The Writer's Craigslist Guide: How to Avoid Time-Wasters
Craig seems to have an affinity for some of the shadiest characters and lowlifes around. That’s why perusing the job posts oftentimes feels like dancing with the dark underbelly of society. But one must admit, Craigslist (also known as CL for short) has also really come through a few times, and continues to surprise us with golden writing opportunities when we least expect it. At times when I want to throw my hands up and walk away, I think of those glorious times. Craig and I, although he’ll never be my main squeeze, we will always be good friends.
With that said, certainly you fellow writers reading this can relate. Especially those writers who are serious about their craft—and about making a real living at it. It’s an open secret of how tough it is to find quality, high-paying (or just paying) writing opportunities on CL. I, too, struggled with this conundrum.
Now, with that said....
3 Reasons Craigslist irritates freelance writers:
Reason #1: Delusions of grandeur. I’ve seen it all. People offering exposure in exchange for your veteran skill-set. People demanding a laundry list of requirements more thorough than applying to work in the Secret Service…all for $8 an hour. People offering unpaid slave labor—uh, I mean “internships”—while demanding top-shelf professional experience.
Wait a minute—I have 5+ years experience at marketing agencies, stellar conversion rates, and everything imbetween…and the best I can do is do an internship…for free ? Seriously, Craig? Yes, seriously.
Reason #2: Cheapos. Too many writing gigs were literary slave labor. I’ve had situations where these content mills want me to literally pump out 5 articles a day. When you start talking about quotas like that, it gets a bit too reminiscent of a NIKE sweat shop somewhere in Indonesia.
Reason #3: Lies. Craisglist, being free of charge, opens up the door for the scam artists to offer opportunities that either don’t exist or are there to take advantage of someone. Certain ones annoyingly post the same scam over and over again in different varieties, and you find yourself opening these posts again and again with the same fruitless result. One person kept putting out an ad for a writing assistant and once you responded, they sent you a shady email about them being this big business owner who was out of town and in need of my address for them to mail checks to....my thoughts exactly.
For a while now, I’ve been compiling some lessons learned from my own personal dealings with CL and I am so thrilled to finally be able to share them with anyone who can benefit.
The 5 Red Flags on Craigslist to watch out for:
1. When they say, “I could do it myself, but I don’t have time.”
Hmmm. I’ve answered a few of those when I was starting out and desperate and it didn’t end well. (It never does when they don’t respect what you do.)
2. When the person says “it’s easy.”
That means what you do isn’t that big of a deal and isn’t worth being paid for. Hit the back button immediately.
3. When they say how long it should take you to write it. “This is just a tagline, only two sentences…it should take about two hours.”
Alrightee, then. The point of being freelance is naming your process
4. When the Compensation box says, “TBD”
Uh, run! When was the last time you saw To Be Discussed and it turned out good for YOU?
And last but not least…
5. When the person says, “a % of royalties”.
Nooo thanks.... This especially happens with ghostwriting gigs for books.
Think of it this way: when the construction worker builds a house from the ground up, do they get paid for their work or do they wait to get a % of the house when (of if) it sells? ...Exactly.
As a freelance writer, hey—you live, you learn. One thing we all will hopefully learn is how to avoid people and jobs that aren’t worth our time.
Just like one of my favorite quotes says: “When you know better, you do better.” ~Maya Angelou
About the author: Helen C. Holt has been in the freelance writing biz since 2009. Her specialty blends creative and business ghostwriting and copywriting. Tweet her @writesideup.