By Lil’ Herbert Fuchida
I’m sure someone out there in Writerland is doing a wonderful job of finding good jobs on Craigslist. If you’re that person, you’re the exception to the rule.
Overall, Craigslist has become one of the worst possible places to go gig hunting. Somewhere along the way, the soulless scammers and thieves and the self-righteous elitists of the online content world all decided to make a stand on the free classified site.
The Evil Forces
Craigslist is a haven for bad guys. It provides an irresistible opportunity for scumbags to ply their nefarious trade.
- It’s easy to use.
- It’s a major site with some level of credibility due to name recognition.
- It’s free.
- It allows one to put an evil writer-screwing scheme into place immediately.
When you put those things together, it’s not surprising that lowlife rip-off artists do their best to use Craigslist to their advantage, is it?
While some of the scammers are easy to spot, others are more creative and skilled in the dark arts. Even relatively experienced freelancers can fall victim to the rip-offs. Newbies are particularly vulnerable because they haven’t yet had a front seat on the tour bus through Scamworld. The problem is compounded by the fact that many of the people scouring Craigslist are in dire straits. As Meredith Diager notes:
Now, some of us might say hey, no shit, it’s a scam, but when you are out of work, you are almost willing to do whatever it takes to get a job.
The nature of scams vary. Some are good old-fashioned “I’ll pay you upon completion” offers that never actually put a dime in your pocket. Others are sneaky attempts to get writers to sign up for various “programs” or “opportunities” that actually cost them money. Some of the bad guys find interesting ways to convince people to create accounts on websites for which they’re paid as affiliates–with no real intention of hiring anyone.
There’s no shortage of Craigslist scammers and it seems like they’re all working overtime to dream up new ways to beat writers into a bloody, poor pulp.
The White Knights
The scammers are part of a one-two punch that’s rapidly and surely destroying the value of Craigslist for writers. The other group doing damage consists of well-intended freelancers who are far too happy to flag legitimate postings for removal.
Craigslist is a self-policing environment and when people find posts that fall on the wrong side of the site’s TOS (like scams), they’re removed fairly quickly. That’s a good thing, in some ways, but it opens the door for some people who’d like to protect the rest of the world from perceived evil to muck things up.
Some trigger-happy freelancers immediately flag offers that seem fishy to them. That may be okay if the writers in question have well-tuned scam sensors and know what they’re doing. Unfortunately, some of them aren’t able to differentiate the bad from the good and flag legitimate listings.
Even more annoying are the writers who feel so strongly about sticking up for their version of “writers’ rights” that they’ll flag posts based on pay rates and structures with which they don’t personally agree. Deb Ng at FreelanceWritingGigs explains:
Many writers flag jobs they don’t approve of. For example, I know of one writer who flags jobs paying under $50 because she doesn’t feel writers should be paid less than that per article. I know of another writer who flags anything from residual sites because he doesn’t approve of them. These writers are flagging based on their own beliefs and experiences, even if those experiences aren’t the same for everyone.
In other words, these fellow wordsmiths have decided to take over responsibilities usually reserved for the mommies and daddies of wee children. They’re so darn worried that you might make what they think is a bad decision that they’d rather eliminate the choice for you in advance.
Unnecessary flagging kills the listings themselves and it also decreases the perceived value of finding a writer on Craigslist. After a few BS flaggings, most people with work to offer will start looking for writers elsewhere. The “white knights” have a chilling effect on the whole site.
Who doesn’t mind that kind of flagging? The scammers, that’s who. They assume someone is going to report their posts and they go about their business with that assumption in mind. Multiple cities. Multiple email addresses. Multiple IP addresses. They’ll keep on keepin’ on with their automated tools and lack of conscience no matter what. The good guys, on the other hand, aren’t going to put up with it.
How Do We Fix It?
Well, it would be nice to say that we could make Craigslist a wonderful place to offer and find writing gigs by taking a few simple actions. We could continue to flag the obviously scammy posts, educate ourselves to avoid the more creative attempts at larceny and leave the potentially valid opportunities in place so that others can make their own decisions.
In reality, that’s not going to happen. The scammers will keep scamming. The white knights will keep tilting at perceived threats to the integrity of writing by jamming their lances into windmills operated by legitimate listers and Craigslist will continue to be a disaster.
If you feel the need to use Craigslist to find work, get ready to battle through the garbage and realize that you’re probably not going to see all of the good listings. Recognize it for what it is–a flawed place to find a job. Maybe you can be an exception to the rule.
Generally speaking, it makes more sense to find work elsewhere. I, for one, am not interested in walking through a minefield to get something I can find somewhere else.