Today’s post comes from Cassandre Poblah. Cassandre works as a full-time administrator at a non-profit community center in Montreal, but is also a photographer, a blogger, and an awesome side hustler.
She sent me a note explaining that she happened upon my podcast episode with Ryan Finlay, about how Ryan earns a full-time living buying and selling items on Craigslist.
Taking her own unique approach to it, she used Craigslist as a launching pad for her side hustle.
I went from $0 in side income on May 18th to a total of $2230 by July 30th.
While $2230 isn’t a remarkable amount of money, it’s helped me pay down a significant amount of my student debt in a very short amount of time, starting with zero money invested and zero experience.
This is my story.
STARTING FROM ZERO
In May 2015 I decided to start a side hustle that I could launch in a day.
That was my time limit. I had tried launching businesses in the past. I would take months preparing the perfect plan, building and testing prototypes, doing surveys and market research, only to get discouraged and quit after investing so much time into projects.
I was sick of failing to launch and I made the decision on May 18th to change all that.
My sister and I talked about my idea for an hour. We wrote an ad in 15 minutes and that very night I got two inquiries.
The next day, I had secured two clients.
With zero investment and no experience at all, I did what I hadn’t been able to do with all my other “businesses” — make a sale.
I’m not an expert on this. I’m just a woman who had never succeeded at making consistent money on her own terms.
My first step in making my side hustle work was making a decision.
The decision I made was to just get started. It was to stop being scared, to stop assuming I might fail and to stop second guessing myself. It was also a decision to get started IMMEDIATELY.
I had no time to analyze the situation, taking it apart bit by bit until I found every reason not to do it, otherwise known as paralysis by analysis. For me, getting beyond my psychological barriers and ignoring my past failures was my crucial first step.
I made a decision and immediately followed it with targeted action. This enabled me to move past my history and set myself up for quick wins.
OFFER A SERVICE NOT A PRODUCT
For years I tried launching product businesses, but they always overwhelmed me and I would always end up quitting. I started to feel more like a wantrepreneur than an entrepreneur, and that was a really horrible feeling. In fact, as someone whose main interest is business, it really hurt my self-esteem.
Then, in 2014, I enrolled in a professional photography program and something in me changed.
I offered my photography services to people and actually got paid. I fell in love with my service business but it wasn’t giving me income regularly. However, more importantly than giving me money, it helped restore my belief that I could actually make a bit of money outside of my day job.
This belief gave me enough confidence that I put out an ad on Craigslist for a cleaning service on May 18th 2015. Within an hour of posting my ad, I had two inquiries which I booked the very next day.
Nick’s Notes: Craigslist is a top 10 site in the United States top 100 globally, which means there is a TON of traffic and potential customers there — and you can post an ad for free! My wife’s photography side hustle started very similarly with an ad on Craigslist.
I was curious why Cassandre didn’t focus on the photo biz, but offered cleaning instead. She explained that getting photography clients is much harder than getting cleaning clients because the investment is much greater in photography.
I invested zero dollars and had never cleaned anyone’s place but my own, but for once I didn’t let anything stop me and I’ve been booking consistently for the last three months.
PICK A SERVICE, ANY SERVICE
Most articles say to do something you’re good at or are passionate about. For the sake of getting started I say just pick something you can do.
Can you walk a dog?
Have you ever painted a room?
Think you can handle running errands for old ladies?
It doesn’t really matter what you pick. What matters is that you get started. The market will tell you if your idea sucks or not.
If you get inquiries right away, you’re on to something (possibly) good. If not, then try something else.
Do not get caught up in this process. Take if from someone who used to obsess about finding the perfect idea, only to find that I never could bring it into fruition. The idea or service doesn’t matter in and of itself. Getting started does.
DON’T THINK OF THIS AS A BUSINESS
This step is very important. Not thinking of this endeavor as a business helped me turn my idea into reality.
The reason for this is that unlike every other time I’d started a business, I didn’t feel any pressure to create promotional materials, set up a website, write a business plan or announce it to the world. In fact, I didn’t care whether it succeeded or not.
To me, the important part was starting and being consistent in my efforts to find a side hustle that people responded to. Additionally, not mentioning it to anyone took the pressure off since my friends wouldn’t be looking to see whether or not my venture would fail or succeed.
REFINE EVERYTHING AS YOU GO ALONG
Refine everything as you go along. This is a crucial step. A lot of us wait until things are perfect before moving forward, but this is a huge trap.
From my past experiences, I knew that I didn’t want to wait until things were perfect to move forward. As a matter of fact, I was aiming for “good enough.” That’s it.
Ironically, if you’re reading this, you’re probably pretty entrepreneurial, so your “good enough” is probably already better than almost everything else on Craigslist.
This meant that my first ad was posted on the same night I decided to go ahead with my idea. I’ve revised it and tested different ads about 10 times in the last three months. I’ve also revised and split-tested my prices, pictures, headings, and email responses.
And you know what? I couldn’t have known how to go about making my ads effective without first posting that first imperfect ad.
MY FIRST AD
*****Competitive Prices / Prix Compétitifs******
Cleaning services for apartments, condos and businesses. Extremely reliable and efficient. I’m looking for people who need regular cleaning. Thanks!
Services de nettoyage pour les appartements, condos etentreprises. Fiable et efficace. Je suis à la recherche de personnes qui ont besoin d’un nettoyage régulièrement. Merci!
I got this sample ad from someone who had lots of views on the classified ads service called Kijiji. It was so simple but had tons of views. I’ve also tested longer ads, ads where I list my prices, and ads where I describe everything I clean, but they aren’t as effective.
One thing I do know makes a difference, and I’m pretty sure this is what attracts people the most is that I have an attractive picture of a woman on my ad whereas most people have bad pictures of themselves or clip art.
I used a picture of an attractive woman. I didn’t post my own picture as it is Craigslist, but all of my clients understand. Actually, I’m not sure they notice as only one has ever mentioned it (and the picture looks like me).
I don’t think putting up your picture on Craigslist is a good idea or even necessary. But you should definitely put up a picture of someone that looks like you. And you should use a stock photo or a royalty free image. For example, here’s the pic I used:
A NOTE ON PRICING YOUR SERVICE
I work within my clients’ cleaning budgets, so I don’t have a set price per se. I would say my average is about $35 per hour.
For example, I have a contract cleaning an office that pays $70 bi-weekly. It takes me 1.5 hours or less to clean. I do laundry for an elderly woman. She pays me $30 to go to the laundromat, do one load, and make her bed and a bed in the guest room. This takes me closer to 2 hours, but I also do much less work. And she feeds me cookies.
I try not to turn down jobs. I speak with my clients to tell them what I can do at the price they’re willing to pay and I take it from there.
I reject clients who try to lowball me or who I find creepy (remember, this is Craigslist, after all).
IT’S NOT A BUSINESS BUT TAKE IT SERIOUSLY
People are often surprised at how quickly I respond to them.
They actually thank me and say things like, “Wow, thanks so much for replying, I’ve been emailing people all day and you’re the only one who’s answered.”
It’s really easy to do considering that I get notified on my phone whenever I receive an email. Now, I’m not perfect. I’ve dropped the ball a few times and haven’t answered immediately, and I found that in general, the more time I let pass before responding, the less likely a prospect was to hire me.
Taking your side hustle seriously means updating your posting daily, doing split testing to see which ads work, answering inquiries promptly, answering people in a polite manner (for some reason Craigslist posters have a huge problem with this one), showing up looking clean and professional, and treating your clients respectfully.
Although it may not be a business, failure to do these things will make your chances of success extremely slim.
You may get an immediate response and then things may slow down a bit but be more consistent (as is the case for me), or you might not get any responses at all.
You’ll need to determine whether your service is worth pursuing or not. In my case I received feedback within the hour and knew I was onto something.
One option is to offer another service while keeping the ad for the first service up and gauging to see whether it’s a question of being patient or a question of your service not being in demand.
Whatever you do, don’t give up. Craigslist is full of people looking for services. If I can do it after all my mental blocks and past business failures, I’m sure you can too.
- Start right away. Don’t put it off. Make a decision to get past anything that’s been holding you back.
- Pick a service. They are way easier to start than product businesses and many can be started on a shoestring. For example, I started with zero dollars and to this day, I haven’t bought anything. I use all of my clients’ products and supplies.
- Just pick something you can do. Don’t spend a long time thinking about what you can start. You can test a few ideas at the same time and then choose the one with the most demand. The important part is to get started. Also, don’t waste time or money on marketing materials.
- Don’t think of this as a business – for now. It’s a side hustle. If it grows into a business, that’s awesome!
- Refine as you go along. Make sure to pay attention to what’s working. Test ads. Practice responding to potential clients.
- Be professional. It makes all the difference on Craigslist. There are so many weirdos on Craigslist that simply acting professionally will be a huge bonus for you.
That’s all folks! Follow these steps and you should be well on your way to consistently making an extra $1000 per month on Craigslist.
What say you? Viable side hustle or no? What service could you offer?
Cassandre Poblah is a freelance wedding photographer, the owner of a small cleaning company, and the editor of Eat Pray Love & Hustle, a lifestyle wellness blog.
Her latest project, The Craigslist Side Hustle: How to get Unstuck and Make $2000 in 2 Months on Craigslist outlines exactly how she earned $2230 in extra income from May 18th to July 31st 2015 with zero start-up costs and no experience.
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Stock photo by karamysh via Shutterstock