The Golden Greeks – The Romance of Maria Callas and Aristotle Onassis

MARIA CALLAS AND ARISTOTLE ONASSIS

The career of Maria Callas had already begun its downward slide when she was introduced to Aristotle Onassis. It was 1957 and she was 35 years old. She had been married to the elderly, short, squat Giovanni Battista Meneghini for ten years.

Maria found some comfort for her diminishing artistic success in high society. Elsa Maxwell gave an elegant party for Maria in Venice. Before she knew it, Aristotle Onassis had managed to inveigle the seat next to hers at the dinner table. For the next seven days, wherever she was he appeared next to her as if by magic. She found it flattering and pleasant, but for the time being, nothing more.

Then the morning before a gala charity concert for a Legion d’Honneur in 1958, Maria received a huge bunch of red roses, with good wishes in Greek, signed Aristotle Onassis. Another huge bunch of red roses arrived at lunch, also with good wishes in Greek, signed Aristotle. And just as she was about to leave for the opera house came another bunch of roses, also with good wishes in Greek. This time there was no signature on it. Maria knew who had sent it…

On June 17, after a performance of MEDEA at Covent Garden, Maria and her husband attended a reception at the Dorchester where they met Aristotle Onassis again. This time Maria was ready….

Next he organized a party for her which literally left her gasping. The Meneghinis were millionaires, but compared to Onassis, they felt like a poor relatives. He invited forty people to come as his guests to the opera and then one hundred and sixty to a party at the Dorchester. It was more lavish than any ever given for Maria before, even by Elsa Maxwell. The ballroom was decorated entirely in orchid pink and overflowing with matching roses. She had often heard the expression, “Your wish is my command,” but this was the first time in her life she had seen it in action. Aristotle never left her side and no request of hers was too small for him to grant. When she casually mentioned she liked tangos, he rushed up to the bandleader with fifty pounds in his hand. After that nothing but tangos were played all evening. They didn’t leave the Dorchester until after 3 o’clock in the morning. In the foyer, the Meneghinis and Onassis were photographed in a hug, Aristotle on one side of Maria and Meneghini on the other. The shot turned out to be prophetic.

Ari kept inviting her all evening to come and cruise with him and Tina on the Christina. He was hard to resist and poor Meneghini didn’t offer much competition. For a little girl from a lower middle class neighborhood in Washington Heights, it was a fairy tale, a dream come true. In spite of Meneghini’s impassioned protests, they were going cruising on the Christina.

Maria went shopping in Milan, where she spent millions of lire on bathing suits, vacation outfits, and lingerie. A sophisticated friend later told Maria that a woman always buys new lingerie when she is about to have an affair. She was right, but Maria didn’t know it yet; she told herself she just wanted to look nice on the trip.

On board the three million dollar sea palace as large as a football field were Winston Churchill and his wife and daughter, Gianni Agnelli and his wife, and many other well known Greek, American, and English personalities. Maria ran about the ship like a school girl, exclaiming at each new discovery, now the solid gold fixtures shaped like dolphins in each bathroom, now her enormous, beautifully decorated cabin and marble bathroom with adjoining boudoir and limitless closet space for all her beautiful new clothes (a suite, incidentally, which she never used later unless Ari and she had a fight), now the real El Greco in Ari’s study, the fabulous jeweled Buddha, the swimming pool decorated with a mosaic reproduction of a fresco from the Palace of Knossos, the huge oak paneled lounge with a majestic grand piano at one end and a lapis lazuli fireplace at the other, and Ari’s private bathroom that looked like a temple, and the bath, inlaid with flying fish and dolphins, which was an exact copy of the one in King Minos’s lost Palace of Knossos in Crete. Ari, who had fussed like a housewife over every detail, was in raptures over each of Maria’s enthusiastic outbursts. The ship boasted a crew of sixty, including two chefs, one French, one Greek. The guests were given a choice of menus, but Maria, who had lost a great deal of weight, was still eating mostly raw meat and salads. But since she had a habit of sneaking bits of food from everyone else’s plates, she got at least a sampling of the fine cuisine.

The trip was literally an eye opener for her, a staid Italian matron who believed in fidelity and monogamy. She was shocked to see many of the guests sunbathing without any clothes on, and some of them openly playing around with other people’s mates on deck. Aristotle was one of those walking around naked. He was very hairy, like a gorilla, Battista said. Maria’s reaction to his nudity was the second sign that she was becoming another person. She had always been a bit of a prude. She wouldn’t sing the Dance of the Seven Veils in Richard Strauss’s SALOME because she had to take off her clothes. But when she saw Ari walking around like that, she giggled like a school girl. She had never seen a nude man besides Battista.

For Maria, it was a magnificent three week voyage. Their plans were to stop first at Portofino, a toy port on the coast of Italy, and then go on to Capri for sight-seeing. Then they would sail from the Mediterranean through the Aegean Sea to the Gulf of Corinth. From there they planned a sight seeing trip of Delphi, sailing on to Izmir, the Turkish name for Ari’s boyhood home, and then on up to the Dardanelles to Istanbul and home again.

Maria’s enthusiasm was not shared by Meneghini. He got crabbier and crabbier the further along they got on their voyage. He was interested in neither the ship nor the other guests, and spent his time whining about the way they were slighting him. Maria found his griping and endless criticism of Aristo increasingly irritating. She kept comparing his sluggish demeanor with Ari’s vigor and passion for life, and Battista fell far short. He was only nine years older than Ari, but Maria felt but he acted like his grandfather.

Maria was drunk with the fresh sea air, the cloudless blue skies, and the company of Onassis. By the time they reached Piraeus, the weather became so stormy Meneghini and most of the other guests took to their staterooms, leaving Aristo and Maria practically alone. They sat in the deserted games room basking before the fire in the lapis lazuli fireplace. The sparkle of the flames lit up the deep blue of the lapis, and was reflected in his eyes, which were black and round as Greek olives. The room was dimly lit, and once in a while it was brilliantly illuminated by a flash of lightening. Once during such a flash Maria saw her own eyes mirrored in his. She took it as an omen. His eyes, her eyes, it was all the same to Maria.

The motion of the ship on the stormy seas rocked them back and forth, so she was almost in a trance as they sat there talking all night long. They talked mostly in Greek, or, rather, Ari did. He told her all about his boyhood, where he came into the world seventeen years before Maria in Smyrna near the coast of Turkey. Later he had the captain stop the ship there so he could show her the house where he was born. He spoke about the Greek quarters where he was brought up, and of his father and uncle, who were flourishing merchants of cotton, tobacco, and anything else that would grow in the Anatalyan area. Then without making a play for sympathy, he described his mother’s death during a kidney operation when he was only six. He told her of his father’s subsequent remarriage to his aunt, and of his beloved grandmother. He also said he had been a choirboy and boasted with a beguiling smile that he, too, had a good voice. She found him enchanting, and knew other women did, too. He had been a ladies’ man from the time he pinched his English teacher’s bottom and was suspended from school. He was incorrigible from the beginning, and made love for the first time when he was only thirteen. When Maria thought she was twice that age when she had her first sexual experience, she was embarrassed!

He also told her of the horrors in his life that surpassed Maria’s experiences during the Second World War. He had lived through the Turkish attack on Smyrna and had seen thousands of Greeks tortured and killed. At age sixteen he rescued his father from the cruel Turks, who massacred one million Greeks in Turkish Asia Minor between 1918 and 1923. Then he told Maria of crossing the sea in a filthy boat crammed with a thousand immigrants in steerage until his arrival at Buenos Aires on September 21, 1923. It amazed Maria that six weeks before she was born, Ari was already an experienced man on his way to success. He soon started his career with the telephone company and, by the time he was twenty-four, had become Greek vice-consul general in Argentina. Shortly after he found the two Canadian ships with which he began his stunning career.

On August 4 they dropped anchor at the foot of Mount Athos, where an incident happened that was to change Maria’s life forever. They were received by the Patriarch Athenagoras, and knelt side by side to receive his blessing. Speaking in Greek, he called them “the world’s greatest singer and the greatest seaman of the modern world, the new Ulysses.” When he thanked them for the honors they had brought to the Greek world, Maria’s eyes filled with tears. It was as if he were performing a solemn marriage ceremony. Somehow she felt he brought her God’s permission to be together with Ari, and her last resistance crumbled. After that they were man and wife in their minds, and a few hours later, in their bodies.

That night there was a party at the Istanbul Hilton for the guests of the Christina. Meneghini said he felt too tired and weak to attend and remained on board the ship. When Maria returned at five in the morning, he was waiting up for her and demanded to know why she was so late. Maria knew she couldn’t keep up the farce any longer. “I am in love with Ari,” she said.

A week after the Christina had docked in Istanbul, the Meneghinis left the ship on one of Onassis’ private planes and flew to Milan, and then promptly left for Sirmione. Maria wore a bracelet with the initials TMWL (To Maria With Love) engraved on it.

Parting from Ari left a hole in Maria’s heart, which she filled by fantasizing the whole night long he would come get her. To her great surprise, to say nothing of Battista’s, at nine o’clock the next morning they heard a voice outside her window singing, “Maria, Maria!” It was Aristo. He told Battista, “I’ve come to marry your wife.”

At four o’clock in the morning, she left with Aristo for Milan. He then flew to Venice to discuss divorce with Tina.

For the first time in her life, Maria was madly in love with a man in love with her. It was too much to take in all at once. She was flooded with so much feeling she felt she couldn’t bear it. Then she would remind herself that despite the blessing of the Patriarch Athenagoras, she was having an affair with a married man, and this would calm her down a bit. Then she appeased her conscience with the knowledge that she and Ari would try to get divorces and marry as soon as possible.

People said Callas’ whole personality changed, that her sharp edges had melted and she had become a softer, gentler person. Even poor Battista said she was a different woman. For the first time in her life she was happy. She had the feeling of being kept in a cage so long that when she met Aristo, bursting with vigor and zest for life, she became another woman. Even Antonio Ghiringhelli, the taciturn and enigmatic manager of La Scala, succumbed to her new temperament. The iceman actually smiled with his whole face when he asked Maria to return to La Scala on her own terms and to sing anything she wanted. She arrived in Milan on September 2 in wonderful spirits to begin rehearsals for the new recording.

Her happiness was somewhat flawed by the press and photographers, who persecuted her mercilessly. The throngs were so numerous and unruly she needed physical protection to keep from being mauled. On one occasion they caught Ari and Maria dining tete-a-tete at the Rendez-vous in Milan, and at three o’clock that morning they were photographed going into the Hotel Principe e Savoia arm in arm. In order to increase Maria’s chances of getting a divorce by mutual consent, her lawyers insisted she issue a statement to the press saying: “I confirm that the break between my husband and myself is complete and final. It has been in the air for some time, and the cruise on the Christina was only coincidental….I am now my own manager. I ask for understanding in this painful personal situation,” she said sweetly. “Between Signor Onassis and myself there exists a profound friendship that dates back some time. I am also in a business connection with him. When I have further things to say, I shall do so at the opportune moment.”

Maria despised living a lie, which she knew no one believed anyhow. Aristo was also attacked by reporters, but he was more honest than Maria. “Of course,” he said, “how could I help but be flattered if a woman with the class of Maria Callas fell in love with someone like me? Who wouldn’t?”

On September 10, as soon as the GIOCONDA recording was finished, Maria rushed to the Milan airport to board the private plane Ari had sent for her. From there she flew to Venice, where she excitedly boarded the Christina. Aristo was exuberant and triumphantly marked her arrival by setting off the loud, blasting siren announcing the departure of the Christina. Only two other guests were along this time, Ari’s sister, Artemis and her husband Theodore Garoufalidis.

Tina was not on board. She had taken her children a few days before and fled to Paris to the home of her father, the respected Greek shipowner, Stavros Livanos. Aristo, who was upset about the children, followed her in his private plane to make a half-hearted gesture of reconciliation. But Tina was not about to forgive him for the public humiliation to which he had subjected her. This left Ari free to do what he really wanted, to sail on the Christina with Maria Callas.

What a dream voyage it was, with both of them relaxed and at peace with themselves! Their love was just what the Good Doctor ordered. They soaked up the sun all day long, swam for hours in the sun drenched Mediterranean, and were free to make love all night.

Luxuriating in her new happiness left Maria unwilling to give up one moment of it. She was so immersed in the timelessness of the present she paid no attention to her career. She was sick and tired of being a sexless nun, and was relieved to leave it behind her. Nevertheless, she was shocked when a newspaper compared the number of appearances she had made pre and post-Ari. In 1958, she gave twenty-eight performances of seven operas in six cities all over the world. In 1960 she gave only seven performances of two operas in two cities, and in 1961 her schedule showed just five performances, all of MEDEA at Epidaurus and La Scala. The decline continued even more rapidly in 1962, when she sang MEDEA twice at La Scala. And in 1963 she gave no performances at all. In 1964, sadly enough, Maria Callas made the last stage appearance of her life.

But like most heavenly sojourns on earth, Maria’s utopia was short lived. Or perhaps it would be nearer correct to say it became sporadic, as a new phase of their relationship began. Like many men, once Ari had Maria for his own, he became much more difficult. Now he played the one hard to get. Gone were the days of the Dorchester when every wish of hers was his command. Now his pleasure became primary to both of them. To Maria’s despair, he spent time with his wife, trying to woo her back. He began to date other women. He behaved like a typical Greek man and Maria a typical Greek woman, whose philosophy is that a man cannot really change himself, but a woman must be able transform herself to suit her man.

Now he became withdrawn and difficult, now staying away for as much as a week, not even phoning when he didn’t feel like it. Nor would he answer her calls. She would be in a panic for days at a time. He had all the power in the relationship: She could only sit and wait for his call.

Then suddenly, for no reason she could understand, he would begin to phone again every day and send her flowers. Or he would show up unexpectedly or send for her. She was so happy to see him she overlooked being hurt and angry. Each return was like another honeymoon.

They talked a lot about getting married. When Ari said once more he would marry her, Maria made an announcement to the press. Ari told reporters it was just a childish prank and purely Maria’s fantasy! She was a good little girl again and said nothing. How she had changed from the Xanthippe who was married to Meneghini!

Ari behaved like a pasha, and when he didn’t want Maria along on the voyages of the Christina, he had no compunctions about kicking her off. No excuse was necessary.

Meanwhile, Tina was going about getting her divorce, in spite of Aristotle’s pleas for a reconciliation. Maria was overjoyed when he agreed to look at a chateau with her in Eure-et-Loire. The divorce came through a month later. The chateau never did.

Maria had agreed to give two performances of NORMA in August in Greece. It had almost a religious significance for Ari that his mistress score a triumph at historic Epidaurus. He put everything else aside for her those weeks, and they were deliriously happy again as they spent almost all their time together. When he loved her everything seemed possible. And, indeed, the performance on August 24 turned out to be one of the peak experiences of her life. Maria loved Ari as he was and accepted all his weaknesses along with the qualities she admired in him. He, on the other hand, was constantly trying to change her. He didn’t like the way she dressed, and actually phoned Biki, one of Milan’s most important fashion designers, during Maria’s fittings to make sure her new clothes would be to his taste. He said she looked plain in her glasses. Since Maria was unable to tolerate contacts, she walked about the ship half blind, holding her glasses in her hand. He didn’t like her long hair either, which had always been her glory. So he sent her to Alexandre in Paris, who cut her hair while she kept her hands over her eyes. To her surprise, she loved the short, bouncy hairstyle he created, and thought it made her look younger and more sophisticated.

Thus the years passed, with Maria ever hopeful and Onassis ever more brutal. In 1963, Lee Radziwell, Jackie Kennedy’s sister, who was on board the Christina, left to fly to her sister’s bedside, where she had just given birth to Patrick Bouvier Kennedy, who died two days later. When Lee returned to Athens, she told Ari and Maria how desolate and distraught her sister was. Ari immediately offered Mrs. Kennedy the use of the Christina for her convalescence. She eagerly accepted, although neither the president nor Maria shared her enthusiasm. President Kennedy objected to his wife’s cruise because Onassis had been indicted during the Eisenhower administration for conspiring to defraud the American government of taxes on surplus American ships. He had to pay the government seven million dollars to get off the hook. And Maria – she had vague anxieties she didn’t understand. She only knew she felt desolate and lonely at the thought of Mrs. Kennedy’s presence on board, and strangely enough, found herself trembling with fear.

Her voice continued to go down hill. Just when she needed him the most, Aristo became impossible, and in 1967 they had their worst summer together yet. Ingse Dedichen, his lover during World War Two, told a friend Ari had beaten her up until she looked “like a boxer who has lost a fight.” He told her afterward every Greek without exception beats up his wife. “It is good for them,” he said. “It keeps them in line.”

He never beat Maria physically – he probably knew that was the one thing he couldn’t get away with – but his treatment of her was almost as brutal. No curse was too vile to hurl at her, no words of abuse too insulting. She was told to shut up because she was only a stupid dame whose nose was too big, with glasses that made her look ugly and legs that were too fat. He was not above saying she was just a cunt with a whistle in her throat who was good only for fucking. And always in front of people, to make her humiliation that much more painful.

Aristo was having his own difficulties, both with his old friend Vergottis, who later sued him and lost, and with Prince Ranier, who was trying to unseat Ari as the person with the controlling interest in the State of Monaco. Ari loved his power over the principality, and gloried every time he took a step into Monaco. For him, it was the crowning jewel of his life. In a brilliant move, the prince created 600,000 shares in the company, and offered to buy out any shares of the existing shareholders at the market rate, thus giving him and his stockholders complete power over the destiny of his country. Ari appealed to the courts and lost. A defeated man, he left Monaco, not to return until shortly before he died.

Of all the possible times of her life it could have happened, Maria picked the moment when their relationship was at its lowest point to become pregnant. She couldn’t wait to tell Ari about it. She wanted to have a baby more than she ever wanted anything in my life besides him, and the thought of bearing the child of the man she loved filled her with tenderness. But Ari had other ideas.

“Why should I want another child?” he said. “I already have two.”

“But Aristo,” Maria pleaded, “I have always wanted a child. It is a miracle I’m pregnant at all at the age of forty-three. If I don’t have this baby, I will never have another.”

“Have it then,” he said, “and it will be the end of our relationship.”

Maria had the abortion. But it marked the end of their love affair, even though they stayed together for a few years longer.

Maria didn’t know what to do. She couldn’t live with him and she couldn’t live without him. She was forty-three years old and had never had a place of her own. So she compromised and got her own apartment in Paris.

The turning point came when Ari’s servants, George and Helen, told a friend they had been ordered to spend an entire evening in their rooms while Ari entertained and cooked for a “special guest” himself. Maria knew Aristo had been having affairs all along. But she knew intuitively that this incident was different. She remained agitated and anxious and began to find it impossible to sleep without taking pills.

She soon found out who the “special guest” was. The newspapers reported seeing Ari and Jackie Kennedy dining together at El Morocco, 21, Dionysis, and at Mykonos with Christina, Nureyev, and Margot Fonteyn. Gossips were already listing him among Jackie’s possible suitors.

The crisis occurred when Maria returned to the Christina and Ari instructed her to go back to Paris and wait for him there.

“Go to Paris?” she said. “Nobody stays in Paris in August. You must be mad.”

“You have to go,” he insisted.

“I have to? What are you talking about?”

“I’m having a special guest aboard and you can’t be here.”

“Who could be so special that I can’t be aboard?”

He didn’t answer, but it didn’t matter. Maria already knew the answer.

“Then I’m leaving you,” she said.

“Don’t be silly. I’ll see you after the cruise is over in September,” he said.

“No, Ari. You don’t understand. I said I’m leaving you. You will never see me again.” And she left, never to return.

Then on October 20, 1968, Maria got the news she had prayed she would never hear. Ari’s butler called to tell her Aristotle and Kennedy were going to be married.

Maria did what she could to pass the time. She attended the opera next to Ghiringhelli, made a movie, taught a master class at Jiulliard. In the meantime, Ari was becoming disillusioned with Jackie’s lavish buying sprees of jewelry and clothing and he was beginning to realize she was taking him for a fool. He kept calling and sending Maria flowers, but for a long time her pride was too hurt and she refused to talk with him. Finally in 1969 they met at a party and little by little, began to see each other again.

The climax came after they had spent four nights together when he took her to dine at Maxim’s for the whole world to see. Maria was ecstatic, and believed Jackie was just another paramour to be forgotten. But the lady had other ideas. When she saw the newspaper photos of her husband and Maria dining together with blissful smiles, she was furious and flew immediately to his side. She insisted he repeat the drama of the day before at Maxim’s with her in Maria’s place. The next day Maria was admitted to the American Hospital at Neuilly with the diagnosis of “overdose of barbiturates.”

For the first time since Ari’s marriage, Maria returned to Greece, this time as the guest of Perry Embiricos on his private island of Tragonisi in the Aegean. Perry was a friend of Onassis, who had introduced Maria to him. To her surprise who should show up on the island but Aristo! He greeted Maria with a kiss, and from then on they resumed their relationship.

Thus, surviving his marriage, Maria was able to hang on by the tips of her fingernails until March, 1975, when Onassis became critically ill with incurable myasthenia gravis.

Maria had been getting daily reports about his progress from the American Hospital in Paris, where he had gone for surgery. He never recovered consciousness, and was kept alive for five weeks by a respirator and intravenous feedings. Maria knew he was dying and she was not allowed to be by his side. The doctors said it could go on for weeks or even months. Her suffering was unendurable.

On March 12, she received her last report from the American Hospital. Aristo was dead.

Maria was slowly dying from the loss of her career. He had flashed into her life like a bolt of lightning across a dark summer sky; where there’d been nothing suddenly there was Aristo. Her friends and staff were considerate, thoughtful, and loving. But it meant nothing, nothing. He was her core, her life. How could she live without him?

On September 16, 1977, at the age of 53, Maria Callas was found dead in her bed. The official story was that she died of a heart attack. But no autopsy was permitted, and her cremation took place almost immediately. Heart attack? Perhaps. But there are those of us who believe Maria when she said, “I’ve played heroines who die for love – and that’s something I can understand.”

Seven Ideas For Starting a Home Based Business

Forget get-rich-quick programs. If you want to earn some extra money in your extra time, or if you are a stay-at-home mom, take a look at these ideas for starting a home based business. They require a very small investment (less than $100) to get started, and have been tested and proven prosperous by thousands of people.

1. Direct Sales

No matter what your interests and hobbies are, there is a company out there selling products for it. They are recognized as Direct Sale Companies. You earn money through person-to-person sales, retail, home parties or fundraising. Some companies will bestow you with a website for online sales.

The worst thing about this type of job is that is based solely on commission and you need to sell consistently in order to bring in a profit. The good part? Commissions are usually high (20-50%) and you can earn free merchandise as a reward for good sales.

To get started, you need to invest in a Starter Kit from the company, which usually includes sample products, brochures or catalogs, and all necessary forms and applications.

Some companies with a proven record of good sales are: Pampered Chef (sells cookware, kitchen gadgets, and seasonings; Starter Kit is $90), Petra Fashions (lingerie; Bronze Kit is $79; others available), Discovery Toys (educational toys, books, games, and software; Standard Kit, $99), Country Bunny Bath & Body (bath, body, and spa products; their Managing Services Program is $89), White Lily Candles (Choice Kit, $80; cheaper kits are available).

2. Sell Discount Healthcare Plans

Discount benefits plans can be medical only, or cover dental, vision, prescription, and sometimes chiropractic services. They are aimed to people without insurance that want to save money on medical assistance. This is a relatively new service, so there is little competition out there and a potential for great income.

Although you start with direct sales, you can also make money by persuading other brokers, which would earn a commission for you with every sale they make.

AmeriPlan is the top selling plan on the market. You pay $95 for the Basic Broker Kit and then $35 each month to continue as a broker. This includes a free coverage plan for you and all household members and a free website to promote your business. You earn a 30% commission on every enrollment.

3. Sell Crafts

If you are an artist of some kind, you already have the foundation for a new business. Ceramics and pottery are particularly saleable, but you can branch into anything you like, from wood ornaments to pressed flowers to scrapbooking.

Start small, attending craft or county fairs, flea markets, or renaissance fairs. Talk to other artists to see what sells and what doesn’t. If you form a friendship with another crafter, you can offer to share the expenses of a booth with him or her. In smaller fairs, you can buy your own table. Unless you think of participating only in fine art and juried shows, keep in mind that most crafts are impulse buys and they should be priced accordingly (usually under $50).

Other places to sell your crafts are consignment shops and farmers markets. Also check sampler, an online magazine that will advertise your crafts for a small commission on sales.

4. Private Tutor

If you are qualified in an academic subject, you could take up tutoring. Math and foreign languages are always in demand, but many other subjects work as well. You can also offer after-school assistance with homework or test preparation.

Another alternative is to teach an arts and crafts or any other specialty class at a local community center. After you’ve gained some experience, or if you are truly an expert, search for a Learning Annex and examine the possibilities of teaching a workshop or presenting a lecture.

There is little to no investment required to set up this business, unless you count some incidentals, such as office supplies and maybe some used books (visit library sales for this) on the subject you are considering to teach.

5. Cleaning Services

Begin by advertising in the service directory of your local newspaper and taking on small, general house cleaning jobs until you get used to the dynamics of it. Later on you can pursuit companies, building managers, office directors, etc. for large scale jobs, which offer the benefit of being more regular and can guarantee a fixed income.

Most jobs will provide you with their own cleaning supplies, so there is little investment required on your part aside from advertising expenses.

Although not mandatory in many cities, consider getting licensed. Not only it will provide some sort of insurance should something happen to you while at work, but it will also open doors to major companies that may be hesitant to hire you otherwise.

6. Consulting Services

A consultant is an expert in any subject who helps others make the best of an event or a situation. A prime example is the bridal consultant, who’s in charge of planning a wedding to the minimum detail. Other popular areas of consulting: Art, Image, Feng Shui, and Websites & Computers. Event Planners are also consultants with a different name; so are Life Coaches, a very popular and rewarding enterprise nowadays.

Find a niche you can fill. Although there are thousands of Feng Shui consultant, you can differentiate yourself by specializing in Feng Shui for busy people or Feng Shui for the newborn.

Start by picking a area you enjoy and learning as much as you can about it. Find an online class, attend workshops and lectures, or consider a professional degree if one is available on your field.

Build a portfolio. Offer your services for free to friends and family members in exchange for reference letters. Take a few representative photographs of the final product for your portfolio.

A good place to get started is The Association of Professional Consultants (CONSULTAPC).

7. Pet Services

Pet Sitting – Just as the name infers, it entails taking care of animals, usually when the owners go away on vacation. Many pet sitters take animals into their own homes (works only if you have the space and no pets of your own) or visit the animals twice daily. Do not limit yourself to dogs and cats. There is an ever increasing market for owners of birds, fish, and other small animals.

Dog Trainer – Dog trainers help with proper housetraining methods, teach animals to follow commands, and provide assistance with choosing the right type of breed for every individual. They can also handle common behavior problems (excessive barking, biting, etc.) and train animals for shows and competitions. The National Association of Dog Obedience Instructors (NADOI) offers assistance to potential dog trainers, as well as a certification exam. Check their website for more information.

Dog Walker – Although the primary responsibility is simply to take the animals out for a walk, many dog walkers do much more than that. To set yourself apart, you can learn to plan exercise routines for overweight pets, administer medications, or offer pet boarding as part of your service. Most dog walkers take several dogs at a time and charge by the hour; you can also offer the option of “private walking” and charge more.

Dog Groomer – Dog groomers are in charge of maintaining the overall appearance of the animal, including trimming and shampooing the coat, nail clipping, and brushing and combing. Many start working at pet shops or boarding kennels to gain experience before opening their own business. Mobile dog grooming is a flourishing business, which entails the groomer driving to the client’s house, usually in a van, which is equipped with all necessary tools for a complete grooming. For more information, check the NDGAA (National Dog Groomers Association of America) website.

It’s always a good idea to be prepared for emergency situations. The American Red Cross offer a First Aid/CPR for Pets certification. Even if you never have a need for it, it would show potential clients you are a serious professional.

11 Psychological Triggers To Boost Your Conversion Rate

Instincts are triggered by our brain to alert us to threats. We are programmed to respond to some instincts, such as fear, without any conscious thought to protect us from harm. As such fear and other instincts are powerful behavioural motivators and can be targeted by marketers to cut through the noise that surrounds us.

1. Use messages and images of death or dangerous events:

Fear activates and puts our information and emotional processing systems on high alert. This ensures we notice material that conveys danger and inspires fear or even death. Provided the images or messages are relevant to your product or service, try testing content that portrays danger or fear. If used appropriately they may help get an emotional response that is more powerful than conventional communication strategies.

2. Frame messages around potential losses rather than gains:

Unconsciously people are more motivated by the fear of loss than of the anticipation of gains. By framing communications around a potential loss (e.g. Don’t miss out on our latest offer) rather than the conventional approach you can create a more instinctive and emotional response. Loss aversion is probably a brands strongest loyalty driver and should be employed to help retain existing customers and attract new ones. Test headlines that are framed from a loss perspective against one that is not to see if your visitors respond accordingly.

When you identify that visitors are going to abandon a transaction or leave your site try testing messaging around what they will lose out on. Frame your messages around the loss of key benefits from your proposition when targeting existing customers who may be in danger of lapsing or switching to a competitor.

3. Let potential customers try out your product or service for free:

People value things that they own more highly than items they don’t have. This is called the endowment affect and experiments have shown that people put a higher value on things that they own, even if only partially. The ownership of goods appears to increase the perceived value of an item, especially for goods that are not frequently traded.

Free trials and samples works in a number of ways. Ownership (even if only as part of a trial) increases the perceived value of the item, it reduces the perceived risk of responding to the campaign (i.e. there is no cost), and our aversion to loss means that we are often loath giving something up once we have given it a test drive. Further, free offers can also trigger regret that people may think they will feel if they don’t take up the promotion.

4. Use limited offers or show stock levels to convey scarcity:

It always amazes me that many websites display promotional offers without any prominent end date. People value scarce or limited offers more than products that are perceived to be commonly available. Experiments have demonstrated that people are drawn to items that appear to have limited availability because of a fear of loss and a potential for regret.

We are particularly motivated by scarcity when we believe we are in competition with other people. This may be because our herd instinct uses scarcity as an indicator of popularity amongst our peers. Social validation is especially important when we are in an uncertain or new situation as we have no experience to fall back on. Make sure you demonstrate your site’s popularity for this very reason.

5. Use humour to encourage people to try something new:

People like to stick with well-known brands when they are sad or scared. We are more risk averse when feeling emotionally vulnerable. However, when we are in a good mood we are comfortable and more open to trying something new. Use humour to engage people when you want them to try something new.

Humour breaks down barriers and makes us feel more positive about a situation. Research at Radboud University in the Netherlands found that humour distracts our natural resistance to advertising and creates a positive brand association. Humour is particularly effective at getting and retaining attention as most websites don’t use humour and so it also benefits from being a novelty on the web.

Humour doesn’t have to be employed throughout your website. It can range from cheeky or off-beat call to action copy, amusing headlines to attract attention and entertaining animation or graphics. PaddyPower is one site that has built their whole brand around having a laugh and not taking themselves too seriously. This aligns well with the market they are in (i.e. gambling) and helps them to differentiate themselves from their competitors.

Humour benefits brands in a number of ways by:

Reduces tension towards the brand or buying process
Appeals to emotions by enhancing positive feelings and associations
Discourages and deflects criticism
Improves engagement by making messages more memorable
Distracts people from potential sales objections.
Try A/B testing using humour on your website and see if you can also benefit from using more light-hearted content.

6. Reassure new visitors with trust and credibility indicators:

Make sure people feel safe and comfortable when trying to get them to experiment or buy from somewhere new. People dislike uncertainty because it makes them uncomfortable and will avoid it at all costs. Put new customers at ease by providing clear and relevant evidence that your website is reliable and trustworthy.

To create credibility and trust in your website consider the following issues:
First impressions count. Attractive and well-designed websites help create a sense of trustworthiness.

Make it easy for customers to contact you – ensure a ‘Contact’ link is the last item in your navigation.
Clearly display your address and telephone number in your footer and if appropriate in your header.
Show awards to demonstrate your standing in the sector
Display customer numbers if impressive or a client list
Statements and claims should be backed up by third party evidence.
Show logos of well-known business partners or sponsorship partners.
Make sure prices are clearly displayed as people want to know how much your product or service will cost.
Shipping costs or other administrative fees also need to be clear as people will often want to compare what you charge with your competitors.
Ensure copy doesn’t have errors or broken links that could create a poor impression of your site.

However, you should also A/B test displaying some items such as customer testimonials, product reviews, returns policy, privacy policy, trust marks and popular payment methods. Sometimes credibility indicators can raise unnecessary concerns (e.g. around security) if they are introduced at inappropriate stages of the user journey or they may just be a distraction. This is where A/B testing can help identify when they benefit conversion and when they may actually harm your business goals.

7. Ensure visitors feel in control:

People equate choice with control and people want to feel in control. So always offer some choices. This could mean having a back button on your sign-up form so that people feel they have a way out if needed. By all means reduce exit points at key stages of a user journey to focus their attention. However, if you remove all navigation elements apart from the one you want them to take users may feel trapped and respond by abandoning the form or transaction.

At the same time it is important to limit the number of choices to 3 or 4 as if you give people too much choice they can freeze and avoid choosing anything. Too much choice creates anxiety and cognitive strain as our brains struggle to categorise and choose between all the different options available. People will avoid making a decision if they believe they are unable to make a choice that they will be happy with. This becomes increasingly difficult as the number of options we have to choose between rises.

8. Create curiosity by holding back information until later in the user journey.

Dopamine in the brain is not only a pleasure chemical in the brain but it also causes us to want and desire things. It motivates us to be curious about ideas & information. You can use this desire for knowledge by stimulating information seeking behaviour. Create desire and curiosity by giving people a limited amount of information upfront and offering them more information when they complete a task (e.g. offer a free white paper or sample if they complete an email address form).

9. Use visual and auditory alerts or novelty to grab attention:

Dopamine is also stimulated by unpredictability, when something unexpected happens, and is especially sensitive to cues that a reward is coming. To grab attention build some unpredictability into the customer experience and include an auditory or visual alert. Similarly, we are also pre-disposed to be wary of change – so also consider using novelty to grab attention.

10. Use images of food to grabs our attention when people are hungry:

Visually appealing images of food can trigger our saliva glands and get our attention. Smells of food can be even more powerful and so most food stores and restaurants try to use this to their advantage. However, scientists are also working on ways to digitise, transmit and reproduce smells through the internet. This could become a new tool for engaging and motivating visitors to sites which are food related.

However, in the mean-time high resolution images of food can still be an effective means of engaging with visitors who are looking for their next meal. Even if your site is not food or drink related why not try images of food or drinks around meal times to engage with visitors to remind them to return after their meal. It may be a way to personalise your site to align with what your customers are doing in the off-line world.

11. Sex!

Sex or the implication of sex can be a very a powerful attention getter. The desire for sex is one of our strongest and most basic instincts. We also make decisions, largely unconsciously, on the possibility of sex – having more sex or being more sexually attractive. Certainly it must be appropriate to your product or service and how it is presented is also critical.

Indeed, Adore Me, a lingerie website, A/B tests some of the world’s most attractive models to understand what works and what doesn’t work for selling its products. Perhaps surprisingly, blondes don’t work, props are a distraction and couches are OK. Fascinatingly the model has more impact than the price.

“If customers see a lacy pushup on a model they like, they’ll buy it. Put the same thing on a model they don’t, and even a $10 price cut won’t compel them. Pose matters as well: the same product shot on the same model in a different posture can nudge sales a few percentage points in either direction.” Fast Company, The lingerie company that A/B tests the world’s hottest women.

Popular models can also help sell more expensive versions of the same item which can add millions to the bottom line. So, if anyone ever tells you that sex doesn’t sell, just point out that if done in the right context and in an appropriate way, it certainly can.