10 Tips for Landing an Gig Online

By Andrea Karim on 1 May 2009 (Updated 10 May 2009) 13 comments

If you are looking for ways to earn extra money online, you may have responded to a help-wanted ad on craigslist.org or another free ads site. Working small gigs can be a good way to put away some extra cash when times are tight, and although it's increasingly competitive with so many people out of work, here are some small ways you can improve your chances of getting hired for a odd job when replying to a 'help wanted' ad.

Turns out that the things you need to do to get hired for a gig really aren't all that different from tips your might hear for landing a regular full-time job. Because you have to create a first impression via electronic mail, it's crucial that you convey a sense of professionalism and maturity. Whether you're a seamstress or a landscaper, dog walker or budding personal assistant, how you introduce yourself to potential clients can make the difference between landing the gig and being ignored completely.

Here are some tips for how to stand out from the crowd of other gig-seeking people:

1. Look to see how well you qualify for the job. If you meet 1 out of 5 listed desired traits, don't waste your time or that of the hiring party, unless you are positive that you are the right person for the job. Whenever I put out an ad for someone to do a few heavy-lifting jobs, I inevitably get an email application from a wispy woman who makes a living reading tarot cards. While small women can be strong, and there's certainly nothing wrong with making a living reading tarot, it does help your chances of landing a gig if you "fit the bill".

2. Have your own email account. Some married couples prefer to share email for whatever reason, but some people don't want to respond to jimandbarb@whatever.net, especially if you are, say, a seamstress talking to female clients about measurements. 

3. Pick out a good email address and use your own name as your alias. If this means that you have to set-up a separate email address for work, then so be it. This step is so crucial to normal job searches that I'm surprised that more people don't know about it. If someone posts an ad for a babysitter, and return an hour later to see their Inbox full to the brim with responses, they're probably not going to gravitate to the one with a name like "Sexxy Tymz" or "mushroom maven". These aliases may be fun or a good indication of your personality, but even if you are replying to a job that requires you to remove garbage from someone's yard, you need to present yourself as a professional. The email address you choose can be cute if you want, but make sure it's appropriate. If you are replying to an ad that seeks help setting up a mycological garden, then "Mushroom Maven" is fine - just be sure to capitalize it. 

4. Email from the account that you plan to use for your job-oriented communication. Don't email from one account and ask someone to reply to another. Some busy people simply won't deal with the hassle. Also, don't immediately request a phone call. While some people are immediately comfortable pikcing up and calling you, not everyone will feel the same way. Provide your contact information, but allow your potential client the leway to contact you in whatever manner they choose.

5. Choose a staid font and avoid flashy weirdness within the email. Blingees are fine when you are emailing your friends, but potential clients won't take you seriously if you compose emails in a curly, 17-point purple font.

6. Spell check your ad or email response. I mean, duh. There are some people who will overlook typos, and there are some people who won't. Might as well be safe (lord knows I am one of the worst at this, as is evident by my frequent typos in blog posts).

7. Have an email signature that includes your full name, title, business name (if you have one), phone number, and other relevant info, including your blog or web site address. Signatures are a snap to set up, but give emails a polished appearance. If you do link to a blog or web site, make sure that they are appropriate, and if possible, topical.

8. Show enthusiasm. It can be hard to get psyched about weeding sometimes, but I've noticed that I tend to hire people for odd jobs who express satisfaction over the work. Including a brief mention in your job email that says something like "While hauling away rusted metal can be a dangerous job, I take pride in my careful handling of all your scrap, and find satisfaction in leaving you with a clean garage" can be a good way to separate yourself from the ten other guys who wrote "Me Joe. Me have toe truck take you're rusted carz LOL." Obviously, you don't want to over-express your love for shoveling steer manure over someone's garden, but you get the idea.

9. Provide references, or at least, a promise of references, especially if the job poster has specifically mentioned that they will be required.

10. When you answer the phone, use a proper greeting that identifies you. "Hello?" isn't adequate. "This is Barb Jones" is a better start a conversation with a new customer.

You can also increase your chances of being noticed first by using Adnotifier, a service that alerts you whenever a new ad is posted in a section of help wanted ads that you monitor. It does cost about $10, but may be worth it if you need that kind of alert.

Have you had success getting extra jobs online? Share your tips for success in the comments!

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Guest's picture
A

Great points there! Since I found my current fabulous job through Craigslist, I enthusiastically support online searches. HOWEVER, I have heard of a couple of things/scams to watch out for.

Some supposed job ads on Craigslist (and possibly other job post boards??) are not really job ads, but a way of phishing for e-mail addresses that apparently are then used or sold to spammers. What some people do is to create a separate e-mail address that is just for replying to gig/job listings. I recommend using something like: firstinitial (dot) lastname (at) gmail (dot) com [f.lastname@gmail.com].

One tipoff is if you see the same ad posted over and over, not giving a specific location, but just the general area or state. Also, some gig applicants do not give out their address or phone number until they have received an e-mail response from a legitimate e-mail address that includes a name and phone number. Not to sound too paranoid, but there are some crazy people out there.

Happy hunting, and may all your gigs be munificent!

Guest's picture

Good tips! I always maintain multiple email accounts for multiple purposes-- business, pleasure, or otherwise.

Guest's picture
Guest

Duh... all these tips should be second nature. It's all common sense. I can't believe you had to do a post on it.

Guest's picture
Guest

Common sense here, who doesn't have their own freaking email account?

Guest's picture

Though most of this is common sense stuff , but as is said common sense is not so common . Hence I quite liked it . It reinforces the belief to do simple things for major impact. keep them coming.

Andrea Karim's picture

 It is common sense - the problem is that 90% of the people who are looking for gigs on craigslist don't seem to have any.

Linsey Knerl's picture

Having put out an ad, I can vouch for the lack of common sense.  Others have common sense, but are new to the online ad scene.  (Not everyone has been emailing for 10 years -- like retired people or those who for some reason or another have never answered an ad this way.)  I appreciate you tips, Andrea!  I know a few people in my life who are n00bs and this email ad stuff is entirely new.  I'll pass these on!

Linsey Knerl

Guest's picture
Peter

I've never had much success with Craigslist, but hopefully this will help me!

Andrea Karim's picture

 True, I didn't mean to be snarky - lots of people simply don't have the experience of online job searching and hiring. My mom for instance, is a fount of common sense, but probably wouldn't have much of an idea how to go about applying to, say, a volunteering job online. She's smart, but just not as net-crazed as the rest of her family.

Julie Rains's picture

I especially liked #8 -- showing enthusiasm.

But speaking of communication basics, I know a lot of people who have couple email addresses as in jackandjill @ whatever.com -- which may be like having a family phone number but can be detrimental  for job searching. That reminds me of a couple of more general tips: the voice message on your phone should be professional and, unless you are posting for an internal job, leave out the work phone number and email address on your resume.

Fred Lee's picture
Fred Lee

My track record in applying for online jobs is almost 100%... failure, that is. My experience thus far has been so miserable (with the exceptiion of the good folks at WB, of course) that I don't even get so much as a response. Maybe I need to cut my hair. My virtual hair, that is.

Thanks for the tips. In fact, I'm going to implement a few of them right away.

BTW, great pic. I loved it.

Guest's picture
Samurai

Hi Andrea - Is it possible to give the readers an idea of how many hours a week you work online and how much you make, or how much someone of your experience can make?

Guest's picture
Samurai

Hi Andrea - Is it possible to give the readers an idea of how many hours a week you work online and how much you make, or how much someone of your experience can make?