You’d think it was easy but I once accidentally said yes to blogging for an escort agency, and I pride myself on my ability to tell “Knows SEO” from “Write about boobs”. If it sounds vague, that’s because they’re hiding something. 

Gumtree and Craiglist are the equivalent of that noticeboard in the window of your local supermarket advertising for dog walkers, flatmates or “Home masseuse required for gentleman with “back issues”. Two of these will be genuine offers, and one of them was written by someone who doesn’t have a dog. At 3am when none of the cafes you handed your CV into have called, there’s a fiver in your bank account and the rent is two months late, this sounds like a cracking career move. 

Earn money from home? Sounds like a dream, my friend, what are the details? Yes, this is where the dodgy ads fall down, exposing themselves as subtly as a man on Craigslist advertising for someone to watch him expose himself: the details. 

Take Gumtree’s Part Time section. Today, we have nine repeat postings advertising “Work from home” which include no description of what the work is, the pay, where the office is based or any requirements bar “must be over 18”.

I came across an ad entitled “SEO WRITER WANTED: WORK FROM HOME. PAID” on Gumtree at 3am when none of the cafes I’d handed my CV into had called, there was a fiver in my bank account and my rent was two months late. It sounded like a cracking career move. Also, the future of writing is surely online so I thought I could probably whack the job on my CV and be all “yeah I have SEO experience” and The Times would hire me immediately. 

Except it didn’t say what I’d be doing. When I emailed the guy, he said I’d be expected to write three 500 word posts a day for a tenner and would I be alright to do that? It says a lot about my financial state/charming naivety that I said yes while still not asking what it was.

“This sounds fine,” I replied, “writing is writing and to get paid for it is something that’s hard to come by. Could you send me an example so I have an idea of the sort of thing you’re after? I would be able to work most evenings.” This is an actual quote I just lifted from my Gmail, by the way. So young and so desperate. 

Turns out there were quite a lot of issues with the job. Firstly, he thought I was a man. Secondly, he wanted me (the man) to write a series of chatty, laddish blogposts for a variety of escort agency websites. Nothing explicit, nothing sexual, just talking about anything I (a laddish man) liked provided I mention the words “busty” “London escorts” and “babe” in the first and last paragraphs. Because people going on escort agencies really like reading blogs about it.

I couldn’t back out now because I’d already said yes and for some mental reason felt Graham was counting on me. I wrote four pieces before waking up and realising I had written four articles for an escort agency out of embarrassment. 

Then I got a waitressing job (not through Gumtree). 

The Craigslist/Gumtree rule of thumb is: if it’s vague, there’s a reason it’s vague. And that reason is very rarely an attempt to be enigmatic, more an attempt to conceal the weird or illegal nature of the job. If you’re not sure, send an email from an account you don’t much care about (I have a gmail specifically for junk), asking the following questions: 

1.What does the work entail? 

2.What are the hours? 

3.How much will I be paid?

If any of the answers are rambling, mysterious or confusing, hit delete and look elsewhere. There are tons of good part time jobs on these sites- a guy on Craiglist needs “someone to help on [his] market stand”. The fact he asks for an NI number, requires the applicant to be registered as self employed, and needs somebody “honest and hard-working” shows that this is worth a second look. The guy helping you “duplicate your salary” seems to have no clue how your salary will duplicate, and so is best left alone. 

Never give bank details or sign up for anything before: 

1.You know the name of the company (and can do your research) 

2.You know where they’re based

And remember the biggest rule of all: if you find out after expressing interest that the job involves an escort agency, don’t go through with it out of embarrassment.