The last thing you want to see when looking for a job (regardless of website) is a completely generic job ad: no specific information, nothing to attract your attention, etc. Likewise, nobody wants to read a boring response – give an uninteresting response and you probably won’t hear any further reply. Here’s a comprehensive guide on how to respond to a craigslist ad.

Once you see some attractive job ads, you’ll need to sit down and crank out some attractive responses. It’s bad form to gather up the 20 email addresses listed on the ads and send off the same message; you’ll have much more success if you take the time to write a good customized response.

Step 1: Start with a boilerplate response

Before you start responding to any job ad, you should first come up with a simple generic response that covers all the basics. Here’s a list of things that I will usually cover when first replying to an ad:

  • Where I saw the ad
  • Who I am, what I specialize in
  • My resume and portfolio
  • My rate (if I feel comfortable giving my rate)
  • How to contact me

Those are the minimal areas you need to cover so that someone can get a good feel for you.  Proceed with some simple statements, nothing too fancy – here’s an example boilerplate:

Hello,

I saw your (insert job name here) position on Craigslist. I am an independent web designer / developer who is currently looking for work. My portfolio and resume are online here:

http://example.com/portfolio

My rate is $(xx) to $(yy)/hour depending on the type of work involved. Please let me know if you are interested or have any questions.

thanks,
(full name)

One thing I also do (if it’s for local work) is mentioning where I am and that I’d be willing to meet or talk with them in person.

Step 2: Personalize!

When you’re reading over an ad you should be able to pick up on what specific skills they are looking for and what type of work they need done. When crafting your response, use those specific things you drew out from the ad to attract the poster’s interest. If they mention certain skills and you know those skills, write a sentence or two about what you did with them. Even if you have some related experience, it can be better to mention to stand out from any other applicants.

It can also help to pick up on the tone of the job ad and tailor your response that way. For example:

  • The job poster looks like a single person who needs some assistance: use a personable, friendly, and trustworthy tone
  • Conversely, if it’s a contract position for a business: use a more professional tone
  • The person who wrote the job ad sounds like they are very experienced in the area: respond similarly, don’t shy away from technical terms
  • On the other hand, if they sound unfamiliar or uncertain about what the job requires: use a helpful and supportive tone

I’ve also found a lot of times for personal web design jobs the job poster will mention something like “must be a sports fan”, or “experience with classic cars is a plus” (this usually indicates some kind of hobby site or specialty business). If someone says this, it’s probably a good idea to mention it in your response. The person posting the job ad will feel more comfortable talking and working with someone with a common interest. Be genuine though 🙂

Step 3: Double check everything and send it out

If you’ve written up a good customized response and are ready to send it out, do a few last checks.  Remember you only have one chance to make a first impression! Here’s a brief checklist:

  • If you posted a link to your resume or portfolio: does the link work? is your portfolio complete and professional looking?
  • Have you made sure you attached the documents you stated (I can’t count the number of times I’ve forgotten this)?
  • Spell check and grammar check (have a friend/stranger/pet read it over if necessary)

Once you’ve done the whole response process a few times these things will become second nature, it’s all part of learning how to be a good freelancer. Until that time though, try to follow these simple tips to write a good response and get the job!

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