You’ve probably heard lots about the ‘side hustle’- basically any sort of job or income you make on top of your regular job. Personal finance gurus such as Nick Loper and J Money recommend getting a side hustle for a number of reasons, including to help pay down debt, build extra savings, or stretch your budget a little further.

One popular way to find side hustles is on freelance platforms such as Fiverr and Upwork. However, while these platforms are certainly a great way to find side gigs, they aren’t for everyone. For one, they often take out a significant commission from your pay. More to the point, they primarily focus on tasks that can be done digitally and remotely. They’re a great place for graphic designers, writers, coders and the like. But if that kind of work isn’t your thing, you might be unsure of where else to look.

Side Jobs on Craigslist

You probably know Craigslist for all the used stuff that gets bought and sold. Cars, TVs, games, and a whole myriad of other stuff gets bought and sold via Craigslist. You may be a little more surprised that Craigslist can also be a great place to find side jobs.

You might find Craigslist to work well for a number of reasons. Craigslist by default will keep your search local. This opens the doors to all sorts of side gigs that require you to be physically present, such as handyman, moving or housecleaning services. By keeping the search local, you’ll avoid competing with a lot of spam and low-ball bids, which may make your search easier and more effective. Craigslist is also a completely free service. You don’t have to pay to post, and you won’t have to fork over twenty percent of your pay.

Look for Gigs or Let People Find You

You can use Craigslist two different ways to find a side gig: you can either post your services and let people find you, or you can hunt down other people looking for help.

Posting your services will save you a lot of time by making other people do the leg work of finding you. However, Craigslist posts are sorted chronologically and you may have your post quickly buried by other people offering their services. On the flip side, you may receive a particularly strong response and be swamped by phone calls and texts taking you up on your services- a seemingly good problem to have, but also potentially overwhelming.

Alternatively, looking through other’s help-wanted postings may take time and seem tedious, but you may have a better shot at connecting with work. You may also get a better sense of what your’e getting yourself into by looking through other’s postings. If you go this route, you can either look through the ‘jobs’ section for more permanent side jobs, or you can sort through the ‘gigs’ for short term work.

Staying Safe

One major distinction between Craigslist and other freelance platforms is that Craigslist gigs often put you in personal contact with clients. The vast majority of the time, both parties are good people, and this doesn’t cause any problems. Unfortunately, however, occasionally there are people who use Craigslist maliciously. Craigslist itself is open about this risk, and includes a list of precautions.

Above all, use common sense and be on your guard when using Craigslist. If something seems suspicious, avoid it. This might include odd requests or payment offers that seem unusually high (although this doesn’t mean you should only take low-ball bids either). Also be careful where you meet people. Of course, depending on the gigs you are doing, for example with handyman work or help moving you may be required to go to, and even into people’s homes. You may consider working with someone else you know, or letting a friend know where you are going. Also keep your cell phone handy at all times in case you need to call for help.

Avoiding Scams

Aside from people wanting to do physical harm, there are also people trying to scam others. And while scammers are certainly on other platforms besides Craigslist, most other platforms provide some kind of payment protection. Craigslist does not.

Since you presumably aren’t wanting to do your gigs for free, it’s important to protect yourself from getting ripped off. One of the most notorious ways scammers skip out on payment is with wire transfer scams. Also avoid checks, unless you are able to deposit the check (and allow it to clear) before you begin the work, or at least before you do a substantial amount. Cash is often best, although carrying around large amounts of cash is a risk in itself. Depending on the type of project, you may consider working out a written contract detailing both the work and the payment expected.

Deciding if Craigslist is Right for You

Craigslist isn’t necessarily better or worse than other freelance platforms, but it’s certainly unique from most of the others. Its simple concept and practically absent overhead is both a positive and negative for the platform. It can mean higher payouts and more flexibility, but also less protection. For some freelancers, this is precisely what they would like to work with. These freelancers have found that with a little common sense, Craigslist can be a great tool to develop a significant side income.

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