The following article was originally published 1.05.2010 and has since been updated to include new info and updates on known scammers who troll for naive people to exploit via Craigslist.
I’ve been publishing this blog for 10 years as a service to my fellow voice actor fans, and I rarely post about my personal life to avoid appearing self-promotional. (If you actually have an interest in reading about me, click the “About the Blogger” tab above or visit my quirky and random VoxInSox personal blog.)
But I have been working solely as a performer since May 2008 (thanks to the “wonderful” U.S. economy) and one of my resources for finding work has been through Craigslist.org.
Now I realize that for some the mere mention of the site causes audible groans, acid reflux and possibly diarrhea too. I’ve heard some dismiss Craigslist outright as crap and/or say it’s nothing more than a giant cave where spammers and scammers lurk and try to lure the foolish and naive to their doom. And to a certain degree, I agree.
However, there is legitimate, paid work on Craigslist. You just have to learn how to filter through the crap, and I have plenty of experience with that… er, with Craigslist, that is. (I leave the physical handling of crap to trained professionals like Mike Rowe.)
The guide that follows was originally developed for performers in general, which I realize is not voice actor-specific and could be taken as somewhat “off-topic” for this blog. However, I know plenty of voice actors who scan Craigslist for VO work, as well as aspiring voice actors/beginners looking to gain more experience (and hopefully extra income). And the primary reason I took the time to write this guide is to help others avoid getting scammed, spammed or exploited via Craigslist.
This guide came about through years of personal experience scanning Craigslist ads to find work. It’s my misfortune that I learned through trial and error, but I’m the wiser for it and now you can benefit from my mistakes.
1. Avoid postings with obvious typos.
In my experience with Craigslist, posts which are full of typos, grammar errors and/or in ALLCAPS usually turn out to be crap. A minor typo or two is forgivable — mistakes do happen.
However, glaringly obvious and repeated errors in a casting notice on Craigslist are just plain tacky and unprofessional. They shouldn’t expect to be taken seriously if they can’t bother to proofread prior to posting.
AND NO ONE WANTS TO FEEL LIKE THEY’RE BEING YELLED AT WHEN THEY READ! Anything posted in ALLCAPS is not only hard on the eyes but to me says that the person who posted it is lazy and oblivious.
Ads with obvious errors like these tend to be common red flags for known scammers and spammers or projects produced by unprofessional people you don’t want to be involved with anyway.
2. Google Search is your friend.
If the post includes a phone number, physical location address, website, e-mail address, company/agency or individual’s full name, use Google Search to verify their legitimacy.
And on a related note: when researching phone numbers and e-mail addresses, if you note duplicate or similar listings in multiple regions, it’s often a sure sign of a spammer/scammer.
3. Do a background check.
If there is a company name and/or website listed, check with the Better Business Bureau — www.BBB.org — to make sure they don’t already have complaints filed against them before you submit. Other similar consumer-resource sites may also help, such as scam.com, ripoffreport.com, and easybackgroundcheck.com.
4. Check the link BEFORE you click.
If there is a website address in the ad, hold your cursor over the link before clicking to see what shows up as the actual URL in the bottom-left corner of your browser. This should work with both Firefox and Internet Explorer web browsers, or you can right-click on the link and scroll down to “Properties” to reveal the actual URL. Spammers and scammers are known to disguise URLs by encoding them with hidden elements or by using a redirect URL.
One site in particular is a repeat offender with this method of deceit: ExploreTalent.com. Just a quick Google search for “Explore Talent Scam” yields over 29,000 results with red flags galore: fraud reports with BBB.org, ripoffreport.com and many related sites and forums, including a well-researched blog report that was created just to warn others about this site and how to avoid getting ripped off by them.
Explore Talent masks their identity in Craigslist postings under many various domains they have registered and other redirect URLs (list compiled by Explore Talent Scam Fraud Reviews):
In December 2009, Explore Talent appears to have launched a massive web
marketing propaganda campaign via Twitter and every single blog service and social networking site available in attempt to discredit sources which have cited them for fraud and other unscrupulous practices, including BBB.org and ripoffreport.com.
Each “blog” contains the same exact post, and like the ads they post on Craigslist, they’re full of crap.
5. Check with your peeps.
Make inquiry with your fellow performers via message board/forum to verify whether a company/agency/website/casting notice is legitimate…or not. I recommend the following forums (which I am also a member of):
- TheSouthernCastingCall.com (for those living in the Southeast U.S.)
- Shofax Forum on ActorsAccess.com
- and related groups on Facebook or LinkedIn.com (like the Working Voice Actor Group which boasts more than 1,000 members).
6. Dummy e-mail accounts protect you from dummies.
Create a separate e-mail address (like Gmail) just for submitting for projects via Craigslist, and thus keep your regular, personal e-mail account spam-free.
7. No pay? No duh!
If there’s no mention of pay yet it doesn’t specifically say “no pay,” don’t bother e-mailing them to ask because there probably isn’t any. Trust me on this. My theory is that most notices that don’t mention pay are doing so deliberately so you will contact them to ask, and then they own your contact info to use and abuse.
8. If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.
Yes, I know how clichéd that sounds, but this is also Craigslist we’re talking about here and it’s the truth.
9. Better safe than sorry.
Another cliché, but you really cannot be too cautious submitting via Craigslist for anything. And not just in submitting, but auditioning as well. If the venue turns out to be someone’s home (as has happened with me a few times), ask to meet them first in a very public place like a local coffee shop or food court in a mall. And I’d even suggest taking a friend with you too, just to be safe.
Some ads you’ll I.D. immediately as crazy, like this “Drunk Santa” ad I shared on TSCC. But sometimes Craigslist posts may appear legitimate and turn out to be total wackos, like what members have posted on VO-BB.com here and here about “sneezing” audition scams where fetishists were exploiting female voice talents. No joke. It’s too weird to make this stuff up. Voice actor Bobbin Beam also blogged about this back in March 2008.
That said, looking for work on Craigslist requires lots of caution and a great deal of discernment. And even taking extra precautions, I’ve still gotten spammed on occasion. But I’ll tell you that using the above methods really does help cut through the crap…which is an appropriate transition to my final point.
10. Craigslist is full of crap.
Seriously. I even joke with others that looking for legit acting work on Craigslist is like looking for gold in the sewer: most of it’s crap, but every now and then you find a nugget…which still might turn out to be crap too, or it looks like gold but turns out to be fool’s gold.
Jokes aside, I have booked many paid gigs through Craigslist in the last few years: product demo jobs, event hosting gigs, some decent-paying voiceover work, background work for film/TV, and performing as an entertainer for live events.
Granted, there’s a small percentage of return on your investment of time spent browsing and submitting, but those who audition for projects regularly should be accustomed to those odds anyway. And over time (and using this guide), you’ll find you can filter the crap quickly, especially when you tweak your searches. You just have to decide if it’s worth your time to sort through the crap to find the work. And as my dad liked to say, “It’s not work unless your hands get dirty.”
I first published a rough draft of this guide on The Southern Casting Call, though it was more like simple suggestions then. I later revised and expanded it for the Shofax Forum on ActorsAccess.com. Afterwards I was asked to make this guide available outside the forums as a linkable resource, so there you go.
Feel free to share this guide with others, and links and pingbacks are both welcome and greatly appreciated, but please do not copy/paste this guide verbatim elsewhere without requesting permission in advance.
~ Craig Crumpton
Publisher, Voice Actors in the News