Help me figure out the best strategy around temping
January 20, 2013 6:06 AM   Subscribe

I'm just finished a research masters, and I have been doing freelance work in my field throughout that to pay the bills. My plan was to go looking for temp work next week, but I'd love some advice on how you've balanced getting temp or other jobs when your other work needs occasional daytime availability.

I have extensive admin experience and lots of admin in my other professional work, and I have temped in the past. It's kind of ideal as it's stuff I'm good at, it pays relatively well, and it's a situation where nobody needs me to pretend this is where I want to be in five years. I'm very organised, a fast typist, good at synthesising information and writing, and I learn quickly. In all, I'm a good candidate, but I don't know how much short-term temping will be available regardless.

My field of research and freelancing is around architecture, and I would really like to keep building on this. I have a bit of freelance work in a few weeks which is exactly what I should be doing, and there are some several-months-away prospects for bigger projects. The only problem is, I can't do all of it in the evenings and weekends as I'll need some access to an archive that's only open during the week – for this example, I'd need about three days in the next month, and I'm sure things like this will arise again. The work I've been doing has been a mix of research, journalism, and copywriting.

My bills are as low as possible but I have a substantial student loan (in Ireland, these are basically personal loans and at similar rates). I had built up a good emergency fund to cope with the lag in freelance payments, but I didn't work for the last four weeks of my thesis write-up and I need to rebuild the cushion now. Working two or three weeks per month at a decent rate would be the ideal, magical solution, or having a schedule that's not 9-5/M-F. (My only food service experience was in a cafe eight years ago.)

If you've been in a similar situation, how did you resolve it? Am I being too pessimistic about my chances of picking up two weeks of temp work at a time? Any other suggestions? I'm game for doing whatever it takes.
posted by carbide to Work & Money (6 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
In my experience, which was a while ago, 2-week gigs were fairly common. I'd look for them.

But really, if you just need 3 days a month, why not at least go for some longer ones and be upfront about having a prior commitment? It might be a deal-breaker for some clients, but not others.

Of course, you've got a stronger case with a client who knows you by your work -- either from previous contracting, or from a current short contract they end up extending.

Good luck!
posted by LonnieK at 7:41 AM on January 20, 2013

I am in the USA rather than Ireland, for the record; but "two weeks at a time" is very do-able, and is in fact the industry standard. (However, that may be because two weeks is typically the only amount of time people get for holiday here in the US.)

I would let the agency you speak to know that this is your state of affairs, and that you prefer short-term or part-time assignments only. I would accept everything your first couple months or so just to prove that you're a good worker, and then after that it's just a matter of letting your agency know that "hey, after this assignment you've got me on ends I need a week or so, I'll let you know when I'm available again."

LonnieK also has good advice - I was once on a temp assignment that lasted for four years (really!) when I was working in theater, and they were very cool about me taking a day or two off here and there for theater-related stuff.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:45 AM on January 20, 2013

Any other suggestions? I'm game for doing whatever it takes.

I'm just going to suggest another idea based on my own experience (freelancer in another niche/area). Similar to you, when I started my fear was: Will I make enough money and should I consider part time work, temp work, etc.

This is what I found out in the long-run (for me). Are you charging a rate for your freelance work that equals 2 to 3X what you would receive hourly for your specialized skills at a company that does this work? If so, start to look at what you would get hourly at temp jobs, part time work, etc. (For me, I did the math and realized even working an entire day at temp jobs would not equal an hour doing freelance work..but do the math, but in other words locking myself up with temp work or other part time jobs can equal lost opportunities and lost money).

I also found that doing more specialized projects in my field turned into requests to do similar projects for other companies, so time and exposure to one or two projects did translate into much more work.

So I have an entirely different recommendation if your field is the same,after you do the comparison and the math.

Spend the time looking for companies that do your type of freelance work - pitch yourself to them (call them, email them). But if you spend a week doing this, it can turn into immediate work or work 2 years from now. Then you have a lot of work and potential work in front of you that will then not necessitate this otehr stuff.

The other idea since it sounds like you are open to working in office (I have a friend who does this....), contact companies in your industry, offer freelance services, but let them know that you are open to in office work. It should also equal experience in your niche area, a higher rate, and it may turn into a solid "one week per month." Be really careful if you do this to read the contract and make sure they don't want to exclude you from working with other companies that do similar work.

Good luck.
posted by Wolfster at 8:20 AM on January 20, 2013 [1 favorite]

Certainly Wolfster's course is preferable, if you can pull it off. But as he says, do the math -- and the math must also include your present resources and tolerance for risk. If you can finance that kind of approach, it will strengthen you over time. But if you're living paycheck to paycheck, or are already in appreciable debt, it may not be something you can launch immediately. Good luck!
posted by LonnieK at 9:32 AM on January 20, 2013

Also from the USA but I found that when you are interviewed by a temp agency and they go over your resume/skills they were also very receptive about your time needs. I think this is particularly true for longer-term gigs, since they know you don't have any vacation time.
posted by forkisbetter at 10:09 AM on January 22, 2013

Thanks very much for the reassurance, I have an agency interview ahead and a shopping list for a very capsule corporate wardrobe. I'm reminded that what I'm asking is kind of the point of temping, so I'll plan and ask for what I need.

Wolfster: I'm doing a version of that, with some contract work on the horizon, but thanks for the encouragement.
posted by carbide at 2:03 PM on January 24, 2013

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