Looking at Craigslist Isn’t Marketing — What Freelancers Should Do Instead

Carol Tice

Avoid Craigslist and do this freelance writer marketing instead. Makealivingwriting.com

I talk to a lot of writers who aren’t earning much.

I’m talking maybe $20,000 a year. Maybe $10,000 even.

It doesn’t usually take long to figure out why their income is so low.

They start asking me questions like:

What do you do when they want you to quote a rate before they tell you what the gig is?

Can you help me polish my resume?

What do you think is a fair rate for an SEO writer?

How fast can you write an article?

I hear these, and I know what’s wrong.

These are questions writers have when the main way they get writing gigs is by looking at Craigslist ads.

Craigslist has mostly low-paying gigs

Yes, every once in a while a legit company where a manager doesn’t know it’s a slum in there wanders on and posts an ad.

But in general…this is the bottom of the barrel.

Despite that, you have to jump through a lot of hoops to get a writing job off Craigslist.

You often have to send in a resume. Or quote a rate without knowing much about the gig.

You’re competing with hundreds of other writers…for crummy gigs.

It causes mental problems

Hang around here long enough, and it starts to affect your mindset.

You start thinking $10 a blog post is the going rate. And that $100 an article is great.

You also wonder how you are ever going to pay your bills through writing.

And yet, many writers stuck in this trap never see the obvious problem. They can’t understand where they’re going wrong.

Well, here’s the problem:

This is not marketing

Successful businesses do marketing. Active marketing, not scanning the job ads.

The owner gets off their can, and goes out and targets the kind of clients they want.

The kind that pay well and appreciate what you do.

Remember that nearly all the good jobs are never advertised.

So to make a real living as a freelancer, you’ll need to market.

Marketing that works

There are many ways to proactively market your writing business.

You’ll need to experiment a little to see what works for you.

I’ve had good luck sending query letters and marketing emails. I’ve also gotten clients prospecting on LinkedIn and Twitter. In-person networking has been good, too.

I thought I was doing well, until I hosted Chris Marlow on the Freelance Writers Den Open House call last week.

She revealed some research about what types of marketing have been proven to work best.

One big study found the best results rate came from doing direct mail marketing.

Few freelance writers are doing this form of marketing — which is probably one reason it can pay off big. It’s the method Chris uses to train copywriters on how to go from zero to $100,000 in income their first year writing.

Direct mail is great for top-drawer clients because they relate to it. It’s sophisticated marketing, like they want to do.

Done right, it makes them want to hire you.

Take the no-ad challenge

When I meet writers hooked on Craigslist, I challenge them to go a month without looking at any online ads. Instead, use that time for proactive marketing of some kind.

Once you start finding our own clients, you’ll never go back. It gets better results, and has the bonus of making you feel in charge of what’s happening with your writing business, instead of being at the mercy of whatever junk turns up on Craigslist this week.

What type of marketing works for you? Leave a comment and tell us about it.

Join my freelance writer community. Makealivingwriting.com



  1. Kevin

    Great article Carol, You are right but still people can find some great jobs on http://minneapolis.craigslistb.org/
    although majority of jobs might be low paying but still, something is better than nothing 🙂

  2. NIna

    Surprisingly, the thing I hated the most worked for me. I started cold calling SEO firms and telling them about my writing services. I remember being on the phone for 4 hours, getting No, after No, after No. Then suddenly, I got a few yeses and those who said yes were well worth it. I have a SEO firm that I have been working with a little over a year now, he gives me consistent work, and he sends a lot of clients my way. One client in particular is gives me so much work that I had to hire other freelancers to help me.
    I also tried direct mail and got the standard response. I sent out 100 postcards and got 2 clients from it. I plan to do more direct mail in the future, I am just in the process of changing up my packaging and offerings.

    • Carol Tice

      Thanks for sharing that marketing success story!

      I rarely hear from a writer who’s done either of those techniques for any length of time without getting clients from it.

  3. Terri H

    I think part of the problem is that some freelance writers are still thinking like future employees searching for employers/jobs as opposed to a business looking for some new clients. It’s totally a mental thing. Once people make that switch from job seeker to lead capturer the legitimate work will come in.

    • Carol Tice

      That’s a great point! We’re used to looking at the job ads. But as a business, it’s all about prospecting.

  4. Ali

    The best paying gigs I landed were through my own site – the company wanted similar content as I’d already published. Nevertheless I’m dying to try query letters and direct marketing emails, but so far I’ve succeeded to procrastinate


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