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Beating the system, NYC style

June 26th, 2009
Location I used for pictures.

Location I used for pictures.

Conventional wisdom states that not having a college education is the end of one’s earning potential. To test the validity of this paradigm, I used a digital camera, a portable printer, a portable battery, and a power inverter to take pictures of people and print photos on location. I was a walking print shop, charging $5 per photo. The results were beyond my expectations.

Days before, I scoped out a spot I thought was perfect: The Raging Bull in New York’s Bowling Green Park. It turned out to be a terrible location. I only sold one print. After 45 minutes of trying, I gave up, packed my bags, and went to Times Square.

When I arrived, something miraculous happened. My sales skyrocketed 950%. Within 40 minutes, I managed to sell 10 prints worth $50 before my battery died. How much is that in terms of one year’s salary, assuming 40 hour work weeks? $150,000. According to payscale.com, this is on par with the average salary that a doctor of internal medicine makes.

It is hard to extrapolate how much I can make in an average days work, as different hours of the day and different days of the week can affect business. It would be better if I averaged the earnings over several weeks. Some things to note:

  • I had a slow printer that took over a minute to print a picture.
  • The printer broke down once, costing me five minutes to fix. By the time it was fixed, a potential customer had left.
  • This was my first time. A seasoned professional on the streets would identify potential customers much faster.
  • I only had a hat with paper taped on that stated my intentions. A bigger advertisement would be more effective.
  • Times Square may not be the best location to shoot
  • I was not dressed too professionally

Although there is not sufficient evidence to warrant a firm conclusion, I imagine that with faster equipment, more experience, and a better location that I can be making much more. This simple test suggests that some aphorisms may not be true; it is definitely possible to beat the norm. Innovation and timing – two things that aren’t taught in school – are more important to financial success than going through an educational system that may even be hazardous to the mental health. We need to reform our paradigms and ken of education.


  1. Kat Chen
    July 22nd, 2009 at 00:20 | #1

    i love this post. i was in times square only 2 weeks before you!!

  2. Bradley Stone
    February 1st, 2011 at 15:55 | #2

    Hey, I’d really like to know more about this experience. It sounds like a wonderful idea (I’m currently looking for ways like this to make money on the road), and I calculated that I’d probably make $40,000 per year very easily, covering all my necessary expenses and getting a profit on my initial investment super quick.

    I have some questions, of course:

    -How much was your photo printer/what was the brand?

    -How much does ink and paper cost? (I assume you were using high grade)

    -What do you mean by “portable battery”?

    -Did some people seem to turn away because you had a small/non-professional camera?

    If you find the time I’d love to hear back from you. You’re next to Tyler Durden on my inspiration list right now.

    -B. Stone

  3. Jenn
    October 12th, 2012 at 04:14 | #3

    You’re so clever. I always walk by those people and try not to make eye contact, or be accosted by their ploys or sales tactics. However, I can imagine seeing you on 42nd, and wondering what an Asian guy, with a shaved head, wearing a North Face vest, and white vneck – khaki pants, is doing? I might stopped for you, kekekee… O_o Where are those baggy jeans you speak of? I still remember your first outfit, when I met you : Pink Ralph Lauren Polo, plaid shorts, and those cool Ray-bannish yet nondescript black shades with neon yellow legs. i was like, this boise has mad style. Who knew that such thoughts sprung forth from within your stylish appearance? Didn’t know man, but I’m in so awe right now. Thanks for being you, Drew! 😀

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