I am destined to die poor (at least financially). I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m just not smart enough to get rich. It’s a tough realization to make, but an email I received today sent the message hard into my cerebrum.

The email contains an invitation to a photo contest for portraiture. I guess they must have gotten my email from various photo sites and camera equipment vendors that I frequent (it’s called “data mining”). It screams: Extended deadline: May 10, 2011. An interesting feature of this contest is that it has Entree Fees of $35 per image submitted. I did a double-take. Entree fees? No wonder the contest was extended (and BTW, there is an additional charge of $10 if you want to benefit from the extended deadline), they didn’t fleece enough suckers and wanted another dip into the stupidity pool!

Now, I’m not saying this isn’t a legitimate contest. But the very idea of paying to submit an entry is frankly ludicrous and plays on the desperation of so many people looking for their “15 minutes”. Think about it: Send the invitation out to 100,000 suckers; even if 10,000 participate it’s a cool $350,000, less the prizes worth a couple of thousand bucks and the web-site development cost (maybe $5K).

What a great way to make money! Hey, why don’t I set up five or six “contests” for everything from poetry to paintings, charge $35 per entry and do this as a business? Sounds like a lottery to me…and I can get to be The House.

Mr. Italo mentioned that he is seeing more and more of these fee-based contests. He likened it to the American Idol phenomenon where viewers pay to vote by telephone. Even if it’s only a dime or a quarter, it quickly adds up to Millions of smackers. That’s the key: A low entry cost and high volume. Brilliant.

Steve’s Third Axiom: You can’t protect yourself part-time, from people committed to taking advantage of you full-time.