Boosting your bank balance with temp work

Posted October 13, 2011, by Andrea Riddell

If your circumstances make you temporarily available, for example when you’re between jobs, studying, travelling or just looking for some extra cash, then temp work can be a great way to do something productive with that extra time.

Unlike its big sisters part-time and casual work, temporary work is just that – temporary – and can range from a couple of hours to a couple of months. Being a ‘temp’, ‘freelance’, ‘seasonal’, or ‘contractual’ employee allows you the opportunity to gain experience and work with minimal qualifications or obligations – but usually great pay – doing a variety of activities, all within a small amount of time.

If this sounds like your cup of tea, it’s only a matter of deciding when you want to work and what you want to do.

Sign up with an agency

Signing up with a temp agency is one of the best ways to find temporary work. A general Google search will bring up a list of temp agencies in your area. Many companies go through temp agencies to find workers if an employee is sick, taking leave, or if they need some extra hands on deck. Joining an agency is great if you’re looking for work in administration, reception, call centres or even hospitality.

When you join with an agency you’ll be required to do a set of tests to determine your skills set and competency, to help the agency match you up with suitable roles. Companies that hire through temp agencies look for people who will meet the expectations of the job without training, as it’s expensive and inefficient to train someone who may be leaving in three weeks. Clearly outline on your application what skills you have – such as computer skills, waiting skills or customer service skills.

Be clear with the agency about what you can and cannot do and keep them up-to-date about your availability. You have no obligation to take on a job if your agency offers you one.

Music festivals, elections and other events

Working at events is a great way to earn a bit of cash every now and then. The great thing about this type of temp work is that you don’t need any qualifications to apply. This type of work is incredibly popular, so be sure to be on top of any upcoming events and apply early to improve your chances of getting hired.

Most events advertise positions through their websites and roles usually consist of bar work, setting up, wait staff, retail and promotional staff. Having your Responsible Service of Alcohol certificate and cash handling experience can help. Working at festivals such as Field Day and Homebake will also give you the opportunity to still enjoy – albeit passively – the festival experience. Be warned, giving out free drinks to your friends is highly frowned upon and can result in a ban on any further festival work.

Elections are also great for people with no qualifications or experience, and you don’t even have to be of voting age.

If you choose to work at festivals, sales, functions and elections, be prepared for long and busy days, and sometimes nights.

Fruit picking and seasonal work

If you prefer to soak up the sun’s rays and participate in some physical labour during your holidays, then seasonal temp work may be just for you. Rural companies, vineyards, fruit fields and farms, including oyster farms all over Australia, look for extra workers during harvesting season. Depending on the type of produce, duties can include picking fruit or vegetables, packing them into boxes, and operating machinery.

Students and backpackers flock towards this type of temp work as it is usually available during university breaks, and allows tourists the opportunity to still see the countryside while they earn some money. It can be hard work with long hours and the pay differs between employers, but for you it may beat sitting in an office all day. Just remember to pack the sunscreen!


If you’ve had plenty of work experience and gained ‘street cred’ in your field, and you’re ready to explore some new opportunities, freelance work can be great to gain temporary and contract work. Businesses may choose to outsource projects and this is where you step in. While having a great reputation and a name in your industry will help you pick up more freelance work, it is not impossible for newcomers to succeed as freelancers as long as they market themselves appropriately and effectively.

Freelancers are given more flexibility and control over their work than their traditional counterparts, but it’s your responsibility to keep on top of your affairs, like bookkeeping and accounts. Also keep in mind that freelancing comes with little job security it’s really up to you to keep the work coming in.

Your rights and responsibilities

Temp work can give you a wide range of exciting experiences and skills, but you also need to remember that your rights are different to those of a full-time or part-time worker. To avoid confusion, make sure you are clear on your tasks and what the employer expects of you. If you are with an agency be sure to ask what sort of cover or insurance you receive if they offer it. With most temporary and contract work you are not entitled to sick leave, public holiday pay or annual leave.

As in all workplaces, you should expect respect and a fair working environment. Make sure you read through any documents presented to you, and never sign anything that you don’t understand. If you’re a traveller with a working visa, you will be happy to know that new laws will protect your rights and ensure you are being paid appropriately.

Keep in mind that it is hard to make a living out temp work, with the possible exception of freelance work, and there is no opportunity to climb the corporate ladder or continue to grow in your position. However, temp work gives you the opportunity to network and meet people from a diverse range of backgrounds, perhaps opening the door to full-time employment and friendships.

Andrea Riddell

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