How I Found $500 Writing Gigs on Craigslist

By Jon Sofen

I know what you’re thinking. Craigslist is a feeding ground for men looking for a casual hookup and consumers seeking a bargain. That is correct, but it’s also a place where, if you know what to look for, you can find quality writing clients.

If you’ve spent more than two minutes sifting through writing gigs on Craigslist, you know there is an abundance of scammers and cheapskates looking for a sucker who will work for free until the client’s website becomes the next Facebook, which of course never happens because no serious business owner would hire unpaid contractors.

So, while most writing gigs on Craigslist aren’t worth your time, there actually are some hidden gems out there if you’re persistent and patient. I know this to be true because I’ve found a handful of high-paying permanent freelance jobs on Craigslist over the past eight years, along with 10-12 other one-off gigs. And I’m going to show you exactly how you can do the same.

Weeding Out the Duds

Think of searching for a writing job on Craigslist like finding a future spouse on a dating site. Immediately upon viewing a dater’s profile, you know if that person is someone you’d be interested in contacting based on his or her pictures, interests, etc. The same can be said of a job posting.

Much like you wouldn’t bother messaging someone on that you find unattractive, uninteresting, or admits to still living at home at age 40, you shouldn’t even waste your time responding to job ads that:

  • Don’t offer pay or pay based on number of article views
  • Include a link to a website that directs to
  • Are so vague that it’s unclear what the potential client is seeking
  • Require content in an unfamiliar niche

Unfortunately, a majority of the listings will fit into one of the above categories.

Finding the Hidden Gems

The cool thing about Craigslist, for writers, is you can find writing gigs for free that can be done from anywhere in the world. But you must know how to spot the ones that are worth your time.

Living in Las Vegas, there aren’t many local writing gig ads, so I search other cities. I mostly look for work in the “gigs” section of major cities such as Los Angeles, Chicago, Dallas, New York, and Miami.

When I need work, I take a quick peak at Craigslist posts each day. It may seem like an arduous task trying to find a hidden gem among the hundreds of fakes. But I rarely spend more than 10-15 minutes per day looking for work, and usually less. Once you get the hang of it, you’ll know instantly which ads are useless without batting an eye.

The first sign I’ve found a potential fit is if the subject line is clear and concise. For example, “Seeking Sports Writer to Produce Daily Blog Posts,” would be a header that catches my attention. The subject line clearly indicates the client is hiring a sports blogger, which is right up my alley.

This is only a start, however. Oftentimes, after finding an enticing headline such as the one above, I click on the post only to discover it’s a scam or a cheapskate hoping to find a sucker who will work for free.

How I Know When to Respond

Applying for a writing gig involves sending a resume, creating a cover letter, and finding relevant samples to send the client. That can be time consuming, so I don’t waste my valuable time responding to every post. I only apply to jobs that meet the following criteria:

  • Topic(s) are interesting and I have relevant writing samples to send the client
  • Client put effort into the post
  • If budget is listed, it is an acceptable wage
  • Post specifically mentions project is for ongoing work or hints that additional work will be available following the completion of the initial project

My very first writing gig was for a funeral planning blog, and I absolutely hated it. I would have rather watched cheesy romantic comedies on repeat. The funeral planning topic interested me about as much as a bad Adam Sandler movie.

I learned quickly that if I find the subject matter boring, I won’t put effort into the job, so I thanked my client for the opportunity a few weeks into the project and moved on to something more interesting.

Whether its on Craigslist, Upwork, or any other freelance job board, I’m always focused on seeking out clients that want a permanent writer. Sure, the occasional side job is nice, but I need consistent work to pay my bills, which is why I mostly seek out clients who make it clear the gig is long-term.

How I Respond to Ads

Applying for a freelance writing gig is similar to applying for a 9-5 job. You need a professional resume and to write each potential client a cover letter that stands out.

Since Craigslist is free to use, the individuals you email will receive dozens, if not hundreds, of responses. Therefore, your email absolutely must stand out, be personalized, and get straight to the point. Don’t beat around the bush.

Tell the client, within the first two sentences, why you’re sending the email and qualified for the position. Then, detail how your qualifications are pertinent to the job, include some links to your previous work, and wrap it up by thanking the recipient for their time.

There’s Something Else I Should Tell You…

Finding reliable work on Craigslist isn’t difficult. But you need to understand there aren’t a ton of decent paying gigs out there. You will often go days, even weeks, without finding a single project worth a lick.

So, if you aren’t the patient type, I’d suggest using other means to get your writing career rolling. I only get a response to approximately 10 percent of the jobs I apply for and, of those, maybe one in four works out. And, remember, most days I search Craigslist for gigs I don’t even respond to any ads. So, you’ll be lucky to close one good deal a month.

But that’s okay because, if you play your cards right, that will become a long-term gig, and then a month or two later, you’ll have additional permanent work.

Craigslist shouldn’t be your main source of income. It’s a great platform for someone new to writing or struggling to find work elsewhere.

Since 2010, I’ve found five clients on Craigslist that paid me over $500 per month for an extended period of time, along with some other short-term gigs. This has supplemented income I earned from Elance (I really miss that job board, by the way), referrals, and elsewhere.

If you have the patience to find a needle in a haystack, Craigslist can, surprisingly, help you launch your writing career.




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