Craigslist, sometimes just called CL, is a website that has become a household name after the last decade or so.
Since its launch in 1995 by a self-described “nerd,” Craig Newmark, Craigslist has come to serve a unique niche in the internet community, as evidenced by the 50+ billion page views that it pulls in on a monthly basis.
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Those of you who are savvy to the ways of internet commerce already know– where there are people, there is money to be made.
Now, you might be wondering what exactly I mean when I talk about making money on Craigslist.
After all, Craigslist is a big place.
I could be talking about official job postings, online positions, you name it.
And that’s true, Craigslist is the kind of place where you can engage in all kinds of endeavors.
But what I’ll be talking about today is a way that you can make money from Craigslist without spending any money of your own.
Don’t forget to read this post if you want to to make a quick couple of hundred dollars on Craigslist.
To start off with making money on Craigslist, there’s one area that you’ll want to become best friends with: the “free stuff” section.
To get there, go to your local Craigslist, then to the “for sale” area, and then the “free stuff” subcategory.
The stuff you find in this area is true to its name: free.
Sometimes, the poster will ask that you bring them a pack of beer or something, but it is free by definition.
Generally, the only catch is that you’ll be asked to go get it & move it yourself. So it’ll help if you or a friend have a truck, and some lifting abilities.
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Make no mistake about the quality of the goods you find in the free section. With few exceptions, people are generally trying to get rid of perfectly good stuff. It’s just circumstance that leads them to give it away instead of selling it.
To sell it would require making a post, being contacted, discussing price and meeting, which is something a lot of people don’t want to deal with. As such, you can often find high quality stuff (I recently found a 60″ HDTV) for absolutely no cost.
Any experience you have selling on eBay will come in handy when you’re using Craigslist, because there are a lot of similar principles. The ability to make deals with strangers, and protect yourself from scammers, are vital here.
There’s no doubt that Craigslist can be an absolute treasure trove of economic opportunities, but most people are too afraid to dive in and make the most of it.
So let’s take this step-by-step and show you how to make money on Craigslist.
1- Make a Craigslist Account
The easiest step, as you might have predicted, is to make a free Craigslist account.
This is as simple as they come.
You can simply sign up and have your account in seconds.
2- Search for “Free Stuff”
As I was mentioning up above, the “free stuff” area is your money-making haven.
Make sure you get very comfortable browsing this place, because it’s your main hub for this operation.
You’ll also want to get comfortable with checking it very often, perhaps up to and including making it your homepage.
This means that you’ll have the most up-to-date information, and be able to snag the good stuff before other people do.
Once you find an item you want, generally the owner will have a number/address that you contact so that you can tell them you’re coming by for it.
The rest is very simple.
Most of the items you’re looking at will be in good quality, though some are pretty crummy. Just pass these by if they don’t look profitable.
It’s worth noting that there are also strange sorts of free stuff that you see very often, like scrap wood and excess dirt. While those might look useless to you, there are certainly people who can take it and make the best of it.
If you’re one of those people, don’t overlook it!
3- Do a “Touch Up”
Most of the stuff that you find will be in good quality, but a little less than sales-quality.
If you invest the time to clean it up a little, you’ll be looking at a much more sellable product.
Perhaps that dresser you picked up could use a scrubbing, or maybe a full-on polishing, but afterwards it is showroom-ready.
This is the ideal kind of thing you want to pick up on Craigslist, because other people chasing these opportunities might not be willing to put in that level of work.
I could get into “flipping,” but we’ll address that in a bit.
4- Get Some High-Quality Pictures
As you’ll notice browsing through the “free” section, the eye is drawn towards posts which have pictures. Especially in the world of Craigslist, some good pictures can go a long way to establish trust in the post.
Keep this in mind when you are getting ready to do your post.
You want photos with good lighting, multiple angles, and most importantly, you want something that makes your product look good.
“The first bite is with the eye,” as they say!
5- Post Your Ad
This is the part where it all comes together. You’ve got your item, and your pictures, and you’re ready to do the deal.
Go back to the “for sale” category and put your item in the appropriate sub-category, whether that means furniture, cars, or whatever it is that you have.
Include as much contact information as you are comfortable with. The more ways that your customers can contact you, the more inquiries you’re going to get!
Obviously, the principle at play here is to take something that someone can’t/won’t sell, improve its quality, and then sell it for a profit.
It is technically a process of “flipping,” except some items can be resold as-is.
When you’re writing your description, you should make the product sound as good as possible. That might mean disguising the fact that it’s a fixer-upper, or detailing the proud history of the item.
Nothing special, just Sales 101.
People like things that are impressive and noteworthy, so share any cool details you have about it.
6- Do It All Again
The best quality of any business is to do what they do, do it well, and do it consistently. So that’s what you’re going to want to do here.
As you sell more and more things, you’ll get better at it, and you’ll get faster.
The most advanced people are capable of running a whole business this way, with multiple posts up at a time and many calls coming in. You’ll develop an eye for products and opportunities as you go.
And that’s the basic process of doing business through Craigslist.
There are a couple other types of skills that you’d do well to employ, such as a knowledge of how to handle unruly customers (Craigslist certainly isn’t free of scammers.)
If you combine a couple of your skill sets into this, though, you’re looking at a great economic opportunity.
And when I say “economic opportunity,” that’s no joke.
If you figure that this free item section exists for hundreds of communities across the country, you can also figure that there are a tremendous amount of items being moved every day!
More than just a few people are actually doing this full-time. Even Joe Schmoe could pull it off, so if you’re bringing your unique talents to this operation, there’s no telling how far you could take it.
Other Ways to Earn Cash with Craigslist
Oh, but what’s that? You want to know even more about making money on Craigslist?
Well, I’ve got your back! I’ll provide a couple more points below about how to turn a profit with Craigslist so you can round out your business plans.
So the vocab-gurus among you are probably aware that the terminology for all this stuff can get a little mixed up.
In some circles, flipping means “to buy low and sell high,” and in other circles, it means “to buy and fix up for resale.”
I’ll be talking about fixing stuff up in a second, so let’s go with the first definition.
If we were really trying to get fancy here, we’d call this “arbitrage,” but for our purposes, “flipping” will work just fine.
The core idea here is to take advantage of price differences between markets. Taking my advice up above, the price difference would be free vs. resale price (that’s the best kind of price difference.)
It doesn’t always have to be free, though.
There are a lot of things that you can buy for very cheap and resale for a tidy profit.
If you’ve never been to a pawn shop recently, you might find it interesting to know that lots of things you find at a pawn shop are cheaper than they are on retail. You could even flip these items, if you had a mind to.
Same with garage sales. There are tons of things you can buy from garage sales that can be sold for a profit on CL.
Perhaps the most variable market in terms of value is the automotive market. (Here is a list of best items to flip for profit on Craigslist.)
We’ve all had that friend who spent $10k on a hunk of junk, and a different friend who spent $2000 for a car that they could drive for years. This alone should tell you that there are major fluctuations and differing interpretations of value in the car world.
Now, getting into flipping automotives will probably come later, when you have a little bit of seed money to spend on your operation, but that is probably the most lucrative area.
Buy a motorcycle for $2500, sell for $3500, and you’ve just made a tidy profit of one grand.
Flipping gets easier the more resources you have to devote to it.
Another example of that would be someone who keeps seasonal stuff around to sell. Imagine picking up a whole haul of Halloween stuff in March.
Probably won’t cost much, right?
Now imagine reselling it in the dead of October. Very different market, very different values.
You can do this with anything– fire pits, ACs, sleds and jetskis.
If you have storage space, your flipping abilities will skyrocket.
2. The “Fixer-Upper”
Fixer-Upper is a phrase that is used to refer to something that, while run-down at the moment, should be worthwhile once restored.
You’re almost definitely familiar with this very basic process, as it’s one of the most classic ways to make money, especially by resale.
This is also the area that will benefit most from your technical skills.
Are you mean with a buffer and a sponge? Find old, dirty wood furniture and make it shine. You’d be shocked at how much money people are willing to drop on something that sparkles.
Maybe you know how to upholster? I personally saw a couch on the free section the other day. It was a giant sectional, leather-bound, definitely worth a grand or two when it was new. And yet, it was free due to some cosmetic damage. Someone who can patch furniture would salivate at an opportunity like this.
Again, the best of all is to have skills in automotive stuff.
You can find free chassis and frames all over the place on Craigslist, old classic car bodies with rotted out engines.
If you are someone who can restore that car, there’s no telling how much you can sell it for. The “gearheads” in the world know that the value of a car is limited pretty much to what you can do with it.
3. Inconvenient Items Are Your Friend
Yes, you read that right!
Inconvenient = awesome opportunities for you.
Because if it was convenient, everybody would be after it at once!
Imagine that someone said, “free gold, no catch, come pick up.”
Well you’d have a really tough time with that opportunity. Not only would you be swamped with competition, but people might be so bent on it that they try to undercut you for the goods.
It’s just too convenient, and there’s too much competition to get much out of it.
Imagine that same situation, except it says “free gold, must pick up, must perform impressive song and dance.”
Well, now it seems a lot less desirable to people who can’t do that, which opens up the opportunity for a more specific group.
This exact principle comes into play with Craigslist moneymaking.
A free boat? Hard sell.
A free boat with no motor? A lot less attractive, which means you can swoop it up in a hurry and do the fixing yourself.
In this case, “fortune favors the bold.”
4. Try Offering Services, Too
Now, this is something on the list which doesn’t really have much to do with picking up items for sale. Instead, this is just about making the most from Craigslist, as a platform.
You’re already committed to spending your time on Craigslist, so why not put up some ads for your skills while you’re at it?
Say you’re on Craigslist looking for furniture to reupholster for resale. But you might not be making enough money that way to get the profits you’re looking for. Try also listing your reupholstery services in the “gigs” section and watch all your fellow flippers come running to claim your services.
It’s this kind of business-bound thinking that will get you to serious success on Craigslist.
5. Offer Deliveries
Now, if you can’t do deliveries, that doesn’t mean that you can’t do business on Craigslist. Plenty of people are willing to swing by and pick products up themselves. But it’s that very fact that makes the idea of delivery so appealing.
There’s a pretty hefty list of things you need in order to be able to do deliveries.
For one, you need to have the physical power to lift the items you’re delivering.
You’ll also need a vehicle to transfer it, which means a pickup truck for most items.
But even larger items, like certain appliances, or automotives, might need a trailer to transfer them.
You’ll also want a dolly, a handcart, some restraints to secure the stuff… The list goes on.
And as you can imagine, this is really prohibitive to a lot of people. But again, that’s what makes this so valuable.
There are a lot of people who use Craigslist, and some of those people have very well-paying jobs. They won’t think twice about dropping another chunk of bucks on your delivery service.
As for the pricing of your delivery, that is completely up to you.
But of course, it is a good idea to base the price off of how much you need to expend in gas/manpower to get the idea to them. If they live two cities over, don’t go charging them $30 and losing a bunch of money for yourself.
Always price the delivery for your profit, or there’s no point in offering the service at all!
The Secret to Succeeding with Craigslist
Before I end this article, let’s take a second to reiterate those points from before about what makes a good Craigslist post.
In my opinion, the picture is by far the most important part of the process.
It wouldn’t matter if your post title was “New, beautiful armoire” if nobody could see it, because, who would take you at your word for it?
You’re a stranger on Craigslist, and you need to lead with your best foot forward if you want to earn the trust of your potential customers.
The right way to do this is by having good pictures.
They should show the product clearly, and in the most favorable light.
It sounds like obvious advice, but you’d be shocked how often people get it wrong.
The second most important thing is the title.
So they see your beautiful armoire in the picture, but what if the post is called “kitty needs a home?”
It’s simply going to derail the process.
Keep the title as concise, and as flattering, as possible.
“Armoire for sale,” is good, and “Armoire for sale, like new” is better.
This is definitely the least important part of the post, because it is on a whole different page from your initial pictures + title.
However, the customer will probably read it once they click on your post, so it’s still important to the process.
Keep the details clean and your tone professional.
You’ll see a lot of posters being really aggressive in their descriptions, as an attempt to discourage scammers. But really, the scammers won’t care if you said, “no scammers,” so it’s more important to present yourself in a friendly and professional manner.
Give the details of the product, give the details of pick-up, and give your number.
No need to get too fancy (unless you’re adding in some kind of special detail, like ‘this armoire belonged to Queen Elizabeth.’)
And that’s it!
You follow the tips on this list and you’ll be well on your way to supplementing your paycheck with Craigslist deals.
The best among you might even be able to completely replace your old job with this type of entrepreneurship.
Build some skills and train your eye for good items on Craigslist and you’ll start seeing the money roll in.