Making quick cash while waiting to hear back for a job
May 19, 2007 4:06 PM   Subscribe

How can I make some quick money for groceries & bills while I'm waiting for my job interviews to pan out?

Hi folks. My first and only job (six years, programming for the university) terminated in March, forcing me to look for work in the Real World. Days after I put my resume online, a recruiting agency had me in and started getting me interviews with programming companies, which seemed pretty promising.

Problem is, these companies (really just one that I'm interested in) are taking forever, and my Sweetie's paycheque isn't carrying us very far. I can see that I should have had many more irons in the fire and I would have been employed by now, but what can I do in the meanwhile to make some extra cash to keep us going?

What I've thought of:

• Temping: Can someone tell me their experiences with this? Is it a day-by-day thing or per-week or what? Do you need a car to get around? When do you get paid? The only experience I have is .Net/Web development and flipping burgers in high school.

• Selling my junk on ebay: Having taken stock of the apartment, everything falls into pretty much two categories: Stuff we want to keep, or stuff no one would buy.

• Freelancing: Is there such a thing as micro-freelancing? As in, do a few=n hours coding, make n*$20 (or whatever) that day? Or other e-labour? (The Mechanical Turk would be cool, if it paid better, and more quickly.)

Any help with the above, or other ideas, or links to relevant past AskMes that I missed, would be greatly appreciated, thanks.
posted by Kwirq to Work & Money (32 answers total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
Temping: done it lots. Usually week to week, but sometimes you get day assignments. You need reliable transportation of some kind. Most assignments tend to be 8 to 5. With a basic knowledge of Office, you can pretty much get an assignment within a week or two. Good temps that actually show up on time are surprisingly rare. It ain't hard to shine.

Kelly is one of the more reliable agencies. (I believe they have an IT branch if you don't want to be an office monkey). Beware of other agencies that seem shady--lots of them are.
posted by emjaybee at 4:11 PM on May 19, 2007

Giving blood/plasma? As far as micro-freelancing, yes, check RentACoder... I'm a buyer so I'm not really sure how competitive it is. There's lots of competition from India/East Europe, but lately I've favored US/Canada/Australia/UK bids that are intelligently written and not just a generic bid.
posted by rolypolyman at 4:15 PM on May 19, 2007

I'm temping long-term right now, and I find that it really depends on the agency you work for for everything. Mostly, you get paid weekly. I know a lot of people who have day/week assignments, and I've had a lot of luck with longer term assignments (several months). The two agencies I've dealt with have been good--Randstad and Contemporary Staffing Solutions, and both have branches (though Randstad is much more widespread geographically). It's really not hard to do well as a temp (by this I mean, if you have a good work ethic and have knowledge of the Office suite)--you can be a computer monkey, I'm sure. It might be deadly dull to do data entry, but it'll get you through until you get a regular job.
posted by monochromaticgirl at 4:26 PM on May 19, 2007

Don't know where you are, kwirq, but temping pays decently and gives you plenty of flexibility in a major city.

If you're in, for instance, NYC, you just submit your resume -- the skills section is quite important -- and then start calling them. Every day.

They will bring you in for a "skills" test, which basically measures how fast you can type, what you can do in PowerPoint, Excel, MS Word, etc. If you have advanced capabilities, some agencies will help you get jobs that will make use of them.

And ... while you probably won't want jobs that you'd be offered through an agency, many of the good ones have permanent placing as well as temp. So there are lots of "temp-to-perm" possibilities.

All this, again, is reliant on being in a major city.
posted by brina at 4:27 PM on May 19, 2007

From a previous AskMe question, it looks like you're in Canada. Maybe this is obvious, maybe it's run out, or maybe you're waiting for it to kick in, but have you applied for Employment Insurance?
posted by teg at 4:32 PM on May 19, 2007

Temping is a great interim way of making money. You should call around at a few temp agencies, they will want you to come in and take a few tests to prove you are proficient in whatever skills you have. If you have basic computer skills, which it seems obvious that you do, you should have no problems scoring a temp job.

Temp jobs can be day-to-day, week-to-week, or even temp-to-permanent. It sounds like you would want a multi-week job. Usually you just need to worry about getting to & from your temp job, and not need a car to get around during the day, assuming you accept an office-type position. The most common positions I have seen from temp agencies are data entry, filing help, and admin assistant stuff. Companies need this stuff when people go on vacation, on temporary leave, or when they just need a little extra help on a temporary basis.

I really think it is a great thing to do - but I'm biased, as my first "real" job was offered to me after 2 weeks temping for the company that offered me the job. In the late 90's / early 00's when I was temping, I typically made $12-$15/hour (USD) doing admin assistant type stuff. It's kind of nice because most places don't really expect too much from temps, so as long as you are remotely proficient at what they ask you to do they will be wowed.

It's also nice because you can leave a temp position rather guilt-free because they knew you were a temp from the get-go. You can also talk with your temp agency about being flexible to accomodate interviews & stuff.

Good luck!
posted by tastybrains at 4:48 PM on May 19, 2007

Bartend or serve. You'll make cash, quick, quick cash. And the people you will be working with will be 10x easier to deal with than office temp type jobs.
posted by geoff. at 4:54 PM on May 19, 2007

Yes, temping. Wear your best suit when you go in to register, and otherwise treat it with the seriousness you'd give an important job interview. They love to see outward signs of "professionalism" like that, because so many temps do flake out on the clients and make the agency look bad.

Sign up with multiple agencies*, then call your rep everyday. Establish a relationship him or her personally, so that when a job comes in they don't bother searching for random people in the database -- they immediately think to call YOU.

Your goal is to appear as flexible and professional as possible. Try to say no to as little as possible. Someone who looks picky generally gets dropped to the bottom of the priority list.

* As soon as you get an assignment from one agency, call the other ones to get off the "available" list. Being unavailable on a given day is fine; but surprising them with that fact after they've already told the client in good faith that you are ready to work -- that's how to get blackballed.
posted by nakedcodemonkey at 5:16 PM on May 19, 2007 [1 favorite]

Oh, and while it's true that many temps get paid weekly, typically that means turning in last week's timecard by mid-week, to be cut at end of week, to be delivered 10-12 days after the end of the week you worked. If you're really hard up for cash, it can be a killer waiting for that first check. Some agencies let you pickup checks, shaving off a few days. Or maybe by now they've started doing direct deposit. (like tastybrains, it's been a while for me)

The client has to sign your timecard before your check can be cut. Be prepared for someone to occasionally forget to sign and return it to you before they rush out the door for the weekend. Better, present it to them on Friday AM and don't let the timecard leave your sight.
posted by nakedcodemonkey at 5:28 PM on May 19, 2007

It depends on where you live, but many cities have market research firms that will pay you to do a focus group. I did it a few times a number of years ago, and basically got paid $40 to drink Sam Adams Light (before it was sold in stores) for 20 minutes.

It's not a lot of money, but it's out there.
posted by dhammond at 5:28 PM on May 19, 2007

Why not flip burgers? I don't know what it's like where you live, but the fast food chains round here always have 'employees wanted' signs out. You'll start at the bottom and probably on minimum wage, so it's crappy work and you won't earn much. But you will earn something noticeable and it's the kind of disposable job you can ditch pretty quickly without guilt. Also daytime shifts are often more desirable so you'll start off doing nights and weekends, which leaves the rest of the time free for job hunting. The entry requirements for such a job will be pretty low.

Temping can also be great. I have a friend who did it for several years, working only one or two days at a time for each assignment (giving good flexibility) but still getting work every day. She said the key was to accept everything and anything offered at first and to do a good job. Once you've got a reputation with the agency for being amenable they'll start giving you better roles and choosing you over other people on their books. Tell them upfront if you're not available, due to job interviews or whatever, but also be open to taking less desirable jobs at the start to show willing.
posted by shelleycat at 5:53 PM on May 19, 2007

Waiters can make VERY good money. Heck, even my little teenage girl made over $12 in tips in a 4 our shift at Baskin-Robbins last night! I know that's not tons, but... for scooping ice cream? And it was her first day! A waiter can make that in tips on one table.

Everyone I know who waits tables, at even a decent family place, does very well. You might find that you want to keep doing it after your real job starts. A few nights a week for (???) hundreds of bucks a month... that's half the rent, or a car payment, or both.

Here's the key: confidence, pride in your work, and professionalism. Present yourself that way to get the job, and to your customers, and you can do well.
posted by The Deej at 6:18 PM on May 19, 2007 [1 favorite]

nth waiting tables.
posted by jtfowl0 at 6:31 PM on May 19, 2007

Waiting tables is not a job that can bring cash in quickly - if you've never done it before it often requires 4-8 shifts of training. Once thats done then you can make a little money but its not instant money.

Good luck

Also, Try craigslist, people post looking for coders, and I am sure coders post looking for work.

Good Luck
posted by crewshell at 6:40 PM on May 19, 2007

One problem with temping I found is that it often clashed with job interview times -- and if you're doing a hard-core job search, temping five days a week, 9-5, can really make it hard to do that job search as thoroughly as you should.

So perhaps consider doing it only three days a week? I know that won't bring in as much money but it will allow you to maintain your focus on the hunt for your proper job.

I've also freelanced as a journalist and while web design work may be different, the biggest problem I had with it was that unlike a normal job where your employer pays you every fortnight or month, with freelancing you have to do the job, finish it, invoice it, and then wait for the money to turn up. This can take WEEKS if not months depending on the company. So it can be anything but a short-term solution to employment gaps or cash issues.

Of course, things may be different in Canada (I'm in Australia) and in your line of work.

Good luck!
posted by jasperella at 8:13 PM on May 19, 2007

What do you code in? I've got some crap-work I need done. Email's in the profile.
posted by SpecialK at 8:23 PM on May 19, 2007

Looks like you have some great advice so far. Here is my take on the three ideas you had.

• Temping: The crowed seems to be leaning towards temping which can be a great source for short-term cash. You just need to find out what type of work you want to do. Day labor is probably not the way to go unless you want to work construction or something. You would probably want to go with an administrative agency and try to get a temporary gig working with computers somewhere, maybe accounting, technical support, book keeping, or maybe you can even find a gig coding if you have the background. There are some places that are going to be more stable; they may give you a job that lasts a couple months or even be temp-to-perm and there will be places that give you a job that lasts a day or two. This is something you may want to ask the agency about when you contact them for an interview. Some companies even offer benefits to their temps but be sure to inquire about whether the company pays the cost of the benefits or you do.

• Selling my junk on ebay: This is a good idea if you have "junk" that is not already saturated on e-bay and if you have a good seller rating. You may have a hard time selling certain things if you open a new account and have no or little seller rating. Somebody above suggested Craigslist, which is a great idea if the site popular in your area. You may also look for other classified sites or even the local news paper.

• Freelancing: This is a good idea if you have a good portfolio and a background in the area that you want to freelance in. I am guessing that will be coding of some sort and somebody above has mentioned There are actually several websites that cater to freelance coders,,,

Work hard at whatever is that you choose to pursue and you will be able to make that extra cash you need.
posted by dnthomps at 8:50 PM on May 19, 2007

I would definitely try temping. Call and ask each place if they can offer assignments on the time scale you want, and if they can tailor things that are accessible to your transportation situation.

One other thing to think about:
If you're near a university, they often have many one-time end-of-term jobs eg clearing out furniture from residences on moving day, helping with graduation crowd control, setting up for summer programs etc. See if there is an employment board online or in the personnel office, and ask the people in the personnel office where you could find out about jobs like this.

Tutoring might be a possibility as well, depending what kind of area you live in. Tutoring kids in grade 9 math, for example, or tutoring university students in summer programming courses. Craigslist will work for this in some places; bulletin boards in the relevant university depts.
posted by LobsterMitten at 8:52 PM on May 19, 2007

Response by poster: Wow, thanks for the advice and encouragement, folks. Some points:

• Location: I'm in Edmonton, Canada (pop. ~800 000), which is definitely big enough for temping and such. I have filed for Employment Insurance, and am receiving it, but it's sort of pitiful.

• Temping sounds viable, except perhaps for pay latency. I'll go apply at the start of next week and see what I can get. But I'll put on my best (only) suit and see what I can get.

• Blood/plasma selling I will look in to. It's a little sad that what I was too squeamish to do for charity I might try for some cash, but there it is.

• Market Research sounds like exactly the sort of idea I was looking for, if it's done here (in Edmonton). Thanks, dhammond.

• Bartending/waiting tables — Is it possible to get a job tending bar without experience? In any case, I think I'm better off with the office crowd than the lounge/restaurant crowd. Though as a part-time evening job, it sounds interesting. Downside: I would have to borrow money to buy some white shirts.

• Jasperella, I haven't been jobsearching very intensely since I was letting it go through the recruiter, but your advice on keeping a day or two open for that is well heard. As for the delay in receiving payment for clients from freelancing, that's why I was looking for micro-freelancing via RentACoder, etc.

• Dnthomps, thanks for the freelancing links, and the other advice. I'm not particularly interested in long-term temping; this would be a couple more weeks at the most.

• LobsterMitten, awesome ideas, thanks. I will check on this first think next week. Unfortunately, Craigslist is still not particularly well-established here.
posted by Kwirq at 9:35 PM on May 19, 2007

Below links are for Edmonton Canada:

Craigslist Gigs Section

Craigslist Jobs Section

You might also submit your resume to the resume section and explain what you are looking for.
posted by dnthomps at 11:35 PM on May 19, 2007

Re: temping pay latency - the agency I did the most work with was Kelly Services, which I think also may have offices in Canada (I worked with them in NY/NJ). Pay was weekly - you turned in your pay stub at the end of the work week and received your payment by the following Wednesday or Friday (I can't remember but it was pretty fast). This seemed to be how most agencies operated in my area.
posted by tastybrains at 11:39 PM on May 19, 2007

Waiting tables may be a good job, but in my experience once you have a few years of settled office work they don't want you. If you're very young and have little work experience, it's fairly easy to get hired, but if you're 6 years into the workplace it will be difficult for you to find a place. Since you were working for a university, I assume you are living in a university town. This means that there are loads of university students that need part time work, and these are the ones that will be hired for restaurants. You, with your 6 years of cushy office work, look like damaged goods. Of course, if you have previous restaurant experience that you can bring up, you have a chance. I was never, ever, able to get a job working at a restaurant once I got past the age of 25 or so. People looked at my work experience and said "No way."

That being said, I *have* been able to get catering experience, and in my opinion it's fantastic. Unlike waiting tables you aren't paid mostly on tips, so you're less likely to suffer if you're inexperienced. You usually get paid $10-12/hour. It can be grueling work but there are usually spaced out lag times to recover during the day. Also, instead of spacing out a few mini-shifts throughout the week you usually work one long-ass day (say 12+ hours). However, some caterers pay by check so there will be short lag before you are paid (usually a week or less).
posted by Deathalicious at 1:53 AM on May 20, 2007

If there is a conference center nearby, you might try with them. The managers often contract work for events that only last a few days.
posted by AquaAmber at 6:59 AM on May 20, 2007

I have often recommended Elance to people for a variety of things - I've used it a few times with a good degree of success, but on the hiring end...
posted by twiki at 7:53 AM on May 20, 2007

FYI: You're not going to be able to sell blood in Canada. Canada Blood Services expects that you'll do it out of the goodness of your heart.
posted by ewiar at 8:20 AM on May 20, 2007

I’ll second Deathalicious’ recommendation for catering. I did that for a few months when I was in a similar situation as you. I had some pretty long shifts, too—I was on the clock for 30 hours on one gig, but on the other hand, a large portion of that time was travel and down-time.

It was really easy to become a well-liked worker by simply making myself available, showing up on time, and doing the work I was assigned.

At my job, except for the head chefs, the workers were all contractors, so I could set my own schedule by just telling the scheduler which days I was available. I normally worked 2 or 3 events per week, mostly on the weekends. There were a few overnight events, and in those cases, room and board were paid for, usually by the people holding the event.

I got tipped a few times, but that was definitely exceptional. The head chefs usually got tipped by the people having the event, and they were supposed to share that with the other staff, but that didn’t happen often.
posted by ijoshua at 8:49 AM on May 20, 2007

You may want to look into volunteering to be a subject in research experiments with the Psychology department at U of A. These are usually 1-4hr at a time, and at my university, can pay up to $25/hr. For the most part, the experiments involve completing a survey, or doing a task on a computer. For some experiments, you will be asked to do them while some measure of brain activity is recorded-- possibly by EEG or functional MRI.

My guess is that the labs will be especially eager to have subjects during the off-season when all of the students are away.
posted by Maxwell_Smart at 10:23 AM on May 20, 2007

You're in Edmonton and you can't find work???? I live an hour from you, and there's a labour shortage.

Try any service-- Superstore and Tim Horton's are always looking, and I'm sure others as well. Try south side Big Box and just go from store to store, dress well and bring copies of your resume.

Are you willing to do basic manual labour under the table (eg yard work, painting, etc.)? I know many many families are looking for someone to get basic work done, and can't hire anyone because of the construction/oil boom. Go door to door and leave flyers in middle class neigbourhoods., but word of mouth would be better. I don't think it would be impossible to get around $15/hr. Once you did a job for one family, using word of mouth should get you infinite work (provided you did a decent job), paid in cash. This, I believe would be your best bet.

Try hire a student (even if you're not a student). Go and look at the board.

If you aren't finding stuff in Edmonton, try going a shade out of town to smaller communities.
posted by kch at 1:49 PM on May 20, 2007

Response by poster: It's not that I can't find work. But applying for a job with Superstore or Tim Horton's or anysuch would sort of be false pretenses if I'd be quitting as soon as I heard back from the programming companies I've been interviewing with, wouldn't it?

(When I last interviewed, it was supposed to be hearing back within two weeks, and then it was supposed to be sometime last week. Now it's supposed to be sometime next week. But I remain optimistic about them.)

Hence I'm looking for extremely short term, a-day-or-two type propositions.
posted by Kwirq at 2:04 PM on May 20, 2007

You never know. I'd be up front to a place, that you're looking for interim work, or fill-in work, maybe continuing part time (what if your other options don't pan out?).

I'm seeing businesses close because they don't have workers. They might be fine with it. A body for short term/part time which allowed a business to stay open or to function better might go for it, especially something like superstore (ours has empty shelf sections because they don't have enough workers to unpack the boxes!) or Tim's (ours closes it's main store and only does drive thru, and imports workers from Latin America because it's short staffed!).

These are odd labour times in Alberta. Ask for an odd request, and you just might get it. You won't if you don't ask.
posted by kch at 3:37 PM on May 20, 2007

I would also recommend temping. it's also not a bad way to experience different work environments for someone who has been in only one previously.
posted by snofoam at 9:10 AM on May 21, 2007

Giving blood/plasma?

If you want to do this, you're going to have to find a place that uses it for medical research or other uses besides being transfused into humans. At least in the US, volunteer blood donors can not receive monetary compensation.
posted by radioamy at 10:29 AM on May 21, 2007

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