Home Tools of the Trade A Guide to Hustling on Craiglist Without the Personals

A Guide to Hustling on Craiglist Without the Personals

R.I.P. Craigslist Personals.

To the readers of this post, let me say first: I’m sorry, and I sympathize. I’m displaced and down in the trenches with you. I’m a ‘lower-end’ full-service and fetish worker. My way of life got taken down with the personals section of Craigslist. It’s the only platform I have ever used, and I’m taking my platform back. In order to help my fellow workers in the trenches and fight this censorship, please allow me to impart my tips and tricks on the loopholes of Craigslist.

One of the great things about this community of workers is our resilience and intelligence. The loopholes are always there, especially if you’ve got a sharp wit and way with words. I’ve been on the scene for seven years, and I’ve never met another fellow worker who was not also part entrepreneur and part lawyer. We are strong. We are powerful. We are a community. And Craigslist is no match for us.

The first major thing to remember about Craigslist is that the market is still there. Clients will always be there.

We might be able to recreate our hustles, but the wackiness of Missed Connections is irreplaceable.

The first go-to trick is to search for the same tags you used to use to search personals under. Type “m4w”, “m4t”, “m4m”, “w4w,” etc., and see what the results yield. I work as a cis woman with mostly male clients and the m4w tag is still booming in my area. To find bolder clients, you can even search the more explicit tags like “generous”, “roses”, “SD”, and “arrangements”. There are much fewer ads like these now, but you may get lucky.

The tips above are for searching FOR clients. The next portion of this article is going to address advertising. This is where it all gets a lot trickier.

You’d now be advertising under Community or Services. “General” in Community is my favorite place to go, as close to your region as you can get. I personally live in a very rural area, so I stick as close to my rural community as I can in advertising because when I advertise in the city I often have people tell me I live too far out. (Granted, I also only do in-calls.)

Your posts need to be as vague as possible. Post that you’re seeking companionship or friendship. One of my favorite taglines that often flies under the radar is, “I’m seeking guidance.” I’m not sure how well that works outside of the cis woman market, but when I use it, it tends to attract a bunch of older men with white knight complexes

Another ploy you can try in Community, which might land you some clients, is posting “In need of help.” Keep in mind, though, that when I’ve done this before it brought the predatory perverts out. These are people who immediately demand sexual favors in exchange for their “assistance.” I would only use this technique as a last-ditch effort. The replies you’ll get will generally be creepy ones from men who think they can take advantage of you because you need “help,” and the appointments that will result may be risky.

Remember this?

If you have the spare money, you can also post in Services. It’s $5 per post where I’m located—your region may vary. If you’re posting in Services, I highly recommend being extremely vague, because $5 may not be much, but nobody wants to lose money on an ad being taken down because of explicit language. I’m not sure of how many viable inquiries posting in this section usually yields, as I’ve never posted in Services myself, but I’ve seen many other workers post there. Normally in my region, they post in “companionship” or “other” services.

I’ll be honest with you: Vetting potential clients has become dangerously harder since the passage of the new law. (Thanks SESTA/FOSTA, for protecting us.)

You’ll mostly be receiving replies from people seeking to exploit the sex worker community because they know that we don’t have many platforms to advertise from right now. Maybe I’m petty, but my favorite thing is shooting these clients down. If you stand your ground regarding your rates and services, they’ll usually back down from lowballing you and will message you back accepting your terms. Still, would I recommend meeting one of these clients if you can possibly afford not to? NO. These are possibly the most dangerous clients you could consider seeing. If somebody disrespects you during negotiations they are not going to be a good client.

You also get the white knights I mentioned earlier. These guys are nicer than the clients who are trying to take advantage of the buyer’s market right now, but they are still not to be trusted unless you get them to pay upfront. Some common tropes you’ll hear from a white knight trying to squirm out of compensating you for your work: “I don’t want to just give you cash, it feels like I’m degrading you.” “You’re so smart/witty/funny, you don‘t have to do this,” “I can save you.” These are red flags and if you can avoid the white knights who say these sorts of things, do so. These clients tend to become obsessive.

My absolute favorite kind of client is the novice. This is a person who understands contextual cues and picks up on the fact that you’re offering services, but they’ve never hired a provider before. They tend to be incredibly sweet and oblivious to the going rates in the area, so you can upcharge slightly—especially if you make them feel like they’re getting a deal! They’re not usually aware that it’s customary to tip, so don’t feel bad about that upcharge!

The final client population you’re likely to encounter are the Craigslist regulars. They’re the people who were around on Personals before the SESTA/FOSTA mess. These clients are experienced and know what they want. They’re honestly a hit-or-miss bunch. You’ll either find people who are grateful that services are still available after the Personals went down or ingrates who think they can run the market. My personal experience dictates ignoring the people who try to lowball and take advantage of the recessed market. The people who are grateful to find provider ads are fantastic and generally amicable. I tend to quote them a high price while adding that my rates are “flexible.” You’d be surprised at how well this technique works.

As far as vetting goes, I recommend letting them know that a donation or tribute is necessary within the first three emails, using some kind of euphemism to indicate that this is pay to play. The flakes will ghost you—it scares them off. Stay incredibly engaging over your email correspondence, but do not send any face pictures or pictures with distinguishing tattoos. (Worker with tattoos here! Trust me, these guys can be reverse image search detectives.)

If they seem comfortable paying, that’s when you’re going to want to switch to the phone for negotiations. There’s the Google Voice app to give you a separate phone number for talking to potential clients so you don’t have to give your real number out. Do NOT negotiate prices via email or text. This leaves a trail for law enforcement if you get caught up in a sting.

Finally, a good sex work adjacent side hustle and a market a lot of people don’t realize is still huge on Craigslist is fetish items. You can post “I’m selling foot pictures/gifs,” “I’m selling panties/socks/stockings,” etc. It’s a largely untapped market.

I’m hoping this can help my fellow workers through this hard time. I have no doubt that given how strong this community is we will overcome this nonsense. Be kind to yourselves through this fiasco. Let’s all lean on each other. We will get through this. Feel free to add any Craigslist tips of your own in the comments.

7 COMMENTS

  1. Thanks for posting this! This is exactly the type of information that our people are needing right now, in this time of crisis and high anxiety. I adore and applaud your resilience!

  2. Great post! Living in a big city that still has plenty of thriving directories, I don’t plan to use CL, but if I ever find myself in a small town, I’ll rethink that.

    If the clients are making clever posts on Missed Connections, why wouldn’t service providers use that section too?

  3. Really great post. Practical advice like this has been largely absent from the post-SESTA conversation. This will help a lot more “lower end” and struggling workers than all the activism and emotional venting I have been seeing.

    I started out on CL myself doing $60 massages 13 years ago, before there was an Erotic Services section and before there was BP. We advertised in Therapeutic Services. I’ve been wishing I had better, more current advice to give friends who were dependent on CL or BP for work. Thanks!

  4. Just so everyone knows, the email relays still work meaning you can go through your old emails and still message the people. I archived all my messages and this alone has helped me survive. Without my CL buddies I wouldn’t still be able to do this.

  5. Ladies!!! Ladies!!!

    Anyone that tries to tell you that you should lower your price or expectations because it is harder to advertise should be aware and informed that we are in greater demand and it is harder for potential clients to find us and we should raise our prices. I also let my regular clients know that I will not raise their price but newbies are coming in at a higher rate. It is all about perspective.

    Always charge enough money so you have the ability to not see someone that is rude or in anyway undesirable. If you are not having fun you are doing something wrong…

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