We've all heard the horror stories about freelancing - temps spending countless hours in front of fax machines, photocopiers and file cabinets. Some temps complain of arriving at jobs and having absolutely nothing to do, while others find themselves taking on roles and responsibilities completely outside their scope of duties. Hearing stories like that it is no surprise that many people are leery of taking temporary jobs. But did you know that with a little guidance and ingenuity, temping can be a challenging and rewarding experience?
Working as a temp for over four years, I'll admit, I've had my fair share of difficulties. Nevertheless, during those years, I've gained more than a few dollars in my bank account. Working for globally recognized companies; learning new skills; networking and developing business relationships isn't something I can easily put a price tag on. Like any job, there are definite advantages and disadvantages that anyone considering freelancing should know.
No Security: One of the biggest problems temp workers face is instability. A freelancer's worst nightmare is accepting a month long assignment and scarcely two weeks later hearing those dreaded words: "I'm sorry, we won't be needing you tomorrow." Faced with the possibility of not working and no income can be frustrating. One important tip freelancers should know is: Register with several different agencies. You will have the option of being selective when taking assignments.
Lack of Growth Potential: Ask just about anyone to explain why they wouldn't consider freelancing and these two reasons are bound to come up: Lack of advancement and grunt work. I concede, much of the work freelancers do is the work that nobody else wants to do or has the time to do, but work that must get done. After all, who would put important documents in the hands of someone who hasn't had the appropriate training or a proper interview. Yet, with today's fast paced society and the ever growing demands of businesses, many agencies are now trying to better meet the needs of their clients while offering challenging, fulfilling opportunities to temps. A lot of temp agencies now specialize in providing work for specific industries. For those looking to break into a particular field, freelancing for an agency like this could be useful. Learning applicable skills and networking are important. Even starting at the bottom of a reputable company in your field of interest is better than irrelevant work experience.
No Benefits: Undoubtedly, my biggest concern as a freelancer was not having benefits. As a temp worker you get nothing - no 401K, no stock sharing options, no health, vision, or dental insurance. That alone is enough to send many people to the sanctuary of a 9 to 5 job. Up until recently, freelancers didn't have many alternatives to the outrageously expensive, independent insurance. However, nowadays a quick web search will turn up several unions, insurance agencies and health care benefit programs geared toward the independent contractor, and freelance workers.
Flexibility: For actors, writers, artist and other creative types, temping can offer flexibility and freedom that full-time employment can't. As a temp you are able to choose when you want to work. If you happen to get a call from a Hollywood producer and suddenly need to take off a month or two, you can do so. If you need to travel to Europe to see the Mona Lisa for divine inspiration, you can. Even if you just want to stay home and play hooky for a day, freelancing gives you that choice. For those with more practical plans, like new graduates and those re-entering the workforce, temping also gives you the flexibility to schedule interviews and appointments while earning the money that you need. However, I would caution you, if you commit to an assignment you should try to finish it. Employers present you to clients as being reliable and diligent. If you constantly opt out of assignments or work only a few days each month, your agency will assume that you don't have a desire to work.
Advantage on your Competition: There is a nasty rumor going around that goes something like this: Companies never hire temps. This is one of the biggest fallacies I have encountered while working as a temp. I've known quite a few people who have started out as temp and were later hired. It happens quite frequently, and as a freelancer you have a leg up on your competition, a foot in the door so to speak. You are privy to all sorts of information that your competition doesn't know. Getting in good with your supervisor never hurts, and getting along with your co-workers is an added bonus. If you are truly interested in the position in which you are temping, talk to someone in the department. Ask them about the position - whether it's just a brief overload of work or if the company is seeking to hire someone. Quite possibly you may end up with that coveted position, and even if you don't most companies will remember you for additional temp assignments or even future jobs.
Money: Another advantage to temping is the pay. While you probably won't pull in a six figure income, you will generally make more than you could working in retail or flipping burgers. Depending on skill set, previous experience and educational background, temps can earn $20/hr or more. Another added bonus if you are paid by the hour, you can generally expect overtime pay, which many salaried positions don't offer. Sometimes companies pay in lump sums (i.e. $100/day or $1500 for a project). This can be a sticky situation, especially if you find yourself working 12 days to complete the assignment. Your recruiter will usually give you a brief description of your duties and tell you how much the client is offering. If you have any questions or concerns about your pay, this is the time to voice them. Most companies will not renegotiate after you have began an assignment.
Variety: Maybe you've just graduated with a degree in microbiology. But somewhere between your final semester and the commencement ceremony you decided that the thought of standing over lab specimens all day is utterly nauseating. Maybe you've spent the past seven years crunching number for a Fortune 500 company and if you never see a calculator again it would be to soon. Whatever the case, freelancing provides you with the variety that many of us seek. If you apply with different agencies, you may be able to work in a different industry each month. Working at different offices and in different industries could help you find out what you really enjoy doing. Even if you don't discover some suppressed desire to be a legal secretary, what you learn is still valuable. And, of course they is something to be said about knowing what you don't like doing as well. How will you ever really know what you like or don't like until you have tried it?
There are many unique issues you may experience while freelancing, but there are also advantages that you won't readily find at an average job. Temping needn't be an exhausting or trying experience. Armed with the right information and a positive attitude, you can make the most of your time as a temp.