Craigslist! Those jobs don't exist! (part 2)

Craigslist classifieds used to be one of the best online resources for finding and landing writing jobs. Not any more. A writer is actually likely to get their writing samples stolen, while innocently thinking they’re applying for work. I loved Craigslist during the dot-com era, and didn’t want to believe that a good source of writing gigs had dried up. So, I put on my girl detective hat and responded to questionable ads, to see what I'd unearth.

 "Detective," by olarte.ollie, on Creative Commons

"Detective," by olarte.ollie, on Creative Commons

My next application was to a ghostwriting advert. The job poster excluded the company name and the ghostwriting topic. Once again, this raises red flags: publishing companies want writers to know who they are and what they need immediately, so that nobody’s time is wasted writing or reviewing unsuitable content. Also, asking for ghostwriting is a rather broad category. They could want content for a corporate blog or someone to organize rambling thoughts for a memoir.

In hopes of dragging out the conversation longer than the last ad I applied to, I tried to be slightly more personable and flattering:

Dear Sir or Madam,

I am an experienced ghostwriter who can adapt my writing to any client need. I am interested in your position.

 To ensure this is a good match, before I send my work samples, could you give me more information about your website?

 Best regards, 

Amy Neises

OK, it felt extreme when I wrote it, but now I see that I completely suck at flattery. But I got an immediate response.

From: Craigslist 5678

Amy, can you send us samples.

We are ...

<Amy's note: I deleted the project details, but it was a clear one-sentence description of their product, including a link to a website.>

OK. Based on that interaction, I actually felt about 50 percent better about working with him. I immediately realized my contact, Raj, was a software developer in India, working on a website likely outsourced from an American company. The ghostwriting entailed writing content for the entire website.

 Will this ghostwriter get paid? "Keyboard ~ Blur," by Hobvias Sudoneighm on Creative Commons.

Will this ghostwriter get paid? "Keyboard ~ Blur," by Hobvias Sudoneighm on Creative Commons.

Questions still lingered, through. Enough to make me lightly concerned for a creative writer, lured by the “ghostwriting” part of the ad, but lacking a tech background, who might have missed the following points:

  1. I still didn’t know his company name. What I wanted was an official company website, to prove that he was working with a legitimate business, and get an idea of their validity. Raj didn’t provide it, and after years of hearing stories about flakey startups, I questioned all the more: was this company was truly a company? Was this website the company’s only product? I needed more information about the company, before making a decision.
  2. Raj sent a website link to the product. That’s good. But again, what I wanted was a link to the corporate website. Also, after years of experience in the IT realm, I read the link and saw it was to a test environment. This meant the website was still being built, and was unavailable to the public. Since the website needed a ghostwriter, this was completely logical. But, since I didn't have a good sense of the company itself, I questioned: did the product actually exist? Was Raj looking for a native English speaker to make the website look really good before acquiring funding? Would I, as the writer, do a lot of work and potentially not get paid?
  3. Raj responded to me from Craigslist. Why didn’t he respond from his corporate account?

Therefore, I didn’t want to send him my work samples. Not yet. But at that point, I worried less about work sample theft, and more about not getting paid by a fly-by-night organization. I resorted to more flattery, to attempt to get answers to my qualms. Who knew? Maybe it was all a misunderstanding. After all, he did provide a link to the product.

Hello Raj, 

Thank you for the website. Your work is impressive and I'm interested in proceeding.

Before I send my work samples, could I have the name of your company and a direct email? It would be helpful to know who I am working with, instead of going through Craigslist.

Best regards,


Another quick response:

Sure. Company name is <Deleted> like the logo on the website. My direct email is …

This is where my inner nerd started screaming bloody murder. His email? A Gmail account. Nobody in IT (nobody, nobody, nobody), regardless of their business maturity, would work off a Gmail account. Getting a valid domain for websites and email is a relatively quick process, and it's the first thing any geek developing a website would acquire. Even if your product is in a test environment, for the sake of marketing and validity, you want to at least get a corporate site for a web presence, even if it's a one-page placeholder.

If, that is, you’re a legitimate company. Gmail accounts are free and easily abandoned. Especially when you no longer want to pay the writer you hired. Also, I ran a few Google searches on his company name. Nothing. Nothing. Nothing. Nothing came up that matched the name, or the location listed on the Cragislist ad.

At this point, felt pretty good deciding that something questionable was occurring. I wanted to let Raj know my concerns, for the sake of the next writer who might not be technically savvy, and to communicate that because of these concerns, I was no longer interested in working with him. Raj responded with a protest, but again, I knew enough about IT to shake my head “no” at his explanation.

While continuing to shake my head, told myself, “No, no, no. No more Cragislist. Maybe occasionally, if the advert is complete, but no more Cragislist.” It was hard accepting the news, even after a few rounds of research. I still want to believe the site isn’t so bad.

What was your experience with Craigslist?