craigslist — Still Crazy After All These Years

Within the last year I’ve started browsing craigslist for projects again, along with all of its eccentricities and flaky users, it is still one of the best places to find work.

Recently, I applied for a logo design project and here was the reply I got:

I appreciate you taking to time to consider my posting. Unfortunately, I did not reply to someone and they have sent an anonymous email about professionalism and hiding behind anonymity. Due to the fact that they were anonymous I now feel as I cannot trust anyone who sent me a response because I would not under any circumstances want to pay this person for their services. I have included their craigslist email as well as their original message and my response.

Anonymous complaint from:
craigslist reply;
If someone takes the time to respond to your Craigslist ad offer of employment, please be considerate and reply that their email was received, and if possible, if they are or are not being considered for the position. The anonymity of Craigslist does not relieve you of the responsibility of being a professional and responding to people as you would using other forms of job posting. Not responding just wastes the job seekers time.

My Response…
Honestly I am still going through all the responses and determining who would fit my need. I understand your position. But you have to understand when you place an ad on Craigslist you also receive dozens of emails per day. Anonymity has nothing to do with it. I did note however that to protect yourself, if you were in the running, you did send this complaint anonymously. It is ashamed that you didn’t feel big enough to let me know who was complaining. I’m sorry for not responding to you, whom ever you are since you are using “anonymity” to hide behind craigslist as well. I am a one man show trying to start and run a company, drum up business, work hands on, all the while my bills haven’t changed and money keeps going out. I mind is sometimes not just focused on emails and responses to dozens of people. I thought craigslist would be a good place to start since many people could be in my same situation. But seeing as how you didn’t want to give your name or see if I had even received your email before sending a nasty message, I am starting to rethink my idea al together. Now if I chose someone and found out it was you I would be thinking that my service would be lacking. Since I don’t know if you sent me an email because you are currently anonymous I think I may just respond to everyone that I am no longer interested and maybe just put off the project. Again, I’m sorry for receiving so many responses and being so busy trying to run this on my own to respond to everyone.

Thank for sending your original email and also opening my eyes to the unfortunate side of trying to help someone who might be in a similar situation. Good luck on your future endeavors and I hope all goes well for you.

(this was an exchange between a craigslist client and pro, not including myself)

This article is my response to the email.

This definitely wasn’t from me because I don’t agree with the premise this person is even arguing from.

As an actually mature professional of over a decade, I can say maybe I would have behaved this way 7-10 years ago, but have learned a great deal since then and continue to do so.

I think in these situations (speaking generally of the overall issue) both client and professional need to get off their high horses and lower their expectations.

Clients receiving applications — Need to understand that they shouldn’t ask too much from candidates in a simple introduction email. Professionals applying on craigslist might apply for 100+ jobs a day, they’re not going to personalize every single one.

Professionals sending applications — Should know by now that they’ll only hear back if the client is interested in them. That’s the way it works in real life too and has never changed. In real life when you go around your town filling out applications you only expect to hear back from those actually interested in hiring you. It’s a numbers game.

In either position, both parties should consider it a one-way, one-off communication, extending your hand for a handshake, introducing themselves to each other. Only once the handshake is accepted and further communication is made does there lie any obligation and expectation for follow-through or follow-up.

Looking at this purely objectively, here are each party’s functions:

Client — Posts a job or project with a basic outline of what the work entails. They might let you know what skills the job will require and ask for a general idea of what you charge. But, expecting a handwritten letter with a detailed proposal and quote set in stone is not appropriate. These things can only take place properly after further discussion. Client receives dozens of applications, deleting the ones that are clearly bad candidates and saving the ones that look good. They then go back through the decent candidates and vet further, looking at their website and portfolio, maybe Googling the applicant’s name, etc. A professional that expects a response from every application they submit are probably new to this game and a little naive.

Professional — Goes through all the project listing areas of the places that match their proximity and language and skill. For a digital professional, this means they can apply for jobs all over the world as the work can be done remotely. They have a general canned response fired up and ready to go for their daily round of application submissions. Yes, you heard me, canned response… I know it sends shivers down your spine, but it’s the only practical, rational, and efficient way to send out hundreds of applications everyday, which is necessary to land a job when competing with people all over the world, sometimes just kids who because they have a computer feel that’s good enough to claim being a professional.

The root of the problem is that people are always in a rush, trying to fast-track the process. Like any kind of relationship, it needs to start with basic introductions and warm up from there. Clients need to keep their listings simple and straight to the point and professionals need to do the same. Clients who post a whole dossier about the project is a turn-off and a red flag. Professionals who post an all-blue-text email with a list of 50 websites they’ve worked on instead of a simple link to a portfolio is a turn-off and a red flag.

KISS (Keep it Simple Stupid) is the key to surviving on craigslist. No one is entitled to anything nor should they have any expectations until the one-way is broken:

  • I Need a Programmer. One-way.
  • Hey, I’m a programmer. Still one-way.
  • I like your work, let’s discuss more. Now it’s two-way. Only now are you in any position to expect additional follow-up. And even so, you’ll still get flaked out on, I guarantee it. Sending an email to tell someone how rude they’ve been for not getting back to you is actually what the big waste of time is here.

As strange as it sounds, expect less, get more. Don’t burn yourself out. It’s rough out there.

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