How to Respond to Writing Job Ads on Craigslist

I will be the first to point out that there’s a high signal-to-noise ratio on Craigslist, especially for writers. That said, you can sometimes find real opportunities there, and I’d caution new writers against dismissing it out of hand. When I worked as Managing Editor at, I once put out a call for writers that had almost no effect other than making me laugh. I did manage to hire one good writer, but a good 90% of the responses I got went instantly into the trash. Here’s why:

Writers can’t read. It’s true! Writers can scribble up a storm, but never ask them to do more than one thing at a time. I asked for three specific things in my job ad. The first was hands-on experience in a very technical subject. I requested people who had experience playing in bands, performers who could get on stage or record a song in a home studio.

This seriously narrowed down the playing field and was an unusual request, but that was what the gig called for. The ad helpfully mentioned that if you aren’t a writer and musician, don’t bother applying. So naturally in my first wave of responses I got messages from people who said “I am a voiceover artist” and “I am an amateur film maker.”

Writers can’t follow directions. In my ad, I requested copies of writing clips that were relevant to the subject of music making, performing, or any other aspect of being a working musician. The guy who sent me samples of his sports writing got the “delete” button the second I saw what his published clips were. I also asked for links to online resumes. The ones who weren’t competent enough to have a resume published online, I deleted.

Writers can’t write. I didn’t automatically roundfile a response because of a few typos or bad grammar in the cover letter, but I should have. What I DID do was look for my personal pet peeves and hit the delete key accordingly. If you abused the apostrophe, if you wrote “there” when you meant “they’re”, if you abused technical terms like MIDI or confused a software synthesizer with a player piano, I dumped you.

Folks, when you apply for jobs on Craigslist, follow the directions to the letter. If you don’t, we editors are laughing at you even as we’re deleting your file. Sometimes we’re deleting you anyway and for no good reason. Sometimes it’s because we haven’t had enough coffee yet and your reply just hit us the wrong way. Not all editors are like that, but I am. Sue me.  There are plenty more of us where I came from. Life sucks, eh?

And before you grumble about what a jackass I am, don’t forget that I too am a freelance writer who has made all these mistakes myself–and worse. Once I accidentally sent out a message to an editor with the subject line “Generaly Query”. Frickin’ BRILLIANT. Needless to say, I didn’t get THAT gig.

Never drink and query.