Jonathan Mizel's - The Online Marketing Newsletter - Business Website Strategies

How to Make Money on Craigs List

From: Joe Alexander Staff Writer

Dear Friend and Subscriber,

Sitting at the baseball game the other day, a multitude of things ran through my mind, first and foremost being how awesome it was to be a mid-day, sunshine-filled baseball game. Even better – it was a sold-out game. EVEN BETTER – I purchased the tickets not ONE HOUR before!

This is what I want to share with you: HOW this, as well as an infinite number of other things, can happen for YOU using one simple tool:


Whether or not you’ve heard of this nifty site, you’re not going to believe how much money there is to be made!

Let me start by telling you how has helped me:

I’m writing this from my apartment, sitting on my $1200 Italian sofa I purchased on for $300 with the matching chair and ottoman thrown in. A little earlier, I was cruising the “Tickets” section and got tickets for free to a show in the city. I sold my car on almost overnight, found my apartment, bought cheap computer parts, and sold collector’s items.

A short story: last Saturday, I found a seller off-loading four tickets to a baseball game plus a $10 parking pass for $20. The tickets had a face value of $10 a piece, plus the $15 parking pass. I emailed him and within the hour they were all mine. En route to the ball game, I posted the extra two tickets on for face value ($20 total) and within minutes I had my buyer who met me at the game with cash in hand.

Okay, tell me why Craigs List is so great

Isn’t it obvious? More than 10 million people use monthly – a staggering statistic. You can buy, sell, or promote just about anything you want on it, which includes YOU and YOUR BUSINESS. I will show you how to do this, and how to do this EFFECTIVELY!

I love and you will, too!!!

So what is anyway?

It still amazes me how many people have not heard of this site, yet it is one of the most utilized resources on the planet. Think of being able to post in every classified newspaper in America. Think of eBay, but free. Think of being able to reach thousands of customers without pay-per-click fees. That is!

Or, as the FAQ says, is a:

“Local community classifieds and forums - a place to find jobs, housing, goods & services, social activities, a girlfriend or boyfriend, advice, community information, and just about anything else -- all for free, and in a relatively non-commercial environment.” is about:

  • giving each other a break, getting the word out about everyday, real-world stuff.
  • restoring the human voice to the Internet, in a humane, non-commercial environment.
  • keeping things simple, common-sense, down-to-earth, honest, very real.
  • providing an alternative to impersonal, big-media sites.
  • being inclusive, giving a voice to the disenfranchised, democratizing ...
  • being a collection of communities with similar spirit, not a single monolithic entity.

And last but not least, a little history on

“Craig Newmark observed people on the Net, on the WELL and in Usenet, helping one another out. In early '95, he decided to help out, in a very small way, telling people about cool events around San Francisco like the Anon Salon and Joe's Digital Diner. It spread through word of mouth, and became large enough to demand the use of a list server, majordomo, which required a name.

Craig wanted to call it "sf-events", but more knowledgeable friends suggested calling it "" to reinforce its personal and down-to-earth nature. He still finds it awkward that such a visible site is named after him, but he'll get over it.

Over time, people started posting items on the list in different areas, jobs, stuff for sale, and apartments, the latter in response to San Francisco's apartment shortage. Craig wrote software which could automatically add email postings to a site which became

After being approached toward the end of '97 about running banner ads, he decided to make non-commercial. Some things should be about money, some shouldn't, and I make enough doing contract programming." He was joined by other folks who proposed running face-to-face parties to make the sense of virtual community more physical, and who proposed creating a nonprofit foundation as part of”

Just so you know, now operates in over 300 cities in all 50 states, and in over 50 countries. Pretty cool, huh?

This simple to use and navigate website reminds me of the Wild West: a great and vast resource just waiting to be discovered. One of my favorite aspects of the old west involves the entrepreneurs who traveled to set up shop selling implements to the miners. They saw the bigger picture. And while the masses are making a few dollars each day on by selling their sofas or game tickets (which I am oh-so grateful for), there is the potential to make THOUSANDS a month promoting, buying, and selling!

Currently, a business venture I am involved in generates hundreds of dollars every day from You can do the same! A lot of research and trial and error went into maximizing my efforts on, and I am going to let you in on all my “secret” techniques.

How does Craigs List work? is a simple text only site, so it loads quickly and easily. There is no cost to list your items, buy items or post in any category. Recently, started charging a very nominal fee for posting jobs in some major metropolitan areas to curtail the influx of scam ads, but even then, if you wanted to hire someone, there are still areas you can do this for free. is policed entirely by users through a flagging system. If the community does not like your posting, where you placed it, or what you are offering or saying, there is a flagging system in place where users can suggest your ad be removed. It takes a certain number of flags to be removed, so not one user can remove your ad. This is where is really like the Wild West: there is no law out here, just the citizens with their “guns,” so you better be on your best behavior… or know some good tricks.

Note: moderators do exist, so you can be removed by staff, but this does not happen unless you really irritate the community or are flat-out spamming the site. So, being removed thusly would be well-deserved.

Here is where it gets interesting. In the terms and conditions, prohibits the use of links which lead to commercial websites. Since does not police the site, the users are left to interpret the policies and obey them at will. There is one market I have to repost my ad in about 5 times a day, yet the majority of the other markets have the same or similar ad and it stays up for the full 45 days. This is just one of the quirks of conducting business on

If you want to know the rules, find the Terms of Use, Frequently Asked Questions, and General Posting Guidelines. Here are the most important rules:

1. You may not post "essentially the same item" before deleting the old item.
This applies even when posting in a different city or category. So if you are trying to post your ad in multiple cities, you will get an error message preventing you from posting.

2. You may not post the same item more than once in 48 hours.
This rule is not strictly enforced. In fact, in some bigger areas, your ad will get buried quickly. Use some clever editing of your ad to avoid getting flagged.

Before we get into how to play the system with postings, however, let’s start with the basics – how to buy.

Think of Craigs List as an Internet marketplace!

Welcome to! No high-traffic flash or fancy widgets here – what you will see lots of categories. Familiarize yourself with the categories and what types of things are listed there.

Before you decide to start clicking, make sure your appropriate city is listed at the top. defaults to the SF Bay Area. The listing of states, countries, and major US cities is on the right (note: you can click ‘us cities’ for the complete list).

Now, hit the categories! There is a general search engine on the main page to search the main categories; within each subcategory there are further search options to filter listings down.

Generally speaking, the same rules apply here as garage sales, flea markets, or any of the like marketplaces. For example, if an LCD monitor is going for $50, you check it and it’s worth $60 new, make an offer of less than the asking price. This isn’t a guarantee you’ll get it, but most smart sellers add a little to what they’ll actually take in order to leave bargaining room.

Also note: there are going to be lots of people calling about these items as well. You will want to get the drop on them, so to speak, and get there first. Most CraigsListers will promise their items to the first person they speak with, so timing is everything. My insider tip here is to subscribe to any category via RSS or hit the refresh key often.

Don’t be discouraged if an ad looks too old – it never hurts to try! Sometimes sellers (as you will find out) don’t get serious inquiries right off the bat.

Quite honestly, I have no idea what I want…

Okay, here is a suggestion: Gift cards. A little known source of great bargains consists of offers on to sell unwanted gift cards. This situation stems from the fact many holders of gift cards either paid nothing for them, or paid well below the face value. For example, DiscoverCard distributes merchant gift cards at half price through its “Cashback” program.

Just search for "gift card" (the quotations require the entire phrase to be found, not just occurrences of the two words) in the ‘for sale’ category and pick out offers which appeal to you. Don’t forget to bargain!

A word of caution: once you've made a deal, be sure you meet the seller at the store, to verify the amount of credit remaining on the card. Once verified, you’re good to go! You can now use your newly acquired gift card(s) to buy product to sell online or resell the card for face value.

eBay me!

So now you’re buying on, let’s start a transition into selling on using our old friend, eBay.

Most of you are probably aware of the business of buying/selling on eBay. But have you seen eBay lately? The competition is fierce! eBay is no longer the secret it once was and the chances of someone selling the same thing you are selling, for less than you are selling it for, it pretty likely.

Another problem facing most eBayers these days is trying to find suppliers. Not a problem with! As I am writing this, here is a sample of the items available completely FREE on my local…


free Leather Massage recliner (Human Touch HT-125 Robotic ) (inner sunset / UCSF)

FREE 20" TV!!!! (marina / cow hollow)

Cement Pedestal (hallow and contemporary) FREE FREE (sunset / parkside)

WOOD STORAGE CHEST - 24" wide, 30" deep, 60" long >>>>> FREE (sunset / parkside)


free table (richmond / seacliff) pic

FREE DRYER ****** (vallejo / benicia)

Free Futon, Desk, and Dresser (castro / upper market)

fax-copier machine (glen park)

FREE black flightsuit, mens XL (oakland lake merritt / grand)

FREE steak knives... (oakland lake merritt / grand)

Free Fighting fish and free tank of goldfish (sunset / parkside)

OLD BRICKS (mission district) pic
Outdoor metal round table (sunset / parkside) pic

Supplier problems solved! And this is just the free stuff! A quick perusal of will find grossly undervalued items you can buy and resell on, at a garage sale or on eBay. I know of one person who drives around a picks up all the free and undervalued furniture and sells them in a used furniture store for two to three times the purchase price!

The benefits to reselling on are it allows you to reach an unsaturated market. eBay charges a fee to list your product, whereas is completely free. eBay has Power Rankings, which, if you don’t have one, could cost you business. is ranked by posting date. is a giant garage sale where anything goes – buyer/seller beware. You can use your PayPal address to buy and sell on just like you can on eBay, so if you are not selling your items on, YOU ARE LOSING MONEY.

And, if you would like to still use eBay to sell, did you know you can advertise your eBay auctions on In fact, eBay provides you with INCENTIVES to send traffic to your auction from an outside source called Store Referral Credit.

You can get 75% of your Final Value Fees back when you drive qualifying traffic to your eBay Store from a location outside eBay with the Store Referral Credit. Post a photo of your item on and use the URL link to your auction eBay provides to drive more traffic to your auction!

And posting classifieds ads on, they find their way into Google search results. So, even people who are not specifically searching for your product or service on the actual site may be coming across your ad through search engines.

Okay, so how do I sell on Craigs List?

My suggestion is to sign up for an account, as it will be easier to keep track of and manage your listings. I cannot prove it, but it seems to me if you have an account, your ads seem to stay on a little longer, perhaps it takes a little more to flag an account holder. In any case, get an account. It will make your life so much easier.

Start by clicking ‘My Account’ along the left side navigation. Next, you will see the following screen – then just click ‘Click here’ to sign up for a new account. Just follow the steps and you’re ready to post!

Got the account, now what?

Post an ad! Don’t worry, it’s simple. Click the “post to classifieds” link (it's at the upper-left corner of the main page), drill down to the appropriate category, and fill out the simple form. You can use html, links and photos. Some sections will host your photo, some sections you will have to host your photo elsewhere and add the link in your ad.

Since is a text-based website, most people never think outside the box and do not use all the tools available to them to spice up their ads and get noticed. Adding color, photos and other devices will help you attract more attention and increase your ad’s response rate.

If you’re posting for real estate, there is an interesting website I discovered recently called Postlets which will help you create beautiful real estate ads on They are advertising expansion into other categories for the future, so keep an eye on this service.

Now just wait! You should receive responses in no time!

Note: In most cities, your post will stay up for between 30 to 45 days, depending on the category, but letting your ad sit on the bottom of the pile isn’t what you want. Posts appear in chronological order (last submitted on top), and readers will typically stop perusing after about two days' worth of posts.

This tidbit of information will come in handy for two reasons:

  1. If your item gets buried on the list and you want to get it fresh attention.

  2. When promoting a business, you want all the attention!

Enter the Wild West of promoting your business on Craigs List is not only a marketplace, but it’s a free, global bulletin board!

Whatever business you are currently conducting, add to your advertising efforts, whether you are an internet entrepreneur or you own a traditional brick and mortar business. And if you are looking for an opportunity to start your own business, provides the chance for you to sell mining supplies to the miners!


Say you are an affiliate of a popular dating site and want to post a link to the dating site – placing it in the personals is a guarantee your listing will be flagged faster than you can believe (see Posting Guidelines). Now, the interesting thing here is since is still so new, not all communities utilize to the extent others do.

Since was conceived in the SF Bay area, this is the city with the highest traffic, and accordingly, the highest level of self-appointed posting regulators. Just be aware of this when you post – you will be able to get away with more questionable listings in smaller markets.

If you are posting in any major metropolis area, be prepared to bring your “A” game, or you will be “shot” by the local “citizenry!”

Tex, here are the tricks of the trade

You’re starting to get a handle on how all this works, so now it’s time to show you HOW to use as a marketing tool without getting cut off at the pass!

Start out the same was as you did when posting an ad for something you’re selling. Keep the following things in mind:

The best defense against flagging is to be creative.

  1. You want people to click your link and go to your website. If you put an obvious link to your website, you are inviting a flagging. This can be avoided if you place a tag on it, such as:

    <a href=>Click Here</a>

    Another way to disguise links is to add a photo and make the photo your link. Photos are highly suggested, as most people do not include them in their ads. Photos will increase your click through, even if the photo is not of your product. Below, I have included two examples of posting an ad for a dating company.

  2. You CAN post in more than one category. In fact, you want to: one of the ways to improve your response rate is to post in more than one category. Use creative ways to make your product or service relevant to the category.

    Simply change up the wording on your ad! Change a word or two in your heading, change the order of the words, add a photo, anything to change up the ad. I routinely submit 15-30 ads a day essentially advertising the same product by using this technique.

    You may even want to add a line to the top thanking them for visiting your posting… just a few changes to the text will help. I have also found using multiple email addresses will foil the system as well.

  3. You CAN post in more than one city. Simply follow the same advice above,

    Unfortunately, there is not an auto-poster program developed for currently, so if you want to post your 1967 Chevy in 50 cities, you are going to have to visit all 50 posting sites and create your post.

The truth of the matter is if you want to get noticed, risk being flagged and post every two or three days. Be sure to change your headline.

Recently, I devised a way to get the word out about a new product and start driving traffic to one of my Web sites.

Who can resist free stuff? I found a site where I could buy e-books for $1 per book, which included the resale rights. Besides listing them on for $1 a piece, in some cities I offered to give them away for a limited time. Bundled in the zip file, I included a thank you page, which consisted of a short sales letter with a link to my website. And of course, in the body of the ad, I placed a small link to my site.

In ads, people like pictures. You’ve probably learned this if you’ve sold/bought a few things on As is the same with all marketing, you want your potential clients to WANT what you’re selling. Compare the following ads for a dating company.

This first ad is text only, and displays the link no-no mentioned above.

This ad will no doubt get flagged quickly. An obvious link to a commercial site will incite the local community to remove your ad. However, the ad isn’t really even engaging.

Now look at this ad:

In the above example, I included a color ad of a calendar, just to make people think of their own personal calendar. If they had nothing planned, it would make them realize they have nothing going on over the weekend, and how fun it would be to have something planned. I buried the link to the website as a directive to fill out an application form, thus disguising the link to my commercial webpage.

Craigs List is a great resource for any business, website
or product…and if you want to make a living on the internet,
tap into the Craigs List revolution!

You now know how to buy, you know how to sell. You even know how to use to benefit an eBay store. Most importantly – you now have another venue to promote your business, ANY business!

Utilize the tips outlined in this article to post in more cities, in more categories, and more often without getting flagged!

Take advantage of the Wild West atmosphere of and see the big picture. 10 million people are waiting – GO FOR IT!!

Respectfully Submitted,

Joe Alexander Staff Writer

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