- Craigslist is notorious for scammy operations, but there are ways to find Craigslist gigs that suit your needs
- Pay close attention to all of the details in any job posting before applying and identify red flags before investing too much of your time working with Craigslist poster
- There are many different ways to find freelancing work, we provide 8 alternatives to Craigslist for your freelancing needs
Background on Craigslist
Launched back in 1995 when the internet was fairly young, Craigslist was both founded by and named after Craig Newmark, a software engineer in, you guessed it, San Francisco. Originally it was more of an events notification system via email, then turned into a full-fledged website in 1999. As it grew, it became many things to many different people.
Today, you can find just about anything on the site, from cars to haircutting services to Craigslist gigs for all types of freelancers. Craigslist may not look glamorous, but don’t judge the site by its layout––it generates more than $1 billion dollars each year and reaches about 300 million people (almost the entire population of the United States) each month.
With those kinds of stats, why would you ignore Craigslist as a viable way to generate freelance income? Some people are put off of Craigslist gigs because of the reputation of the site, some are wary of privacy or scammers, and some younger workers may not even realize Craigslist exists (Which makes me feel old, but we’ll leave that for another discussion).
In this article we will address the obstacles to using Craigslist, should you how to find legitimate Craigslist gigs and use them to build your client base, and give you some alternative ideas if Craigslist is just a no for you.
5 Scams to avoid when looking for Craigslist gigs
Let’s just start with the elephant in the room. Craigslist is known as a place for shady people to scam others out of money or possessions.
This obviously is not always the case, but everyone has heard of someone in their network (or their grandma’s hairdressers doggroomer’s network…) who got involved in a scary Craigslist situation. There was even an animated short dedicated to a Craigslist horror story.
Don’t let that stop you from looking for Craigslist gigs. The truth is, scams account for only 1.5% of posts on Craigslist. With a few precautions, you’ll be able to spot scams from a mile away and keep yourself safe.
To be sure, let’s review the top 5 scams and their red flags so that you aren’t taken in.
1. The Bait and Switch
You find the perfect posting––the job fits your skills, the pay is reasonable, but when you send an email to get more information, the description you get is completely different from the original ad. And much more fishy. Scammers do this to look more legitimate than they actually are. By writing a professional-sounding posting, they can get you to respond, and once you have responded, you have invested time and energy and might just be willing to wade further into the mess. Don’t fall for it. If the instructions or application process of Craigslist gigs don’t match what you originally inquired about, something is off.
2. The Bank Deposit
Most people have heard of this one. A job description claims that you can “make money for doing practically nothing!” All they want you to do is let them use your bank account for some vague (or sometimes elaborately detailed) reason. They will deposit funds, and then ask you to send part of the money to suppliers or clients. The original deposit will then bounce and you will be out the money you sent to the fake partners. There is really no legitimate business model that involves sending money from one account to the next. Even if you make some money at first, you could be involved in illegal activities.
3. The Bogus Business
In this fraud, the scammers will set up a job posting that looks completely real, but the business behind the gig is definitely not. The illegitimate company often asks for an application fee or an investment of some kind that you pay directly to the poster or to the “business” itself. But if the business doesn’t have a functioning website, a phone number, a physical address, social media accounts, customer reviews, etc., it is more likely that you are simply giving your money away to someone who will never call you back.
4. The Identity Thief
Legitimate Craigslist gigs will never ask you for vital personal information––things like a driver’s license, social security number, financial details, or even identifiers like your mother’s maiden name or the name of your high school––before you have been hired. A scammer will set up a job posting and ask for more and more personal items until you give up on the gig. By that time, they may have enough to use your credit card, apply for a loan in your name, steal your email address and other accounts, even take your house. Never give any personal information to someone you haven’t thoroughly vetted. And some kinds of information you should never share, period.
5. Big-Name brands
This scheme involves posting fake jobs for real companies. It’s easy to get caught dreaming that, in fact, a huge brand within your industry is hiring off of Craigslist! Several years ago, one such scam claimed that the Better Business Bureau was hiring customer service reps with no experience needed. It wasn’t real, and, by sending their resume, people had their information stolen without finding work. It isn’t impossible that big-name companies might turn to Craigslist to find workers, especially in the current economy, but if Craigslist gigs seem too good to be true, a good rule of thumb is that they probably are.
How to Find Legit Craigslist Gigs
After reading through that list of potential job scams, you might start thinking it’s dangerous to even visit the Craigslist site! But for every fake job posting, there are thousands of legitimate Craigslist gigs. The odds are in your favor, so don’t give up, just learn how to protect yourself.
To do that, there are a few rules that you can follow to find legit Craigslist gigs and grow your freelance business.
Look for detail in postings
Real employers will take the time to explain what they need and what their business is about. Grammatical errors, vague descriptions, or followup emails that don’t match what you thought you were signing up for are all red flags. Look for gigs that closely match your skills and offerings, not just any “work from home” listing.
1. Stay local
The best Craigslist gigs for freelancers are likely right in your area. If possible, look for postings from local businesses. This way, you know for sure that the job comes from a real company, and it is easy to verify the details. You also might find a lot of joy in being part of your immediate community and creating in-person working relationships.
2. Meet your potential client
This may be the most important tip on this list. Always insist on meeting an employer before you provide any personal information. The meeting can take place over Zoom or face-to-face. Be wary of a potential client who isn’t willing to show their face, and always meet in a public place. Talking to someone gives you the chance to read their body language and get a gut feeling for what it will be like to work together. If anything feels off, don’t hesitate to walk away.
3. Never work for free
A posting that asks you to create “sample” work very specific to a client is something to avoid. There is nothing to stop them from taking your work and never contacting you again. You know your worth as a freelancer––you don’t ever have to do work without being paid for it. If you feel strongly about working with the client, send your portfolio over. That should be enough for the client to determine if your skills are a good fit.
4. Create a contract
Any legitimate potential client should be open to putting your working relationship in writing. If an employer is unwilling to sign anything, run the other way. Even just asking for a contract should weed out potential scammers, and the signed document gives you some protection in the event that the gig turns sour.
5. Don’t apply without doing your homework
Never just send a resume or click through to an application from Craigslist without looking into the business behind it. Check out their website, LinkedIn profile, and even reach out outside of Craigslist to get a feel for the legitimacy of the company before you offer up any details about yourself.
6. Keep your money
Legitimate Craigslist gigs will never ask for you to “buy in” to the position. Application fees, upfront investments, etc. are all red flags that a job is a scam. There are plenty of real gigs that will pay you, not the other way around, so don’t feel the need to accept a job that asks you to give them money.
If you follow these tips, there are definitely Craigslist gigs out there for you.
8 Alternatives sites for craigslist gigs
While Craigslist gigs can be a great option for freelancers looking for more work, if the potential for scams is just too intimidating, there are definitely other options for finding freelance work.
Below are just some of the sites that offer legitimate job postings to help you find the perfect fit for you.
Freelancer.com was one of the first job sites that catered directly to freelancers, offering positions specific to contract workers. Be aware that Freelancer does take a percentage of your earnings, but in return, unlike Craigslist, they offer a safety net, with the ability to resolve disputes within the platform.
Like Freelancer.com, Upwork takes a cut of every project you complete, and competition for jobs on this site is high. However, with billing housed within the platform and a huge volume of users, Upwork can be a great way to catapult your freelance career and earn more than you do now.
Flexjobs is more than just the kind of marketplace that Craigslist is. Yes, there are legit job postings, but there are also a variety of resources available, such as career coaching. Additionally, Flexjobs claims to screen each and every job posting, so you won’t have to deal with scams. Flexjobs has a weekly or monthly membership rate, so you have to make the call whether it is worth it for you.
SolidGigs stands out on this list because, instead of being a job board where you sift through potential gigs and try to determine whether they are legitimate, SolidGigs sends pre-screened job postings straight to you. For a monthly or annual membership fee, you’ll also gain access to their full range of courses and tools to help you on your career path.
Fiverr has become a controversial job site for freelancers, mostly because originally, the site was designed to literally offer employers a chance to have tasks done for only $5. Obviously, to a skilled worker, this is problematic. However, Fiverr has changed a lot since those early days, and many people find a lot of success freelancing through this platform. Like most other freelance marketplaces (Craigslist excluded), you will pay a percentage of your earnings for the privilege of using Fiverr.
ClearVoice is a platform specific to content creators. Writers, editors, designers and other content professionals will really find their niche here. ClearVoice is considered a tier above sites like Fiverr and Upwork, so if you are more of a skilled freelancer you will find slightly higher paying work on this platform. ClearVoice takes a 25% cut off the top of each gig, but the higher price point helps to make up the difference.
Vollna is a consolidation site that puts opportunities from many of the other freelance job sites on this list in one place and sends you a notice when one matches your skills. This makes it easy to search for gigs. There is a free version of Vollna, but in order to narrow down the amount of postings you get through email, you’ll probably want to pay for the mid-level tier.
Guru purportedly has slightly less security than some other freelance platforms, so you’ll want to take the same precautions on this site that you would on others, including Craigslist. However, if you find a great client, you can continue to work with them, potentially for years, so Guru can be a solid way to find gigs.
There are all kinds of ways for freelancers to find jobs, and Craigslist is one powerful tool in your freelance arsenal. While there are scams, if you take the proper care, there is no reason to completely avoid Craigslist gigs. Particularly if you are interested in working for small, local businesses, Craigslist is a great way to connect with new people and find success as a freelancer.
Even if you aren’t looking for used furniture or second-hand appliances, Craigslist has a place in your business.
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