What it’s like to be a temporary worker

Man in home office using computer and smiling
Editor’s note: This is the first installment in a three-part series about temporary work. We’ll be exploring its benefits, how it can factor into your long-term career goals, and what it’s like to be a temporary worker.
Temporary workers, also called independent contractors or free agents, are self-employed and are hired by businesses or people to provide an end-result of work. From flexible schedules to control over projects and clients, being a temporary worker offers a number of perks that permanent employees can’t always enjoy.
“Transitioning to an independent contractor is a good choice for those who have a valuable skill or expertise along with a reputation for excellence,” says Jill Notte, a temporary worker and marketing consultant who has worked with Choice Logistics, a company that specializes in mission-critical service parts logistics. “It provides flexibility and a foundation to build a larger business in the future when the demands of family lessen and the work week can be lengthened.”
So what are some of the career benefits of being a temporary worker and what does it take to be successful in this self-employed role? Six temporary workers weigh in on the perks, offer advice and describe the qualities needed for this position.

Career perks
A flexible schedule is one of the main attractions of being a temporary worker. However, that’s not all this position offers. “I can work from anywhere, from a fast food shop in Tokyo to a coffee shop in Sioux City, Iowa,” says John Paul Engel, a temporary worker and founder of Knowledge Capital Consulting. “[I’m] largely independent because the client mainly just cares the work is done.” He adds, “Multiple streams of income means it’s unlikely I would lose them all at once.”
Deborah Scanlan, a temporary worker and style consultant for J. Hilburn, a luxury men’s clothing company, agrees. “Perks are that you can work a flexible schedule, work from home and in my case, be in control of how much money I make. [I’m] commission-based and have access to great training opportunities for my professional development.”

Tips to succeed
Since temporary workers are largely responsible for their own careers, they’re the ones who have to make tough business decisions and ensure they’re receiving a paycheck. What does it take to be both a successful boss and employee?
“Treat your contracting business exactly like an office gig,” says Susan Miller, a temporary worker and founder of Ewing Miller Communications. “That means showing up at 8 a.m. and leaving at 5 p.m. Invest in tools and technology to do your job properly. Before beginning a solo practice, make sure that you’ve set aside funds for the professional tools you’ll need, whether that’s a media database subscription, faster Internet connection or professional association fees. Promote and connect. Offer to speak at service clubs, leadership venues and in college classrooms. The college approach can lead to connections with affordable and intelligent emerging talent as your business grows.”
Dorin Rosenshine, a temporary worker who has worked with Jay Suites, a full-service business center that provides fully-furnished office space to clients, says, “It’s difficult to build your reputation, get exposed and win new clients — so word of mouth is key. I’ve grown my workload and client base pretty much exclusively through referrals. Focus on medium-size businesses that don’t have the time to manage whatever work is your specialty, are sufficiently large that they can afford to spend on someone to do it for them and lack the clout of large firms. These middle-of-the-road companies often find great value in the one-on-one interaction and high accessibility that are the hallmarks of independent contractors. Develop relationships with them, keep them happy, and they’ll want to help keep you in business by referring to you other similar-sized businesses they know.”

Traits of top independent contractors
Although there are plenty of reasons to be interested in this career choice, the demands of being self-employed may not be for everybody. Katie Heaney, a temporary worker for Vector Marketing and Cutco Closing Gifts, says, “Some of the keys to being a successful contractor are exceptional time management — I am my own boss and don’t have a ‘clock-in, clock-out’ system; goal-setting — there is not a manager or boss telling me what my benchmarks are, so I make goals quarterly and track them week to week; and relationships with current and past clients and referrals are key.”
Personality is just as important as the work you’re offering as a temporary worker. “Consider this move only if you’re a free-spirited introvert with a high degree of self-discipline, because it’s easy to get distracted when no one is directly watching you, and much of the time, you’ll likely find yourself strictly on your own, typing away on your laptop in a silent room,” Rosenshine  says.
“Being an independent contractor is not for everyone,” Scanlan says. “Successful ICs are entrepreneurial, multitaskers and self-motivated. You have to be disciplined to time-block your calendar and not get distracted by things you could be doing in your home — household chores, social media, etc.”

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