Soap bubble economics on the streets of Amsterdam

The weather was beautiful, but I was broke…

That’s me blowing bubbles in Dam Plein, Amsterdam

It was the Summer of 2014 and I’d just arrived in Amsterdam. Having traveled for the last year without income, it was time to earn some solid Euros. There was only one problem- it seemed that nobody would employ me without speaking Dutch. (This is the power of knowing languages- so much more valuable than university degrees when you’re in a foreign country.)

I remembered a guy I’d once seen in Madrid making beautiful soap bubbles in Plaza Mayor with a little girl dancing around and popping them in the sunshine and thought- I can do that!

Bubbles in Plaza Mayor, Madrid

Two days later I was in the Dam Plein making bubbles and figuring it out as I went. I’d stocked up on sticks, string and soap ready for a full days’ bubbling. After trial and error, actually started to make good money- here’s the breakdown.

What didn’t work:

  • Selling little kids soap blowing kits
  • Dressing up like a clown
  • Asking for money
  • Selling the ‘secret bubble mixture’

What did work:

  • Smiling and saying ‘hello’ and ‘thank you’ in as many languages as possible
  • Having 6 bubble wands so the kids could make bubbles and the parents could take photos
  • Making and selling the wands

So how much did I make? I was averaging 20 euros an hour. 80 euro in an afternoon.
 The market was wealthy- Dutch people and tourists with kids. For them, five minutes of their kid having fun and making bubbles while they took photos was easily worth 2 euro.

Now, I’ve seen other guys doing this in several countries in Europe but I don’t think any of made the same kind of money. Why? Because they looked homeless. I am serious. Most guys doing this ‘job’ are unshaven, wearing dirty clothes, do not smile and look like the money is for a can of beer. (As an aside, adding beer to your soap and water will actually make stronger bubbles).

In other words, by being amateur, they get paid amateur money. Meanwhile, by presenting myself professionally, I got paid decently. (Even though I was actually homeless). This is a general principle- to carry out all you do with an attitude of professionalism, an ethic of quality. As Richie Nice says in his motivational video: “Don’t chase the money, chase the dream” (and most of the time, the money will come!). Here is Richie’s video, with a cameo of the The Worldly Bubbleblowing Man- when you’re working hard at anything, open and going for excellence, opportunities find you…

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