Self Employed Web

How to Get Hired On Craigslist

Posted on Tuesday, October 15th, 2013 by

When I graduated from college with a computer science degree, I knew I did not want to work for Google or MicroSoft or Facebook.  I tested the local market to gauge my value in terms of smaller businesses.  After some low offers and higher ones, I had the realization or call it egotism that I could do just as good a job or better than the clowns who ran the businesses I was inquiring into.  That cockiness set me off on going freelance.

I investigated the different outlets and decided that I was interested in a personal relationship with my clients, the kind of relationship that virtual sites such as oDesk, eLance, etcetera cannot build.  I also wanted to work towards a real small business which could command an hourly rate high enough to carry management and office overhead.  I set out to target anything and everything in web site design and development locally.  I tried cold calling, door to door sales, and interpersonal networking, but the most effective lead generator and ultimately my one and only because of the excellent ROI was Craigslist.  I became a master of getting jobs on Craigslist.

Craiglist was the best because the people posting there (I only ever posted once as you will read in my tips) were actually actively soliciting hiring someone.  My other avenues depended on the off chance that the person I contacted was interested in hiring someone or on my ability to move that person in the sales process from cold to hot.  This difference made all other avenues except Craigslist a lower percentage game with more work involved to achieve success.

What follows are two sections on novel techniques which I fine tuned in my Craigslist career  (1) Building Your Speed Machine – An RSS approach to Craiglist and (2) Contacting the Client What to Say and How to Say It.   I will finish off with a conclusion paragraph and appeal for you to ask me questions.

Building Your Speed Machine – An RSS Approach to Craigslist

My first move in dominating Craiglist for my local market and niche was to post a fake job of just the type of was going to respond to.  I wanted to see what the competition was like and copy what I liked they did and avoid what I didn’t.  I’ll keep referering back to this experience in my tips because much my takeaways were gleaned from this test, and I highly recommend that anyone looking to follow my path tries an ad themselves as you may glean specific takeways in your field or location that I will not cover here.

The biggest lesson learned thru my fake post and confirmed through not only reading advise on blogs online but actually applying to jobs was that speed kills.  The winning contractor is likely the first respondent or at least first few. As a poster you tend to value these early responders as wanting the job more.  And also you tend to get so many responses on Craigslist that you get bogged down quickly.  You need a way to quickly eliminate the hundreds of posibles and response time seems as good as any factor.

So how do you respond first?  And I mean first.

I hold that most contractors use either an email update of jobs posted or go to the site themselves or even pipe the RSS feed into their reader.  These techniques are how I started, but the page loads slowed me down and I never felt like I was first.  I wanted to respond in minutes – not hours.   If I responded past an hour I found my success rate was about zero.  I wanted to be able to response easily no matter what I was doing without loading a single webpage.

So to be first I eventually started using on Mozilla what is called “Live Bookmarks,” and there are no doubt plugins for a similar effect on other browsers.  Live Bookmarks asynchonously loads RSS feeds into your browser at the top where the tabs and url bar are.  By using this feature for Craiglist feeds I immediately became the first responder to about any post if that post came in while I was on my computer.  I would simply mouse up every 15 minutes or so and click on the specific rss live bookmark I had saved in my browser bar.  The list of job posts would drop down.  I could see by the Craiglist favicon showing up whether I had looked at that post yet or not (very handy).  The process took me a few seconds.  If there was nothing there, I went back to what I was doing – no time lost.

So now my secret is out!  But there is a detail that I had to work out that might help you as well.

Because Live Bookmarks only loads one feed you have to aggregate all the different Craiglist feeds you are targeting somehow so you can efficiently only have to click one time and keep everything in one list.  Here are your aggregator options

  1. Google Reader – If you have a clean, fresh Google Reader account that you do not use for anything else then I would recommend pushing in all the Craiglist feeds that might consists of posting to respond to into this account.  GReader aggregates them and provides a cumulative RSS feed for your entire GReader account.
  2. Yahoo Pipes – I eventually started using GReader for other RSS feeds and did not find that mixing my leads with the other stuff was efficiently.  I moved on to use to aggregate my feeds.  You can get a link to my pipe here.

With this aggregated feed now you are fully equipped to rapidly answer Craigslist posts.  That should get you into the winning pool of responded at a 50% or so success rate.  But to get the job you need to also compose an email to the person which makes them respond.  That is the topic for section 2.

Contacting the Client – What to Say and How to Say It

So now you have your rapid fire RSS Live Bookmark response machine that allows you to check job post in one place without loading a single page including Craiglist.  You can decide if the job interests you simply via the title that pops up and keep track of the ones you’ve already looked at via whether the Craigslist favicon shows up or not.

A perfect job post pops up in the feed that fits your target market.  What do you do?

You want to move and move fast.  Remember that there are many probably better qualified, smarter people than you that, while do not know the secret wonders of live bookmarks, can charm this poster better than you.   What our goal is with the response is to act like they personally emailed you, and you are responding back to their email.

How to get started: Let’s first look at some tips on the dressings of the response:

  1. The first step is to open your email and copy and paste in the ad into your editor.   Go to the top and hit a line break a few times.  Their job post now has become an email like any other that you are responding to.
  2. Copy and paste their subject line into the email subject line.  Put Re: in front of it.  They mieswell have just sent you and email with that subject.
  3. Copy the usually obscusifated Craigslist email into the email box.
  4. Address them by name if posible.  It’s a slam dump if they included their name in their posting but usually in my experience the poster does not.  A wild but incorrect guess is better than not guessing I have found.  If they left an email decode whatever is before the @ symbol (ie. if [email protected] ) use Jack.  If they left a website or email address with domain, then go to that website and see if you can find a name.  A name is important!  It makes them feel personally connected to you.  This was a big takeaway from my fake test post remember that I first started my Craiglist journey with.

Now that you have the basics set up, let’s get to the juicy part – the text.  We want to be exactly what they are looking for.  Quick and to the point.

  1. Copy and paste the body of their job posting after the “Hi Jack.”
  2. Ask where they are located.  Craigslist is all about finding someone local.  They could go to oDesk and sub the work out inexpensively to Bangladesh.  They go to Craigslist to get a personal relationship with the constractor or because virtualization is not posible.  Location is critical to differentiate you from the hundreds of foreigners or even California, New York responders to their post.  They are looking for a local like you.  Hit them with it.  So for instance if the post was in Seattle, Washington, ask them where in Seattle they are.  Are they in North Seattle or Capitol Hill or University District?
  3. Say where you are located.  Don’t give an address unless you have an office space you don’t mind them coming by.  Maintain your privacy because there are weirdos out there.  But giving a zip code and city should do the trick.
  4. Rewrite the text for their perspective to your perspective.  Ie. if they start out with “I am looking for a computer engineering with PHP / MySQL experience” respond with “I am an experienced PHP / MySQL…”
  5. If posible show that you looked at their project ( in my case a website ) if they gave one.  If they want a redesign of their web tell them in one sentence that “I’d like to change the navigation from vertical to horizontal to free up more screen space.”  Make yourself stand out a little that you actually looked.  Remember that you are on the clock though so don’t go overboard.
  6. Give them your rate upfront.   A lot of posters on Craigslist are looking for unrealistic rates.  Forget them.  You have value.  Pick a reasonable rate that your experience justifies ( I started at $20/ hour and moved to $30/hour ).  Also if posible give them a timeline and quote for their project.  The good posters will be blow away; the losers will be scared way.  Either way it saves you time.
  7. Finish off by specifically writing your email address.  I’d give your phone number too to show you are real and can be called.  Keep your phone ready to respond.

That covers what to do, but there are also a long list of things that are annoying and not to do.

  1. Don’t thank them for the opportunity.  That’s a waste of time and they don’t care.
  2. Don’t tell them you look forward to working with them or other junk.  Everyone says that.  Act like you do not care (which once you do it enough you won’t).  Be real and blunt.  I tell people usually to “feel free to contact me.”  It’s low key.  If you don’t want to, I don’t want you either.
  3. Don’t use please but not too much.  It is polite but can be overdone.
  4. Don’t use something stupid like Mr. or Sir.  Act like you know the person and will treat them like a human being – not with foreign, formalities.
  5. Don’t attached your gigantic CSV or extravegant cover letter.  This is Craigslist not Career Builder for Buddha’s sake.  They want a quick contractor not an employee.



Where in South Texas are you?  I am a PHP developer with SEO knowledge in Austin.  Is this like a craiglist style website or more a directory site like dmoz?  Please feel free to give me a call at XXX-XXXX or email at [email protected]  I like to receive $30 / hour.

Regards, <my-name>

Austin, TX XXXXX


[email protected]

Date: 2012-06-30, 9:14AM EDT
Reply to: [email protected] [Errors when replying to ads?]

Hello everyone.

I’m looking for a webdesigner, with experience in php developing, SEO knowledge would be a huge plus, if you have experience in working in a classifieds webpage, a listing site, or a directory, you might be what i’m looking for, our site is fully developed, I just need a fresh set of eyes to update and add a few better features, it seems like the code on our site now is messy and when people register, some get the confirmation email and some do not, anyhow, I need someone local in the south florida area, so we can meet up, have coffee and discuss if we are able to work togethet, our site is brand new. let’s talk. please only contact me if you live in south texas, since we are looking for funding and once we secure it we will be hiring the designer to maintain the site full time in our local office. thanks.

Please email me with your work, location and I will reply with a link to the website.

  • Location: South Texas
  • it’s NOT ok to contact this poster with services or other commercial interests
  • Compensation: open

PostingID: 3105401814



Now you know my techniques to (1) fastly answer and (2) personally respond to Craigslist job posts which I fine tuned ove 3 years.  The result?  I have enough repeat and referal business that I do not need to acquire new clients.  I do not need lead generation.  Getting to that point is about providing good old fashioned service to your clients – a topic covered elsewhere on this website and the world wide web.   Please feel free to let me know your feedback or questions in the comment section below.

About Self Employed Web

Self Employed Web has been providing self employment advise and resources since January 30th, 2003. Get started via our popular SUV Tax Deduction list, Corp vs. LLC article, or eBay tips section. Over 300 other articles are categorized in the navigation menu on the lefthand side of this webpage. If you have a question not answered on this website, please contact us.

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