There are many reasons to consider creative staffing agencies. (We previously covered the pros and cons in a blog post last year.) As you may know, being a temp has a bad rap. It implies you are wet behind the ears, not ready for prime-time, not worthy of a real negotiated contract between equal partners. As copywriters and business owners, we value our autonomy and ability to negotiate top pay for years of hard-won expertise and entrepreneurial can-do spirit that any employer would love to access. Copywriters are high achievers; temping is for lazy wage slaves who can’t wait to clock out, right?
So, why do I work a temp job? Well, after having held this job a year, I have to say the experience has been positive overall, and not only because of the steady income. Here’s why:
Quick pay and benefits. Being a contractor means you can negotiate a higher hourly rate, but often there is a lag time between invoicing and actually receiving the check. Depending on your clients, you can wait anywhere from 15 to 120 days (if not more). Temping gives you a weekly paycheck. And although the benefits aren’t as good as full-time employee benefits, they are reasonable especially if you have a family to support. Many temp agencies in Portland offer health, dental, vision, and long-term disability insurance; 401(k) plans; and ongoing professional development.
Job bank. Most companies prefer to advertise and list open positions with temp agencies, jobs that often aren’t listed anywhere, else even though it costs them a lot. Companies find it’s worth paying for the convenience and no-strings-attached flexibility of getting a pool of vetted candidates. This flexibility goes both ways, too. If a new assignment comes along that’s better for you, you can ask your recruiter to switch.
Yet another way to network. Temp jobs introduce you to companies and people you might have never known about otherwise. And they allow you to prove your skills to strangers who wouldn’t bother to read your email or return your calls.
The benefits of collaboration. Although calling all the shots as your own boss can be great, it can also be a dead end creatively. I find collaborating with other writers, graphic designers, creative directors, marketing staff, and administrators to be valuable not only for inspiration and feedback, but also improve my ability to communicate ideas and work face to face with people from different backgrounds.
Freelancing while temping through a creative staffing agency can easily create more work than you’re comfortable with! You may find yourself trading the old feast-or-famine dilemma for a feast-or-feast more problem, which is not a bad problem to have. I often need to adjust, but I have found a 60-40 temp/freelance workload that gives me the best of both worlds: I have financial stability and opportunities to expand my skill set via temping, but I also have the freedom to continue building my business and pursue the projects that I want, not that I need.
I don’t prefer last-minute projects. But as a freelance writer, I understand that most of the time, sometimes it’s a necessity because that’s where clients need me the most and that the turnaround time may be out of their control. It can happen when a last-minute project (sometimes called a “quick turn” as shorthand for “quick turnaround”) lands in the client’s lap or the usual writer is unavailable.
Fortunately, writers are used to getting last-minute requests. While they’re not the sought after jobs, we do them for many reasons:
We have availability!
We excel at meeting deadlines.
Quick turn projects are an opportunity to connect with a potential long-term client.
So having worked on quite a few quick turn projects myself, success is more likely with these elements.
1. Meet in person. I like meeting clients face-to-face to kick off a project and get the download as quickly as possible. I can ask questions as they pop into my head, and I can see any visual examples immediately (on a shared laptop, for example). A meeting for even 30 minutes can avoid missed information later and establish a better level of trust and understanding.
2. Communicate often. Writers, be upfront that you will be in touch often, and ask for the best number to call or text. Ask questions for clarification. Provide updates. Send a rough draft or outline. Repeat.
3. Be candid about the results. If you have three days to turn around a 15-page proposal, as I recently did, tell the client that you cannot guarantee the quality of the final product. This acts as a disclaimer for the quality of work you provide and will give the client a graceful way to back out or kill the project. Get it in writing as part of the estimate you send to the client.
4. Agree on a final product you both can live with. If your client can live with a final, presentation-ready copy that may not be absolutely perfect, and you can live with some extra or late evening hours rewriting and responding to client requests, then go for it.
5. Call in another writer for final or concurrent review. This helps with quality control and will help make the final product even better. A second writer can proofread copy and catch any glaring errors and point out inconsistencies. He can write headlines and check for compliance with the project’s requirements. He can be moral support and be there at the end to say, “I can’t believe we did it.”
6. Price accordingly. Like the 1 a.m. call to the plumber when your basement is flooding, emergencies ain’t cheap. Make sure your quote includes an opportunity cost (because this job requires 100% of your time that will require you to turn down or defer other work) and reflects the unusual nature of the work and turnaround time (e.g., a stress surcharge).
I hope this overview helped you! If you’ve worked on (or solicited) last-minute projects, what are your thoughts?