There has been explosion of competition in recent years in the “freelance jobhunting” marketplace for creatives, with sites like Creative District, Cinely, and Creative Cow attempting to move into the space traditionally occupied partially by Mandy, and most importantly by Craigslist.

This makes sense: the whole world is going freelance as fewer and fewer salary positions exist: this is something that happened in entertainment a long time ago, and so there is always going to be a lot of activity connecting freelance jobs with the freelancers who want them.

As a freelancer myself, I like to keep up with as many of the competing sites has possible, since you never know where your next gig or collaborator is going to come from, and in the last six months to a year there has been a lot of activity in this space. I think the common wisdom is that craigslist is getting too out of date, with it’s heavily restricted postings and it’s 1990’s era graphic design and layout, which leads a lot of people to think there is an opportunity there.

I also suspect that the play for most of these sites is to use jobs as the lure that will bring a mass of people to the site, that will then be monetized in other ways. However, most of my gigs are still through craigslist: the primary reason, I suspect, being it’s massive ease of use.  Because it only allows really simple job adds (a very short form to fill out), and you apply by email (not an application stored on the site), it’s easy for both the poster and the applicant.  I already have a beautifully formatted PDF resume: why would I want to build an online profile at every possible job site out there when I could just email along my resume as an attachment? Additionally, craigslist works with RSS, allowing job hunters to set up feeds of the gigs that are out there they can read in their preferred newsreader, fitting into their daily routine much more easily than hunting to various site.s

But craigslist can only do that because as far as I know craigslist isn’t trying to pivot: they are a self sustaining service that is happy to be a part of your life, but doesn’t want to become a destination.  Thus, RSS, which makes it easier to use the service but means users spend less time on the destination site. Even when I’m full time employed I keep my craigslist RSS feeds going to keep my finger on the pulse of what is being made, what’s going on around town, what the current rates are, because I’m curious.  But as soon as I booked a major job, I stop visiting the other sites, and it’s work to pick the habit back up when I’m freelance again.

It’s a tough catch-22 for these other sites to get out of, to make themselves useful enough that the job marketplace moves there, while staying open enough that people continue keeping involved even while booked.  So far, nobody seems to have really made a dent.  My freelance friends still stay “back to craigslist” when an assignment ends. But eventually one of them will crack it.