The Next Big Opportunity For The Self-Employed: High-End Temp Work
When the Great Recession struck, many companies switched from hiring full-time, traditional workers to a business model where they hire a mix of W2s and flexible workers, such as temps and freelancers.
That’s happening again, with many companies facing uncertainty and hesitant to add permanent jobs to payroll. Recent research by Gartner found that 32% of organizations are replacing full-time employees with contingent workers to keep costs in check. Employers are also increasingly considering introducing other models, like talent sharing and 80% pay for 80% work.
“While these situations are completely different, we did see that as the recovery took hold, the engagement of external workers increased,” says Arun Srinivasan, general manager of SAP Fieldglass, a provider of vendor management solutions. “We expect the same coming out of this.”
That has presented an opportunity for the self-employed: High-end temp work. Since the pandemic started, SAP Fieldglass has noticed that about 70% of temporary positions are not getting filled. Companies that want to hire “external talent” can’t find the right people.
Although many workers would prefer full-time, traditional jobs—and temp work in some industries has been associated with a history of exploitative working conditions—there are also many well-paying part-time temporary positions available to skilled professionals.
“We are in the midst of a transition here,” says Srinivasan. “We do see more opportunities for workers who choose to engage in that model.”
So how can independent professionals who are looking for freelance work make the most of the trend?
Determine what type of work is right for you. Companies in some industries that have seen heightened demand in the pandemic are hiring for permanent, full-time jobs. Others are leaning more toward “off-balance-sheet” talent, because they are facing economic uncertainty in their industry. That means that even with unemployment higher than it has been for a while, there are still options across the spectrum of work arrangements, especially if you have sought-after skills and experience.
The trend toward bringing on more temporary workers could put many self-employed professionals in demand and bring them new employment opportunities.
“This is an uncertain time,” says Srinivasan. “This is uncharted territory for organizations and workers. We’re seeing newer kinds of work and work arrangements.”
Focusing your search for work on the type of employment you really want can help you achieve better results. “From a worker’s perspective, many have a choice,” says Srinivasan. “Seeking engagement as a payroll employee is a choice they have. At the same time, there are more and more opportunities open for them to seek work through other sources. Whether they are through service companies, staffing companies or talent clouds, they will have more opportunities to do so.”
Consider a hybrid approach. Some independent workers like to combine a mix of freelance projects and temp work to ensure a steadier income. The thinking is “You can’t be too diversified in an unpredictable economy.” One benefit of temp work is that you typically get a paycheck every week for as long as a project continues. Some temp positions come with benefits, such as access to a 401(k).
An option that’s picking up steam right now is the contract-to-hire, where workers are hired on a temporary basis for a one-year contract, after which they will be considered a permanent employee. “We have definitely seen that trend in the technology consulting sector,” says Srinivasan.
Of course, with any flexible model like this, there is the potential for workers to be exploited. If you find that a company has brought on a lot of contract-to-hire workers in the past but ends everyone’s projects just before the one-year mark, then it probably isn’t a place where you can count on a future full-time job—and may not have a worker-friendly environment.
Try a temp agency. This isn’t the usual way that independent workers look for projects, but it’s worth considering, given the uptick in demand for temps. The External Talent Marketplace has partnered with agencies including Adecco, Experis (part of ManpowerGroup); Guidant Global and its staffing affiliates S.Com, Corestaff and SRG; KellyOCG and Randstad US. Registering with some of them will enable you to tap into opportunities with employers seeking temps with your skill set, including jobs posted on the External Talent Marketplace.
Will the temp trend continue? Very likely. Many companies are being very cautious about hiring right now but that doesn’t mean they don’t need contributions from top talent. “There is a gap in supply,” says Srinivasan.
And that means independent professionals with the right skills are going to find themselves with plenty of projects. “Some employers are trying every possible way to find workers,” says Srinivasan.