Get the Most Out of Craigslist and Stand Out While Doing It

Aaron Couch 21-08-2012

Craigslist has become the go-to site for anyone looking to buy, sell, hire, be hired, etc. You can find all kinds of stuff using sites like Search Tempest to search all of Craigslist at once 4 Great Craigslist Search Engines to Make Your Searches on The Site Easier In a web 2.0 era, Craigslist has refused to make major alterations to its site. This has advantages, but one disadvantage is the lack of a great search function. It can be hard to find... Read More .


However, at the same time, it has the reputation of attracting “sketchy” people. We often think these people wouldn’t even have the know-how to use Craigslist, but the fact is that almost everyone can… my dad can. And if he can, you most certainly, undoubtedly can. And that means that even the weird, sketchy people can.

But this article isn’t just about using Craigslist. It’s about getting the best results, and that can be hard no matter how savvy you are. However, I have had quite a bit of success in a number of areas, which I attribute to a number of things that I have done.

Be Open (Opposite Of Being Sketchy)

So people say that people on Craigslist are sketchy — use this to your advantage. I recently met with a pet sitting client from Craigslist and she told me that she chose me because I was upfront, honest and open. First and foremost, make sure you have as much detail as possible in your ad. Not something like “Selling car. Email me.” and then not have a name, number or picture of the car and only have the email that Craigslist provides users to click on to email you. I’m guessing that even if I email someone like this, I won’t get a response. How do I know this? Because I use Craigslist a lot and respond to a lot of ads for various things. Most of the time if the person just includes their name, they’ll respond. This can’t always be guaranteed, but it’s pretty common.

Oh, and don’t use all caps, cram everything together or use excessive exclamation marks like this guy. This guy is likely to be legitimate, but he looks “spammy” due to how his ad is written.

get the most out of craigslist



Here’s an example of one of my ads.

make the most of craigslist

So, be sure to include all the specific information in your ad. It’s also important to provide as much information about yourself that you are willing to tell. Obviously be logical and reasonable here. I typically display my name, phone number, email, Twitter handle and personal website. This shows the viewer, that you have a reputation to uphold and aren’t going to scam them. It also shows them what you look like by showing a public photo, such as one on Twitter or a personal website. I wouldn’t recommend putting your photo in the ad itself however, as that seems a little too personal. By still having it available, it makes people who want to work a little harder, find more information about you. In some ways, it weeds out a lot of worthless contacts — people who realize you’re serious about this and don’t want to bother with you (for one reason or another, don’t ask me why they’re like this).


A quick note about providing your phone number: Some people just use their home or cell phone. I’m not that brave. Instead, I use my Google Voice number. That way, if for some reason it gets abused, I can easily block them. It also just makes it easier with voice to text voicemail transcripts, set email alerts of a voicemail or missed calls, and call free from my computer. If I’m going to call them back with that number anyways, I might as well not complicate things by calling with a different number than what I listed in the ad.

Embed Contact Info And Ditch Craigslist Email To Cut Down On Spam

Along with being open, there’s another thing that I recommend and that is to embed your contact info as an image in Craigslist. I’m not talking about uploading it as an image, that’s completely separate. First let me tell you why, then I’ll explain how.

I actually cannot claim this as my own idea, long ago I read about doing it somewhere, but I can’t remember where. I was getting ridiculous spam-ish replies to my Craigslist ads. I don’t know how or why it happens, and I don’t care. I just know it’s annoying and I wanted it to end. I have had great luck with embedding my info as an image instead of typing it into the ad itself or allowing a user to click the email. I imagine that it may be a tad annoying for the viewers of my ads having to manually type in my email address, perish the thought, but like I said previously, it weeds out the people who really don’t want to put forth enough effort… and why would you want to work in any capacity with those people anyways?

make the most of craigslist


To go about doing this, type the text you want in a text editor of some sort. I use Microsoft Office or LibreOffce, but you can use whatever works best for you. Type it in a larger font, but try to make it look good too. Save that on your computer for the future. Then take a screenshot and paste it into an image editor, such as Paint.NET. Crop only the part around the text and try to make the dimensions as even as possible. If you don’t like what you have, you can always take another screenshot. Save the image that you just cropped to the same folder that you saved the doc with your info. Now go to a service like Photobucket or Imgur, create an account if you need to, and then upload the file. Copy the image’s HTML code and paste it into your Craigslist ad. If you have Craigslist Helper (mentioned below) enabled, make sure you click “Plain Text” first before pasting the code.

Use Craigslist Helper — You’ll Be Amazed

Craigslist Helper has transformed the way I use Craigslist. Nonetheless, it’s best if you find it out for yourself and read Ryan’s article.

In the image below, the red square highlights the link to hover over displaying the entire ad without clicking on it. There are a plethora of features such as icons which display whether a phone number was mentioned (hovering over it displays the number), whether a location was given, and a feature for easily re-posting ads.

make the most of craigslist


Note: For some reason, Craigslist Helper was removed from the Chrome Web Store and Firefox Add-on page. I managed to find a version, which has also fixed a couple bugs that was in the previous version. Also note that this extension is not supported or being developed any more by the original developer, but by another one who thankfully took over this excellent extension.

Be Consistent and Persistent — It’s The Key

If you’ve ever done sales, you’ll recognize the words “numbers game.” That’s exactly how Craigslist works. When posting or replying to an ad, you may or may not get replies. These are the numbers I’m referring to. The key is to keep responding to ads that you’re interested in and to keep posting your own ads. A few personal examples of mine are ads about freelance work: computer repair, pet sitting and miscellaneous work like strenuous lifting, moving, etc. Other ads that I post are to sell things or looking for things. Once I posted an ad about needing an iPod cable. A lady responded and said she had a number of them and would just give one to me for free. When I was in the area, I stopped by and saved myself thirty-some dollars instead of buying a brand new one.

The thing is, Craigslist can be used for anything. Anything — I found my lost dog because of it! But it’s only useful if you keep your ads up to date and on the top of lists and continue to reply to ads that interest you.

Respond To Ads Professionally

get the most out of craigslist

Take a look at the image above. There are two important things to note: a clear, but concise subject line, which shows that you actually took the time to change the predetermined Craigslist subject line, and an email that is easy to read, free of grammar errors and invites a reply. I would recommend even including a phone number if they care to call you instead.

This especially applies when looking for jobs on Craigslist. I recently just landed a great job at a vet clinic in town because I contacted them through their ad on Craigslist. They were certainly the sharpest one, and the only clinic that responded to me. This goes for both the employer and the employee — answer your replies. Even if the car is sold, the position is filled or the iPod cable is no longer needed, answer the replies. It’s just common courtesy and nothing technical about it. Take the time to say “Actually, I just sold the car. Sorry about that. Thanks for your interest.” It takes two seconds and it doesn’t leave the person who actually made the effort to contact you (out of all the people who didn’t — remember about the numbers game), confused about the status of your ad.

That leads me to another suggestion, remove your ads if they are no longer needed. Again, it’s common courtesy. This also reflects on you. Although you may not be all that well known on Craigslist, especially in big cities. It is possible for someone to stumble on one or more of your ads, or for you to contact someone who you’ve worked with before — it’s a small world, these things happen. What’s my point? That you have a reputation to uphold. If someone had a bad experience with you previously, they’re likely not going to do business with you again. I would consider not replying to a response on an ad or any of those things that I mentioned a “bad experience.” Also, they likely will be able to identify you if you stand out in the other ways by doing the things I’ve mentioned

Back to responding to ads, whether you’re contacting the ad-holder by voice call, texting or email, be sure to spell correctly, speak clearly and to be aware of what your email signature says. It’s important to let them know exactly why you’re contacting them. For instance, in the subject line of the email, inform them of what you’re interested in. I’ve found that if you edit the subject line instead of leaving it at the default entry which is added when clicking on the Craigslist email addresses, it shows the person you’re emailing that you are a real person and interested in what they have to offer.

Craigslist is basically a selling medium. Whether you’re buying or selling, you’re trying to sell. How are you trying to sell when you buy? Well, have you ever negotiated a price with a seller who already has a quote from someone else? If you have, then you’re selling yourself as the right buyer. What about looking for a job… that’s obvious, you want to sell yourself as the best candidate.

Ask For A Specific Subject Line In Email Replies

As I mentioned previously, I recommend that you ditch the preset Craigslist email and add your own in an image embedded in the Craigslist ad. However, this poses one issue: the subject line. If you don’t note in the ad that you’d like a specific phrase in the subject line, you’re bound to get all sorts of things. This makes sorting out emails hard. To prevent this, simply say “Please respond with ‘Interested in car’ in the subject line to ensure I see and respond to your email,” or something along those lines.


I have found these things very helpful for me and have created a very accurate and good system out of it. In some ways, these narrow down the responses because people don’t want to try a little harder, but again, those people are likely to leave you hanging or not even showing up to meet you. That is not only frustrating, but a waste of time. Why not nip that in the bud from the very beginning? These tips can help do that.

Do you have any Craigslist tips that you’ve found rather helpful in changing your experience? We’d love to hear about them!

Related topics: Craigslist, Online Advertising.

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  1. Yudono Ra
    August 29, 2012 at 8:44 am

    i really like "Embed Contact Info" tips
    eventough i never/don't use craiglist here (in my country) but, we have a similar forum which we can item and stuffs. (kaskus/sub forum "FJB")

    ps: sometimes it's frustating when people keep asking the same thing (that i've already writte in my details), and after asking over and over just left without confirmation whether they're interested in my ads.
    Hopefully this tips will filtered some of those people :)

  2. Ben Mordecai
    August 25, 2012 at 3:52 am

    These are some great points. It's key that you take advantage of the sketchiness of CL by being non-sketch.

    • Aaron Couch
      August 26, 2012 at 2:15 am

      Thanks for highlighting this point Ben! In fact, I'd say if there is one important one to take away from this article, that is it.

      Thanks for reading!

  3. xbalesx
    August 24, 2012 at 4:57 am

    Some of these are just great overall marketing tips.

    • Aaron Couch
      August 26, 2012 at 2:15 am

      Yep. That's all Craigslist really is. Whether you're looking for a roommate like Natalie, in the above comment, is or trying to find a job.

      You're always selling yourself in some manner.

      Thanks for reading and sharing your thoughts!

  4. Natalie
    August 23, 2012 at 12:29 am

    You've got some great points here, but I think you overlooked one thing...the ability that people will actually read your ad properly. For example, I recently posted an ad for a roommate in which I stated I was only looking for another female, and I had nothing but guys contact me. I had to refuse all of them. I don't why they couldn't have read more carefully. It would have saved us both the trouble. So...if people aren't going to read, I doubt they'd be willing to write down information from a picture. If they can't copy / paste, they won't bother. People have become so lazy, it's ridiculous.

    • Aaron Couch
      August 26, 2012 at 2:14 am


      I couldn't agree more. And if people are that lazy, then you certainly don't want them as a roommate. Thus, proving my point that it filters out the, to say it nicely, not good ones. :P

      It is frustrating though for sure. Hopefully you find a good female roommate! Keep posting and you'll find one. I'm sure of it.

      Thanks for reading and sharing your point of view!

  5. Kurt Decker
    August 21, 2012 at 9:02 pm

    Marvelous information that no one would probably ever get. Much appreciated. Thank you, Aaron!

    • Aaron Couch
      August 26, 2012 at 2:11 am

      Thus being why I decided to share it :) Thanks for reading Kurt. I'm glad it was helpful to you. It always makes me feel accomplished when I see that an article has helped readers to improve in some manner.

  6. AP
    August 21, 2012 at 5:35 pm

    Thanks for these simple but valuable tips.

    • Aaron Couch
      August 26, 2012 at 2:11 am

      You're welcome AP! Thanks for reading and I'm glad the article helped!

  7. Kevin Costain
    August 21, 2012 at 4:01 am

    Great tips.. this is something that we can all use more helpful trucks and tips about. I've found some of the most difficult parts of online selling have been the hassles.

    I actually covered this subject in great length at my blog:

    I'd love to see more ideas on how to better sell online!

    • Aaron Couch
      August 26, 2012 at 2:10 am

      Thanks for reading and for sharing these links Kevin! I'll be sure to check them out.