How to Make Money on Craigslist from Nothing

With everything that’s going on in the world, nobody knows what will happen tomorrow. Upon the uncertainty, traditional jobs feel unsafe and side hustles are no longer an option. If you want to thrive in a difficult economy, you’ll need to cultivate more sources of income.

For those who never made any money online, it may sound too difficult. But what if we told you there’s a site where you can make money right now? That means you don’t need any skills or capital to get started. All that’s stopping you is learning how this platform works.

And this article will show you how to profit from it (or at least, not waste your time).

It’s normal that people are skeptical about these ideas. When someone hears about sites like Craigslist, that’s the reputation they’ve earned. But is it really the platform or how users utilize it?

Why Craigslist (CL)?

Why Craigslist

Craigslist offers free classified advertisements for those who want to trade services, gigs, goods, housing, anything you can buy basically. If you come up with a good offer, you could sell out overnight.

Here’s why we’ve chosen to create this guide (and what sets this platform apart):

  • High visibility for the price

If you look at the evolution of advertising, you’ll notice how strategies have changed. The reason? Getting attention has become harder than ever, even though we have more tools to understand our customers.

Sure, there’s email marketing and social media. But it takes time to create those systems. Instead, you can post an ad on CL. And when someone wants to buy something, they will browse the categories, sort by recent, and find your listing on the first page (free). Assuming you offer something they can’t refuse, you get the sale.

  • Local targeting

It’s great to have a global reach, except when it limits your ability to get sales. You might get more traffic, but you’ll find that most of your clients belong to a certain area. These people are more likely to buy when they find a seller based on their specific location.

It also makes it easier for local businesses to get customers. Did we mention it’s free?

  • Fast and easy

If you try most selling platforms, there are some “walls” you need to go through. While making money is fairly easy, getting that revenue out can be hard:

  • You need to connect your website or seller accounts to the platform
  • You need to provide proof of ID and address before withdrawing money

Plus, the platform decides when you get paid and what % to charge you. And if you go against their terms/conditions, they can block your account and funds with no explanation.

Getting through these steps takes weeks if you need to contact customer support.

Craigslist doesn’t have those limits because its direct purpose is to advertise, not to sell. You create an account in 5 minutes, create a listing in another 5, and you may sell the same day. You agree whether to pay in cash in person or via credit card, and that’s it.

Some people are worried about Craigslist scams. We believe that if you’re smart with your money, there will be no problem. In fact, CL may become your next gold mine.

What Do You Need to Make Money on CL?

What Do You Need to Make Money on CL

Let’s set the expectations right from the beginning:

It’s dead easy to start a business on Craigslist.

Start. Not profit.

I believe you’re not starting a business for the sake of having one. The purpose is to make good returns by offering something valuable to your clients. To sell as much as possible.

If you Google how to start selling on Craigslist, you will instantly learn how to do it.

But knowing it isn’t enough. Because everyone is doing it too. And that competition makes it impossible to sell unless you give yourself an edge.

And that doesn’t necessarily mean more money or clients. Here’s all you need, no matter what you sell:

#1 Have a practical plan

You may have an idea of how your business model works. But do you know how to create one for yourself? Do you believe you can achieve it, and how long do you think it will take?

The best advice is to find instances where people already make money doing what you want to do. You can find them on Youtube, blogs, forums, maybe social media. There are three ways to learn from them:

  • Message them and ask them some questions
  • If they also teach with free content, you could watch that too (videos/articles)
  • Find multiple success cases and see what they all have in common

Whether you learn from them or not, what matters is that you find those cases. That’s solid proof that your idea works.

As for the How-to, you can find it anywhere on the Internet. But you still need to use that knowledge. Otherwise, it’s a waste of time.

Once you know How, you plan what you’ll need to do and for how long. For example:

  • Create one listing every week
  • Answer to requests as soon as possible
  • Optimize the listing every other week
  • Advertise on other platforms daily (either paid or free traffic)

With a plan, you’re responsible for making the sales happen, instead of waiting for people to come, if they ever do.

#2 Get the right tools

It takes time to start a business (but far less than a few years ago). You’ll get your money sooner when you invest in software tools: market research, profitability calculators, tracking apps, payment processors, or a full-fledged website.

Many of these are free. But even if they cost $50/month, it’s dumb not to invest in your business. Why? Because the no.1 reason for failure is the lack of market demand. You can’t sell something people don’t want.

Research software tells you exactly what people want, or who wants what you’re selling. You should consider this data before you even think of a product.

Does that mean that you need all this stuff to profit on Craigslist? No. All you need right now is a CL account and a listing.

BUT if you want to profit long-term consistently, you’ll need to include these tools in the plan. Don’t invest in all that software until you’ve got your first sales at least.

#3 Conversion Systems

You need clients, or you can’t make money. And Craigslist has many of them. But how can you always make sales? Maybe you want to turn CL into a passive income source, not just get a few extra hundreds every once in a while.

Craigslist gives you the attention. Assuming you have an offer, all you need now is a system to maximize your ROI:

  1. How to get more clients?
  2. How to make them pay more?
  3. How to make them buy more often?

Sales come from value and credibility: I buy from you because you solve my problem and I believe you can solve it. In practice, that means you create the following:

  • Testimonials and case studies to prove that your product works
  • You create a reputation and an email list to keep selling to previous customers
  • You test with lots of keywords until you come up with an optimized ad campaign (so only the right people see your product)

As you’ll notice, you need these three things for any business you start, not just Craigslist. That’s good news because if you get these tools for CL, you can later reuse them for other businesses you start. Long-term strategies pay off forever.

So how do you get this business going?

How to Make Money on Craigslist?

How to Make Money on Craigslist

There’s not a single perfect model for everyone. But everyone can sell on Craigslist because you can sell almost anything. So before you make your conclusions about the platform, make sure you’ve tried the other ways to make money.

#1 Turning trash into cash

Believe it or not, Craigslist can be the best place to flip items if you live in the right area. Sometimes, people want to get rid of stuff, so they underprice them. Sometimes, you get them for free as long as you’re willing to come and move them.

That’s the advantage of doing local sales versus global marketing. You can actually see your sellers/clients and see the product yourself. If you lived in another city, you probably wouldn’t travel, or couldn’t check if the offer is real, so you’d miss it.

You just search for people giving away or low-selling items, whether it’s coffee mugs or PC components. You then check for its price on the average online marketplace. If the profit margin is high enough, you consider contacting and driving to check/pick up the product.

If you have more confidence, you might tell them to deliver it instead. But the goal is to sell it for more.

Objections:

  • Why don’t they do it themselves?

Because they want to get rid away of it fast, or they don’t know how to sell online

  • Isn’t this so easy that it’s saturated?

Most people don’t do it because they underestimate local opportunities. And those who live outside the area won’t do it either.

  • Isn’t it a waste of time to travel from one place to another?

Never drive to a place just for one task. Keep looking for deals in the same area so you can do them all in one trip without backtracking. Chances are that the seller has more than one item to sell you.

And to make the trip worth it, increase your profits. It’s more efficient to flip laptops, phones, or furniture than reselling clothes or toys.

  • Time-money investment: Low

It takes a few minutes to search for listings on Craigslist, and the sale depends on how quickly the seller responds. If you agree on a price, you could pick it up the same day.

You then wait or advertise to resell it online. It may not happen overnight, but at least it’s passive income.

  • Earning potential: Medium

We’ve heard about people who make six figures a year or more by flipping stuff, and they may have started with less than $500. Eventually, they switch to an e-commerce website where they potentially make millions.

It’s highly scalable, but your results vary a lot depending on the quality of your research. If you browse enough, you’ll find a low competition product with high demand and profit margins.

Note: If you’d like to learn more about the magic of reselling, here you’ll find our full beginner guide to retail arbitrage from $0.

#2 Completing quick gigs

Freelancers generally dislike local targeting, because that means they have fewer clients to reach. But that also makes you more relevant to those clients, so it increases your chances by 2x-10x.

If you go to any freelance site, you’ll find hundreds of job requests. So even if you narrow down, you can still find gigs that match your skills and location, especially on Craigslist.

By the way, most of them require no skills:

  • You run errands, deliver for other people
  • You come to help them move some furniture (like on TaskRabbit)
  • You might be a photographer who comes to shoot them some pictures

It’s too easy to think of Craigslist as a risky website. But because you work locally and can meet those people, it means the opposite: credibility.

  • Time-money investment: Medium-Low

Most gigs require no skills. So at the same time, you can work at multiple gigs and locations. The only investment you need might be a bicycle, a car, or a monthly subway pass.

  • Earning potential: Medium-Low

You’re essentially getting paid for tasks people can do but don’t want to. You don’t really have anything to offer other than your time, which is why these gigs may pay less than ideal. BUT you can boost your earnings with better time management: Never do just one thing per location, and aim for the expensive gigs.

Note: Jobs and careers aren’t the same. But you can start a career from home with no skills with the right preparation.

#3 Trading cars/real estate

There are real opportunities on Craigslist if you want to move bigger bucks. But most people will reject them because of the credibility factor.

Think of a guy living in San Francisco. They probably won’t drive to the seller if they find a deal in CL Los Angeles, even if it’s free (unless the seller delivers it cheaply). And people avoid buying stuff they can’t see.

So if you and the seller live nearby, you sort out that risk by meeting with them. It may feel intimidating, but it’s worth the money.

  • You meet to inspect a used car. Everything looks good, so you pay and resell it for a profit
  • Someone advertises a property. So you come to see it and maybe negotiate on the spot. Whether you rent or sell, you make a profit by buying low.

Why would CL sellers sell lower? Because:

  • They don’t have to spend on advertising when promoting on Craigslist
  • You might be the only person interested in buying
  • Craigslist’s sales commissions are lower than in other ad platform
  • Time-money investment: High

It would be ideal that you could get a buyer before buying the property or car. But most people will want to see it first. So you’ll have to lead them to the original seller, who will then give them a lower price and remove you as the middleman. Here’s how we’d do it:

  1. Find a good deal and contact the seller to see if it’s available
  2. List it as if you already bought it and wait until an interested person contacts you
  3. You meet the seller and negotiate down
  4. Now that you own the asset, you can show it to your client
  5. If they like your price, you sell. And if they don’t you can keep promoting the listing

With timing, you could buy and sell the same week. But you need enough money to buy it first.

  • Earning potential: High

It’s no secret: there’s less effort in selling one big item than ten products for a tenth of the price. (assuming you don’t own a store).

You’ll earn a lot as long as you review the asset correctly. Don’t get misled by the seller, or you may not find a buyer.

Note: If you like the idea but don’t know how to do it, here you’ll learn how to start a profitable real estate business with almost no money.

#4 Infoproduct marketing

Who said you can’t run a local business with virtual products? Because of the Internet, it’s much easier to find potential buyers in your area. You don’t even need to rent a place.

Let’s say you know something others would like to know. So you write a book or a course, and you sell that content to those locals specifically. The marketing is up to your creativity, but the more you offer upfront, the easier it will be to sell (to the right person!):

  • You could offer to meet with the person for a free 1h-consultation where you solve their problems. You also talk about your product and how it could help them. Or they tell you about someone who may be interested
  • You offer a course just like everyone else. BUT you have the results they want, and you offer to meet once every one of two weeks for in-person Q&As

And you don’t need to have a course. If you’re good at something, you can sell someone else’s stuff (like on Clickbank affiliates) and bundle that with some personal consulting. It’s semi-passive, and the person gets a custom plan for their specific case (monthly membership).

Selling locally can be a strong selling point.

  • Time-money investment: Medium-low

Because you sell on Craigslist, the promotion is free. As for the info product, it costs whatever you paid to learn it. The investment is on the time: how long it takes you to create the product and find people.

  • Earning potential: High

You can scale a lot with info products by taking advantage of your first clients (in a good way). So you could start selling locally and switch to global info products later. Let me explain:

  1. You offer superior personal service along with your course for a low price. Your clients get personal consulting from you, which gets them super-results. They will be happy to talk well about your service, and you boost your credibility with testimonials
  2. You then use that social proof to raise prices and get more sales
  3. You eventually stop doing the in-person service and sell the course only (maybe Q&As via video). You can now sell worldwide. But unlike every other beginner, you have your credibility and visibility already

Craigslist may not make you a millionaire, but it’s a good place to start.

How to Lose Money on Craigslist

How to Lose Money on Craigslist

Sometimes, the easiest way to learn how to do something is by learning how not to do it. And when it comes to money on Craigslist, there are many ways you can lose it all.

Let’s just say that not everyone is here for making money the legit way. These guys are aware of Craigslist gold-diggers, and they’ll try to deceive them for profit. We’re talking of those who sell you business opportunities and show what’s too good to be true.

Sooner or later, you’ll lose money on Craigslist scams IF you don’t learn to avoid them.

Now, scammers keep improving every day. But if you’d like to get some basic info in two minutes, here’s what you should know:

#1 Many scams run on Craigslist

To name a few:

  • A seller offers you a great car deal on Craigslist but doesn’t show you the vehicle
  • A seller creates a confusing listing about a property that may not exist
  • An identity thief may lure you with work-from-home schemes for phishing purposes

No matter the context, it generally goes like this:

  • The scammer offers you something you can’t refuse
  • The scammer plays by his rules and refuses to give you proof or information
  • He’ll use pressure tactics. But if that doesn’t work, he labels you as an “uncommitted buyer” who’s wasting people’s time
  • If you do accept the deal, you get no purchase protection

#2 They scam you on the payment

If you meet someone in person, that may feel trustworthy. But they may have still manipulated the product so that it’s not what it looks. And if you paid in cash, you’re out of luck.

You can also get scammed as a buyer, by the way:

  • The “client” orders a chargeback after driving away with the item
  • The buyer sends you a check
  • A buyer orders an electronic but switches it for a replica and returns it for a full refund
  • The buyer sends you to a new escrow site which happens to be a phishing funnel

If the payment isn’t secure, the whole deal can be a trap, no matter how convincing it is. Because if it really benefited both parties, both would agree on protecting the transaction.

#3 They may lie about Craigslist

Scammers may want you to believe that a 3rd party will be able to undo mistakes and assess risk for you. For example, you shouldn’t worry because Craigslist will undo the transaction in case of fraud.

The reality? CL is just an ad platform. Only you are responsible for your money, and such a refund guarantee doesn’t exist.

If you don’t trust their word, they might email you with a fabricated “Craigslist email.” It may appear as an automated message, but the scammer wrote it so you think that’s how Craigslist works.

We’ve seen similar cases everywhere on e-commerce (e.g., Amazon imposter scams). Keep an eye on the red flags and don’t get fooled.

Before You Start on Craigslist…

Craigslist gets you the traffic and nothing else. It’s an opportunity to get great deals, but it doesn’t guarantee the sale. It neither guarantees product quality. You’re responsible for how you spend your money and how you review a product/service.

With that in mind, Craigslist can be a great source of traffic. You could send it to your future website, for example. But CL shouldn’t be your main marketing platform. You still need tools to understand what your customers want and how to build connections with them.

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