INTERVIEW: Media-Wannabe Dude’s Spending Nine Months Living Off Craigslist

In the vein of the do-something-crazy-for-a-year-then-write-a-book-about-it thing, Jason Paul, a recent college grad, is living his life off Craigslist.

Paul, a communications grad from American University who applied to over 180 newspaper jobs before realizing how bad the journalism market sucks, is spending three months in each of three cities, and finding housing, work, and even friends through craigslist.org. He’s (of course) blogging about the experience, too, at LivingCraigslist.

The surprising part? It’s worked, so far.

In Oakland, Paul found a work-rent exchange with a family looking for someone to take care of the kids, do shopping, cleaning, and so forth. Paul lived rent-and-food-free for three months. “It became a delight to have him, and we started eating dinner with him every night, and he became a part of the family scene,” Josh Newman, the “host father,” told us.

Paul is now almost done with his stint in Denver, Colorado, working service industry and sales jobs a la Barbara Ehrenreich and will then spend three months in an East Coast city TBD. (You can vote where he’ll go through March 15!)

And how has the experience been, really? “It’s been up and down,” Paul told us by phone last month. “Sometimes I’ve really enjoyed it and sometimes it’s been, ‘Oh, another day I have to look on craigslist?’ I have found it to be largely successful. In an economy like this, the fact I could secure not one but two jobs in Denver and work in California, that’s something about craigslist. It isn’t exactly recession-proof but it offers people a chance to beat the economy.”

Paul told us he’s even made friends through Craigslist, which are part of the self-imposed rules of his term. “I didn’t know how possible that was, but I consider them normal friends.” This opposed to his early experiences, when he’d bring pepper spray or a third party whenever meeting anyone new. He said he did have one experience—his first housing experience in Denver (which you can read about here) didn’t work out, and “it made me remember that not everyone on the site is going to be perfect and you have to be careful.”

The point: Not just that hey, anyone can come up with a gimmick nobody’s done before and write a book about it, but that craigslist, and free classifieds (which let’s not forget are killing newspapers) are a pretty plausible way to make some sort of a living.