so on.

It is better to stay nearly on-topic, even with your signature and links, if you can. If your product or service is about fishing, you can find many boating and outdoor sports groups in which you can participate in a valid way, and receive targeted visitors to your linked websites. For instance, if you post in a bicycle racing group, you’ll get bicycle enthusiasts coming to your bicycling website. Many of them will because they are interested in everything ‘bicycles.’ If you post a link about bicycling in a mountaineering website, even if your text is a valid on-topic post, few people will actually click the link.

Let’s say you’ve found the paydirt. Perhaps your buiness is buying and selling used violins. You find a violinists’ group, an orchestral musicians group, and a classical strings group. You can’t just post over and over again that you’re buying and selling violins. What you do instead is offer violin trivia, post technical information, state that you particularly like Rossini’s William Tell Overature, and so on. You can answer questions that you’re qualified to answer. You can ask questions if you’re not an expert. You can ask controversial questions which will sometimes keep an active discussion going for weeks. With all this stuff on your wall, you can become something of an authority on the subject. By simply participating in a natural and appropriate way, you’ll bring many visitors to your website and end up trading many violins!


Finally, we have LinkedIn( This social venue works nearly the same as Facebook, but has a clientele that leans more toward entrepreneurs and upwardly mobile corporate professionals such as department heads and managers. This is a clientele that often has need for web development

Google Groups

Google also has something called “Groups” but it is not the same as Facebook groups. This is an extension of Usenet newsgroups.

In the early days of the Internet, before the WorldWide Web took off, there was another division caled Usenet, also known as Usenet newsgroups. Usenet still exists, but most modern Internet users are unaware of it. There are more than 100,000 newsgroups, covering a huge variety of topics. A newsgroup is a list of messages by individuals. You can click titles to read messages, answer messages, and post new messages. It is a lot like email, except every message is addressed to the world at large – anyone who wants to subscribe to the groups. Just like email, messages could have files, attached. Most of the time the files were pictures. In the past, you had to download special software, and put up with funky free access, or pay money for a subscription in a ‘newsreader’ service to gain access. Now, Google has made it much easier. Anyone with a Google account can go to and participate. The messages show up in your web browser – no special software required. There are two major differences: Google doesn’t support attached files. With Google, it’s just about text messages. And, there are even more groups, in addition to the Usenet groups.

So, if you want to publicize something, you find appropriate groups, post messages, and add a tag line at the bottom of every post. Or, in some groups, you can blatantly advertise. Of course the ones you can advertise in directly don’t have much valuable content. They are often called “spam traps,” I experimented with some, such as alt.test.test, and alt.announce,, and sure enough, there are a number of people just idling around there who will read pretty much anything interesting, and click through to see what you have.

Let me give you a concrete example of how you can use Google Groups. Actually, you can use this same technique in Facebook groups, on Twitter, and even on YouTube.

I wanted to publicize an idea about bike safety. I found a group called ba.bicycling. After reading a few messages, I figured out that the group is about bicycling in the San Francisco Bay Area, a place I have lived. There is a popular bicycling road that goes out to the rural edge of west Marin County called Sir Francis Drake Boulevard. It is dangerous because it has no shoulders, blind curves, and trees casting mottled sun and shade, making visibility difficult at times, especially since it heads due west into the sunset in the evenings. So I said so. I created a brief post stating that Sir Francis Drake was dangerous, and exactly why. At the bottom was a link to my bicycle safety website. You’ve gotta remember, I just told a bunch of bicycle lovers that the place they like to ride is dangerous. That was very controversial, just as I thought it might be, and so I was able to keep the discussion alive for a week. On the first day, 400 people came to my website. By the time the discussion died out, 1,000 visitors clicked through. And, these were exceedingly targeted customers – the very bicycle advocates I wanted to come to my site. My site was actually of international interest, but I happened across a Bay Area newsgroup, and remembered the problem on Sir Francis Drake, and so was able to make my little splash.

Letting eBay Spread Your Message

I’ve listed some things for sale on eBay, and noticed that hundreds of tire-kickers may come by before anyone actually buys a thing. How can you leverage this? You can post things that are not designed to sell. If they do sell, that’s just frosting on the cake. The reason for posting is to get a couple hundred viewers, who will then click through to your website.

Now, eBay frowns on sellling things outside of eBay through an eBay listing. So you can’t do that. But you can mention a non-competing website in your listing, and you can direct people to your ‘about me’ pages on eBay.


YouTube is another great website that you can use in a social networking sort of way. People love videos, especially ones that explain something or eccentricities. Right in your video, you can include links to any site you want. YouTube even gives you ways to monetize your videos directly. Let’s say you have done something weird enough that it goes viral, like this one:

Crazy Drummer

For those of you who are reading this on a device that can display web pages, you can click the picture to see the video. Otherwise, you can go to this link to see it on another device:

The drummer is Steve Moore, known as The Crazy Drummer. When this was first uploaded to YouTube, it sat around for two years and got only a few hits. Then the name was changed to “This Drummer Is At The Wrong Gig.” Suddenly, it went viral. As of today, it has been viewed more than 23 million times.

If that were your video, you could have YouTube supply advertising within and around the video. Their advertising is linked to Google AdSense, which is no surprise, since Google ownes YouTube. AdSense places context-sensitive ads automatically. Ads will be displayed that are related to the subject matter, (probably “drummer” and “gig”), and also to what the viewers have shown an interest in. For instance, Google must be hip to the fact that I have been interested in Dremel and Foredom tools lately, because these are among the ads I see. Or, you could embed your own links.

Interestingly, the quality of a video is not nearly as important as the content, or the subject it addresses. Many successful YouTube videos were shot with cellphones, and not edited very much, if at all. But what all the successful ones have in common is that they do something people want to see. They are informative or eccentric.

And there are the other websites. You can post photos or artwork on,,, you can make interactive blogs on or


In these websites, or any social networking or similar websites, memes can be effective.

A meme (pronounced ‘meem’) is a unit of information that carries an idea from person to person almost in the way that genes carry physical traits from generation to generation. Shortened from the Greek mimeme, which means “imitated thing,” the term was coined by Richard Dawkins, an evolutionary biologist, in 1976. Modern memes can be a written phrase, an image, an animation or sound clip.

Bumper stickers might be typical memes. Remember the one that had a picture of a golfer and said, “Don’t drink and drive. Use a 7-iron.” Hopefully, this meme made driving a little more safe.

It’s easier to create memes these days. You can just upload a little something to Tumblr, Twitter, Google+, you name it. And if your meme is successful, everyone will share it with their friends and associates, and soon, your meme will be seen by millions. A typical image meme would have a photo or drawing, and a bit of text. There are no standards – yet. Your meme can be any size, any of the standard Internet formats – .jpg, .bmp, .gif, or .png), and of course it can contain anything you want. All you do is make your meme, including a link to your website or whatever you want to convey, upload it somewhere, set back, and watch the business roll in. At least that’s the idea.

It would be pretty hard to make a text-only meme. The closest I came is this: “If all the toilet paper used in America was on one giant roll, we’d be unrolling it at 7,600 miles per hour, roughly ten times the speed of sound.” This could be uploaded to some trivia websites, or into various groups on Facebook, along with a link to whatever I’d want to link.

The problem is that text memes will tend to get separated from their links when people spread them around. So, the answer is imbed the text and link in a picture, so it is the picture that gets passed around, not just a line of text. Besides, the picture may enhance the concept of the text.

You can also make video memes, with or without sound. They have the advantage that they more completely involve the viewers. The downsides are that they take a bit more effort to produce, they don’t run consistently in all environments, and people have to sit and watch them before they get the entire message. In this information-rich society, the attention span is said to be one-and-a-half seconds. If your animated meme doesn’t catch people in that amount of time, it isn’t going to be an effective meme.


I wanted to tell you about a couple of Craigslist tricks that are important to many kinds of businesses.

If you have a service business such as teaching or repairing, I have a tip for you farther along in this chapter, but let’s start with merchandise business ideas on Craigslist.

If you buy and sell things, great opportunities exist in the space between Craigslist and eBay. You can often buy things for less on eBay than they can go for on Craigslist. That’s because people often will not trust things they can’t personally see and hold before buying. This is especially true of musical instruments, since people want to play them, to hear them, before they commit. Then, you can sell these same things at a profit locally on Craigslist to people who you will let see and hold them. These people are also more likely to buy locally because they can have their items right away. Many folks don’t want to wait a week or more for their purchases to arrive. Others don’t really understand and trust eBay, and would rather pay cash to an actual person.

On the other side, people who are moving out of town, don’t want to pack and ship things, and who want immediate cash will sell things for much less then they would be worth online. They can’t get the full value for these things, because the market is limited to the local community. So of course you can come along, swoop these things up, and list them for a profit to all the national or international buyers on eBay.

First, let’s talk about a couple of tricks for selling things on Craigslist.

When you list an item for sale on Craigslist, it scrolls down the list as other people add the things they have for sale. In a busy community in a busy category, such as Computers in Seattle, your ad can scroll out of sight within a few hours.

So, here’s what you do: Every couple of hours, add a different item. Let’s say you are selling used clothing. You can put up an ad for a sweater at 1pm. Then at 3pm, you can put up an ad for a pair of pants. Then at 5pm, a jacket, and so on. Each one of these ads carries a link to your website, saying something like, “much more clothing available at” You might even have thumbnails for your other clothes at the bottom of each ad. This is not spamming, because every ad is for something different.

As you may know, with craigslist, you are welcome to ‘renew’ an ad every 48 hours. This means that your ad will reappear at the top of the list. So, after you’ve built up a sufficient number of ads, you can start renewing them, one at a time, every couple of hours, so you always have something near the top of the list.

The other trick, which I already alluded to above, is that you can have a website that has a larger list of your inventory. Every one of your Craigslist ads can link to your website. It seems to work well to have a vertical table on your website, with thumbnail images of each item on the left, descriptions to the right, and prices to the far right. I used to do this with bicycles, although you could do it with clothing, musical instruments, computers, furniture, or whatever you want. I kept an inventory of about 18 used bicycles and each was pictured on my website until sold.

I have to admit I didn’t stay up to date with posting on Craigslist. I usually only managed between one and three ads per day, and skipped some days altogether. This was because my bottleneck in the bicycle business was getting bikes, not selling them. Unlike most many other product lines, all except high-end bicycles are too big to buy profitably on eBay – due to the shipping cost, so I had to depend on a local market. And there too, I have to admit, I could have done things to purchase more bikes locally, but had other business interests at the time. Still, I sold 20 bikes per week with an average profit of $75 to $100. So this could work the same way for your business. After doing it for three months, I moved on to other pursuits, but during that time, strictly from craigslist exposure, my bike inventory website had received over 20,000 unique visitors.

When an item sells, it is appropriate to delete it from Craigslist as soon as you can, but I think it is better to leave the listing on your website for a day or two, marked “Sold,” leaving the price visible. When people see that your business is active, an unconscious impulse causes them to want to buy something ‘before it’s too late.’ It also keeps browsers coming back. They want to watch the activity, and eventually when they need an item, or have a friend that does, where do you suppose they’ll look?

One of the best ways I could have increased my purchasing of bicycles at the time would have been to keep an ad active in the “Items Wanted” section telling people that I buy used and broken bicycles. This would have the added advantage that my wanted posting would also link to my website, so people who see that I want bikes, will also see I have bikes, in case they are upgrading, or looking for a bike for any reason.

The impact of such listings grows with time. Several months later when Fred, who doesn’t need a guitar, hears that Jenessa wants a guitar, he’ll remember the ‘guitars wanted’ ad on Craigslist, and direct Jenessa to the linked guitars-for-sale website.

And of course, on your website with your list of items for sale, you can mention that you are also a buyer.

One of the best ways to let people you’re buying things on Craigslist is to let them know you’re selling things. Whereas you could post multiple similar ads such as “Cash paid for sweaters,” “I buy name brand bluejeans,” and “I want your quality used clothing,” this verges on spam, in fact it pretty much is spam, in the “Items Wanted” category. Not only does spamming make a mess out of a good category, and is unethical, and will probably get you a bad name, but Craigslist users will probably get in the habit of flagging and deleting all your ads.

A much better approach is to sell things in the proper “For Sale” category. In each ad, you also happen to mention that you buy things. Of course, you can have a single ad announcing that you’re buying in the “Items Wanted” category at the same time. You might be able to expand in the items wanted category if you are careful. You could run an ad that you are buying upholstered furniture on Monday, an ad that you are buying wooden furniture on Tuesday, and an ad that you are buying office chairs on Wednesday.

If you are in a service business, such as repair, entertainment or lessons, there are a couple of problems. First, you can list only in the “Services Offered” category, which fewer people see. Oh, they may be better targeted, but still, few people browse that category. The other problem is that it is difficult to post multiple ads in the Services category.

The only way you can post multiple services without spamming is to break your services down to specifics and advertise each one. For instance, if you tune and repair pianos, and give lessons, that’s three ads, isn’t it? Lessons, Repair, Tuning.

But that’s awfully close to spamming, and probably not enough exposure. So here’s the plan:

Now that you’ve read this book, you have a good idea about how to buy and sell things at a profit. I’m going to suggest you dabble a bit in used items, even if that is not your primary business. If you are into pianos, buy a couple of investment pianos and put them in your garage or whatever. Or, as you teach lessons, perhaps the very pianos you teach on are always for sale (as long as you keep a spare piano, ready to use). Now, you can put ads in the Musical Instruments section of Craigslist for your pianos, doing the tricks stated above. But your objective isn’t to sell pianos, although that could be a good income on the side. Your ads are there mostly to present the links to your website where you sell the lessons and repair services that you offer. If you don’t really want to mess around with buying and selling (but who wouldn’t?), you can keep your prices too high. The point is that people looking for used items are often the same people who want lessons or repairs. This is where they’ll be, in Items for Sale, not Services Offered.

Finally, on Craigslist, you’ll notice that there are forums at the left side of the home page. You can participate in those forums. You can teach what you know. You can answer questions. You can ask questions about what you don’t know. But at the bottom of every posting, you can have a low-key link to your website. Keep in mind that some of the forums are national, so you’ll want to notice that before you post a link for local service or large items for sale.

The Sure-Fire Millionaire

As I indicated in the last chapter, partnerships are expensive. I mean really expensive. I’m not saying don’t get partners, I’m just saying you should consider expensive options carefully, weighing them against potential profit.

For instance, you might think the decision to buy a cup of coffee at Starbucks is simple – just do it. But what if I tell you that cup of coffee will cost you $42? Would you still buy it?

Let me explain. If instead of that $3 cup of coffee, you put the money in an investment such as a mutual fund, and leave it there for 20 years, it will, on average, turn into $42. I knew a fellow who understood this so well that he made millions of dollars, yet he worked for nearly minimum wage.

When I met him, Brian was 48 years old. He had retired with several million dollars two years earlier at age 46. When he was 26 years old, he got a job for Sears, driving a van, and repairing washing machines and driers in peoples’ homes, which pays just a bit more than minimum wage.

At one home, Brian met a couple who told him that he ought to ‘pay himself first.’ He asked what they meant, and it sounded like a good idea. So every week, he took 25 percent of his paycheck after taxes, and put it in a savings account. Then whatever was left went to rent, food, and fun. That wasn’t very much, but he wasn’t making very much in the first place.

Week after week, Brian kept it up, until he had $10,000 in his savings account. He knew he’d have to learn something about investing. Even though he didn’t feel like learning about that, he went to the library and started studying up – this was before the Internet. He learned about mutual funds, municipal bonds, money market accounts, and even some things that didn’t begin with “m.” He moved the money from the savings account into better investments.

Brian was content with his job at Sears, and not really qualified for anything else. He kept ‘paying himself first’ year after year. In fact, in the first years, his investment fund grew frustratingly slowly. Yet, early on he remained what you might consider painfully careful about spending money. He could certainly have purchased a 35-inch TV, or even a 60-inch TV, but he knew how much that would actually cost. He felt his 21-inch TV was just fine, considering the bigger picture.

He learned to buy only the best car he could buy with cash – no payments. At first, this meant he had to keep his old car a few years longer than he might have.

He couldn’t really impress people with material goods. (He did impress people with his common sense.) He couldn’t buy fancy clothes. It had to be Wal-Mart, and only when necessary. Sometimes he bought clothes at the thrift stores. After twenty years, he retired. He can now have pretty much anything he wants. He dresses well. He travels when he wants. Brian has a new Jaguar that cost $88,000, paid with cash, of course. Now, he can really impress people with material goods!

I think you can see that Brian was patient. Patience is a wonderful attribute in business. Just about any business you start, if you are patient, if you are willing to accept the occasional setback, grow it slowly, stay interested, you’ll be successful. Maybe even beyond your wildest dreams!

The Psychology of Making Money

Here’s another little story about patience in business. Steve was a science-fiction writer. Or, well, he wanted to be. He figured that if he could co-write with the big names in science fiction, he’d succeed. He pitched ideas to Larry Niven, Robert Heinlein and other big names in science fiction, and some of them accepted the idea of co-writing with him. For eighteen years, he wrote with these famous writers. One after another, the books flopped. The publishers would pay a small advance, then no royalties came in. To make ends meet, he taught English at the local college. Eventually, Steve’s name became poison in the industry. No one would co-write with him any more. All these great writers knew that if they wrote a book with Steve, it would fail.

Out of desperation, he wrote a book by himself. It became an international best seller.

Now, eighteen years is extreme. I tell the story only to illustrate patience. For you and I, just a few months can seem like years. But if you can stick it out those months, you’ll probably see some level of success. Even if your success is slow, you can stick with it, and eventually you’ll have your major success.

Also, note that the story didn’t go the way Steve figured. He thought he had to co-write. Turns out, a little adjustment made all the difference. Don’t force your story to go the way you figure. Allow for some flexibility. Look around the edges of things. See what you can experiment with. See what you can change. Have fun. You’ll do fine. Better than fine! For instance, in my first bicycle store, I totally ignored used bikes. They were ‘beneath my dignity.’ I wanted my place to be a ‘pro’ store, and the way I saw it, used bikes didn’t fit the paradigm. Somehow, in my second bicycle store, I had loosened my grip a bit, and started dealing in some second hand bikes. Guess what? They brought four times more income than the new bikes. Furthermore, the ‘pro’ customers were attracted to the secondhand bikes, and bought and sold some very high-end used bikes with me.

You probably heard about the three gold miners in California. They staked a claim where they were fairly certain they’d hit a big vein, and dug. And dug. And dug some more, but no gold. Finally, they gave up, selling their mine for nearly nothing. The new owners started digging. They went three feet (1 meter), and hit the biggest gold vein yet found in California.

25 Ways To Make Money With Photography

25 Ways To Make Money With Photography

25 Unique Ways To Make Money With Photography

Copyright 2017 – 2022, Jeff Napier

Table of Contents

Start Here

1. Freelance Sports Photographer

2. Consignment Sales

3. Create Postcards

4. With a Special Prop

5. Tourists in Action

6. Photoshop – Freelance

7. Photoshop – On Request

8. Day in the Life

9. Website Photographer

10. Puzzle Pictures

11. Museum

12. Stock Photography

13. Portraiture

14. eBay

15. Buy and Sell Photo Equipment

16. Wedding Photography

17. Real Estate Photographer

18, News and Magazine Freelance

19. Nightclubs and Beaches

20. Arial Photography

21. Construction Site Photography

22. Resume Photography

23. Rolling Studio

24. Lecturer

25. Novelty Photos

26. Pre-Filled Digital Photo Frames

27. Smartphone Printing

28. Equipment Rental

29. Teach Photography

30. Living Testimonials


The Final Bit

Start Here

Photography offers many excellent ways to make money. You get to be your own boss, your business can end up paying you more than an employee ever gets, and you can set up the business the way you want.

It has been documented that seventy percent of Americans – and, I imagine, many other’s across the globe – hate their work. Well, you don’t have to hate your job anymore. You can easily build your own business that’s truly enjoyable.

As the expression goes, ‘don’t quit your day job.’ Practice patience – it is your best ally. Let your simple little photography business build over time, and you’ll be absolutely amazed at where you can end up. These are not get-rich-quick schemes. They are get-rich-slow schemes.

This book will give you all the information you need to start any of a wide variety of photographic businesses safely and with little investment.

I inherited my interest from my father. When he was a high schooler in Ottumwa, Iowa, he had an expensive hobby. I’ll bet you know what it was: Photography. It was much more expensive then than now. Back in the days of large-format chemical photography, he had to buy film, darkroom chemicals and photographic paper. These days, all you need is a more ordinary kind of paper and printer ink. Taking pictures was more of a challenge then too. His camera was a Speed Graphic, a used, but top-of-the line camera. It is the kind Jimmy Olsen used in the old Superman series. It weighed around five pounds. In order to take a single picture, he had to determine the amount of light and the sensitivity of the film, focus carefully, set the shutter speed and diaphragm opening, cock the shutter, insert a film holder, pull out the dark slide, push the button to actually take the picture, reinsert the dark slide, and finally remove the film holder. The film holder held two sheets of film – one on each side, so it could be flipped over and reinserted for the next shot. Each film holder was the size of a slice of bread. In his carrying case, he had room for six film holders. That’s the way it was done in his day. Of course there were roll film cameras. There was even a roll film accessory for his camera. But serious photographers wanted the quality of large-format sheet film. Smaller formats that rendered good results were still years into the future. Even with roll film, one still had to focus, determine light, and all that, for each shot.

That’s not all. Once my dad took his pictures, he had to go into a darkroom, develop the film – the negatives, then expose sensitized paper with the negative images, and finally develop, rinse, and dry the paper prints. This required a dedicated room in his home with running water, where the temperature of his chemicals could be controlled within five degrees Fahrenheit. If he wanted to work with color photography, his chemicals had to be maintained within 1/2 degree of the right temperature. Most of the steps of the process were carefully timed. Get something wrong by a few seconds or a minute, and the resulting pictures would be blotchy, low-contrast, too dark, or too light.

Today, focus and exposure control is not only handled automatically, it is handled well. We no longer use chemical film. Instead of a darkroom, we have the option of using our computers or tablets to adjust photos in ways my father couldn’t even dream of. Our cameras are remarkably small and light, only being limited by the size of our fingers. The actual inner working part of the camera is often no bigger than a grain of un-popped popcorn. They have so much memory that you can take hundreds of photos without having to change memory cards.

So, the photographer today can focus on composition and purpose, rather than having to deal with all the technical issues, time, and expense that my father dealt with.

You’d think with the ease of use, and ready availability of cameras, there’d no longer be a use for professional photographers. As it turns out, most of the traditional markets for photography still exist, and new markets have opened, such as the Internet, which is hungry for millions of good new photos.

In this book, I’ll cover a wide variety of ways you can make money with photography. Some require almost no time, experience, or money. Chances are, you’ll find something that’s just right for you, or something that will give you some great food for thought that you can modify to suit your own desires.

Each section of this book covers a different photography business, but many are similar in that they use the same techniques to publicize, build and maintain the business, and some offer universal hints and tips for photographers. So, you may want to read everything in this short book to pick up these techniques, chapter by chapter. You’ll learn directly and by metaphor about exactly what you can do to enjoy making money with photography.

Enjoy and prosper! – Jeff Napier

Sports Photography

My father, perhaps like you, wanted to make money from his photography. He found a way that is as viable today as it was then.

He went to his local wrestling club and took pictures. A week later, he came back with small prints and gave them to the wrestlers. He told them that if they wanted full-size prints, he’d be happy to for $10 each. Most of wrestlers placed pre-paid orders. $10 was a lot of money back then, but hey, if you’re a wrestler, and if you can have a picture of yourself with another wrestler in a victorious hold, you’d buy it, right? It turned into a pretty nifty business for a high school kid. He went to the wrestling club every week, took new photos, gave away proofs (the small prints), and took orders.

My father went to the wrestling club, because that’s what was there. That was the big activity in his home town at that time.

What sports are in your area? Hockey? Football? Tennis? Skiing? Cycling? Pickleball? How could you adjust this business to fit modern times, and your local activities? No doubt you’re already cooking up answers. In addition to what you already know, you’ll find some great hints and tips scattered throughout the rest of this book.

You can also take pictures of sports activities for use by magazines, news agencies and websites, especially if the participants are celebrities. There is a book updated annually by Mary Burzlaff Bostic called Photographer’s Market, which is an absolute must-have to find markets for your work, whether you’re a sports photographer, or specialize in many other photographic fields. Not only does this publication provide thousands of listings of publishers who will buy your photos, but has a few chapters on exactly how to approach these publishers for best results. The current version is available through Amazon. You can save money on a used copy from a previous year, but this is probably a poor way to save money, since the market changes rapidly.

Consignment Sales

So my father, having been so interested in photography, thought I might like it too. When I was twelve years old, in a rather odd moment the way sometimes parents will do, he bought me a Speed Graphic. It was the 4 x 5 inch model, a rather huge piece of equipment, especially for a 12-year-old. The camera, flash gun with it’s four D cells, a pack of flashbulbs, six film holders, and a light meter filled my huge carrying case, which weighed at least 20 pounds.

With this, I started tromping around the city and in the local park, even carrying a tripod, and took a picture or two here and there. He also provided me with a makeshift darkroom in the basement of our house. I learned how to take pictures and develop pictures, which was not uncommon for a child of my age in those days.

At first, my photos were horrible. Some so dark or light you couldn’t make out the details. But the worst aspect was composition, or rather – lack of composition. I’d take a picture of a dog, and there he’d be, smack in the middle of the picture, with no emotional content whatsoever.

In time, my photos got better. I grabbed a shot of a garbageman lovingly cleaning the fender of his truck with a handkerchief. I got another dog picture. This poor old creature was chained up behind a fence on a cold wintery day. I got a shot of a couple of optimistic sunflowers which I tinted various colors (using transparent oil paint over the surface of the whole prints). I found a seedling growing at the base of a rotten old tree stump.

And, I had a problem. This photography hobby of mine was using up a lot of money. It took every penny that I had, and more than my father was willing to support. I had to think before every picture I took about the cost of the film. Many potentially good photos were never taken. I needed more money. The only way I could figure out to get money was to sell some prints.

Fortunately, I found a way to do that. I took six 8 x 10 inch prints, mounted on 11 x 14 inch black and white cardboard backgrounds to my school, and showed them to the school secretary who was also the receptionist in the school office. She seemed to like them – although in retrospect, she probably admired anything and everything the students showed her.

She offered to display them on the wall behind her desk. A couple of days later, it hit me! Why not put prices on them? She could sell them off the wall for $15 each, keep $5 for herself, and give me $10. I ran this past her, and my heart sank as she stated, “Well, we’ll need to take that up with the principal.” I knew him. He was like a brick wall. What were the chances he’d approve? But he did! And I was in business. Over the course of a month, she sold three or four pictures, and I was delighted!

I brought more photos to fill the spaces on the wall. I also offered the same thing at a few other places in town. I put a half-dozen pictures up in a restaurant, a dentist’s office, and in, of all things, a camera store.

Now, my photos were selling at the rate of 10 per week, which was a lot of money for a kid back then who’s only expense is his photography hobby.

I could have gone farther, but being a kid, I lost interest and moved onto other things. In how many places in your town could you hang pictures? What kinds of places? How about in places like 10-minute oil change places? Laundromats? Which restaurants might be interested?

And then there are galleries. Not only will they accept your work – if it is good, they want it! Their whole business is about getting art that they can resell. They typically keep 1/3 of the price a work brings. So, they can put your prints on their wall for perhaps $600 each, and every time one sells, you get $400. Hey, that’s enough to invest in frames, and make them look even better.

In this business, it is important to create pictures that have emotional content. People have to want your pictures. Can you take photos that reach out and cause people to think and feel?


Postcards are remarkably easy to create right from your own printer. Or, for larger quantities, you can send your photo to any number of professional printing companies that will do it for you.

Thousands of tourist locations already have postcards. If you can provide more interesting postcards than the one’s out there, the gift shops will buy them from you.

Then there are the thousands of other tourist destinations that do not have postcards. If you can provide interesting postcards for these out of the way places, there are independent stores that would probably want to sell them to their tourists.

Going beyond postcards, in most such situations, there is also a market for posters, framed and unframed photos, and photographic novelty items, which you can make yourself, or have made by professional novelty advertising providers.

To sell your wholesale photography to a retail store at the level of a tourist shop – meaning almost always a small, independently owned store, all you need to do is phone, email or drop in to make an appointment with the owner. Then simply show what you have and close the deal. Typically, they’ll only buy a small quantity at first to see if what you have is a marketable product. It helps close the deal if you provide display equipment of some sort – racks for postcards, counter-top boxes, or wall mount displays. A good source of low-cost display things is If your photographic merchandise is on-target, most store owners will say ‘yes.’ After all, they want inventory that their customers will buy, and they know it takes money to make money. If the owner is reluctant, possibly because the owner is short of cash, you might consider a consignment deal. In consignment, you leave your merchandise, and the owner of the store pays only for what sells after it has sold. This is no risk for the owner. There is a risk that the owner will sell some of your stuff, and then not be able or willing to pay, but this risk is small with most retail business owners unless they are in very dire straits. Owners who does not have money for as much inventory as they’d like, particularly love consignment, because they get to have more inventory without paying for it unless and until it sells.

With a Special Prop

Let’s say there’s a county fair near you. And let’s say you happen to have, or can borrow a pony. So, you call the people at the fair, and let them know you’d like to show up with your pony, and take pictures of kids sitting on the pony. They’ll probably be delighted, and ask you to show up for free. They may want to charge you a small merchant fee. They may, possibly, even pay you to show up.

The idea is that you let children sit on the pony for a couple of minutes, take their pictures, and then offer to sell the pictures to the parents. One way to do it is to have a wall display showing photos of other kids on ponies. Let parents know that pictures are $18 – or whatever you want to charge, and will be mailed once you’ve printed them. Another way is to have a printer right there at the fair and deliver them right away. One fringe benefit of this business, besides the fun of working with kids and a pony, is that a parent with more than one child will want to buy photos of every child in the family. You can expand your business a bit by saying, “Hey mom, you can go ahead and climb on the pony.” Then take her picture.

You’ll want to set this up so the background is either non-distracting, or shows off the rest of the fair.

Where could you do this besides fairs? How about everyday on an empty lot near a busy intersection? How about at the local flea market? How about at arts and crafts fairs? How about in cooperation with a large pet store? The pet store will even publicize it for you. They might call it “Pony Day” and advertise a special Saturday when all the kids who come to the store get to ride on a pony. They’ll sell a lot of goldfish that day, while you sell a lot of pictures.

Does it have to be a pony? No, of course not. Could be an elephant, or a llama, or a large tortoise (I think, I’ve never tried it). But how about something more appealing to a different audience? How about a decked-out Harley? How about a gilded royal throne? If you’re in a big city, how about in a wooded scene? It could be next to a Rube Goldberg contraption of some sort, or in a spaceship. You might get a python or boa constrictor, see who is brave enough to wrap it around their neck, and take their picture. You get the idea.

Tourists In Action

If my child is sitting on Santa’s lap, I’d want a picture. If I was given a chance to drive a race car, or even just a bumper car, I’d want a picture of that, too. If my family and I were visiting the Louvre, or a California lighthouse, or standing next to the Liberty Bell. . . yup, I’d love to have a picture. So all you’ve gotta do is be in the right place, and let people know you are the professional photographer. In many cases, you’ll want to contact the state park office, or the owner of the attraction, and make arrangements to be the official photographer. All it takes is the boldness to contact them and present your plan. Well, it’s also helpful to rehearse in advance what you’re going to say. What you say should be mostly about how they, or their institution or business will benefit. Worst they can do is say no. If they do, then a slight change in plans will fix everything. Instead of taking photos at a canyon, you might end up taking photo at a waterfall or famous building.

Sure, anyone with a little digital camera can take pictures of each other. So, you might want to make sure they understand how paying a bit for a professional picture will be to their advantage. You might have a small standing display of pictures you’ve taken of other tourists, showing how happy they are, and how perfect your pictures are. You can dress the part, whatever that might be. For instance, you might dress all cowboy-like, or wear a tutu, tap shoes, and tiara, a crisp suit and tie – whatever the particular tourist attraction dictates, and with the permission of the people who run the attraction. It also helps to have way more equipment than absolutely necessary. We all know that a home user point and shoot style camera that’s the size of a couple of packs of gum is sufficient. But you might prefer to have lights, reflectors, some stools to sit on, and a big SLR camera with a huge lens shade so you look more professional.

Now we can combine the ideas of postcards, special prop, and tourist in action. You can take pictures of people at the tourist attraction, sitting on or in something appropriate, wearing a bit of costuming perhaps, and while you’re at it, you can have postcards, posters, and photographic novelty items for sale.

Photoshop – Freelance

You’ve already got some ideas of ways to sell pictures, and you’ll have more soon. But what to sell?

Soon after I got started in photography, I discovered I was more enamored with the darkroom side, than the actual taking of pictures. My art was the editing of photos. These days, I would have used a digital darkroom. As you know, that’s what we call image editing programs. Much easier, and much more powerful than an actual darkroom, you can use Adobe Photoshop or other software to completely change backgrounds, set moods, retouch and complete modify pictures.

The concept of image manipulation has become a household word: “Hey, that’s been photoshopped!”

Adobe Photoshop is near the top of the line, but you don’t need to spend hundreds of dollars to get started. There are good lower cost image editing programs, and even free ones, such as Gimp, that you can download from and elsewhere.

What can you do? You can start with one or more photographs that you took yourself or anything from the public domain. You can combine them or modify them to create something new. Once you have your new photoshopped image, you can sell it any way you’d sell an ordinary photograph. For instance, you might have a little table, chair, backdrop and tripod in the tourist area of San Francisco, in which you take pictures of tourists, and then in a couple of minutes – with practice – you entirely change the background so that you have pictures of your tourists standing right in front of the Coit Tower, on the trolley, at the Fisherman’s Wharf merry-go-round, or on the World War II submarine in San Francisco. Or maybe photos of them with the mayor, the President of the United States, or any celebrity they want.

What else? You can make custom photoshopped pictures for industry, for websites, for theater, or for anyone who wants unreal images. More about selling to some of these customers later.

Photoshop – On Request

If you are pretty good at image editing, you might consider setting yourself up as a person who does that professionally. Many people know the basics of eliminating red eye, changing tint or brightness, or even replacing a background. They’ve tried once or twice, and their pictures either come out less than ideal, or take forever to complete. When they have a need for something special, they’ll be willing to pay you any reasonable fee to do it for them.

How might you start such a business? I’d start with a website showing off some of my work. I’d make the website like a funnel. First it has a wide mouth. It draws many people in. They may originally come just to see your amazing, humorous, or unbelievable pictures. Then the mouth narrows. It directs the people to discover that you can edit photos as a service for them. The neck of this funnel is the action step: They can email their photos to you, along with a description of what they want done, and click a PayPal button to send you an up-front payment. You do the work, then email back the completed image.

But a website, great funnel though it can be, will not draw people in by itself. You’ll need to do some things to seed it. Then, if your photos are intriguing enough, people will tell people who will tell other people, and your site will go viral. (Truly going viral is rare, but if that happens in a big way, you won’t have to photoshop anything. You can just collect money from people who’d like to advertise on your site.)

To get your first people, you can do a number of things. You can make business cards with your URL and what the site does for people, and distribute the cards any way possible. For instance, you may know an eBay seller who mails out 20 packages a day. You could pay this person to include one of your cards in each package. SEO, Search Engine Optimization, can be a better approach. Here’s a one-paragraph tutorial on SEO:

Research under-utilized keywords with the Google AdWords Keyword tool, which is free with an AdWords account, which is also free. You can look up “AdWords Keyword tool” on Google to learn how to use it. This will tell you how many people have looked up keywords in the past month. Keywords are actually key phrases in most cases. For instance, looking up “Kodak” will bring up thousands of websites, some of which have to do with photography, some with pharmaceuticals, some with business. But the keyword “Kodak Rochester New York” will limit the search to the actual company in Rochester. You want to find a commonly searched specific keyword in your area of expertise, then when googled, doesn’t bring up a flood of websites that use that specific phrase in their titles or beginning text. That way, if you put that keyword in the <title> tag and in an <H1> tag early on your page, your website may be one of the top ones displayed by Google (and Yahoo, AOL, etc) when people search for that keyword. You can learn much more about SEO online and there are several print and Kindle books on the subject.

If you choose to work locally, you can have an office with a sign, advertise locally, and focus your SEO on a community name.

You can let everyone know that you are seeking more business. If you do a good job, in time, your reputation will bring you more business than all sorts of advertising.

You can buy Google AdWords. This is advertising that appears in search results and on cooperating websites. You pay Google a certain amount for each person who clicks on the ads and comes to your website. Adwords costs range from 10 cents per click to over $200 per click, depending on how prominently you want your ad placed (near the top above other ads, or not), and how many other people are bidding on the same keyword. AdWords works best if you target a very specific market. For instance “Professional Photo Editing” probably won’t bring much business. “Modified Fashion Portraits” will probably be at the top of the list for a very small cost, for anyone who types that phrase into Google. (I haven’t actually checked this phrase).

As your business builds, don’t be surprised if you get a single customer, perhaps a small, medium or even large business, that has so much work, you don’t have room for any but the one customer. You might even end up hiring other image editors to work for you for your major customer(s).

Since other people in the business may have had that success already, they could be very happy to have someone to offload their new customers onto. That can be you. All you need to do is contact the established photo editors and let them know you’re available.

There is no end in sight to the number of websites that will be developed. There is pretty much unlimited need for photo editors. All you have to do is be noticed by the potential customers. Another way is to email the website owners directly, being careful not to spam them, and let them know you’re available to help them with their specific needs. You might start your email with a compliment to their site. Find something about it you genuinely admire. Then let them know in what way you could improve their graphics, and how this will benefit them. Finally, let them know the cost up front.

I once read in a book that was more than 100 years old, a book written before movies, television, radio, or anything other than print advertising, that you should always state your prices up front. Otherwise, people will automatically assume you cost too much, and not look further into what you can offer. If you do show your prices, even if they are ‘too’ high, people will start to rationalize how they might pay for them. It’s almost as if they are assuming they’ll be using your services. “Hmm, maybe if I skip lunch all next week. . .” I think that advice is at least as good today as it was back then.

Day In the Life

Remember the pony? Along the same lines, you could put together a photo collection called something like “A Day in the Life. . .” What you’d do is follow a child around all day and take pictures. Then you put the best of these pictures into an attractive album, onto a DVD, or otherwise present the collection to the proud parents. They’d probably hire you every year, for every child in the family.

You could take it beyond parents and children. What about ‘A Day In the Life of an Executive?’ ‘A Day in the Life of a Musician?’ ‘A Day in the Life of a Carpenter?’ Can you imagine how many people would like such an album about themselves, or their loved ones? Might industries hire you to honor some of their employees? Might people give this kind of album as a gift?

How would you start such a business? Being a local business because you’d actually have to be on-site to take pictures, it could be started with business cards and flyers distributed locally, local advertising, and especially local publicity. Since it is a rather unique business, I don’t think there would be much trouble getting the local media to do a ‘Day in the Life’ of you doing a ‘Day in the Life’ of one of your clients. You might contact the TV stations and newspapers, and propose just that. Free publicity generally works much better than paid advertising, and this would be eccentric enough to interest the media.

Even with free publicity, it will be a business that’s inclined to start slowly. If you have the patience to stick it out, eventually, by reputation, you’ll have a huge clientele, and they’ll be willing to pay ever increasing prices.

This can also be publicized by a website in the usual ways. Even if your website is not your primary first contact, it is an almost necessary second contact. Local people who have heard of you will naturally go to your website to see samples of your work, find out how to contact you, and find out how your business works and how much you charge.

Website Photographer

Speaking of websites, I believe websites are going to be the biggest consumer of professional photography, if they aren’t already. I know for a fact that you can get paid to provide photos to some websites. These wouldn’t be the big sites like Facebook or Amazon. These would be little and medium up and coming websites that want to wear the best possible face. Years ago, I heard that there are one billion such websites. Surely there are even more by now.

For instance, you may come across a website about yoga, written and maintained by a yoga instructor. This person may have some fairly good photos of yoga classes, postures, clothing and accessories, and the site may (or may not) be making real money. Once the instructor discovers that you can provide better photos, she’ll want to pay you so she can bring up the quality of her site with your photographs. Within this example, she might not have good photos of her classes. How can she set up and take good pictures when she, herself, is teaching? But as she teaches, you could take the pictures she needs. She may have a line of yoga mats that she sells. Her specialty is yoga. So, she probably doesn’t have the experience to take the most appealing photographs of those yoga mats. But you do.

Of course you’d have a website offering your services to provide high-quality photos to other websites. This will probably not be particularly effective for first contact. In other words, it will not help people to discover your website. Oh, maybe a little bit, especially if you do the SEO as discussed earlier. Where it will be useful is in second contact. Someone has heard of you, so they’ll go to your site to see your work, and find out how to contact you. Again, publishing your rates is important, so they won’t automatically assume you cost too much.

You could use Google AdWords to bring people to your site, but my guess is that will not be cost-effective.

You have at least two other ways to bring new customers, besides local publicity and advertising. One is to write to people who have seemingly up-and-coming websites that need better photographs. You’ll want to set your email apart from the spam they get. One way is to take a moment to study their site, and find something specific that you can comment on – hopefully something you can compliment. Then you offer your services.

Another thing you can do is to start participating in all relevant online discussions. This might be anything from Usenet newsgroups to dedicated forums on websites. This is not about spamming. You participate in the discussions legitimately. Let’s assume you’re particularly interested in fly fishing. You find websites about fly fishing and post real information or ask real questions. At the end of each post, you have a link to your website, and a very brief description of what you do. Here’s an example from the top of my head: – Great photos for your own fly fishing website.

Chances are, anyone who is enthusiastic enough about fly fishing to create a blog or website about it, is going to follow some of the discussions. Such a person may read your post, and notice the little line at the bottom. This person may have never even thought about improved photos for his website, but now you’ve got him thinking, and he’ll pretty much have to click through to see about your photos.

Your site could contain photos for sale – probably watermarked or thumbnail size so people won’t just take them. And/or it could offer your services to create custom photos.

Puzzle Pictures

OK, you have a website. But your photos are just too good! You want everyone to see them. You don’t want to display just thumbnails, or to sell them to other websites. What can you do?

You can make your website a destination. Perhaps your big interest in life is taking pictures of vacuum cleaners. You can put together a website containing photos of vacuum cleaners. With the usual SEO and publicity, you can bring some people to your site. If it inspires enough interest, the first visitors will tell their friends who will then check out your site – bring their friends, and so on. In time, your vacuum cleaner site goes viral, at least among vacuum cleaner enthusiasts.

Then, you can make money in a variety of ways. You can use a service called Google AdSense, which is the opposite end of AdWords. Costing you nothing, you can sign up, copy some code to paste onto your web-pages, and it is all set up. Relevant ads will show up on your website, probably ads about vacuum cleaners. When visitors click on these ads, you make a little bit of money, paid monthly to you from Google.

You can advertise your services as a photographer. You can sell poster-size pictures of vacuum cleaners. Anything you want.

One way to make a site more interesting is to make it interactive. There are javascript applets you can ad that will make your pictures into puzzles, slide-shows, or other interactive things.

Museum Curator

Taking your vacuum cleaner site one step further, if you can photograph all sorts of unusual vacuums, then you can create a virtual museum. You might or might not like to write up extensive descriptions, add videos, sound bites, a blog, discussion area, and so on. You could have a membership area, where those who pay a small monthly fee get to see otherwise hidden pages. Some membership sites are free. Instead of charging money, you give a membership to anyone who is willing to give you their email address. Then, perhaps monthly, you can send them an e-letter with advertising for collectible vacuum cleaners or whatever. If there are serious vacuum collectors, you could buy and sell vacuums on your site, or link to your eBay listings. You could even charge money for people to post classified ads on your site.

Is there a way to go beyond a virtual museum? You bet! How about a ‘real’ museum? Perhaps your interest is railroads. You’ve traveled over the country taking pictures of steam engines, rail lines, signal trees, water towers, stations, engine repair shops, and so on. All you need is a small storefront. There, you build stand-alone ‘walls’ to display all your photos. No doubt you’ve collected some hardware, some of which may be antique. Perhaps some spikes, a coupling, a bell or sand dome, maybe even an entire small switch engine. You could build a replica station or engine shop. The interesting thing about many such small museums, is that they are mostly photographs. You do not need an extensive collection of tangibles to make it appealing. In your little storefront, you charge a per-head admission. You get to talk ‘railroad’ all day long with other interested parties. Ideally, it brings a sufficient income so that you can travel around the world taking more railroad photos.

For most privately owned museums to succeed, it is very helpful to be in just the right retail environment. Areas crowded with tourists are best. If you are in the right location, most of your business will be walk-in traffic. If not, you’ll need to provide brochures to the Chamber of Commerce, all the hotels, restaurants and other venues that attract tourists in your area.

I remember a motorcycle museum on the Oregon coast between towns. It had a large inviting parking lot, with signs that could be easily seen from Highway 101. That highway hosts two million cars a year. I doubt the museum had to do any advertising or publicity. Just being there was sufficient.

Stock Photography

There are many websites that maintain databases of what are called ‘stock’ photos. Someone who has to make an industrial PowerPoint presentation, someone who needs to illustrate a website, or someone designing teaching or advertising materials can go to these sites, browse the photos, and buy rights to use the ones that suit their needs.

Stock photo sites vary considerably in the way they work. A typical one is in which you can upload your own works, and are paid from 15 to 45 percent when someone purchases them.

Others, many of which aren’t stock photograph sites per se, such as will take a wide variety of uploads, and will sell copies or prints of your work, giving you a portion of the profit.

On you can sell completed, individual works, such as prints with or without frames, as well as photographs made into novelty items.

Still others, such as will make your photos into T-shirts, coffee mugs, or other novelty items and have various ways of sharing the profit with you.

General stock photography is no longer profitable. If you just go along taking pictures of fire hydrants, doorknobs, people stepping into taxicabs, you’ll find that there is already too many photographs out there competing with what you can do. So, the chances of selling your photos are small, and the payments are tiny.

The way to succeed with stock photography is to provide something unique. When someone needs guitar photos, and you’re the only one that provides a variety of guitar pictures, it’s likely that they’ll pay almost any price to use them! This is especially true if you can provide unusual guitar photos. Perhaps you know that there is interest in finger-picking. A general photographer wouldn’t know that, so maybe no one has ever posted close-up shots of finger-picking to a stock photography website. You win.

You can create your own website to sell your stock photography. The downside is that you’ll probably have to put in long hours to bring visitors to your site. If you put your stock photos in one of the big sites, the work of getting visitors is already done.


People need passport photos, and are often disappointed by less than desirable pictures taken by friends and relatives with point-and-shoot cameras.

People like to have nice photos of friends and family for their albums and to hang on their walls.

People who are consultants, practitioners and performers need high-quality photos for their websites, album covers, portfolios, business cards, and so on.

Ever since photography was invented, there has been a market for portrait photographers.

If you enjoy working with people, this could be your gig. It helps to really know about the right lighting, how to elicit the right facial expressions, how to position people so they look natural, how to adjust clothing, and how to arrange backgrounds. In some cases, photoshopping in alternative backgrounds is a possibility.

In many cases, using some photo editing techniques to enhance the pictures is considered part of the business.

Having a variety of backgrounds, furniture, and especially costuming is a big plus.

A branch of portraiture is glamour photography. If done respectfully and tastefully, you can provide clients with photos that will delight them.

Another branch is pet photography. There are a surprising number of people who care so much about their pets that they want high-quality photographs and are willing to pay what it takes.

All of the techniques discussed earlier for a local business apply to portraiture. I have seen many studios set up in particularly busy retail neighborhoods. I believe this proves that one of the best way to get local business is to be visible to people walking by. . .”Location, location, location!”


eBay can be a photographer’s dream. Not only is it a great way to pick up equipment for reasonable prices, but it can be an outlet for your photography. However, it is not an easy market to crack.

If you are an eBay member, which is free and easy to set up, you can use their search tool to discover what sells and what doesn’t. You can go to the “Art and Collectibles” category, then “Art,” then “Direct from Artist,” then “Photographs.” From there, you scroll down a few inches on the left, and select “More Refinements” then “Show Only” and finally “Completed Listings.”

You will be given a page showing all the listings that have closed during the past 30 days. If a listing closed without a sale, an auction that got no bids, or perhaps because the seller deleted the listing, the price it was offered at will be shown in red. Items that actually sold will have the purchase price displayed in green.

Bad news – you’ll see that almost all the photographs listed did not sell and those that did brought little money. This doesn’t necessarily have to be discouraging. In fact, it can be good news. You can see right away what doesn’t sell well, and avoid any similar photographs. More to the point, you can see what does sell, and focus on that type of photography.

But overall, you have to admit, eBay may not be a good market for photography. Unless you can find a niche that excites people enough to pay reasonable prices for your photos. That’s the trick. For instance, there was an oil painter who specialized in photos of yellow bicycles. Why? Who knows? What’s interesting is that she sold a good number of these paintings for a profitable price.

As with freelance photography elsewhere, if you can bring out emotional responses from your viewers, it is more likely to be successful.

One of the nice things about eBay is the cost is very little, so you can experiment. You could take a wide variety of photographs and present them in a wide variety of ways. You might try sending your digital photo files by email. eBay’s policies can make this tricky, and seem to change from time to time on digital media, so check it out carefully. Selling actual prints is completely within policy. Selling framed prints may be more profitable, or not. Selling huge prints may be a good idea. Or maybe little tiny ones. Or maybe you can make the prints into business cards or postcards and sell them that way. Possibly customized, and in bulk. Reprints are completely acceptable, as are limited editions, as long as you let the buyers know what’s what. Since you’ve discovered what sells, you can sell the same picture over and over again. You may find that out of 100 different photos you list on eBay, only the same three or four sell over and over again.

If you have the patience to work this magic out, you can be successful with eBay as your only outlet.

eBay’s buyers depend on a feedback system. While eBay offers protections to buyers in case a seller doesn’t deliver as promised, most buyers will want to see some positive feedback before they’ll buy from you. Every time someone buys something from you, you get one point. If you are a seller who has built up hundreds of positive points, you’ll do better than someone with few points, or even a bunch of negative ones.

If you have no feedback, you can quickly fix it by selling a bunch of something really inexpensive, such as second-hand paperback books. Or better yet, some of your prints for a very low price. You can also get a feedback point for everything you buy on eBay, but smart buyers can tell the difference between feedback for buying, and feedback for selling.

The best way to make sure you get positive feedback is to communicate courteously and promptly with your buyers. Especially if someone has a problem. Sometimes an item can be lost or damaged in the mail. Sometimes, when the pictures arrive, the buyers are disappointed for one reason or an other. Perhaps it is smaller than they thought. Perhaps it just doesn’t excite them like it did when they bought it. This should be their problem, but unless you deal with it, it becomes yours and you could get a negative feedback point. I just give refunds to everyone who is not satisfied. Sure, it may cost some money here and there, but it’s just part of the cost of doing business.

The other way to avoid negative feedback is to be truthful in your descriptions. Always state the size of your prints, or the resolution of your electronically delivered media clearly, for instance: “575kb jpg file.” If it is imperfect in some way, state that. Let them know exactly what they are getting, such as: “8 x 10 inch, unframed print on 50 wt glossy paper, slightly curled edges.”

Buy and Sell Photo Equipment

How else can you use eBay? While not ‘making money with photography’ exactly, you may find you can be quite successful in buying and selling photographic equipment. The trick, as always with eBay, is finding a source of something that people want, and which other sellers are not falling all over each other to sell.

An area in which this can work is in antique cameras. Crown Graphics and Speed Graphics, the old tankers that I learned on, can be bought and sold at a profit. You can look for cameras that are just listed with the Buy It Now option for less than market value (don’t forget to include the shipping cost), or auctions about to end with a low price. Generally, if an auction is ending at a lower than market price, then something’s wrong. Ideally, what is wrong is that the seller listed it in the wrong category, or misspelled something in the title so other buyers didn’t see it. More likely, it is not really under market value. For instance, a bellows camera with worn bellows is worth far less than one with bellows in good shape. And, of course, if the lens is missing, it’s worth far less than one with a lens.

What if you can find one with worn bellows or a missing lens going for far less than market value? Check to see if individual parts for that camera have been selling on eBay. There may be an opportunity to sell the parts of it at a profit. Keep in mind that eBay and Paypal (their money-handling branch) end up with a percentage of your sale. A rule of thumb is that if the parts from a camera haven’t sold for more than three times its price during the past month, it is not a good enough buy.

You may find a market in tripods, lighting equipment, darkroom equipment, digital darkroom software, shutter releases, lenses, you name it. You may be able to find a wholesale supplier for new equipment, but I think you’ll find anything and everything that’s new, and that people will want to buy, is not available with a large enough markup to end up with a profit worth your time.

One way new equipment can work is to find something that’s unique, and not being sold on eBay. This would typically come from a small manufacturer who has had a unique idea. They might have a new little widget, that if you can photographic it and explain it on eBay in such a way that people understand how it will benefit them, you’ll sell lots of them. I recently saw a new kind of glue that fits this description. It was more of a putty really, but one that sticks to anything, can be had in various colors, and is obviously better for repairing many things than any other kind of glue. Unfortunately, it is already being sold on eBay, for what seems like remarkably small quantities at a high price.

Mixing and matching your eBay used equipment business with craigslist and other local venues can be quite profitable.

Sometimes you can buy something on craigslist for next to nothing because the seller needs money right away, is moving out of town, or simply doesn’t have the need to get the full value. This is something you can then sell on eBay for a good markup.

Sometimes you can buy things on eBay that will do very well on craigslist. When someone wants a light meter, they probably want it right away, today, rather than waiting for it to be shipped. You can often find interesting photo equipment at garage sales. You can consign equipment to camera stores. You can even set up a little store of your own in a flea market, or even a genuine small retail store. Because of department stores, eBay and so many other sources of brand-new equipment at remarkably low prices, you can’t compete in new merchandise. But there are few if any stores specializing in second-hand equipment. If you buy on eBay – or anywhere for that matter – check everything carefully. A piece of equipment will be dead in the water if it doesn’t function properly. Imagine the difference in what people will pay if you have to sell a camera with this caveat, “Sometimes you need to shake it a couple of times before it will focus.” You may also want to remember that last’s year’s technology is worth nothing. The world’s best 3.1 megapixel digital camera is probably worth about $20 these days.


Every wedding needs a photographer. It is a specialized field. If you have little experience with wedding photography, you can learn a lot by looking at other wedding photographs.

There is no room for excuses in this business. The wedding photographer is paid well partly because s/he must, absolutely must show up on time, and the photos can’t be blurry, too dark, too light, poorly composed, and so on. Pretty much any other kind of photographer can be less reliable. The wedding photographer knows how to get those special moments, like when when the bride tosses the bouquet, and when the groom feeds his wife that first piece of wedding cake.

Keep your files, because you might get reorders even years after a wedding.

How do you get started as a wedding photographer? You might convince a family member or good friend that you can be their photographer, even if for little or no money. That’ll be one wedding in your portfolio, and with that, you are on the path to becoming a true professional. The usual approaches will work to build your business, such as handing business cards to everyone within reach, and building a website, but it may be slower starting than many other kinds of photo businesses, because ultimately, it is very much a reputation, word of mouth based business.

Since a wedding photography business is based on a local clientele, you can use SEO effectively with your website. The keywords would be “wedding” and all the communities you can serve. If you live in a big city, there will be many other wedding photographers who also have optimized websites. But they may miss the trick in which you name all the suburbs. So, if you live in San Rafael, California, you might make sure your SEO includes “Fairfax,” “San Anselmo,” “Point Reyes,” “Greenbrae,” and so on.

Real Estate

A realtor stands to make a few thousand dollars commission on a sale, so it is worthwhile to get the best possible photographs of that house. Once you’ve become established with one or more realtors, they’ll want you to take all their pictures, knowing your service closes sales more effectively than their own photos.

Perhaps you have an eye for this sort of thing. You might know that showing off the high, open-beam ceilings is important. You might think it is worthwhile to bring in a dining table, chairs, place settings and food, to take a picture of the dining room in the most appealing way. You might realize that taking a picture with a wide-angle lens can make the yard seem larger. I don’t know all the tricks. Perhaps you do. If not, you’ll learn them.

In addition to realtors, you may find a market with many of the people who undertake to sell their homes by themselves.

In a large city, you might even specialize in rural or commercial properties.

News Photography

News services, local newspapers, magazines, TV stations and even some websites will pay quite well for news photography. If you know how to get to fires and accidents – without getting in the way, if you know how to get photos of celebrities, or are particularly good at special interest photos, you’ll have a market.

I mentioned it earlier in this book: To sell to the news editors, Photographer’s Market, available through Amazon: is almost a must. With this book, you’ll know who the editors are, how to reach them, what subjects they specialize in, what formats they prefer, and usually how much they’re paying.

Then there’s photojournalism. One can go to college for this, but it isn’t necessary. All you need to do is take good pictures, write well, and know how to approach the editors who will buy your work.

Photojournalism is easier to sell because you’re providing the entire package to the editor. Otherwise, in order to use your photos, they also have to find someone to write the text.

One of the downsides to providing freelance photos or complete articles is that most publications don’t pay very well. After you’ve sold a few freelance projects to editors, they’ll start to seek you out and they generally pay much more for assigned pieces.

Nightclubs and Beaches

Years ago, when people were enjoying a night out, a photographer might come to their table with a Polaroid, take a flash picture, and then sell it to them. This is not as common as it once was, but in certain clubs it would still be a big hit. You might even help the concept of nightclub photos (using digital technology) to make a comeback.

Starting would be easy. All you need to do is to convince a club owner to let you give it a try, and see if your presence seems to enhance the festivity of the club.

Along the same lines, you could take photos of people on the beach. Some people go to the beach to be seen, and would be honored that you think they’re worth photographing. This wouldn’t be a candid thing. You would walk right up, bristling with fancy-looking equipment, and let them know exactly what you’re about. And they’ll be honored to have their picture taken!

Since most people don’t carry cash on the beach, you’ll want to make a note of their contact information. Later on, you can correspond by email, using PayPal to collect the payments. I don’t know whether they’d be more interested in buying the pictures as .jpg files or in buying prints. You can experiment and find out for yourself.

A bit of a downside to this business is that people may not be as enthusiastic about buying the pictures after they’ve come home and thought about it.

On the plus side, you get to hang out on the beach, work your own hours, and in your own way.

Arial Photography

Having access to an airplane or helicopter puts you in a unique position. You get to take arial photographs. Not only is that fun in itself, it can be profitable.

Many homeowners would love an arial view of their houses. I mean, who hasn’t gone to Google Earth to see if they can find their own home viewed from a satellite. The problem is the resolution is poor. I know I’d be likely to spend $10 or $20 or even more for a closer arial photo of my home. And I might like one of the creek and ponds behind my house.

The biggest customers might be businesses, however. I would think car dealers would all buy arial photos, as would any retailer who has a place that looks interesting from above.

Perhaps the best way to sell arial photographs is the simplest. Just go up, take the pictures, then contact the homeowners or businesspeople with proofs by email or in person.

Another possibility is to take commissions to specifically photograph certain places. Because this would probably necessitate special trips, it would take more time on your part, and so you’d have to charge more, and ultimately may be harder to sell. On the other hand, once people know what you do, they’re likely to say something like, “Hey, next time you’re in the neighborhood, could you swing by and take a picture of my brother’s house?” For this, you could charge more than the freelance photos, but wouldn’t have to charge as much as for a special job.

If you have a website or people can find out that you do this other ways, there may be use for your services in lawsuits as well. If you could provide photos of an intersection where a crash occurred, for instance, no doubt a lawyer would pay handsomely for it to demonstrate the details of a case in court.

Construction Sites

Anyone can go by a construction site and take pictures. Imagine a business where you do exactly that, going by some construction sites every day and documenting the development of houses and buildings. Once they are built, you can sell your photos to the lucky home or business owners.

Resume Pictures

Most resumes can be submitted as all text, on a plain piece of paper. If there are 400 applicants for the job, something added may make one resume stand out. What might that something be? Hmm. . . How about a photograph?

In most cases, these photos would be portraits of the applicants themselves. But in some cases, perhaps photos of their work is more appropriate. For instance, a carpenter trying for a job with a big construction company might submit a photo of a complex spiral staircase s/he has built. Or even better, a picture of the carpenter in action, finishing the staircase.

I knew a welder that specialized in custom-made utility racks for pickup trucks. He had an album that showed many of his finished racks, completely decked out in the tools and equipment the rack owners used. He showed this album to everyone, and it closed many sales for him.

Some resumes require a photo, such as people applying to modeling agencies or as TV reporters. These applicants will certainly want a high-quality photo.

You can use the usual approaches to start this business. It will most likely take a year or more to develop it into a full-time occupation. As with many such businesses, once it is going strong, most of your business will come by reputation, not advertising or publicity. This is a business, however, in which small display ads in your local newspapers may be helpful. Since craigslist is free, that would be another good place to advertise if craigslist is available in your area.

Rolling Studio

What could you do with an old bread truck? How about make it into a rolling studio? Depending on your specialty, if you serve a local market, this could be great free publicity. Of course you’d put signs on the sides. Then, you could make house calls. You could carry a generator or batteries and have lighting, furniture, a few costumes, and backgrounds set up just perfectly in the truck for portraiture or pet photography.

Or, you might go to flea markets for portraiture. You might add a unique flavor, such as providing witch and wizard costumes, placing your clients behind a crystal ball or handing them a wand before you take their pictures.

Perhaps there are eBay sellers in your city who would love to have a rolling studio come by once a week and take professional photos of their merchandise. For that matter, some of the retailers might like you to use your rolling studio to provide photos of their items that are going out in sales flyers that week.


Some people enjoy speaking before groups. Photography gives you that opportunity. If you have photographed something interesting, you can provide a lecture with a slide-show. You may have traveled somewhere exotic, you may specialize in taking pictures of microscopic bugs, or perhaps you and your camera have toured with a famous rock band.

There are several ways to do this.

One way is to rent a venue that could be anything from a coffee house to a major auditorium. You then publicize or advertise the event. Finally, you sell the tickets or collect admission at the door. You can start small, perhaps initially presenting to four or five people in your own home.

That way sounds kind of difficult, doesn’t it? Wouldn’t it be easier to work in cooperation with an entity that’s already set up for presentations? You could work with a church. Most will work cooperatively with a wide variety of events. They’ll provide the space and publicity. Their congregations may even talk up your event and sell tickets. You can also work with event centers. Most communities have them. Another venue is community adult education programs. Almost all of the schools host one-off events.

Another approach is to ride on someone’s coattails. Perhaps there’s another presenter who has a similar topic, and would love to have you as an opening act with your slide show. S/he will have done all the renting, publicity and so on, so you don’t have to do any of that. She may even have a following and experience, so you can know how many people to expect.

Yet another approach is to do it under the auspices of a like-minded organization. The payment options are as vast as your imagination. You can propose anything you can think up, such as a percentage of ticket sales, or a flat fee.

If your slide-show is of interest to students, schools may pay you directly to present in their auditoriums or classrooms. If of interest or benefit to employees, especially if it will cause the employees to be more effective for their employers, companies will pay for your presentations. For instance, if you have been to India, and you know of a company with a number of employees who frequently communicate by phone with India, they’ll benefit from your lecture.

Or, forget the lecture, just present the slide-show, as a background behind a musical group.

Novelty Items

There are companies that can print copies of your photo onto just about any little trinket you can think of. It can be made into a little keychain viewer, can be made into lapel buttons, business cards, tiny books, embedded in the clear barrels of pens, you name it.

The most common use would what’s called novelty advertising. If a car dealer gives out little tape measures that can be put on key rings, people will remember this dealer when it is time to buy a car. If the tape measures have an appealing picture of the dealership or one of their cars, all the better. If a music store gives away T-shirts with their name and a picture of a guitar, they’ll get more business. It just so happens that you’re the one who can take the guitar photo.

Novelty advertising can take many forms such as coffee mugs, baseball caps, and USB flash drives.

There are many companies that can print your pictures onto things. One way to go is Newton Manufacturing You provide the picture, you order something from their catalog, and in short order, 100 or 1,000 or however many you want of the item are sent to you. You then present these to the car dealer or music store, and collect your payment. Another is Cafe Press. They will work out all sorts of interesting arrangements with you, in which you can sometimes have as few as one copy of an item made up and shipped.

Pre-Filled Digital Photo Frames

You’ve seen the prices plummet on digital photo frames. These are the little flat devices that look like an ordinary picture frame that you can hang on a wall or set on a desk, except they provide a slide-show of whatever photos you want to load them up with. They provide a whole cornucopia of opportunities to the photographer.

You can buy these frames for around $20 and on up. Even less if you buy them in bulk. You can fill them with specialized photographs of interest to people in various fields. An employee could have pictures of the company’s products in a frame. In fact, a company may want to hire you to take the pictures of the products, and then fill orders for a frame for every worker in the company.

A bicycle enthusiast may want a frame filled with racing photos, and would be happy to spend $100 at a bike shop to get it. So you would sell them or consign them to bike shops.

A family might hire you to photograph their reunion, then order a bunch of filled frames from you.

A band’s agent might want frames showing the musicians playing gigs. The agent will then give these frames away to promoters, so the band stays foremost in the promoters’ minds.

A company that manufactures gear-cutting machines would order gear-cutting machine photo-filled frames to give away to potential clients.

These may even be a good eBay play. Just find a specialty, one in which you have good photos or can take good photos. Make up a frame, list it on eBay and see what happens. If your first attempt doesn’t sell well, try another approach; or photos about something else, and list another frame, until you discover exactly what sells on eBay, then flood the market with them!

Smartphone Printing

Would you agree that most people walking around flea markets and fairs with smartphones have many pictures of friends, family, places, and things of interest on their phones? What would happen if at the fair, they came across a person with a large printer who was willing to make prints on the spot, of their favorite pictures from their phones for the reasonable price of, oh, let’s say $12? Perhaps you could charge even more. Maybe $12 would be for an ordinary 8-1/2 x 11 print. If you have a large printer, that’s a fairly rare thing, and you might be able to charge quite a bit for large prints.

If you are not very familiar with printing, you might immediately think that ink is prohibitively expensive. For most name-brand printers, if you go to a retail store for their ink cartridges, they’ll cost anywhere from $20 to $40 each, and will only print a handful of pages before they’re empty. The trick is to buy them on Amazon or eBay. You want the kind of printer in which the print head is part of the printer, not the cartridge. Then you can get cartridges for as little as $4 each, shipping included.

The only real downside of this business is that it doesn’t make use of your skill as a photographer. It’s just about printing other people’s photos.

Equipment Rental

Another business that doesn’t make use of your photographic skill is equipment rental. Is there a place in your community to rent lighting? Reflectors? Or a big printer? You might offer to rent such equipment. Once you reach a level of success, you can invest in your business, widening your line with more inventory, such as a large paper cutter, chairs, party supplies, yard care equipment. . . Well, that’s getting pretty far afield, but you get the idea. You can also carry supplies, such as printer ink, replacement bulbs, and photo paper.

Teach Photography

Some people enjoy teaching. Others would, but have never tried teaching, so they don’t know if they’re good teachers or not. A good teacher is one who enjoys working with people, and has a knack for breaking subjects down into easily managed chunks. For instance, I could tell you all about exposure, F-stops, shutter speeds, and all sorts of technical things. I could try to teach you all at once, but that probably would leave you more confused then you were before. Or, I could start by explaining only one thing: F-stops. I’d just tell you that if you block some of the light coming through the lens, you’ll have a darker picture. Then, after you get that, I could tell you that each F-stop, even though the numbers seem odd, lets in exactly twice as much light as the stop before. In small chunks, you’d get the whole picture without confusion. If I could do that, I’d be a good teacher. Are you a good teacher?

If so, you might get a kick out of teaching photography. There are many subjects within photography that you could teach. You might start with an absolute beginners’ course on how to use a digital camera. Intermediate courses might include photo composition and lighting. Advanced courses might teach those crazy F-stops, even though no one really uses them any more. Or you might teach digital darkroom techniques using Corel PhotoPaint, Adobe Photoshop or Gimp. You might teach a course on file formats, so your students will understand the difference between lossy and lossless compression, and the reasons for, and maybe even the history of.gif, .tiff, .png, .bmp, .jpg, and so on.

You could wallpaper your town with flyers, send out press releases and pass out business cards in your community. You could then hold your classes in your home, or in a venue ranging from a coffee shop to a church auditorium, depending on how many people sign up.

That’s the hard way, but you get to keep all the money. An easier way is to teach at a community adult education centers. Most communities have these. They offer quarterly catalogs with a whole range of classes such as Spanish, ballroom dancing and bicycle repair. All you need to do is visit their office, or email them with a course proposal.

Some of these schools pay a small flat rate, typically around $15 per hour, and some such as OLLI (Osher LifeLong Learning Institute) pay nothing at all.

What you want is a school that pays a percentage of their gross sales. In other words, they give you 40, 50 or 60 percent of the course fee paid by each student.

The great communication teacher, Dale Carnegie, started this way. He taught his course, How to Win Friends and Influence People, at the local YMCA on a commission basis. I think he started with just four students. In time, he was lecturing to stadiums filled with 20,000 people.

Or, you could teach for free. In that case, as you are teaching, you also offer something that your students may want to pay for, such as individual tutoring, a local photographic service, or advanced courses. You might even build up a reputation as a teacher through the school that doesn’t pay, and when you have a waiting list of a hundred students, you move away from the school, and offer your own classes, in which you charge a reasonable fee per student.

If you make your classes lively and fun, students are more likely to encourage their friends to sign up. This is especially true if they really learn the subject and find value in what you have taught.

Living Testimonials

All through this book I’ve been assuming you’re primarily interested in still photography. You may also have an interest in videography. As you can imagine, most of the still photography opportunities, with just a bit of adjustment, will work well for videography as well.

I once met a videographer who had a specialty that seemed especially appealing. She interviewed elderly people. The point was to make what she called “living testimonials.” At some point in the future, her clients would pass on. Their bodies would no longer be with us, but at least a record of what they thought, felt, wanted, loved, and remembered would be left behind. What a great gift idea, don’t you think? Who would you buy a living testimonial for? A grandparent or parent perhaps?

In order to do this well, you have to be an empathetic interviewer. With skill in drawing a person out, and asking questions that illicit in-depth, authentic answers, you can conduct a good, even compelling interview.


Almost all of the ideas presented in this book can be expanded – if that’s what you would like. Some people keep their businesses small on purpose. As a business grows, the owner frequently becomes more of a manager than one who does the actual work s/he intended to do. They like exactly what they’re doing, and do not want to expand.

If expansion is your thing, know that by simply and patiently running your business every day, growth is automatic. You’ll know when it is time to offer additional products or services. You will probably come to a time when you need to delegate some of your work to partners, contractors or employees. As these things come up, if you take each new situation in stride, you’ll find nothing is too difficult to learn and you’ll end up making more money, and being happier than you could ever be as someone’s employee.

The Final Bit

Now you have everything you need to start your own photography business, If you can stay focused, motivated and on track, you’ve got it made!

Enjoy and prosper! – Jeff

Weirdly Famous

Weirdly Famous

copyright 2014-2022, Jeff Napier

Table of Contents

Start Here

Jeff Bezos

Nikola Tesla


Wrong Way Wooten

Barack Obama

David Bushnell

The Wright Brothers

Michael Flatley

Ben Franklin

Sam Patch

Carry Nation

Edgar Rice Burroughs

Jane Lynch

Martha Stewart

Oprah Winfrey

Lea Michele

Richard Branson

Justin Timberlake

Miley Cyrus

Thomas Edison

Emile Coue

Albert Einstein

Chelsea Clinton

Hilary Clinton

P. T. Barnum

Adolf Hitler

Ferdinand Porsche

Henry Ford

Count Von der Wense

Frank Tower

Julian Whitaker

Arne Larsson

Charles Lindbergh

The Goofy Computer

Bob Hail

Alexander Labret

Jack Wurm

Dale Carnegie

Gary Beacom

Start Here

Table of Contents

This book presents the most interesting biographical tidbits as amusement and insights for personal growth. What can you learn from scientists, politicians, philosophers, celebrities, artists and others?

Enjoy, Jeff Napier, author

Jeff Bezos

Table of Contents

Jeff Bezos, via Etech05: Jeff

Jeff Bezos was born in 1954 as Jeffrey Preston Jorensen, in Albuquerque, New Mexico, to parents who divorced when he was one year old. When he was four, his mother married Miguel Bezos. Miguel had escaped Cuba on his own at age fifteen, worked his way through college, and became an engineer for Exxon.

Jeff grew up showing an early interest in science and technology. This was evident from the time he was a toddler when he took apart his crib with a screwdriver.

In his high school years, he worked summers on his uncle’s 25,000-acre ranch in Texas, mending fences, herding cattle, and all the things one does on a ranch. He probably picked up a solid work ethic in this activity with his uncle. While in high school, he got good grades, and won a science award.

His first business, created when he was still in high school, was The Dream Institute, an educational summer camp for children in fourth through sixth grade.

It was in high school that he was first exposed to computers. This was about ten years before home computers started appearing in significant numbers. He liked what he saw, and so he went on to Princeton, where in 1986 he earned a summa cum laude degree in computer science and electrical engineering.

From there, he took a number of jobs in New York consistent with his education, starting in computer engineering and within a eight years, he worked up to vice president of Bankers Trust. In the process, he learned a lot about computer networking, and started hearing more and more about this new thing called the World Wide Web.

It started with the US military. They built a web of interconnected computers called ARPANET (Advanced Research Projects Agency Network) so that the military could have the information they might need wherever they might need it in the event of an enemy attack. People in academics started finding this network very useful to share research, notes, and also personal messages. People started calling it the Internet. Netscape and other companies designed browsers making a major portion of the Internet useful and fun for ordinary people. This aspect of the Internet, consisting of files using HyperText Mark Up Language (HTML), better known as web pages, became the World Wide Web. Until then, there was no practical way to share pictures, sound, or even link to other articles on the web.

In 1994, hearing that Internet usage was growing by 2,300 percent per year, Jeff was one of the first to see an opportunity for online commerce.

He considered many possibilities for the first online retail products, and decided books suited the opportunity perfectly. So, why not provide a list of all available books, and provide a way for people to buy the books they want, then and there?

Jeff went to a booksellers’ convention in Los Angeles, where he discovered big booksellers already had compiled large databases of book titles. The biggest was a wholesaler called Ingram with a facility in Washington State.

Jeff was not the only person in the early nineties to imagine that this new network might be able to host commerce, but, unlike the others, he was willing to take big action.

In 1994, approximately a year after he married Mackenzie, also a Princeton graduate, he quit his job at a hedge fund, and ventured out as an entrepreneur.

He decided the State of Washington would be a good place to build his new business for three reasons. It was close to Ingram, where he could buy the books. Because of Intel and other high-tech companies, there were hundreds of computer experts that he could hire as needed. And, Washington had a small population. This was important because the Supreme Court had recently passed a ruling that online businesses were only required to collect sales tax from residents of states in which they had a physical presence, so there’d be less sales tax bookkeeping with Washington’s smaller customer base.

So, he and Mackenzie bought a two-bedroom house with a garage in Washington. They loaded up their car, and while she drove to Washington, he rode along typing up plans for on a laptop.

Why did he call it “Amazon?” According to Jeff, the business would be like the Amazon River, with seemingly endless tributaries.

When they arrived at their new home, he ran an extension cord out to the garage and set up three Sun workstations on tables made from doors laid across sawhorses. These workstations were computers somewhat more powerful than home computers of the era, capable of acting as web servers.

Jeff gathered $5 million from investors to start Amazon. These investors were brave souls, since Jeff told each and every one that he figured there was a seventy percent chance of failure. Among the investors were his mother and step-father. Their six percent of the company, which cost them $300,000, a major portion of their life savings, is now worth billions!

Once he completed the software, he asked three hundred friends and acquaintances to test the system. It worked well, so on July 16, 1995, he asked his beta testers to start talking up, and went live. Without doing anything else for publicity, or spending a penny on advertising, Jeff’s new business was already grossing $80,000 per month sixty days later. At the end of 1995, he had taken in $510,000 – just over a half-million dollars. This was not nearly enough to pay back investors yet, but it was a promising start. In fact, it took Amazon five years to make a profit.

Business continued to grow, and by 2011, he was taking in $17 billion per year. Amazon is the largest retailer on the Internet. And, as I’m sure you know, Amazon sells much more than books these days. You can buy anything from T-shirts to parts for industrial machinery at Jeff says, “Our vision is the world’s most customer-centric company. The place where people come to find and discover anything they might want to buy online.”

Jeff has also done with well with his Kindle, originally a tablet-like device to display ebooks. The Kindle has since become more and more tablet-like, utilizing the Android operating system. The latest high-end Kindle Fire tablets claim to have a higher resolution, lighter weight, and are thinner than the Apple iPad, and do everything a tablet can do – plus you can still read books on them, of course. Perhaps you are using one right now.

As you probably know, free Kindle software is available so you can read the same ebooks on pretty much any device from smart phones to Mac and Windows computers.

The sales of Kindle ebooks has gone particularly well. 85 percent of the world’s eBooks are in Kindle format. In 2010, sales exceeded all Amazon hardcover book sales. Soon, Jeff expects ebooks to top softcover sales as well. Even though billions of dollars are being made for authors and for Amazon in Kindle ebook sales, one can get free ebooks from the Kindle store as well. Four thousand new free titles are being added every day.

One would think this will eventually crush the market for paid books. Who would pay money for a book, when there will be something nearly the same for free? But no doubt Jeff sees something on the horizon for his next profitable stage in this rapid evolution.

What kind of manager is Jeff? Obviously, he is astute on business matters. People say that he is generally a happy-go-lucky guy, but can be very interested in details. The term “micro-manager” has been connected with his name more than once.

Jeff’s current net worth is estimated at $29 billion. Still living in Seattle, he, Mackenzie and their four children do not want for groceries. With the change left over, Jeff has done some imaginative things.

He enjoys shopping for toys online and in brick and mortar stores.

He purchased the Washington Post (Washington D.C.) newspaper company.

In 2000, he started Blue Origin, a company dedicated to bringing space travel to the masses. The company bought many acres in Texas as a launching facility. They have a prototype rocket with passenger seats called New Shepard. Jeff visualizes amusement parks, space hotels and colonies of millions orbiting earth. He has had this vision since he was eighteen years old. At one point he imagined an earth in which everyone has moved out to space, leaving the planet free to recover as a pristine park.

He has had conversations with billionaire Richard Branson, founder of Virgin Records, Virgin Atlantic, and many other companies, to discuss cooperative space business opportunities, since one of Branson’s companies is Virgin Galactic, also dedicated to affordable space flight.

In what might be considered one of his most eccentric enterprises, Jeff Bezos spent $42 million for the construction of the “Clock of the Long Now.” This is a clock that is designed to last 10,000 years. It has some attributes to attempt to guarantee that it will be functioning a very long time from now. For instance, it must be maintainable with bronze age technology, must be fully transparent and understandable, and use a readily renewable energy source. After considering options, the decision was made that the Clock of the Long Now will be powered by a spring, wound by hand. All this will ensure that people of the future can keep it running even if they lose the technology we have today. It must be made from non-valuable materials, to discourage looting, yet keep very accurate time. Two small prototypes have been built. A full-scale prototype is being built on Jeff Bezos’ Texas ranch, and the final clock will be built in a remote location in Nevada.

The Clock of the Long Now

via Pkirlin

In December 2013 he made news again with an idea called Amazon Prime Air. He envisions a fleet of drones that can fly within ten miles (16 km) of an Amazon distribution center, carrying up to 5 pounds (2 kilograms) directly to customers within an hour of purchasing an item. He believes he can have Amazon Prime Air up and running within five years.

Jeff funded a project to find and recover original Apollo rocket engines from the ocean. His team has identified and retrieved an engine from Apollo 11, the first to land humans on the moon.

An interesting bit of Jeff Bozes trivia: He likes to buy four identical pairs of shoes at a time, and rotates them so they don’t wear out too soon.

His favorite books are Remains of the Day, a novel, and Built to Last, a business book.

Most recently, Jeff has been focusing on philanthropy. He tells us, “Giving away money takes as much attention as building a successful company,”

Nikola Tesla

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Nikola Tesla

Nikola Tesla was born in On July 10, 1856 to a Serbian Orthodox priest, and the daughter of a piest, in what is now Croatia. His mother was known for an especially strong memory, which she used to recite long poems, and an ability to make inventive household gadgets.

When Nikola was five, he lost his older brother. Some say he fell off a horse. But there is some indication that young Nikola may have pushed him down a set of stairs.

In school, Nikola excelled, especially in math.

At the age of seventeen, he came down with cholera, which is a severe diarrhea that kept him bed bound for nine months, and nearly killed him. His father who originally wanted him to become a priest said he’d send Nikola to engineering school, if only he could recover from the illness. That may have been a motivating factor! As he began to recover, he was faced with being drafted into the Austro-Hungarian army. Instead, he ran away to a small community where he could disappear in the forest for a while. While there, he read many books, including some by Mark Twain. He later said that being close to nature, and Mark Twain’s books, were instrumental in his recovery.

At age nineteen, he was able to enroll in a technical school. He was once again an exceptional student for his first two years. Then, he discovered gambling, rapidly became addicted, and lost his tuition money. In time, he was able to recover his losses, and he then quit gambling once and for all. However, he did drop out of college, and was never able to complete his education.

He took a couple of jobs as a draftsman, then became the chief electrician in the Budapest Telephone Exchange. While there he invented many small improvements in telephone technology. From there, he moved to France, where he became a designer for the Continental Edison Company,

At the age of 24 he emigrated to the United States to take a job working directly under Thomas Edison. During his ocean crossing, his luggage was stolen. Upon arrival, he had a small pack, some poems, a letter of recommendation, and a total of four cents.

He and Thomas Edison didn’t get along well, and soon Tesla was on his own. Their primary disagreement seems to be over whether household electricity should be DC – Direct Current – or AC – Alternating Current. DC is easy to produce, regulate, and transport short distances. AC can be transformed to a high voltage for transporting over greater distances and then stepped back down to a more tame voltage for use. The oscillating nature of AC can be utilized to control speeds, time events and run motors without troublesome commutators and brushes. It is also less dangerous than DC, because the one-way nature of DC causes muscles to tighten and stay tight. So, a person who is accidentally exposed to DC current by holding a wire or device is often unable to let go.

By the time Tesla came along, Edison was heavily invested into DC technology, and was reluctant to change, even though his generators had to be near the items consuming the electricity. Edison even staged fraudulent public demonstrations in which he electrocuted dogs with AC, but they somehow were unharmed by DC.

Tesla was a strong advocate of AC; not only the sixty cycles per second low-frequency, but very high frequencies, in which he could even transport electricity without wires. There is a famous photograph of his friend Mark Twain holding a glowing lightbulb in his bare hands.

Mark Twain holding Tesla’s lightbulb without batteries or wires

With all the interest in AC, electricity flowing through the air and all that, experimenters of the era were very close to figuring out that they could send signals, maybe even emulating the vibrations of human voice, through the air.

According to some, Nikola Tesla invented radio transmission of audio signals. There is no doubt he was awarded a US patent for the invention of radio. However, the patent was later revoked. The story is that several financiers lined up to support Guglielmo Marconi in a fraudulent attempt to claim him as the inventor, and Tesla simply did not have the funds to fight the legal battle.

In the same way that historians are unclear as to whether Nikola Tesla invented radio, or whether it was Marconi, there is doubt about the invention of X-ray technology.

What we do know is that Tesla was very interested in X-rays. In fact, once he got an X-ray machine built, he spent up to 45 minutes a day X-raying his head, figuring that the radiation was actually good for his brain. His X-ray equipment wasn’t the ‘clean’ X-ray machines of modern times. His X-ray tube was not well-tuned, so it threw out a lot of potentially dangerous power, including X-rays and all sorts of other radiation.

We also know that he was a bit imbalanced in certain ways. Today’s diagnosis might be ‘functioning obsessive-compulsive.’ For instance, he could not bear to be in the same room with someone wearing pearls. He was also a step counter. These people have various forms of a need to count their footsteps. In Tesla’s case, he was once observed walking around a restaurant three times, so that upon entering it would be the right number of footsteps. But, these afflictions seemed to have begun many years before his interest in X-rays.

He was the perfect ‘mad scientist’ in many ways. He tended to live by himself in hotels, staying for years in New York’s Waldorf Astoria. Every year, on his birthday, he would hold a press conference announcing and sometimes demonstrating his latest breakthroughs. Being quite a showman, and having invented some rather marvelous although unrefined technologies, he became world famous.

He had a tendency to announce many things that he couldn’t quite pull off, sometimes as if they already existed in functioning prototype stage, such as transmission of mechanical energy over infinite distances, location of underground minerals, and vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) aircraft.

One of his unrealized inventions was a “peace ray” or a “death ray,” which he called a “teleforce.” This could destroy aircraft and land-based war machinery at a distance of hundreds of miles by projecting a beam of charged particles. Ayn Rand heard about this and utilized the idea in her book, Atlas Shrugged, calling it “Project X” or the “Thompson Harmonizer,” but based on sound waves.

In a typical Tesla statement about the peace ray, he said thirty-seven years after he announced it,
“But it is not an experiment . . . I have built, demonstrated and used it. Only a little time will pass before I can give it to the world.”

Being interested in high frequencies led him to the study of harmonics. He claimed he could make a device the size of a modern-day digital camera that when attached to the foundation of a building or bridge could shake it at just the right frequency to cause the structure to collapse.

To this day, people are intrigued with what he did, and what he might have done, if he had been given more money, assistance, and time. Many claims are made in the world of pseudo-science that relate back to Tesla in some way.

Some of his work, including his three hundred patents, brought him a big income. However, as much as he was an inventive genius, he was lacking in business skill. When he had money, he used every penny on additional experimentation. For instance, in Colorado Springs, he built a huge transmitter tower in an attempt to bounce radio signals around the world.

Nikola Tesla in his Colarado Springs laboratory

Tesla’s lab and tower in New York

Never completed, this tower was designed to transmit electricity wirelessly.

In 1915, it is said that the Nobel Prize in Physics was to be shared by Thomas Edison and Nikola Tesla, but at the last moment was awarded to two other scientists. This was because neither Edison or Tesla was willing to accept the prize after the other.

In the end, at age 86, he died penniless in a run down hotel room in New York City. Interestingly, agents of the US government came and confiscated all his notebooks immediately. According to a article, one of the agents, after studying Nikola’s property for three days concluded:

“His [Tesla’s] thoughts and efforts during at least the past 15 years were primarily of a speculative, philosophical, and somewhat promotional character often concerned with the production and wireless transmission of power; but did not include new, sound, workable principles or methods for realizing such results.”

They found one box that was labeled as containing important parts of the “peace ray.” It turned out to contain nothing but a general-purpose variable resistor assembly.


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Aeschylus, a Greek man born around 525 BC, lived for tragedy, and his death was an unusual tragedy. He is known by many scholars as the father of modern tragedy, having revolutionized the way plays were enacted on stage.

It is hard for us to understand from our modern perspective, but until then, plays were performed by the protagonist and a chorus only. In the case of ancient Greek plays, the chorus was a group representing the general population, and they functioned essentially as singing and dancing narrators. Evidently, the idea of having additional actors portraying antagonists never occurred to anyone until Aeschylus.

Although he came from a wealthy family, in his youth, he worked in a vineyard.

One day he had a vivid dream in which Dionysus, the god of the grape harvest, commanded him to start writing tragedies.

He had two sons, who followed him into the playwriting business.

At approximately 74 years of age, Aeschylus was killed when an eagle dropped a tortoise on his head. The bird was trying to break the shell on a rock. This is how eagles prepare their turtle lunch. The unfortunate guy was bald, and the eagle thought his head was a good turtle-breaking rock.

Wrong Way Wooten

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In the mid 1980s a man from Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania, near Philadelphia, became rather famous for riding his bicycle backward. At the age of thirteen, one of his friends said that riding a bike while sitting on the handlebar would be impossible. Tom Wooten proved his friend wrong. When he saw the way people reacted to seeing him ride that way, he decided it would be his career.

Wrong Way Wooten

In his late 20s, evidently after driving a tow truck for a while, and receiving a degree in psychology, he planned his first cross-country bike tour. Originally, he was going to ride with five other people, but they all backed out before he started. He relates, “I learned never to count on anybody for anything.”

he built a custom bike for his purpose. It was based on a Schwinn Varsity, which was a very heavy all-steel bike of the late 1970s. He put padded tape on the handlebar to make sitting more comfortable. He installed two mirrors on long arms so he could see where he was going. He removed the seat, and put a portable television in its place. He then somehow attached another ten-speed bike to the rear of his bike in order to carry more gear. There is no information as to how the bike was attached. There are conflicting reports as to how much the entire contraption weighed. The report that seem most believable says it was 160 lbs (72 kg). Other reports put it at “over 300 pounds” and some say it was 450 lbs.

He converted the bike to 21 speeds, quite rare in the 1980s, but left the shifters in their original position – on the handlebar stem. This meant that he had to reach between his legs to change gears. His bike had toe-clips, which were, of course, installed backward on the pedals.

Before his first trip to traverse the entire United States, he studied maps. Being independently wealthy (according to what little is written – and we don’t know how he attained that wealth) he then hired a small airplane to fly low, examining his route for overly steep hills, road construction and other such potential problems.

Tom, who legally changed his name to “Wrong Way Wooten,” then set out on his journey with a specific self-appointed mission. “The main reason I do what I do is to get people to realize that they have a responsibility to other people.” He represented several major charities including The American Cancer Society, The American Lung Society, The Heart Fund, the Jaycees, United Way, and March of Dimes, taking donations in person and also encouraging people to donate directly to their favorite charities. According to the legend, he criss-crossed the country several times totaling 28,000 miles (45,000 kilometers) over the next 17 years.

To some, it looked like what he was doing, riding around the country on a bike, would be limitless fun, but he cited some problems, such as flat tires, bad weather and racists who sometimes tried to run him off the road. “I can’t hate them, then I would be just like them.”

He did not recommend that other people should tour backwards. “One mistake, and you’re history.”

He planned on riding for twenty-five years. Unfortunately, in 2004, at age 47, he died of a massive heart attack. His credo was, “Bind yourself to nothing and seek harmony with all things. Only then can you be truly free.” People who remember him say he was a wonderful and very personable ambassador for kindness to others.

Barack Obama

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Barack Obama

In 2006, Barack Obama won a Grammy Award. These are given to people in the entertainment business, not politics. So what is it that President Obama did that could possibly earn him a Grammy Award? It was for an audiobook recording he personally recorded of his memoir.

When running for President of the United States, Barack Obama promised his wife Michelle that he would quit smoking. He didn’t.

He has read all seven of the Harry Potter books. (There were eight movies, but only seven books. The last book was made into two movies.)

President Obama says that if he hadn’t gone into politics, he would have liked to become an architect.

Barack’s mother’s first name is Stanley. She holds a Ph.D in anthropology. Her research has been given much more attention since he became President.

Barack said of his childhood, “That my father looked nothing like the people around me – that he was black as pitch, my mother white as milk barely registered in my mind.”

Barack’s election as US President is not the first time he was a first black president. He was also the first black president of The Harvard Law Review.

Like 11.11 percent of the population, Barack Obama is left-handed.

A psychologist in Canada conducted some research that proved left-handed people are more accident-prone than right-handers. After studying 2,300 major-league baseball players who had died, he found that those older than 35 were two percent more likely to die than right-handers. In the group who had made it beyond eighty-five years old, there were very few left-handers.

Another study of Canadian college students found that 44 percent of the left-handers had been hospitalized within the last five years due to an accident, yet only 36 percent of the right-handers had been hospitalized for an accident. One hypothesis that may account for some of this is that the tools and machines of our modern world are designed for right-handers.

The southpaws also had higher incidence of immunological problems and sleep disorders. A hypothesis behind this phenomenon is that babies who would have normally been right-handers become lefties if they have problems at birth such as long labor or low birth weight.

David Bushnell

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In the mid 1770’s David Bushnell, an inventive guy, created the world’s first attack submarine. Using whiskey barrel technology, he made a watertight clamshell-shaped vehicle with barely enough room for one man. The thing, nicknamed the Turtle, was placed in New York Harbor one night containing Sgt. Ezra Lee, a 45-year-old man who was stronger than the frail inventor. He had two hand-operated propeller vanes, one for forward travel, the other for directional control.

Bushnell's Turtle

A museum replica of Bushnell’s Turtle

Sgt. Lee cranked his way toward the British flagship of Admiral Richard Howe, called the Eagle. David Bushnell provided for instrument guidance in the underwater darkness, even though it was 1776 and electric lighting was still 100 years into the future. Inventor Bushnell’s solution was ingenious. He lit the primitive instruments, a compass and a depth gauge, with foxfire, a moss that glows in the dark. Still, navigation was difficult, because it was cold in the Turtle, and therefore the foxfire was dim. Ezra Lee missed the battleship entirely and cranked himself out to sea. Realizing his error just in time, he cranked furiously against the tide and finally arrived under the ship. Now it was time to do his dirty work.

The plan was to turn a crank mounted in the ceiling of the Turtle, which would screw an eye-hook into the underside of the Eagle. Attached to the hook was a bomb. After several attempts at attaching the bomb, Ezra finally realized it couldn’t be done. The ship was probably coated in copper plating to keep barnacles from growing on the ship, and the hook wouldn’t drill into the ship. (Historians are not sure about why the bomb couldn’t be attached, this is their theory.)

Dawn was coming, and Sgt. Lee had to get away quickly before he would be discovered. Again, he cranked furiously, but some sailors on the ship saw him. Realizing he was in trouble, he released the bomb, which floated to the surface and blew up harmlessly. But it saved his life. The ship’s men had never seen anything like the Turtle and weren’t even sure it was a human-invented thing. It might be a monster, or a monster’s creation. After the little explosion, they were truly afraid. And Ezra Lee cranked his way to harbor, his submarine was opened, and he was safe.

This was the first and last submarine voyage of the 18th century. David Bushnell was quite fascinated with inventions and explosive things in particular. He devoted his mental efforts to the war, but his creations never made any serious contributions. Once, some soldiers found a strange barrel floating in the water. They rowed out to it in a little boat and pulled it out of the water. On the contraption they found gears turning. This would be unusual by today’s standards, but truly weird back in 1776. At about the time they made this observation, the time bomb exploded, killing three of the men and injuring some others. It was supposed to have floated up to a place where several enemy ships were docked and blow them up, but the men intercepted it. This was the only one of Mr. Bushnell’s inventions that came anywhere close to working right.

The Wright Brothers

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Before the famous aviation pioneers, the Wright brothers, created a bicycle shop, they started a printing business, featuring their own newspaper. This was quite enterprising for two young men who did not have high school diplomas. Wilbur did complete four years, but the family moved just before he was to receive his diploma. Orville dropped out of school to run the print shop. (This is not recommended for modern kids. School is free. You might as well take as much as you can get!)

Wilbur Wright 
Orville Wright

Wilbur and Orville Wright

Indicative of their engineering ability to come, they built their own printing press from scratch.

They were in the printing business during the time bicycle technology took a radical turn. Until then, in order to gain sufficient speed, bikes tended to have pedals attached directly to large wheels, making them cumbersome, hard to ride, and dangerous. Then the “safety” bike came out. Safeties had smaller wheels with a chain driving a small sprocket from a big one, so they could be geared high enough to go fast. This started a cycling craze, and the Wrights were observant enough to start a bike shop at just the right time. They didn’t buy their bikes from wholesalers. They made their bikes themselves.

Orville was more the hands-on guy, the one who did most of the inventing and building, while Wilbur, older by four years, was more the businessman, although they easily switched roles as needed.

Since the bike shop was doing well, they let their hired mechanic, Charles Edward Taylor, take on the management of the shop, while they spent increasingly more time on their hobby – experimenting to see if they could make a heavier-than-air flying machine. Lighter-than-air flying machines, also known as dirigibles, or blimps, which were filled with hydrogen or helium, had already been invented, but were problematic. They were huge, hard to control, especially in any sort of wind, slow, and not always safe.

The brothers built a wind tunnel and scientifically studied the effects of airflow across various shapes. They had Charlie Taylor build them an engine, since the only ones that could be purchased at that time were ridiculously heavy for their power output. Mr. Taylor used aluminum instead of steel (a fairly new and novel metal in the day), creating an engine weighing under 200 pounds (100 kilos) and generating twelve horsepower. He machined many of the parts himself, but had the crankcase cast by a local foundry.

The number four figures highly in Charlie’s engine. It was a four-stroke design, with four cylinders, each of which had a four-inch bore and a four-inch stroke. Modern engines can easily get a hundred horsepower out of an engine that size.

The brothers also needed propellers, so they designed and carved their own. Their propellers were up to 82% efficient, nearly as good as the best propellers today at 85% efficient.

First Flight

First ever flight

The Wrights were not the first inventors to get a heavier-than-air craft in the air, but they were the first to make one that could be controlled in flight. Studying bird anatomy, sketches by Leonardo da Vinci, and contemporary inventors, they figured that warping the wings was the way to control flight. They invented three-axis control, which is how airplanes are still controlled today, although modern aircraft use flaps at the edges of wings rather than actually warping the wings.

For a few summers, their experiments, and finally their first successful flights were at Kitty Hawk, or more specifically Cape Hatteras, North Carolina. Why did they transport all their stuff more than 600 miles from Dayton, Ohio all the way to the east coast? They felt the rather continuous winds were important. Their first flights took off into the wind. They also liked the idea of landing in soft sand when things went wrong, which they did from time to time.

They had to promise their father that they would not both fly in the same plane at the same time. This way, if a plane crashed, at least one would survive to carry on their experimentation. Only once in all their lives did they fly together. It was a six-minute hop. On one occasion, Orville took their 82-year-old father, Milton, on a short flight, which delighted him.

The Wright brothers were two of seven children, two of whom died at birth. They never married.

By 1909, the brothers had become the most famous people in the world.

Michael Flatley

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“I can go back to when I was six years old. I was always getting in trouble for dreaming, and the things I got in trouble for dreaming about are the things I’m doing today.” – Michael Flatley

Michael Flatley

via maxguy

Michael Flatley really evidences the ‘can-do’ attitude. He was the original choreographer and male lead dancer in the world-famous Irish step dancing show Riverdance. He later became the founder of Lord of the Dance, Feet of Flames, and Celtic Tiger.

In 1975, at age seventeen, he won the World Championship for Irish dance. Having been born and raised on the South Side of Chicago, this was a particularly unusual win. The championship had never been won by anyone outside of Europe. In 2000, he was listed in Guinness Book for being paid $1,600,000 per week, more than any other dancer has ever made. What this biographer finds particularly fascinating about Michael Flatley is how much he has accomplished in addition to dancing. He has won numerous awards as a flute player, boxer (pugilist), and evidently as a chess master, too.

After high school, most kids go on to additional education or enter the workforce. Right out of high school, Michael Flatley started his own dance studio.

He has an estimated net worth of $650 million and owns homes in Barbados, Ireland, Beverly Hills and France and London.

Well into his fifties (born in 1958), he is still dancing.

Ben Franklin

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Benjamin Franklin

Ben Franklin was born into a family of 19 in 1706. He
was one of the most amazingly productive people that have ever
lived on this earth. Not only is his list of accomplishments
impressive, but much of his humor in writing lives to this day.
He died in 1790 at the age of 83. He did not waste his time on
this earth.

Most of us have come to think of Benjamin Franklin as a worldly-wise fellow, loved by his associates, and almost super-human in his ability to invent practical solutions. Some of his abilities may have come from his childhood. With 16 brothers and sisters, he probably had to learn to be quick-witted.

When it was time to decide on a national bird for the United States of America, Ben suggested a turkey. An eagle was chosen instead.

His armonica was a very weird musical instrument. After hearing a concert played by rubbing fingers on the rims of wine glasses tuned by filling with various amounts of water, Ben loved the sound so much that he got to thinking. This inspired him to up with a horizontal shaft on which were mounted glass bowls or disks. The musician would turn the shaft with a foot pedal, much like a treadle sewing machine. One could make beautiful haunting music by rubbing wet fingers on the rims of the glass disks. I believe, but don’t know for sure, that the shaft turned in a long pan of water, so the disks remained wet. Armonica means “harmony” in Greek. The Ben Franklin armonica is also called a glass harmonica.

The Franklin stove as we know it today is a fireplace with cast iron doors. This is not the woodstove that Ben invented. His version has disappeared from modern times. It was an airtight, which is more efficient than most of the stoves used at that time. But, his invention was so complex and awkward to light that it never gained much favor in American homes.

It looked somewhat like an egg on a pedestal. The air came in through vents in the top of the egg, passed downward through the wood fire, and was sucked out the bottom, which was connected to a chimney across the room through pipes running under the floor. This design caused almost total combustion of the wood, which most stoves cannot do, and the pipes under the floor warmed the floor, which was pleasant and efficient. The problem was that the system had to be warmed gradually in order to get the necessary draft or suction sufficient to avoid smoking up the whole house.

Ben claimed that the servants were too stupid to manage it. He was reluctant to say that maybe his design was just too cumbersome.

Here are some Franklin quotes: (Most of these were
first published in Poor Richard’s Almanac, which Franklin

A little neglect may breed great mischief… for want
of a nail the shoe was lost; for want of a shoe the horse was
lost; and for want of a horse the rider was lost.

Necessity never made a good bargain.

Three may keep a secret, if two of them are dead.

Keep your eyes wide open before marriage, half shut

When the well’s dry, we know the worth of water.

Dost thou love life? Then do not squander time; for
that’s the stuff life is made of.

Little strokes, Fell great oaks.

Work as if you were to live a hundred years, Pray as
if you were to die tomorrow.

A word to the wise is enough, and many words won’t
fill a bushel.

To lengthen thy life, lessen thy meals.

Ben Franklin was responsible for the first paved
street in America, and the first department of sanitation, and
the first taxes to pay for sanitation.

Ben Franklin organized the first circulating library.
This club was called the Junto.

The first man-made oil slick on the ocean was created by – you
guessed it – in approximately 1750. Ben was attempting to calm stormy seas for
easier ships’ passage by spreading oil on the ocean. The experiment didn’t

Franklin was the first postmaster to put the US Post
Office into a profitable position. He was the first elected
Postmaster General. He was paid one thousand dollars per year,
which he donated to charity.

Ben Franklin, along with a friend, Thomas Bond, started
the first hospital in America.

When Ben Franklin saw a rotten, sprouting willow
basket in a stream he took it home and planted it, starting the
first willow tree in America.

When plans were required for a new house of
government, Ben Franklin was given a crack at the architect’s
job, but his design was rejected. It was just too offbeat. He had
planned to hook all the seats in the meeting room to the
fireplace chimney. The bottoms of the seats would have many small
holes. The draft from the chimney would create a slight suction
at these holes in the seats, carrying away what he called
“personal odors.”

Ben Franklin noticed that many printers, plumbers,
painters and potters were getting sick the same way. He then
looked for a common habit among them and found that they all
handled lead. He was the first to identify industrial lead

Ben Franklin’s eyesight was diminishing as his age
advanced. He had to carry two pairs of glasses, one for seeing
close and the other for distant viewing. Ben had a lens maker
modify his two pairs of glasses, putting parts of both sets of
lenses in one set of frames, creating the world’s first bifocals.
One of the reasons he was so famous in his own time were these
glasses. Photography had not yet been invented, artists’ drawings
in the newspapers were the only way people had of being
recognized. But Ben Franklin was very obvious with his glasses in
a time when very few people wore any glasses at all, and none
wore bifocals.

Ben Franklin was one of the first people to realize
that the common cold is contagious from one person to another. In
that time viruses were unknown, but at least Franklin refuted the
notion that getting your body cold was the cause.

Ben Franklin discovered the ocean currents. When on
ships he would take sightings and temperature readings and
eventually made valuable charts to help ships’ captains plot more
efficient courses.

One of the few things Ben Franklin didn’t invent was
street lights, but he did improve them. Until he thought of a
better idea, they always had round globes. His improvement was to
use four separate flat panes of glass. This way, if one was
broken, only one inexpensive pane had to be replaced, not the
whole globe. Some gas lamps of this design are still in use

He also didn’t come up with the idea of volunteer fire
fighters, but did organize the fire fighters in Philadelphia into
the best outfit in the world.

On the Choice of a Mistress

by Ben Franklin

[he recommends choosing an older, not necessarily
pretty wife]

1. Because they have more Knowledge of the world, and
their Minds are better stored with Observations; their
Conversation is more improving, and more lastingly agreeable.

2. Because when Women cease to be handsome, they study
to be good. To maintain their Influence over Men, they supply the
Diminution of Beauty by an Augmentation of utility. They learn to
do a thousand Services, small and great, and are the most tender
and useful of all Friends when you are sick. Thus they continue
amiable. And hence there is hardly such a thing to be found as an
old Woman who is not a good Woman.

3. Because there is no hazard of children, which
irregularly procured may be attended with much inconvenience.

4. Because through more Experience they are more
prudent and discreet in conducting an Intrigue to prevent
Suspicion. The Commerce with them is therefore safer with regard
to your reputation; and with regard to theirs, if the Affair
should happen to be known, considerate People might be rather
inclined to excuse an old Woman, who would kindly take care of a
young Man, form his manners by her good Councils, and prevent his
ruining his Health and Fortune among mercenary Prostitutes.

5. Because in every Animal that walks upright, the
Deficiency of the Fluids that fill the Muscles appears first in
the highest Part. The Face first grows lank and wrinkled; then
the Neck; then the Breast and Arms; the lower parts continuing to
the last as plump as ever; so that covering all above with a
Basket, and regarding only what is below the Girdle, it is
impossible of two Women to know an old one from a young one. And
as in the Dark all Cats are gray, the Pleasure of Corporal
Enjoyment with an old Woman is at least equal and frequently
superior; every Knack being by Practice capable of improvement.

6. Because the sin is less. The Debouching of a Virgin
may be her Ruin, and make her Life unhappy.

7. Because the Compunction is less. The having made a
young Girl miserable may give you frequent bitter Reflections;
none of which can attend making an old Woman happy.

8th & lastly. They are so grateful!!!”

This was Ben Franklin’s own epitaph:

“The body of Benjamin Franklin, Printer (like the
cover of an old book, its contents torn out and striped of its
lettering and gilding), lies here, food for worms; but the work
shall not be lost, for it will (as he believed) appear once more
in a new and more elegant edition, revised and corrected by the

Sam Patch

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Sam Patch

Don’t drink and dive. Sam Patch was the man known throughout America in the 1820’s for leaping from the tops of bridges and waterfalls. He was a professional. Sam made his money like a street juggler or magician, by passing the hat. He created as much of a show of it as possible, sometimes jumping into the water with his pet bear. He successfully jumped Niagara Falls. Sam became a national sensation, and inspired a jumping craze. Farmers jumped over fences, retailers leaped over their sales counters.

Sam finally disappeared while attempting a second jump into Genesee Falls, a smaller but still spectacular waterfall in Rochester, NY. He jumped from a 100-foot high tower in November, just to make the feat more difficult. Over 6,000 people watched him jump, but none saw him return. Some folks reported that he had been drinking before his fatal dive. Finally, in March of the following year, his body was discovered encased in a block of ice.

Carry Nation

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Carry Nation

After marrying a promising young physician in 1867, Carry Nation was horrified to see her husband destroy his career and his life after only two years. He drank himself to death. Mrs. Nation was so disgusted with alcohol that she smashed up more than thirty drinking establishments. This six-foot-tall woman armed with a hatchet would enter a bar and with such frenzy that all the male patrons ran in fright; she broke all the bottles and much of the furniture with rocks, bricks and hatchets.

Edgar Rice Burroughs

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Edgar Rice Burroughs

Edgar Rice Burroughs is the author of the Tarzan series, The Land That Time Forgot, and many other books that were extremely popular in their time, and from which movies are still made. He was born in 1875, and lived 74 years. He wanted to be a military man, and attended the Michigan Military Academy. He failed to get into West Point, but served a short time in the 7th U.S. Cavalry (horse-mounted soldiers). He was soon discharged due to a mild heart condition.

Not quite knowing what to do, he became a bit of a drifter, working for a while in his father’s company, and later becoming a wholesale representative for pencil sharpeners. In his spare time, he enjoyed reading pulp fiction. In time, he figured he might try his hand at writing fiction. It wasn’t until he was 37 years old that had any significant success with writing, when he penned Tarzan of the Apes.

His inspiration for writing: “…if people were paid for writing rot such as I read in some of those magazines, that I could write stories just as rotten. As a matter of fact, although I had never written a story, I knew absolutely that I could write stories just as entertaining and probably a whole lot more so than any I chanced to read in those magazines.”

In total, he wrote eighty novels, mostly in the science fiction and fantasy genres.

Jane Lynch

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Jane Lynch, who was born in Dolton, Illinois in 1960, plays Sue Sylvester, an overbearing cheerleading coach who sometimes rises to the position of principal, in Fox Network’s smash hit Glee. She is the nemesis of the glee club, around which the show is centered. Glee is the third show in which she has been cast as a rough-around-the edges schoolteacher. She has an acerbic kind of comedy that in small doses can be funny, but in her huge, overblown way is fall-on-the-floor funny.

Jane Lynch

Jane Lynch, photo by vagueonthehow

Jane has been deaf in one ear since infancy.

Martha Stewart

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When Martha Stewart, the world’s first female billionaire, with an empire including books, television shows, housewares, and even complete houses, was ten years old, she used to babysit the children of Mickey Mantle, Yogi Berra, and other famous baseball players.

Martha Stewart

Martha Stewart, photo by Rubenstein

Oprah Winfrey

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Oprah Winfrey, is a billionaire who is regarded as the most influential woman in the world. She was born to a teenage single mother in poverty in a small town in Mississippi in 1954 when racism was still very active in the southern United States.

When Oprah was 14 years old, facing a life that up until then had consisted of sexual abuse and poverty, she tried to commit suicide by drinking laundry detergent. I think we are all glad that didn’t work out as planned.

Oprah’s real name on her birth certificate is Orpah after a biblical character. People consistently mispronounced her name, so she colloquially became Oprah.

Oprah learned to read at age three, which is somewhat common today because of the ubiquity of books, tablets and computers, but in 1957, reading at that age was quite rare.

Due to her oratory skill, she won a full college scholarship where she majored in communication.

Lea Michele

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Lea Michele plays Rachael Berry, a Jewish singer and actress with two fathers and no mother in the popular TV series, Glee. Her full name is Lea Michele Sarfati which would appear to be Italian, not Jewish. In fact her mother is Italian. Her father, a New York City delicatessen owner, is of Spanish Saphardic Jewish descent. Michele was brought up Catholic.

Lea Michele

via JJ Duncan

Currently, she lives alone in a $1.4 million (US) home in Hollywood with her dog and cat.

Richard Branson

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Richard Branson

Richard Branson, born in 1950, is the founder of over 400 companies, most of which start with the name “Virgin,” such as Virgin Atlantic, Virgin, Virgin Mobile, and Virgin Blue. Virgin as a business name was suggested by one of his first employees as they built Virgin Records, because they were all new in business.

His first business was a magazine called Student that he created at the age of sixteen.

Richard has dyslexia, a learning disability that made reading and other academic activities much harder for him. His headmaster once said that he would either end up in prison or become a millionaire. With an estimated net worth of over 4.6 billion dollars (US), he seems to have learned how to work around the dyslexia quite nicely.

Justin Timberlake

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Justin Timberlake, who owns at least six Harley-Davidson motorcycles, says he is afraid of snakes, spiders, and a little bit scared by the stuffed animals fans throw on stage when he is performing.

Justin was born in Memphis, Tennessee in 1981. His performing career started at eleven years of age on the television show Star Search. He then became a member of the Mickey Mouse Club. There, he met his first girlfriend, Britney Spears. Then he dated Cameron Diaz, and finally married Jessica Biel in 2012.

Miley Cyrus

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What would cause a girl who is an inspiration to millions to go from wearing a purity ring to performing a sexualized, raunchy act on television? That would be Miley Ray Cyrus we’re talking about, at the 2013 MTV Music Awards. You probably have seen the performance, but you may not know what a purity ring is. I didn’t, until I looked it up.

Purity Ring

via Rimabie

A purity ring, also known as a virginity ring, chastity ring, or abstinence ring is a reminder of a pledge a girl can take to abstain from sexual activity until marriage. This has become very popular in recent years, especially among Christians. Miley was brought up Christian and did get a purity ring in her high school years. Because of her performing career she didn’t spend much time in conventional school, instead being tutored on movie and TV sets. Her career started in earnest at age eleven when she auditioned for a supporting role in Hannah Montana, The audition went so well that she was cast for the lead role.

It certainly didn’t hurt her career that her father is Billy Ray Cyrus, a very successful country singer and actor, starring in the “Doc” TV series, and her mother is Leticia “Tish” Cyrus, also a successful performer. And, if that isn’t enough to assure her a place in the performing world, her godmother is Dolly Parton.

But she wasn’t provided with social status alone. There is no doubt she was taught, guided, coached, whatever you might like to call it, by her parents and friends of the family, from the earliest age, in the ways of singing and acting.

Plus she has natural talent. Is it genetic? Experts are still arguing whether performers inherit their ability or develop it on their own. Perhaps the way she got the name Miley is a telling trait. As a baby and toddler, she tended to smile more than average, so her parents started calling her “Smiley.” The nickname was eventually shortened to “Miley.”

So what turned her from a conservative teenager into a rebellious twenty-something? One theory is religion. While, as we all know, religion is a wonderful tool for conveying moral values, it can also be perceived as a constraint by some. Some of the wildest rebels in history came from very religious backgrounds. If one is brought up in an overly-formal environment, one might feel a need to test the limits, experience the other side, or try to find a middle ground, which from a limited perspective may look more like the far side.

Another possibility is too much ‘can-do’ attitude. No doubt her parents told her she can become great. After all, they have succeeded handily, and so they’d naturally expect it from their children. I mean, look at her name. As you know, she wasn’t born “Miley.” She was born as Destiny Hope Cyrus.

If a name like that isn’t a first step toward a can-do attitude, I don’t know what is. A ‘can-do’ attitude is also a wonderful thing, within reason. It allows one to excel in so many ways. The child who learns to dance carries that successful experience over into other learning activities. Even math becomes easier with a can-do attitude. That’s why so many great performers seem to be able to dance, sing, play instruments, act, and have remarkable hobbies such as writing or painting. However, Miley states that her favorite hobby is shopping.

So, what happens when one gets too much can-do? Right. The person feels they ‘can-do’ sex, drugs, belligerence, you name it, to excess. Considering her background, I believe she should be praised for her restraint. This biographer believes that after a few years of experimentation, she will settle down to be a great example indeed, just like her parents. These parents, probably exceptionally well-meaning individuals, may have contributed to the current rebellious attitude. Perhaps you can imagine being brought up by two people who realize they are examples to millions and so always do their very best to ‘act right.’ And, of course they’d be constantly imparting to their children that they have to act right also. Imagine the pressure!

Some miscellaneous Miley facts:

In her late teens, she was diagnosed with tachycardia – a non-fatal abnormal racing of the heartbeat which can exceed 100 beats per minute.

Miley was born left-handed. Her dad thought it would be a good idea to have her learn to write right-handed, so now, she does write with her right hand, but her left hand is dominant for everything else.

According to, “When she was very young, Miley used to go onto the stage after her father had performed, and she’d help collect the flowers and homemade bracelets that people threw at him. Then they would go and donate everything to a local hospital.”

Her net worth is reportedly over $120 million.

Thomas Edison

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Thomas Edison

When Thomas Edison was twelve years old, he had a job selling newspapers on a commuter train. He had set up a printing press to make his own newspapers, and thereby increase his profits. He also set up a chemistry lab, to indulge his already well-developed scientific curiosity. One day, as the train went around a particularly tight turn, some of Edison’s phosphorus fell on the floor and started a small fire. As the train came into the station, and the conductor discovered the problem, Tom tried to run away. The conductor pulled him back up into the train by his ears. “I felt something snap inside my head,” Edison said. From that time until his death, he was hard of hearing.

Emile Coue

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Emile Coue

One of the most helpful people mankind has ever seen was Emile Coue (1857-1926) of France.

He told people to say to themselves 20 times in a row, twice a day: “Every day, in every way, I am getting better and better.” This actually cured thousands of people of an assortment of minor and major ills.

In French if you prefer, “Tous les jours, a tous points de vue, je vais de mieux en mieux.”

Try it, it can’t hurt you (unless somebody overhears, but then you can do it silently), and it might just work to get you over the flu, a toothache, aches and pains, whatever is bothering you.

This is a serious suggestion. Scientists have proven beyond doubt that people can improve their health with a positive mental attitude. In many hospitals, cancer patients are now being taught to mentally picture (or actually draw pictures of) their cells surrounding and dissolving tumors.

Albert Einstein

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Albert Einstein

In 1905 Albert Einstein wrote his famous Special Theory of Relativity. It was published in a scientific journal that same year, but took many years to gain general acceptance. In fact, it was not proven by actual experiment until 25 years later.

Two years after that paper was published, Einstein wanted a job as assistant professor of mathematics. This job required the applicant to submit a thesis paper, so Einstein submitted his Special Theory of Relativity. The university rejected it.

Dr. Einstein was once taking some notes on some thoughts he was having while attending a lecture. Everyone stood up and started applauding, and so he stood up and started clapping also. Upon looking around to see who was being honored, he discovered it was he who they were all applauding.

He was asked to run for the office of President of Israel, but he declined.

“I have little patience with scientists who take a board of wood, look for its thinnest part, and drill a great number of holes where drilling is easy.” – Albert Einstein

“Knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand.” – Albert Einstein

Chelsea Clinton

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Chlesea Clinton

Bill and Hilary Clinton’s daughter Chelsea, born in 1980, was named after the Joni Mitchell song “Chelsea Morning.” Chelsea is a vegetarian (“I’m a big health-food freak and a vegetarian devotee.”). Chelsea lives in a neighborhood of Manhattan called Chelsea.

Chelsea Victoria Clinton says her parents were “firm but fair.”

The Secret Service code name for Chelsea was “Energy.” She has also been nicknamed “CC.”

Hilary Clinton

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Hilary Clinton

The first words Hilary Rodham said to her future husband, Bill Clinton, were: “If you’re going to keep staring at me, I might as well introduce myself.”

In what some may say is typical governmental paranoia, the White House asked Wellesley College to suppress Hilary Clinton’s senior thesis about political activist Saul Alinsky who specialized in somewhat left-wing, non-violent, social justice organization in Chicago and elsewhere in the 1930s to the 1960s.

After Hilary left the White House as First Lady, the 92-page document was made public in a limited way – it had to be read in person at the Wellesley library. Turns out it contains nothing subversive, nothing incriminating, nothing shocking.

The name Hilary means cheerful or happy in Latin.

P. T. Barnum

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“This is a trading world and men, women and children, who cannot live on gravity alone, need something to satisfy their gayer, lighter moods and hours, and he who ministers to this want is in a business established by the Author of our nature. If he worthily fulfills his mission and amuses without corrupting, he need never feel that he has lived in vain.” – P. T. Barnum, Nineteenth Century producer of shows, museums and circuses.

PT Barnum

“Long ago I learned that to those who mean right and try to do right, there are no such things as real misfortunes. On the other hand, to such persons, all apparent evils are blessings in disguise.” – P. T. Barnum

Adolf Hitler

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Adolf Hitler

The German OSS was no more fond of Adolf Hitler than the rest of the world. They cooked up a plan to put huge doses of estrogen (‘the female hormone’) in his food, hoping his characteristics would become more feminine. This might cause his followers to wonder what was happening or who was leading them. The drug seems to have had no effect on his political career. No one knows whether the kitchen help actually managed to sneak the drug into his food.

When Adolf Hitler saw a pile of bricks near the church of St. Matthew in Munich, Germany, he said, “That pile of stones will have to be removed.” Someone misunderstood him, thinking he was referring to the whole church. The church was demolished.

Time Magazine listed Adolf Hitler as “Man of the Year for 1938.”

People often wonder how Hitler, with all his crazy ideas and rough manners could become so popular a leader. A great deal of Hitler’s appeal to the masses was that he decided to control the automobile industry. He promised them Volkswagens, cars that every family could afford at a time when there was only one car for every 211 people in Germany. In America at that time, there was one car for every 5.7 people.

Ferdinand Porsche

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Ferdinand Porsche

As you may know, Ferdinand Porsche designed the Volkswagen, and he considered it his greatest achievement. He rated this car more important than his winning race cars because this was a car every family could afford. It was a masterpiece of economical engineering for its time, as is evidenced by the fact that the basic design survived for over 30 years.

During World War II, Hitler commissioned Ferdinand Porsche to design the biggest, heaviest army tank possible. The thing was watertight and so could traverse water. It could cross a river, not by floating, but by crawling across the floor of the river, underwater. The problem with this tank is that it was so heavy it literally demolished the streets and foundations of nearby buildings as it passed due to its weight and vibration.

Ferdinand Porsche went to trade school to be trained as a factory foreman. He got the lowest grades in his class.

Henry Ford

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Henry Ford

After World War II, Henry Ford was offered the Volkswagen factory for free by the English government, then in charge of Germany’s industries. They were looking for someone who could operate the plant, thereby creating hundreds of jobs. Ernest Breech, Ford’s chairman of the board, looked the plant over and said, “Mr. Ford, I don’t think what we are being offered here is worth a damn!”

He was right in a way. At that time the factory had not yet ever produced more than a few hand-crafted prototypes and the workers could only make cars when it wasn’t raining, because large areas of the roof were missing.

One of Henry Ford’s famous quotes came from this Volkswagen thing. When Ferdinand Porsche showed him the plans for Volkswagens, and Ford was asked about his concern of competition, he said, “If anyone can build a car better or cheaper than I can, that serves me right.”

Seventeen years later, Volkswagen was producing a car every eight eight seconds, and Ford could have owned the company.

That wasn’t Henry’s only mistake. When he was around twelve years old, he spent some time watching pots of boiling water on his mother’s wood cook stove. He noticed lids rattling over pots as the pressure of the steam raised them a bit. He figured that if the steam was raising the lids, and if you could trap the steam in a container, the whole container must rise up in the air, right? So, he found a clay teapot, put some water in it, jammed the spout with paper, securely fastened the lid. and placed it on the stove. Then, he sat back and watched, hoping to see the teapot rise into the air. But that’s not what he saw. The pressure in the teapot blew it up, showering the house with shrapnel. One piece broke a window, another broke a mirror. One hit Henry on the chin, leaving a permanent scar.

Fortunately, that did not put Henry off mechanical explorations. His mother warned his father than the boy ‘has to investigate everything,’ and that for his own safety, he should be kept away from farm machinery. Instead, by the time Henry was in his late teens, he had built engine-powered self-propelled wagons, the forerunners of farm tractors. Several years after becoming an adult, he built an automobile in a shed behind his house.

The rest of the story, you know. Henry did not invent the concept of automobiles, even though he made his first ones from scratch. What he invented was a series of ways to mass-produce automobiles. The most important concept being interchangeable parts. Until then, only guns and a few other items were made with all the parts being so identical that they could be assembled quickly.

Count Von der Wense

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German Count Von der Wense was asked by the Nazis to surrender his land for the government Volkswagen plant. They offered payment, however. He took the money and bought other land, but that land was conquered by Russia. Finally, after the war, he ended up with a low-paying job as tour guide of the Volkswagen facilities, on the very land he used to own.

Frank Tower

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Frank Tower was a ship worker who was on the Titanic when it sank, the Empress of Ireland when it sank, and the Lusitania when it sank. He escaped all three times.

Julian Whitaker

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“I trained as a surgeon. I found that the saying about surgeons is true: ‘If your only tool is a hammer, everything starts to look like a nail.’ That’s why surgeons always recommend surgery – what other tools do they have for making you well?” – Dr. Julian Whitaker

Arne H. W. Larsson

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The guy who got the very first heart pacemaker implant in 1958, Arne H. W. Larsson, lived for 43 more years, until age 86 in 2001. That first one wasn’t his only pacemaker. It was replaced with 25 others, keeping him in good health until his last year.

Charles Lindbergh

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Charles Lindbergh

Charles Lindbergh was not the first person to fly non-stop over the Atlantic Ocean. He was the sixty-seventh. He was, however, the first to do it solo.

After his famous flight, he pursued many other interests including environmentalism, with an interest in protecting endangered species. He also put considerable focus into developing an artificial heart. His heart never made it past prototype stage, but was the forerunner of modern heart-lung machines.

The Goofy Computer

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This is a biographical bit not about a person, but about a machine: A computer with the job of issuing traffic citations goofed in September 1989 and sent notices to 41,000 residents of Paris, France informing them that they were charged with murder, prostitution and illegal sale of drugs.

Bob Hail

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Bob Hail jumped out of an airplane. His main chute failed. His backup chute also failed. He smashed into the ground face first. In a moment he got up and walked away with only minor injuries.

Alexander Labret

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A diver, Alexander Labret, found a great shipwreck. He was going to be rich! Every day he went down 162 feet to salvage the valuables. He went down 33 times. Divers are supposed to come up slowly to avoid the bends, a painful and dangerous condition in which bubbles of nitrogen appear in the blood and block circulation because of the rapid decompression of rising quickly from deep, high-pressure water. On his very last dive, Alex was excited and came up more quickly than he should have. He had $350,000, but he was paralyzed for life.

Jack Wurm

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In 1949, Jack Wurm, an unemployed man, was aimlessly walking on a California beach when he came across a bottle that had floated up to the beach containing this message: “To avoid confusion, I leave my entire estate to the lucky person who finds this bottle and to my attorney, Barry Cohen, share and share alike. Daisy Alexander, June 20, 1937.” It was not a hoax. Mr. Wurm received over $6 million from the Alexander estate.

Dale Carnegie

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Dale Carnegie

“Knowledge isn’t power until it’s applied.” – Dale Carnegie

“When we hate our enemies, we are giving them power over us; Power over our sleep, our appetites, our blood pressure, our health and our happiness.” – Dale Carnegie

“I am very fond of strawberries and cream, but I have found that for some strange reason, fish prefer worms. So when I went fishing, I didnĂ­t think about what I wanted. I thought about what they wanted. I didn’t bait the hook with strawberries and cream. Rather, I dangled a worm or grasshopper in front of the fish.” – Dale Carnegie

Dale Carnagie was born on November 22, 1888 on a farm in Maryville, Missouri.

One day while jumping over a fence along with his fellow students in the high school cross-country run, a ring on his finger got caught on the top of the fence, resulting in the instant loss of the finger along with about six inches of tendon. He said it was not particularly painful.

He was able to graduate State Teacher’s College while still living on his family’s farm, getting up to milk the cows at 4 a. m. before attending classes. After college he took jobs as a traveling salesman, first selling correspondence courses, then Armour soap and meat products.

In 1911, he quit his sales job to focus on becoming a Chautauqua lecturer. In those days, Chautauqua was a big thing. Started at Chautauqua Lake in New York, it evolved into hundreds of lecture venues throughout the United States, where the public could learn from and be entertained by a wide variety of speakers and performers. It was not unlike today’s TED Talks, but of course with the limited technology of the day, everyone attended these events in person. Chautauqua didn’t quite work out for Dale, and he found himself gravitating to the stage as an actor, rather than a lecturer. And that didn’t really work either. By 1912, he was living at the YMCA in New York City. In those days, many YMCAs were like lower class hotels for men. One could rent a room for very little money.

YMCAs of the era also offered adult education classes, as many still do today. Dale approached the manager of the Y and asked about a job as a teacher. The manager would only let him teach on a commission basis, figuring he may not get many students. In his first classes, he didn’t really know what to teach, and so experimented with some ideas in communication. He noted that when people are emotionally charged about a topic, they lose some of their fear of public speaking. Within two years, he had turned this finding and other discoveries from his sales and acting careers into a full course on public speaking and was making $500 per week, a spectacular sum back then, on a commission basis.

He continued to lecture to ever larger audiences and started writing books.

His last name was spelled Carnagey until he was 34 years old. He changed it to Carnegie in 1922 so his name would seem more like Andrew Carnegie, one of the most respected businessmen in America at the time.

Not long after, he packed Carnegie Hall for one of his lectures.

He wrote the massively popular book, “How to Win Friends and Influence People” in 1936, at age 48. He also wrote “How to Stop Worrying and Start Living.” The books are still popular today. The Dale Carnegie Course in Effective Speaking and Human Relations is still being taught throughout the world with more than eight million graduates.

Dale died at the age of 66 from Hodgkins’ Lymphoma, a cancer of the white blood cells.

Gary Beacom

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Gary Beacom

Gary Beacom on YouTube


Gary Beacom, born in 1960, started ice skating at age six. As an amateur, he placed third in the Canadian Nationals, and eleventh in the 1983-84 Olympics. He then went on to skate professionally for a number of years entertaining audiences around the world. He won the 1988 World Professional Championships.

Gary is known for amusing innovation, having performed things such as headstands on the ice and skating on his hands.

Unusual at his level of success as a skater, he was his own coach and choreographer.

As an income tax protester, he felt he should not have to pay US income tax, since he was a Canadian citizen performing in America. He spent almost two years in federal prison because the US government did not agree with him. After his incarceration, he wrote a book about his experience.

At the age of 41 (when your author last spoke with him), he had never had a skating injury severe enough to require surgery, which is very unusual for skaters. He attributed this to vegetarianism. He has been a vegan all his life. That’s a person who eats no meat, milk, eggs or food made with any kind of animal products. He is also fourth-generation vegetarian. Vegetarianism was started in his family by his great-grandmother.

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Jeff Napier

Van Moppes Diamond

The Van Moppes diamond, which has 58 facets (traditional number), is a very small diamond. It was created in 1949 and took four months to finish. It was lost 16 times, and recovered each time by burning all the dust collected from the floor with gasoline, leaving the diamond. Since it is too small to see with the unaided eye unless conditions are just right, it comes with a microscope to see it, which has a magnification of 630 times. It was once sent to America to be seen on television, but customs held it for two months, until after the show was to be filmed, because they could not manage to assign a value to it.

Mona Lisa

The Mona Lisa is the most valuable painting in the world, with an estimated value of over 100 million. You’d probably be surprised at the size of the Mona Lisa. It is only 30 by 21 inches (76 x 53 cm), only about the size of an average suitcase.

King Francis I paid Leonardo $50,000 for the Mona Lisa and had it displayed in the Louvre. It has been there ever since except for two years that it was stolen. (1911-1913) During the time it was missing, six different Americans paid $300,000 each for fakes they thought were the stolen painting.

X-ray examination of the Mona Lisa painting shows that the painting is three layers deep. Leonardo da Vinci repainted her three times to get it just right.

Mona Lisa, public domain via Wikimedia Commons