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craigslist advertising tips

How To Get Customers Today: Tips For Advertising On Craigslist

Advertising on craigslist is a great way to get new clients fast.  I’ve received up to 5 calls in one day from ads posted to craigslist for handyman services.  For a new handyman business owner, craigslist can be a very effective way to supplement your income while you work on more long term marketing methods such as building your website, etc.  In this post, I’ve got some great tips for maximizing your efforts and dominating the craigslist competition.  I’ll show you strategies that I still use to generate leads during my slow times.

***Update August 2014:  I’ve made a few changes to this article since Craigslist has changed it’s policy on using HTML within posts.  Basically, you can no longer use HTML within your posts or titles.***  

Hook Em’ With The Title

The title of your craigslist ad is equally, if not more, important than the ad itself.  After all, the potential customer won’t even read your ad if you don’t don’t entice them to click on it.

Can you get leads with a mediocre title?  Yes, but you won’t get as many.  A lot of craigslisters will simply click on each ad starting at the top and just call each number until they reach somebody.  I’ve had customers tell me that this is exactly how they found me.

Regardless, having an attractive title that gets the attention of the customer will help significantly and it only takes about 30 seconds of extra time.

There are a few ways you can spice up your title.

  1. All caps.
  2. Limited time offers
  3. Succinct and Clear Titles

As far as the wording goes, I try to stay away from getting salesey, but try to make it interesting.  Instead of just handyman, I’ll write “Skilled Handyman” or something.

Make It Easy to Contact You

The sole purpose of the craigslist ad is to get the customer to pick up the phone and call you.  It’s important to make this as easy as possible.  I recommend placing your name and phone number at the top and the bottom of the post.

Additionally, if you have a website (if not you should build one), it usually makes sense to direct interested potential customers to it.

Unfortunately, Cragislist banned the use of HTML so you can’t insert a clickable link, but you can still include your web address in your contact info, which I highly recommend.

Adjust the tone of your listing.

I’ve tested several different listings written in different tones.  I’ve tried really salesey tones with lots of exclamation points and excitement, and I’ve tried the down-to-earth-regular-guy tone.  The salesey tone didn’t work well and I found that just sounding like a regular dude trying to get some work has received the best reaction from customers.

Never Say Cheap!

Craigslisters are the type of customer that are usually looking for a really good deal.  You will draw a lot of attention by saying you offer handyman services for $10/hour.  However, this is the opposite of what you should do.  Not only will you scare away people that are smart enough to realize that you can’t sustain a quality service for $10/hour, you’ll get a ton of straight labor type work.

Saying things like “cheap handyman services” or “lowest price in town” will make you look desperate and even unqualified.  Instead, I like to say “Free Quotes” or “Free Estimates.”  This helps the potential customer to feel as though they’re getting a deal.  After all, I’m just trying to get them to call me.  Once they call me or visit my website, that is when the sale takes place.

Have Multiple Postings

I’ve found that it’s helpful to have several different ads as opposed to just a single “handyman services” ad.  Here is the format for posing that I use.

I have one generic handyman ad that tells about my experience and lists the services that I offer.  I use all of the tips I’ve already mentioned above to help conversion rates.  During slow times I update or re-post my listing every three days to keep it at the top of the list.

I then post ads for individual services such as “Fence Repair”, “Door Repair”, or “Window Screen Repair.”  The idea here is to target certain keywords that people type in.  If somebody is looking to have their door repaired and they pass an ad that says door repair, chances are pretty high they will call you.  In the body of the ad you can go into detail about how much experience you have with door repair and why you would be the best person to call.  It’s a very highly targeting approach to craigslist and works well.

Know The Laws

Before you post any services on craigslist, I recommend you fully understand the laws about handyman advertising.  Depending on whether or not you are a licensed contractor and which license you carry, you may be limited in what you can advertise.

In my state, as an unlicensed handyman, I’m not allowed to advertise for any of the trades including tile, drywall, carpentry, painting, plumbing, electrical, and HVAC.  I was actually cited for listing painting as one of my services on craigslist.  As I write this I’m speaking with lawyers to contest this.

The easiest way to know what you can and can’t advertise is to call your state’s contractor’s board and ask them.  Try to speak with an investigator if you can because they know the laws best.

Test, Test, Test.

The tips you see above are from me trying several approaches to advertising on craigslist.  I’ve tested about 50 different titles and am constantly making small tweaks to my ads.  I highly recommend you do the same.  What works for me in my city, won’t necessarily work for you in your city.

Also, take into account that I’m only one person and these are my experiences.  By using what I’ve already found and continuing to test, you may uncover a strategy that gives your handyman business the boost it needs.  If you do, please share it in the comments!

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  • terry March 4, 2013

    Hey BigD,

    I’ve been advertising on CL for awhile, and never realized html could be used. Great tip on the link tag, thanks.

    BTW: do you have a business website?

    • Big D March 5, 2013

      Yes 🙂

  • Jim June 10, 2013

    Hi BigD:

    Great website-i found it very interesting. You made a very important point-NEVER advertise based on price on CL or anywhere for that matter. It’s the fastest way to attract the worst customers, make the least money and eventually go out of business.

    I found your website because I am always looking at other industries for marketing ideas. It’s a great way to pick up new ideas.


    • Big D June 12, 2013

      Thanks Jim!

      • Paul durlin September 10, 2013

        Great advice thank you!
        I recently got a call from a lady who lives I. California and she was in a bury to get her grandson’s water damage repaired in Colorado Springs, where I am located the youv couple was about to give birth to her grandson. She wanted it done before they came home from the hospital which was not possible. However I got right on it with little information about the extent of the job I just jumped into it. I had to remove and replace the tub drywall around the existing surround and repair ceiling drywall in the basement. Then texture and paint 4 different colors. I completed the job paying for materials myself and I told her I would bill her 30.00 hr plus materials it took a week to complete they said they love the work I did and would recommend me to others and call me back then when I sent the invoice to grandma all of the sudden I was the worst and I was way to expensive. And she doesn’t have enough money to pay me she barely covered my costs so I didn’t even get to make anything.
        Should I ask for a down payment on larger jobs like that. And how should I proceed when they are in a hurry and I have limited information in the future, so I don’t get ripped off again?

        • Dan Perry September 10, 2013

          Hi Paul,

          Good question. That sounds like a pretty big project. I would recommend quoting something like that before even starting and getting 50% upfront is also a good idea.

          I’ve been ripped off before, but never more than $150. I almost never ask for money upfront or a contract, but I also only do smaller jobs.

          If I was doing bigger jobs, I would require 50% upfront from all customers and have a firm bid and agreement in place before starting. Especially if it’s a new customer that I’ve never worked for.

          Sorry that happened, Paul! Lesson learned I guess.

        • Phil June 20, 2017

          Thank you for the story. I would definitely ask for a minimum of one third up front when it comes to jobs that have more expenses. I have a junk removal company and we’ll always have money up front unless it’s a large company like Goodyear tires or somebody trustworthy. I have also noticed over the years that most people pay their bills. If you have faith in them they will typically pay you what they owe. We collect payment right after the job though. You can collect a credit card over the phone or a check on site but I would not leave site without payment unless it’s commercial.

        • Phillip June 20, 2017

          Also, one of the thing I noticed is two just fill out the customer. If it seems weird you should probably not do it. If the customer is rude when you talk to them the first time on the phone I suggest not doing the job. Customers are asking us to help them and in return we require respect for the hard work we are offering and just because we are another human. More jobs will keep coming so there’s no point in taking rude customers.

  • Will Sutton September 17, 2013

    Great tips! Used the HTML in my posting title and my ads REALLY stick out and look professional. Just started using CL, and hopefully will start getting some calls. I’m listing daily under several categories, with replacement windows and handyman services as my key elements. Once again, thanks for the great tips!

    • Dan Perry September 18, 2013

      Awesome work, Will! let me know how it works out for you.

      • James Anderson January 30, 2014

        Give Me Some Craiglist Adds To Post & Earn Money

  • Will Sutton September 17, 2013

    Forgot to list my website…..

  • Scott November 13, 2013

    I am finding your site here very helpful and I wish to thank you for your help! I am sure I will have more questions for you in the near future. Keep up the great work!

  • Daniel Te'o December 31, 2013

    Hey Big D,
    Thanks for the tips for craigslist advertising, I got it now!

    • Dan Perry January 2, 2014

      Nice. Now go out there and dominate!

  • Richard Barnes January 27, 2014

    Dan Thanks for the great article on putting an add in Craigslist

    • Dan Perry January 27, 2014

      Your welcome Richard! Hopefully it will help get you some leads!

  • Dawn March 26, 2014

    Hey Dan,

    I read your tips for putting an ad on Craigslist and proceeded to try Fence Repair in the title. I already had a Handyman ad on the site. Well not 20 minutes later the phone rings and the person needs his gate repaired! I was amazed.
    My husband stopped by the house to get a tool and I told about the ad and almost immediate response. His reply? “I hate fixing fences”. LOL
    It’s a gate so it shouldn’t be too bad but I really appreciate all your insight and advice. It has really helped us tremendously. The next ad will have something he enjoys doing in the title.
    Thanks again Dan.

    • Dan Perry March 26, 2014

      Your welcome. Lol, that’s hilarious! Glad to see you got results that fast.

    • Jose August 16, 2017

      THE BEST COMMENT, I am Laughing so much!

  • Jeff inman April 14, 2014

    Thanks a million for the advice on craigslist. I got a call within 20 min to repair a faucet the first time I posted. I get quite a few calls from people looking for work to be done cheap but enough good leads to overshadow the bad ones. I’ve been posting for a couple of months now with amazing results. Just last week, I landed a client who has 20 rental properties and is looking to expand to even more. I never would have guessed it would work out this well. Thanks also for all the other great advice you pass along.
    Thanks again,

    • Dan Perry April 14, 2014

      Your welcome, Jeff! I love to hear about others getting results.


  • Shaun June 23, 2014

    Awesome tips big d. Thanks

    I currently in the process of setting up my website and I going to be using the craigslist tips in conjunction with my website.

  • Louis July 12, 2014


    Thank you so much for the HTML tips. I always wondered how other companies where able to do this. Take care and much success to you!

    • Dan Perry July 12, 2014

      Thanks, Louis!

  • Stacie August 14, 2014

    Craigslist has actually put a ban on HTML code and, flags anyone that uses HTML codes in there posts. Every ad I have used with HTML code in the tagline has been flagged and deleted.

    • Dan Perry August 16, 2014

      Thanks for reminding me to update the post, Stacie! I’ve changed the information in this blog post to reflect the new craigslist posting guidelines for 2014.

  • Derek November 12, 2014

    Hi Bid D,

    I enjoyed these tips about craigslist….very nice. Thanks for sharing. Keep up the great work.


  • mike November 20, 2014

    Excellent advise. I go there looking for work.

  • Jonathan February 7, 2015

    Thanks for the good tips. They’re a great for getting started. I always try to emphasize my personality and people skills. Because after all, homeowners want someone they can feel comfortable hiring for jobs. Thanks again for the advice.

  • William March 4, 2015

    Hi Dan,
    What is your opinion on giving a ‘price quote’ or a ‘cost estimate’?
    Here is why I ask. To me a quote is more binding than an estimate. So for me, I like to leave the door open just in case something is hidden from the original inspection. For example on a recent job I did, I was suppose to remove wallpaper from one wall, texture and paint. Upon removal of paper we found hidden mold and deteriorated drywall. Now the job just got bigger and more complicated.

    • Dan Perry March 4, 2015


      I either charge by the hour or submit a firm quote. If I’m doing a job that I don’t have a lot of experience with or that is unclear on what will be necessary to get it done right, I’ll give an hourly rate. Otherwise, I provide a firm quote that I stick by. Of course, in the quote I’ll be very specific about what is included. If there is anything additional required the quote will get adjusted appropriately after presenting the new problem to the customer.

    • Ryan September 19, 2016

      As you gain experience you will learn where the pitfalls lie with specific jobs and the hidden problems that might exist. I am always upfront with customers when doing jobs that unexpected problems might arise and that may change the cost of the job and that if that should happen I will consult with them before proceeding. If the job is a larger one I will put a clause in the contract stipulating the potential for additional issues such rot to framing or mold ect. and how they are to be handled.

  • Sheila April 3, 2015

    Thank you for the GREAT TIPS!

  • Daniel May 13, 2015

    Great tips! One thing that I would like to update you on is that Craigslist currently bans the term “copy and paste”. This is a term that can get you flagged and removed. I would suggest something like ” send me a message via my website”or perhaps a signature with all of your relevant info like
    Your phone number
    Your email(optional)
    Your website”
    Again thanks Big D! Awesome info.

  • Phil December 14, 2015

    I really appreciate your blogs. Over this pass year, I have gotten numerous jobs from Craigslist. I followed your suggestions and low and behold, they work!
    I have also joined the Association of Certified Handyman Professionals. I was able to get the insurance they offered for half of the closest competitor. Thank you very much.

    • Dan Perry December 14, 2015

      Your welcome Phil!

  • Dallas Ensminger January 6, 2016

    So how do I get myself on craigslist

    • Dan Perry January 7, 2016

      Go to craiglist.com, create a new account if you don’t already have one, and start posting. It’s free.

  • john February 21, 2016

    I’m now ready to place an add on Craigslist today and start up as a handyman, I live in calafornia and have over 40 years experience in residential home remodeling working for varius contractors over the years.
    I’ve been unemployed for awhile due to an injury so money’s a bit tight and I don’t want to spend money on a handyman man license till I’ve got work coming in.
    So my question is to keep within the law of advertising what’s the best way to put it in my add that I’m not licensed
    I’m highly skilled but any potential new customers wont know that and I’m concerned I might only get low end clients if I don’t word it right in the add.
    Any advise on how to present it from my fellow handymen posting on here would be very much appreciated.
    Big D well done for starting up this site and passing on all the useful tips your learning your marketing tips I found especially helpful.

    • Dan Perry February 22, 2016

      Hey John,

      Have you read this blog post? http://www.handymanstartup.com/handyman-licenses-and-laws/

      Be sure you understand the laws in CA before putting an ad up. Then, once you know what you CAN advertise, I wouldn’t say a thing about not having a license in your ad. Instead, focus on the benefits of working with you. Most clients don’t care if you’re licensed, they just want their house fixed/improved and to work with somebody who can get that done.

      But again, only advertise services you can legally offer.

    • Frank February 16, 2017

      Hi, are u still looking for a job?

  • John February 24, 2016

    Thanks you so much for taking the time to reply Dan,
    The unlicensed handyman laws are a minefield in CA, but a couple are very clear one you have to state in all advertising that your unlicensed and present to any customer at the time of quoting for work a writen statement saying your unlicensed, your only aloud to take on very simple tasks, yard work, hang a picture, unblock a sink, paint a gate, no plumbing repairs no small carpentry work electrical repairs, basicly there trying to make it as difficult as they can to stop unlicenced handymen working,
    Even a licenced handyman is very limited on what type of work he can take on, and the per job amount is limited to just $750, there’s even no official license catagory for a handyman in CA, it’s like trying to earn an honest living with your hands tied behind your back its so frustratin, it’s been over a week now and I’ve got a wast paper bin full of screwed up paper, were I’ve tried to work out what to put in an advertisement With What litte I’m legally aloud to state, but be informative enough to at least some clients.
    Over the years I’ve worked hands on project managed, million dollar houses remodling them to a highest speciation possible, and now because the way things stand today I can’t even put in an add renew a faucet.


    • Ryan September 19, 2016

      California is a very anti business state. The economy has been shrinking for years because of all the business regulations and taxes. Many corporations along with the movie industry have moved operations else where.

  • solomon August 16, 2016


  • Mike September 13, 2016

    Have you or anyone you know tried using Facebook Lead Ad to generate leads?

  • Paul Morgan December 9, 2016

    I just got a call from someone from the next County over. He says to take down my ads on Craigslist as many items I have listed are required licensed. Well, almost everything is. This is Florida. If I don’t take it down, then he will issue citations. I thought they had to catch you in the act of performing the job. According to him he can issue for advertising. Bummed out. I needed that little money to make it.

  • Mark January 31, 2017

    You say you are an unlicensed handyman. I thought having the license went hand in hand with having any business. Explain?

    • Dan Perry February 3, 2017

      I don’t have a contractor’s license, but I do have a business license.

  • David Blume March 5, 2017

    Being a retired master electrician with over 43 years residential, commercial industrial experience I do consulting A to Z with clients online and onsite. There is no free lunch or free quotes If it’s an onsite meeting that will cost 1 hour minimum along with mileage Invoiced by email and paid in full by either PayPal or Square. If it is an online meeting the same policy with Invoicing and payment but I offer 15 minute blocks.

    Great advice on your tv’s and mounting methods.Ger er done.

    Quality craftsmanship and services pay for themselves with safe reliable efficient workmanship and services. The NEC National Electric Code is the bare minimum allowed in most areas you can never go below those standards of materials or workmanship. But you can always go above NEC with quality materials and craftsmanship. Residential home owners in some areas have the legal right to take home owner permits out and do their own work with inspections. The good ole boy trickle down system frowns upon this practice but as long as a Green Tag is granted by the required inspections that is what matters to the homeowner right.

    Needless to say the sun shines and the wind blows and both can be gathered to make tremendous amounts of free electrical energy that is an investment that pays for itself. Mixing alternative electrical energy together (wind & solar) is called a microgrid anding these 2 sources along with battery banking can legally stop a electrical utility meter from spinning for days or weeks at a time before any battery charging maybe required.

    P V (pv solar micro inverters) tie directly into existing AC circurit breakers in either 120 240 volt single phase or 120 240 480 volt 3 phase 50 or 60 hertz but can also be tied into battery banking storage with rectifiers.

    D B Electric

  • melissa April 4, 2017

    You people need to get with it. In California, if you take more than 10% down, the CCB- Contractors Board will sue you. They’ll be all over you. It makes no difference if you’ve been ripped off before-recently-if it’s even enough to cover SOME of the materials- good luck with that. Plenty of us General Contractors did so and found out the hard way when they revoke your license for it ! Go home and contact your state contracting board and make sure you can do so BEFORE you do. In California , and can work as a handyman if the job plus materials equals less than $500 -so what we do is chop the jobs up into pieces -$500 pieces. Just be careful -in the future if you want a license -make sure you haven’t blown your chances by being careless in the past.

  • Ladislav Balaz June 12, 2017

    am Ladislav Balaz from Slovakia Handyman ! Am in UK about 6 Years and all the time a working Everything on Construction work have Seriously Very Good Skills ! Now i living in Birmingham B16 8UZ, England. I’m looking for jobs as bricklayers, tilers, stone, plasterers and Gardening … I have 22 years experience in the construction industry! 07521217767. Guarantee Quality Work an Fast Job ! Plus I have complete team for cleaning 4 nice sympathetic Female an 3 Man.

  • Ivan Hsieh February 14, 2018

    Great article, Dan! Very true that CraigsListers are often looking for cheap prices and deals. And yeah, it was a bummer when CL removed the HTML option to link to websites. One area that you didn’t mention is: Images. After people click on the ad, the image is one of the first things people see (if you add an image). It helps with conversions because you can include your phone # there as well.

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