For most beginning writers, breaking into the writing industry is a struggle. Whether moonlighting as a content writer, going freelance full-time, or trying to make it as an author of fiction, Craigslist offers a surprising amount of opportunities.
Craigslist helped me scale from $10 per hour to $40+ per hour, and I owe it a debt of gratitude. Perhaps you’ll find the following tips useful.
Efficiently Sourcing Craigslist Prospects
The first e-hurdle for most freelancers and job seekers is that Craigslist is riddled with low-paying gigs, scams, and similarly undesirable postings. Learning how to avoid those takes a bit of time, but you’ll soon recognize which ads aren’t worth inquiring about, let alone opening.
My first tip to writers looking to add to their clientele is to search through both the “Writing Jobs” and “Writing Gigs” of major metropolitan areas. Limiting your scope to cities with a high cost of living, such as Los Angeles, Chicago, and San Francisco, will net you higher pay right off the bat.
Pro tip: There are a few cities, like New York and Boston, that currently skew heavily towards inhouse positions, so these are out for any non-local looking for remote work.
Only Open (and Apply) When it Counts
Since you’ll be cruising two categories across multiple cities - and, you should be looking through these once every 2-3 days - you’ll soon notice repeat ads. Nearly every gig with 5+ postings spread across multiple cities is only going to offer low pay, serves as a free advertisement for “job boards,” or, worse yet, is attempting to scam writers into providing their services for free. In time, you’ll recognize exactly what those look like, and learn not to even open them.
Pro tip: Don’t bother opening posts you’ve seen 5+ times.
Because you will be competing against other hungry writers for every posting, quality really matters. Everything from your subject line to your body text should be intriguing, engaging, and compel your prospect to contact you.
You’ll be investing a significant amount of time in each proposal, so you want to limit the number of inquiries or applications you send out each day to just those that will fulfill your needs. An ad that does not state compensation should be your first red flag - if the rest of the ad fails to inspire confidence, don’t waste your time inquiring.
Likewise, if a prospect admits the pay will be “low at first” until you “prove yourself,” or, better yet, says the pay will be low, but there will be “lots of work,” you should brace yourself for cheapskate client. The best approach here is to state your desired rate, and put the ball in your prospect’s court: “My rate is $X per X words. If that works for you, please reply to me at __ so I can begin working on our first piece!”
Pro tip: Whatever you do, avoid selling yourself short!
Direct Contact Cuts to the Chase
While many beginning writers are rightly fearful of getting burned by the anonymity of Craigslist, you can use the platform to source legitimate clients, provided you switch over to direct emails and phone calls. If you’re serious about signing on new clients, do this at the earliest stage possible.
A straightforward request that clients include your email in their reply will typically take talks in the right direction - just be sure to provide it in your signature. For double security, don’t be shy about asking a client for their direct email and phone number.
Any time a prospect refuses to provide you with at least a non-anonymized email address, you should see that as a large, vigorously waving red flag.
Protect Yourself with Deposits
Some writers prefer contracts, but a 20-50% deposit typically seals the deal on my end. Take a page out of Upwork’s notebook and set up milestones, or simply request 50% upfront, with the remainder due upon completion.
While it may feel uncomfortable demanding money upfront, you should know that, as a professional service provider, your prospective clients expect you to ask for a deposit. This display of confidence benefits you in multiple ways. Not only are prospects impressed with the fact that you are professional enough to command deposits, but you instantly ditch any prospects who are unwilling to pay for your services - both those with cold feet who would turn the engagement into a protracted series of emails that never go anywhere, or those intending to pull a runner.
To be sure, Craigslist has a number of pitfalls. However, there are also countless gigs and employment out there awaiting writers determined enough to master this free platform.