Are temporary workers a good idea?

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by Tom Watson on December 27, 2015

Temporary workers, or “temps” as they are commonly called, are workers you can hire by the day, week or month.

These folks are generally untrained help that can come in handy in a pinch. I’ve used them quite a lot in my early years.

The results were generally mixed until I figured out the best way to make use of them (more about that later). Anyway… I’ve used temps for many jobs that I wasn’t able to staff on my own for one reason or another.

Cleaning job where temp workers were needed

For instance one time I was hired to clean a large retail store that was having a complete makeover. This large contractor found me online and needed a price to perform a construction clean up. I bid the job and had to start pretty much right away, as in he next day.

That was both good news and bad news to me. I was happy to get the job, but all my employees were tied up on other jobs and I couldn’t spare anyone. I certainly couldn’t clean it myself, as it was like 25,000 plus square feet and it needed to be done in just a few days start to finish.

So I had to call a temp agency and bring in some workers. It’s not a perfect solution because they are not trained plus you don’t know what you will get. Some are hard workers and some aren’t, so it can be pot luck in a sense. To make a long story short, all worked out and the job got done.

Other times I’ve used temps to clean the common areas of large apartment complexes and to clean the turnovers. I did that for a while because it was hard to hire for that type work at times, and I had no other choice. The work had to get done one way or another!

Pros and Cons of using temp workers

Their main benefit is in performing work that you can’t schedule for, like some big job that comes out of nowhere, like that construction clean up job I spoke of. Using them for the apartment complexes was not a great setup, but my hand was forced in a sense.

The best way to handle them is to closely supervise them in my opinion. If you think you can just let them go clean on their own, you will have trouble. The reason is two-fold. The first reason is because they are untrained, and you can’t let untrained people out on their own.

Secondly, and this is the main reason, is because they tend to have checkered pasts. A lot of these people can’t hold a regular job for one reason or another. There can be a million reasons for that, and I won’t go into them all, but they tend to be on the unreliable side.

This means you have to stay on top of their work and make sure the quality is where you want it to be. I normally stayed with them all day, or had a supervisor with them. At times we would leave them for a few hours and then come back and check on things. We did that if we had the same temps before and had a feel for their work ethic.

I will say that you will find a few superstars as well. These are people who can regularly exceed expectations. Whenever I found one I liked a lot, I would always “put in” for them. I didn’t always get them because many times the temps will have “favorite” jobs, and yours may not be one of them.

For instance many temps I dealt with liked working for a local trash company because the work was real easy and they were guaranteed a full days work. Many times I didn’t always have a full days work, and they didn’t like that. So remember, the more hours you can offer the better your choices will be.

Can I hire a temp to just work for me?

Every now and again you may be tempted to hire a temp to work for your company INSTEAD of the temp agency. I tried this a few times whenever I found one of those “superstars” I mentioned earlier. This never worked out for me because their star ALWAYS FADED for one reason or another.

Like I said earlier, many temp workers have issues that keep them from obtaining full-time employment, and it’s just a matter of time before these issues raise their head and get in the way of their employment with you. It’s sad, but that was my experience time and time again.

I’ll wrap this up by saying that using temps can be a great way to get work done that you could not get done otherwise. You just need to understand that they are untrained, probably lack transportation and need supervision. But in the right setting they can be a good fit for your company when you are in a pinch.

{ 19 comments… read them below or add one }

1 HP December 27, 2015 at 8:50 am

I am actually considering hiring temps to help with housecleaning. From an agency that hires for cleaning companies and they do all the background checks, drug testing and payroll. I am just starting out and find it’s a relief not to have to worry about all that, Mainly financially, but I know it will cut into my income a bit. Do you have any thoughts or suggestions for hiring help, just starting out? Going the Independent Contractor route could get me in trouble later, so I did’nt want to do that, not comfortable with it. Doing the hiring, background checks, payroll myself can get costly.

2 BJ December 27, 2015 at 10:13 am

Merry Christmas Tom!

On the topic of supervising temps, if I have 10 temps working in different locations, how do I supervise each of them? What game plan can I create to ensure that each one is doing their job well?

Additionally, how can I save time, gasoline and energy from traveling back to each location, inspect and supervise them and their work? How can I utilize another supervisor and what responsibilities should he or she take on? Is there a perfect match for the number of temps to one supervisor? i.e. 10 temps to 1 supervisor?

Best wishes for the new year to you and your family Tom. Thanks for the great info.

3 Angela December 27, 2015 at 11:15 am

Ok question
What about work release people? I mean for these big jobs during the day? You dont have to pay them NEAR the rates you do a temp agency, you dont have to promise diddly squat when your done, and believe me. you they are on their best behavior because they are checked up on. . Now, NOT ALL jobs would I dare use this option due to reputation, as a matter of fact not one person who works for my company full time has a substance or. criminal record PERIOD. But for example, some are serving for child. support… different.. they cant work for me. when they come. out per se but while they are on work release for a year and these types of jobs…
have at it


4 Binda Kebohula December 27, 2015 at 11:41 am

This is a good one Tom about temps. Can I use them when I am just starting since I do not have working capital to employ permanent staff until such time that I am getting more clients?

5 Laurie K December 27, 2015 at 2:54 pm

Excellant subject topic. I have often wondered about hiring Temps and that defiantly helps in my decision. Thanks!!

6 Tom Watson December 28, 2015 at 9:31 am

THANKS Laurie!

7 Tom Watson December 28, 2015 at 10:00 am

Sure. You should have 30 days to pay the temp agency you hired, so just make sure you get paid for the work BEFORE that bill comes due.

8 Tom Watson December 28, 2015 at 10:05 am

Hi Angela! Never thought about that. Those with lessor issues like you highlighted would be a decent option.

9 Tom Watson December 28, 2015 at 10:12 am

Hi BJ! Merry Christmas to you as well. I’m not sure I would have them in that many different locations. Perhaps you could put a few together and make a team that you have a supervisor oversee (that is what I did a lot of on the apartment complexes).

Other times I would just pair temps with regular staff and let them oversee them, it just depended on the situation. As to “gas”, that just needs to be factored in to the equation when bidding, it’s part of the job. And… No “perfect ratio” of supervisor to temps. One good supervisor can manage a bunch of people.

10 Tom Watson December 28, 2015 at 10:16 am

Hi HP! All I can say is “try it out” and see how it works out for you. Sometimes you try out different approaches to problems and it works fine, and other times it doesn’t.

11 BJ December 28, 2015 at 11:24 am

Thanks for answering my above question Tom. However, I am still confused. The problem is that for a string of small jobs, I only require 1 temp and I don’t know another way to inspect their work besides physically driving to all the accounts after they are gone. For example, I have one temp to work 7.5 hrs. per day on accounts that he can easily handle alone. I have another temp doing the same thing. In a week, each temp does a lot of driving to clean small and almost midsize accounts. How can I organize my two temps so that they are supervised? Should I let temps work together? Additionally, if my staff has to work alone in the situation I described above, should I let go of temps and hire better qualified regulars? I think my main concern here is my organization strategy for allocating staff to clean accounts and then having to supervise them. Is there a better way? Thanks again Tom. I’m stumped.

12 Tom Watson December 28, 2015 at 12:12 pm

Hi BJ! I don’t know that answer to that, and I’m not sure there is one. At the end of the day temps need to be supervised and they are not for every situation. Why not just hire someone that can be weaned off daily supervision? Or… supervise less and see what happens (though that is asking for trouble in my opinion).

13 CB January 9, 2016 at 7:59 pm

Hi Tom, This is a good topic since I just started my new company. I just started my LLC, before am sole proprietor. I have people that going to work for me but they all want under the table. We going to start next Sunday. Am I on the right truck if I pay them under the table. I know I will eat up the taxes on this. Am I going to be in trouble for this. Please advise.

14 Tom Watson January 17, 2016 at 1:46 pm

Hi CB! Sorry for the delay. Under the table is not the way to go. Call ADP and have them do your payroll (or a similar company).

15 angela January 18, 2016 at 11:01 am

Under the table is illegal and will bite you…you have options, be resourceful, think about family, friends, people in social circles, etc…and the easiest route in the beginning is just 1099 them. That is a very very simple way until you are big enough to begin to outsource some responsibility. Do not start your business doing things wrong, what goes around comes around and you will not make it that way, you will not be respected in your own back yard when people find out and you will not attract back into your space positive experiences, trust me, I speak from past experiences. Do things right, honorable and you will attract that back. Plus, not to mention, there is not enough words to say about a clear conscious when you go to bed and wake up in the morning.

16 Jelena Nagle March 2, 2016 at 10:50 pm

Hi everyone, I need some advice. I started a new cleaning business and I got a local Daycare account. How do I go about getting someone to work for me part time couple nights a week if I need help. For example, can I use my 16 yr old son to help me, how to do I pay him. Can I use my sister-law, how do I pay her. What if I hire an 18 yr teenager to help me once in a while on nights that I need help. Do I use a 1099 for all these instances? I want to do it the legal way. Any advice can really help me out. Thanks in advance.

17 Tom Watson March 10, 2016 at 11:53 am

I would ask your accountant for the best way. If you don’t have one, I’m sure most offer a free consultation. I personally just hired people and put them on the payroll. This way all was legit and they were insured (via workman’s comp that was connected to my payroll).

18 Jonell Pitts May 23, 2016 at 11:17 pm

Hey Tom! I am weaning off of a few indy contractors to whom I’ve been paying 30%- and , horrifyingly they have probably made more than me.. I have not done the nitty gritty numbers break down. I don’t quite know where to begin. Overwhelming- but I am planning on hiring two regular employees and starting payroll this week- by the Gods! and have only a half filled out form to the workers comp thing.. that I can’t remember my password for, and untapped ability to peer through and comprehend/follow IRS requirements.. if I force myself. I have a vision of good pay- the best. I have 3-5 houses daily. Some are underpriced.. I don’t know what percentage of the pay from each house I should pay them. I work with them. I feel paralysed. I need a hotline. I know I can do better than any other small gone big- biz around here. I CAN FEEL IT! I just need a bit of direction. Can YOU offer me ANY solid tips on this? I want to incite a cleaning REVOLUTION! I just need wind under these phoenix wings, mahn! I will exude glee if you reply. Thank you.

19 Tom Watson May 25, 2016 at 12:17 pm

Hi Jonell! You would be best served my giving me a call. Head over to the contact page and buzz me later this week. I’ll help point you in the right direction.

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