Finding the Needle: How to Use Classified Ads and Aggregate Sites for Freelance Work

Finding the Needle:  How to Use Classified Ads and Aggregate Sites for Freelance Work post thumbnail image

Finding the Needle How to Use Classified Ads and Aggregate Sites for Freelance WorkWhen you first start looking for freelance work, it can be difficult to know exactly where to look.  There are quite a few options out there, and finding ones that fit your needs can be a hassle.  As I said in last week’s post, which you can find here, I do have a few favorites that have proven, at least for me to be quite fruitful.  One of them falls under the category of what I call “raw classifieds” — or those sources that simply list the job, with no filtration, and no fuss.

So how do I use Craig’s List to find freelance work?  It’s actually pretty simple, especially if you keep in mind the points I made in the earlier blog post:  preparation is key, be picky about your sources, and be picky about your jobs.

So here goes — this is how I typically find the jobs I want to apply for on Craig’s List.  By the way, this process also works well for aggregator sites like or as well.

Step 1:  Decisions, Decisions.

Before you even open up your browser, think about what type of jobs you’re going to apply for.  Set some criteria for what is acceptable.  Here are a few things to consider:

  • How many hours a week are you willing to devote to one project?
  • What is the minimum hourly or per word/flat fee you’re willing to accept
  • Is there any type of work that you consider taboo?  Something you simply will not do?
  • What is the max number of projects that you can work on right now?

Once you have this information determined, open up your browser and go to Craig’s List.  Since Craig’s List is regional, your “home” Craig’s List may be a different location, but the basic layout is the same:


There are two areas you want to focus on — the “Gigs” category in the lower right-hand corner, and the location menu on the right-hand side:

Step 2:  Pick a Location,  Any location

The next step is to pick where you want the job to be coming from.  If you need it to be local to where you are, then use the location menu on the right to get as close to the city or town where you live.  Simply click on US Cities and go from there.  Or, if the geographic location of the job isn’t that important to you, use the menu to start systematically going through the cities you do want.  Let’s say for the sake of argument that I picked the city of Atlanta Georgia.  So I would click on “US Cities, and pick Atlanta from the drop down menu.

Step Three:  Pick Your Work

Once you have a city selected, now go to the “gigs” portion of that city’s main page, as highlighted in the previous picture.  Pick your poison.  In my case, I usually pick “writing” gigs for obvious reasons.  So if I pick the city of Atlanta, and “writing gigs”, this is how my screen should look:

Now the important part of this page, for now, is on the left-hand side.  This area lets you filter the listings.  I usually highlight “paid”, check the “bundle duplicates” box, as well as the “include nearby areas”

Now you’re ready for the fun part:

Step Four: Finding the Needle

Now that you’ve got everything filtered the way you want, it’s time to find your job, or the needle, from the list of jobs in the center of your screen.  There are a few things to remember, especially with Craig’s List:

  • Especially in the writing gig category, not every job is going to be about writing.  There are a lot of survey-taking, or mystery shopper jobs as well.
  • Not every form of compensation is money.  I once came across a request for help with a cannabis blog where the compensation was listed as “Doritos and other munchy stuff.”
  • If it sounds too good to be true, it is.  Thankfully, you can usually tell either by the title or the description whether or not it’s worth your time.

Let’s look at some of the titles from the Atlanta page:

In this instance, there are a few of the titles that catch my attention as being potentially legitimate:

Why?  Well, to put it simply, because they sound legitimate.  The listings are business-like.  They say immediately what they’re looking for, and in some cases where they are located.  Compare that with a few other listings further down the page:

The two listings I highlighted above are probably not worth your time.  In the first case, they are obviously trying to sell you something, and clearly sound like it’s the greatest thing since sliced bread.  You’re already looking for work — why would they use special characters and promises to get your attention, knowing that?  They would if it was a scam.  The second is for a product reviewer — and if that’s what you want, go for it.

So let’s look at an example from each category — one from the legitimate, and one from the “shady” category.  First, the legitimate — the ad looking for the experienced editor:


This is one that I would consider putting a bid on, and for a number of reasons.  First, the pay in the compensation section matches what is in the description.  Second, they clearly state what they are looking for, and what the requirements of the position would be.  Third, they indicate that there is immediate work available.  Now the one drawback that I can see is that the ad itself is over twenty days old.  So either they have already found what they wanted, and just haven’t bothered to take the advertisement down, or they haven’t had too many applicants, or their demands aren’t as straightforward as they seem.

Now let’s take a look at the “Click of the year”  advertisement:


Okay, there are quite a few red flags on this one.  For starters, I don’t care who you are, or what you’re doing as a freelancer.  Making $4,200 dollars a week is pretty unbelievable.  In my book, they’re either exaggerating or out and out lying.  Second — the compensation section doesn’t match the description.  If they are so sure you’ll make thousands of dollars a week, why don’t they give a minimum amount at least?  Third, they promise you cash – which unless you pick it up in person is pretty much not going to happen.  Last, and perhaps the most important– they do not specify any requirements or skill sets needed for the job.  Does that sound legitimate to you?

Step Five:  Apply!

Once you’ve found a few jobs that meet the criteria you set while preparing, go ahead and apply to them, making sure that you follow their directions carefully.  Take your time– remember the goal is quality, not quantity.  It’s better to apply for a good project that pays you $50 per hour rather than five stressful poor jobs that only pay $10 an hour.

Applying the Steps to Aggregate or Other Classified Sites

While the details may be different on different sites, the general principles outlined in these steps still apply:

  1. Decide what you’re willing to apply for
  2. Decide on a physical location or locations
  3. Filter the prospective work accordingly
  4. Browse listings looking for business-like listings versus “too good to be true”
  5. Apply to them as warranted.

How Much Time Will I Need?

It depends.  How much are you willing to spend?  There are some months that I spend an entire day looking for potential projects.  Others, I only spend about an hour a week.   On average, I spend about 3-4 hours a week looking for new work, but that is a search that includes all major US cities, as well as some international ones as well. So if you only want to focus on a few cities, your time might be significantly less.

Okay- Let’s Talk About What’s Important — The Money!

Well, how much you earn is really up to you.  It can vary from month to month, from project to project.  I will tell you that on average I make about one to four thousand dollars a month from various projects that I landed on Craig’s List.  Sometimes that’s a single project that lasted a week.  Other times it’s a few month long projects that total that amount.  Either way, how much I make depends greatly on how much, and how well I hustle.

The same is true for you.

So next week I’ll talk about another important part of being a freelancer — naming your price.

Good luck!!


© 2017, Laura Seeber. All rights reserved.

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