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Craigslist and cottage industries

In NYC, when you don’t have a car and you need to move stuff that won’t fit in a taxi and isn’t enough that you need an entire huge moving van, you call a “man with a van”.** I recently used the services of a guy named Paul, recommended by a friend of a friend. After packing the back of his truck with my things, we set off for our destination, chatting along the way. He asked me how I’d found him and we eventually got to talking about craigslist.

Paul told me that these days, he got most of his jobs from CL and only one or two a week from personal referrals. I found that surprising and when I pressed him further, he told me that because of CL, he’s been able to do pursue moving (which he really likes doing) as a full-time career. I can’t remember the exact quote, but Paul said something to the effect that he can’t believe he’s getting away with starting a full-time business on CL without it costing him a single dime.

I’d never really thought about it before, but in some ways, CL helps lots of people build businesses cheaper and more effectively than more “robust”, complex, and expensive enterprise software solutions. Movers are just one example. CL can help you find employees for your business. If you’ve got a van, you can pick up free furniture and electronics around the city, fix or refurbish, and sell it. You can start a business doing computer troubleshooting, piano lessons, buying and fixing up old motorcycles, or escort and sensual massage services. And if you need something done for your business but don’t have the money to pay for it, you can always barter goods or services in exchange. These are just the obvious examples. Does anyone know of anyone using craigslist in more creative ways to make a living or other examples of people succeeding in business using CL?

** Don’t know how this evolved, but folks in the “man with a van” profession like to rhyme the names of their businesses. My guy was “Call Paul to Haul”, but you will also probably find “Chuck/Buck with a Truck”, “Cory with a Lorry”, “Schmuck with a Truck”, “Call Jack to Pack”, and so on. (Oh, I’d recommend using Paul if you need a man with a van…check here for his info.)

Reader comments

mcdettJan 24, 2005 at 11:48AM

craigslist is great. I live in St. Paul, MN, and have been using it to list my condo for rent. I have gotten much more reaction by posting it on, than the ad I ran in the St. Paul Pioneer Press... which cost me $50.00.

PXLatedJan 24, 2005 at 12:05PM that url in the mcdett post...doesn't seem to be the real craigslist...could be wrong but take a look...notice the missing "s" in list.

mcdettJan 24, 2005 at 12:16PM

phat fingers....

paulJan 24, 2005 at 12:23PM

i've used CL for the longest time to find bandmates and people to jam with. sure, there are lots of hippies, but hippies can make decent music too!

RobinJan 24, 2005 at 12:54PM

Wish CL was more "robust" in smaller cities, e.g. Tucson. Guess that's just the way it goes, but seems like bad luck since small cities have a lot of cottage industry potential.

StellapieJan 24, 2005 at 1:12PM

I have a co-worker who is using it to build her salon business. She's offering a free haircut to anyone who emails her directly, reads her response about customer service and the professional environment we have at our salon, and then responds back with our phone number. She's had about 90 takers and at least half of those people have re-booked.

anonymousJan 24, 2005 at 1:21PM

Another vote for the power of CL! I've found employees, customers, a sofa and chicks via that site all without paying a dime. I wonder if it won't become less useful if it did become very popular? I can't imagine scrolling through pages and pages of listings per day..

GriffJan 24, 2005 at 1:29PM

Craigslist NY is awesome
I am from the UK, and have just secured the rental of a studio apartment in Greenwich Village for the princely sum of 99 dollars a night for a 4 day weekend.
Considering that the cheapest Hotel (the Hojo on East Houston) has stuck it's prices up to 180 dollars per night, without 3 kinds of taxes, I'd say that was an incredible bargain.
I love it when you find these kinds of gems.
If the weekend is as great as I think it will be, I'm gonn stay in Manhattan like this all the time.

TJan 24, 2005 at 1:44PM

I (m) had an amazing mff threesome via craigslist.. my only sexual encounter from there... so far :)

BuckJan 24, 2005 at 2:01PM

Hey, anonymous. FYI - CL let's you create feeds out of your queries that you can plug into your RSS reader. No need to ever scroll through pages of listings again!

Regarding JK's question of folks making a living off of CL, I know a guy who supplements his income by buying locally (SF) sold film equipment on CL and then turning around and reselling on Ebay. He makes a decent margin at this because CL is local - many people don't want the hassle of having to ship something and like cash in hand (literally). My guy knows his shipping costs, is willing to go to the PO, and knows a bargain. This all adds up to a nice little side business.

harryJan 24, 2005 at 2:12PM

you can also find someone to take a shit on you. free, of course.

BrianJan 24, 2005 at 2:55PM

A new band in Seattle, Math and Physics Club, credited the finding of much of their band to Craigslist. They're a solid band, so it's not really a joke sort of deal. You can listen yourself to them say so at, in the streaming archive - 6:06pm on Saturday the 22nd. They also mention Rogue Wave as a Craigslist band.

robJan 25, 2005 at 4:07AM

The problem with CL, IMO, is that it is not at all structured for this kind of advertisement. So the same movers post every day, the same massage parlors, etc, when what they should really have is a static ad, maybe one that automatically expires after X weeks. I doubt it would be any less useful to customers, but it would be a lot more helpful.

MarioJan 26, 2005 at 1:41PM

CL offers a valuable service to the community. There is little doubt about that - but if we are talking about people offering their services, it may be advantageous to implement a feedback and rating mechanism similar to eBay. In addition to improving the community it would offer the option to track successful 'CL entrepreneurs'. As a result, those could be added to the comments of this blog entry.

Mark SmithJan 26, 2005 at 9:14PM

Indeed the biggest problem with Craigslist is what should be a pretty obvious one: it only works if you live in a large, major urban area. Smaller towns don't really exist. As a result I've only been there once or twice and never when I was actually looking for something.

Job-hunting is an exercise left to having to scour the crappy local paper and see ads mainly for people looking to hire assorted skilled manual laborers.

This thread is closed to new comments. Thanks to everyone who responded.