Tag Archives: Craigslist

Anatomy of a Typical Waste of Time Craigslist Ad For Writers

joe wallace

Freelance-Zone.com co-founder Joe Wallace has been freelancing since 2002 and currently runs the vinyl music blog Turntabling.net. He also writes finance articles, commercial copy and manages social media for a variety of clients.

Every now and again, I feel compelled to help writers interpret job ads correctly so that they don’t waste valuable time replying to ads that want them to write for free when the writer really needs paying work.

There is nothing at all wrong with writing for free when you’re first starting out—after all, a writer is someone who writes, not someone who wishes they were writing. But those who are looking for paying work should learn to recognize the markings and coloration of that particular creature known (to me) as the “Non-Payer”, the company that wants your labor but not your tax ID number. Know what I mean?

Let’s take an actual ad I found on Craigslist this morning, with identities altered to protect the guilty. I’ll go down the line and put my comments in italics:

“Imagine having your work seen by up to ten million people every month (Translation—we’re not paying you for this project.), writing for one of the internet’s most trafficked websites – and getting paid for it.” (But not by us.)

We are looking for people (Translation: anybody) who are able to write a number of articles on various topics, on a regular basis. There are over 60 topics to choose from!  (You’ll have to settle for getting paid pennies based on traffic or how many people click the Google ads).

We’ll teach you all the tricks to generating traffic and exposure for your work and you can do it all from home.  (And we won’t pay you. You’ll have to cross your fingers and hope those pennies add up.)

Benefits: (There are none)

– Freedom to write about virtually anything you like, when you want and wherever you are in the world  (And we won’t be paying you.That’s a benefit too…for US.)

– Lifetime royalties with added incentives (That usually add up to pennies a day for most people.)

– Exposure to 10m monthly readers (Really? Not buying this one. Unless this company connected to one of the big content mills somehow. I did some homework on this site and their Alexa ranking is 15,092,055. Ten million readers? I somehow doubt this. Freelance-Zone.com has an Alexa ranking of 450,545 and we do NOT have ten million readers.)

Sound interesting? (Not really. Most writers could just set up their own websites and Google ads and do this themselves without the middleman.)

If so email noodleface@email.net who will provide you with a secret set of instructions to take you to the next step. (Secret? Not for long.)

Anatomy of a “Don’t Reply” Craigslist Ad

There are plenty of gigs on Craigslist and other job boards; plenty of them aren’t worth your time. What makes a Craigslist job ad look more like indentured servitude and less like a good use of your time? It’s a combination of low pay mentioned up front along with some unmentioned details that are sure to turn into a drain your time, resources and sanity.

Let’s try to decode one recent CL ad I discovered recently and see why I’d advise you to run away screaming from the job.

First, the ad itself:

Freelance Newspaper Reporters. Reply to: ThisJobBlows@don’treplytome.com

Date: 6/6/06

Local Community weekly newspaper seeks freelance writers. Cover story assignments and public meetings. Writers present community news story ideas and editor to assign stories as well. Newspaper reporting experience preferred. Reporters to provide fast, accurate and compelling copy.

* Compensation: $25 per story, extra $10 for photos
* Telecommuting is ok.

First–there’s the type of publication this ad represents. A community paper is already on thin ice as it is in an age where print publications are threatened by the bad economy and competition from the Internet. But let’s assume for the sake of argument that this particular paper is doing well financially; even so, the phrase “Local community weekly” implies a tight budget and low pay.

Then there’s that line “Cover story assignments and public meetings.” Public meetings can last for HOURS. And that’s just to gather the source material–never mind how long it’s going to take to write the bloody thing.

And then there’s the strong possibility that you aren’t going to be reimbursed for gas or parking when you attend these meetings…add to these things the $25 per article payment and what you have is a seriously losing proposition. But it’s one some people won’t realize is actually a financial drain rather than a benefit until they’ve already paid for the gas, parking and a cup of coffee to keep them from dozing off during those horrendously dull meetings.

It’s not that this publication is running a scam or actively trying to rip you off…but there is only so far you can go by paying a writer a lousy $25 per article…and unless you’re getting some additional compensation for mileage, time spent not dozing off, and cobbling the whole thing together, this type of job ad is one I’d avoid like the plague.

Anatomy of a Craigslist Freelance Writing Job Scam

I’ve debated the merits of using Craigslist to find freelance writing gigs, but for those of you who still use CL, it’s important to avoid wasting time on the sort of idiotic scams that pop up on CL with annoying regularity. I myself fell prey to a few of these in my less informed days, so I pass along the benefit of my experiences on to you.

The following is reprinted verbatim from a recent post to the Writing Jobs section of Craigslist:

“A media blog is seeking review writers. You will be reviewing hot products of the new age and writing 500-700 word articles on them. For the application, we will require sample reviews to be written. We have 4 openings. If you are selected as a writer, work will be part-time and 20-25 jobs per week. Will be paying $100/article. Please send your request for more information (no resumes, please) to our email. Thank you.”

Now let’s dissect this ad and see why you should avoid posts like these at all costs.

1. Nomenclature written by the cluelesss. The ad is for a “media blog”. It then goes on to say that you are expected to review ‘hot products’. We’re already off to a bad start here as a media blog would, by implication, be reviewing media. Sure, it’s possible they want you to review downloads, DVDs, or other media, but in my experience, “media blogs” are commenting on either the media itself or streaming content as opposed to disc-based material. Another warning sign here is the phrase “of the new age”. What the writer MEANS to say is “hot new products of the Internet age” or some other such nonsense. As New Age pertains to a religious movement rather than technology, my bullshit detector on this tells me that the writer is a barely-literate scam artist who is throwing around terms they don’t really understand. Again, I could be TOTALLY WRONG. But we know I’m not, don’t we?

2. Confused (and confusing) expectations. The ad starts out saying they are a blog. Then the ad states that 500-700 word articles are needed. Is this a blog or a magazine? If the “blog” is paying $100 per post, the people running this are either on the scam or are the most clueless blog owners on the planet. No blog pays $100 for a blog entry. The ad says they want to fire FOUR PEOPLE at around $2500 a month each. What kind of new blog has this type of budget? Why, a non-existent one, of course! They want to shell out $10 K a month just for writers? Are you laughing yet?

3. They want you to work for free. ” For the application, we will require sample reviews to be written”. Continue reading Anatomy of a Craigslist Freelance Writing Job Scam

How To Properly Interpret Craigslist Job Ads

I know there are still people out there who attempt to use Craigslist to find freelance writing jobs. I have my own personal opinions on the value of Craigslist for freelance writing gigs, which boil down to a single word. Patience. If you have it, you will be rewarded. If you don’t, forget it. There is about a one in 20 chance you’ll find something worth your time, and when you DO locate a good gig, it usually pays off. But in order to avoid wasting (even more) time sifting through CL ads, I offer you this helpful interpretation of the terms and verbiage often used in these ads:

  • Great exposure = work for free
  • Energetic = can work in spite of hangover
  • College students, stay at home moms, and people looking to make extra money = people who will work for cheap
  • Interns wanted = work for free
  • College graduates = can work in spite of hangover for low pay
  • Assistant = low pay and do non-writing grunt work
  • Customer satisfaction = low pay and non writing grunt work
  • Passionate = long hours and weekends
  • Enthusiastic = long hours, weekends and holidays
  • “Do you love __________” = work for free
  • Send us a sample blog post = we will use your work without paying you
  • Send us your story ideas = we’re too lazy to do our own brainstorming
  • Send us email for job details = we want to send spam to you. Lots.
  • Revenue sharing = write for free
  • Google Ads = write for free
  • New website = no readers, write for insultingly low pay
  • Experienced writers wanted = will take no experience for low pay
  • Highly experienced writers wanted = will take some experience for low pay
  • Startup = no pay
  • Non-Profit = long hours and low (or no) pay
  • Reviewers wanted = write for free and spend too much time exposed to bad “artists”
  • B to B writers wanted = commercial writing experience only
  • Writing contest = pay to write
  • Compensation DOE = won’t make you an offer, will make you name a price and try to lowball you
  • Compensation: Hourly = you can make more somewhere else
  • Subject matter expert wanted = internet researcher wanted
  • Compensation $9 an hour = clueless noob wanted
  • Must have degree = we’re clueless about hiring freelancers
  • B.A. in Journalism required = serious news gig OR clueless about hiring freelancers
  • Detail oriented = expects too much from one person in too short a time
  • Motivated = desperate

Chris Bibey Says You Too Can Earn 9K per Month as a Freelancer

You have to admire the cajones of a freelancer who lists his monthly earnings on his blog, especially when those earnings are near 10K in a single month. Chris Bibey’s ChrisBlogging.com is an inspiration even to this jaded old hack. I am sorely tempted to pay homage to Bibey by listing my own freelance income for this month, but it would be a shameless grab for credibility on my part (I’m not accusing Bibey of the same thing, mind you) even though I WAS surprised to see someone actively blogging about my tax bracket as a writer.

Now that last bit was totally disingenuous, wasn’t it? On one side of my mouth I say I won’t brag, on the other I let slip that I have a peer in the high income bracket. Pathetic. Ahh, well. If you can’t beat ’em, join em. For the record though, nobody EVER knows how long that gravy train will last, and you constantly judge your game by higher and higher standards. If I miss an apostrophe in this blog, or repeat the word “probably”, I’m giving myself a mental curb-stomping.

Back to Bibey. His blog has some serious advice for beginners in this game of ours, and I am happy to say that a sharp writer will notice a few advanced tricks on display that, while Bibey doesn’t WRITE about them, you can deduce WTF is going on just by paying attention. Don’t worry, Chris, I won’t give the game away–but I will say that using Associated Content as you have is a brilliant move. For those who can look at Bibey’s site and sort it out, marvel at his marketing genius. For those who can’t, well…that’s your tough luck. One day you’ll figure it out for yourself, and give it a shot.

See, kids–in spite of our altrusitc blogging on sites like these, there are some secrets that freelancers hang on to for themselves. Those in the know are already chuckling, those who don’t get it are wondering why we’re such utter bastards for holding out. Trust me, when you get your own little bag of tricks going you won’t be so quick to share all your hard work, either. But Bibey makes with the sage advice in many ways a new freelancer really should take to heart. This is a great site and my new favorite recommendation to newcomers.

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 Gearwire.com, 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:

Continue reading How to Respond to Writing Job Ads on Craigslist