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You Never Can Tell With Bees

April 8, 2010

…or with craigslist, as the case may be.

Frequently when I’m looking for work online, various freelance markets will direct me to craigslist.com.  As soon as that little purple peace sign logo pops up, I sigh in disappointment. To me, craigslist is a dandy place to get rid of an old mattress, but it’s hardly a reputable market for writers. Maybe I’m being unfair in my assessment, but usually the ads I see on the site don’t fill me with confidence. Every once in a while there will be a full, informative classified ad that gives details about the type of job being offered, clearly outlines what materials I need to send in to apply, and actually posts a link to the website for which I’m supposed to be writing.

More often than not, however, there is this: (this is not a real craigslist ad, btw, just an approximation of one)

NEED SOMEOONE TO HELP ME FINISH MY BOOK. PLZ CONTACT ME WITH RATES AND INFO> THX.

Yikes. I know that typing in  all caps is not quite the same as screaming directly into someone’s ear, but it is  usually interpreted as the Internet equivalent of YELLING. Making typos, using netspeak like “plz” and “thx”, failing to tell me what your book is about or how much work remains to be done on it…these are all things that make me think long and hard about the validity of this job posting. Is it possible that some lazy ninny has a half-finished (and half-baked) manuscript, and that this imbecile wants to hire a ghost writer to finish the work so that said ghost writer can receive no credit or pay? Maybe it’s legitimate. Maybe somewhere in Cambridge, Haruki Murakami’s caps lock key has gotten stuck, and Mr. Murakami himself  recently suffered a head injury and is having trouble typing, so he needs help finishing his latest masterpiece. But I doubt it.

I also encounter a lot of mystery websites on craigslist. A job posting for a web content writer will fail to include a link to the website I would be writing for if I got the job. Sometimes the lack of link makes sense; for instance, when a website is set to launch in July 2010, obviously the job poster can’t link to it because it doesn’t exist yet. However, other ads will claim that the site is “established” or “well-known” without telling me the name of the site. Why all the mystery?  I just want to be able to look at the site before applying so I can get a sense of the kind of work they like to publish.

For these, and many other, reasons, I don’t usually apply for jobs that I find on craigslist.com. I feel like I might be missing out on a lot of work because of my refusal to find work through this particular website. Maybe I just have a weird prejudice against the site, and other writers will laugh at me when they read this post. After all, there are so many writing gigs posted over there. To me, though, it seems like the majority of these gigs are posted by opportunistic oddballs who have no intention of paying me for my work. Or maybe they will pay me, but something else shady and sinister will happen. I don’t really know what this shady and sinister thing might be, but I’d rather not risk it, thanks.

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