How to Respond to Craigslist Freelance Gigs

On the off-chance that you’ve not used Craigslist before, it’s basically the classifieds section for the internet. Launched in 1996, Craigslist actually consists of hundreds of city- and region-specific sites that host classifieds ads for those areas.

So for example, the site for NYC is https://newyork.craigslist.org

There are almost 500 of these for the US alone, and we monitor all of them.

On each Craigslist site, there are several main sections that we monitor:

  • Job listings (various categories and filters)
  • Gigs listings (especially computer and creative)

Is Craigslist even worth bothering with?

This is a very common reaction when the topic of sourcing work on Craigslist comes up.

“Come on, can you really expect to find anything good on Craigslist these days? It’s so old and ugly and full of spam and scams!”

Agreed to all of that, but the answer is yes, you can still find good freelance gigs on Craigslist. To be sure, they’re not the majority of posts, or even slightly close to it.

For example, here’s the first page of results for the computer gigs section of NYC, one of the largest Craigslist sites:

craigslist page showing mostly scams and spam

So out of 16 posts, there are three that maybe are worth looking at. And after looking at all three of those, only one was worth responding to. One was adamant that the person be onsite, and one was looking to pay $5 per lead for cold calling.

So yeah, not great.

However, remember that there are 500 Craigslist sites in the US, and we’re monitoring all of them and doing all that filtering for you. We also are monitoring the jobs categories, which tend to have much higher quality since the cost is higher to post there.

For example, here’s another example, also from the NYC site, but a remote-friendly contract job this time:

high quality craigslist post

Granted, it’s hard to tell what their idea of fair compensation for the “best of the best” is, but this looks like a high-quality post, definitely worth responding to.

These kinds of posts are out there, and we’ll find them for you. All you have to do is respond.

How to scan

When you open a Craigslist post, you’re looking for a few signals: are they looking for what you offer, how flexible do they sound, what are they offering for compensation, and whether it’s remote-friendly.

On the right-hand side of the page for jobs, there’s an area that shows the compensation, whether it’s contract or not, and whether telecommuting is available:

meta area of craigslist job listing

(gigs only have the compensation field)

Take all those fields with a grain of salt. It’s very common to see posts that say “no pay” and don’t mention telecommuting, but are actually remote-friendly gigs with decent pay. People don’t always put the right values in there. You need to read the actual post.

Finally, if you’re not sure whether it’s remote or freelance/contract, respond anyway.

On the flipside, if they clearly state that you MUST be local and you’re not, don’t spam them and waste their time and yours.

How to respond

At the top left of every Craigslist listing, you should see a dropdown with contact info:

craigslist contact dropdown

95% of the time, there will be a Craigslist relay email address. This means you email that special weird-looking email address and it gets forwarded to the person who posted the listing.

So just click the email to open your email client, paste in your template (or preferably use a tool like TextExpander), customize a bit for the posting (see the Everleads onboarding course for examples of how to do this) and hit send.

If you don’t see that “Reply” dropdown with the email address, it’s probably because Craigslist thinks you’re suspicious for some reason. Are you outside of the US? Are you on a VPN or proxy? If you’re having trouble figuring it out, reach out to us at support@everleads.co and we’ll try to help.

Gotchas with Craigslist

The biggest issue by far with Craigslist is the relay email system. You won’t have the person’s direct email, you’ll email a Craigslist address and it’ll forward the email along to the person who posted the listing. The purpose is to avoid having people scrape or spam the listings, and Craigslist is very aggressive with filtering out emails, which they do silently, so you’ll never know.

Here’s the best approach: keep your emails short and simple to ensure they get through.

Examples:

  • Do not use tracking pixels to track opens.
  • Tracking clicks with redirects is also risky.
  • Don’t have an unsubscribe link.
  • In general, don’t have more than 2-3 links period.
  • Try not to use any spammy-sounding words. I once had my emails filtered for weeks because I used the word “pharmaceutical” for a client app I had built.
  • Finally, avoid sending more than 10-20 emails per day.
  • If you need to respond to more, use a different email address and a slightly different template.

Diagnosis

If you send 10-20 emails to Craigslist listings with zero response, you may want to try and test to make sure your emails are going through.

  1. Open a private browser window and post a new Craigslist post in the gigs section.
  2. Keep it short and simple, you just need it to be public. Setup the relay email to go to an email address other than the one you normally respond with.
  3. Once the listing is live, go back to your normal browser window and respond to it to see if your emails go through.
  4. If not, adjust according to the rules above and try again.
  5. If you’re still not having luck, email us at support@everleads.co and we’ll help.

The other issue you’re likely to encounter with Craigslist is low-ballers and rude people. You’ll get people emailing you that things have changed and no one pays more than $10 / hr for what you do, that your work is terrible, that their dog could do a better job building websites, etc.

Don’t engage. Sure, send them a nasty response if you must, but also keep in mind that they can flag your email as spam with the Craigslist relay:

craigslist relay mark as spam

One or two people flagging won’t kill you, but if you keep sending nasty responses to enough people who flag you, Craigslist will just start filtering you out.

Video walkthrough

Coming soon!