Ask the cubicle expat: Pros and cons of permatemp work

September 12th, 2007

Lisa writes: Had hoped to flee the cube for good when my job got terminated (corporate restructuring and move out of state) 2.5 months ago. I am finding breaking into freelancing not quite feasible yet in order to pay the bills. That’s OK… I just know I need to make more connections and give it a go some other time in the future. Wondering, though, since I know you’ve done it, what working as a wage slave (contract worker) at A Big Corporation is like. I signed up with a contract agency and they lined up an interview for me at A Big Corporation. Job itself sounds interesting, but as I have never worked contract, I’d like to know the pros and cons.

What a timely question! As I hinted at a while back, I’m doing one of these short-term contracts at A Big Corporation now (though the gig is part time, ultra-flex, heavy on telecommuting, and due to end in a matter of weeks). I’m happy to weigh the pros and cons of working for the man, however noncommittally, here.


  • Steady money
  • Priceless experience that helps flesh out your resume
  • Contacts you can use when you do go freelance later (or try to land a staff job with the company you’re temping at)
  • Not having to attend most employee meetings or perform other maddening employee tasks (annual reviews, feigned enthusiasm for special projects)
  • Being a short timer who gets unemployment when the contract’s over


  • Commuting
  • Dealing with office politics
  • Commuting
  • Getting treated like a second-class citizen because you’re not a “real” employee
  • Commuting
  • Being expected to hit the ground running, sans training (because you’re not a “real” employee)
  • Commuting

Temp’s little helpers:

  • My first day on the “job,” I brought Summer Pierre‘s awesome zine, The Artist in the Office, with me — the perfect lunch companion. She reminded me that every job, no matter how partially or wholly shitty, has its merits, even if those merits are nothing more than Keeps My Fridge Partially Stocked or Affords Me Access To Free Staples And Sticky Notes. (For the record, my job’s not shitty. Hi, Boss!)
  • Ayun Halliday‘s hilarious book Job Hopper: The Checkered Career of a Down-Market Dilettante is a nice reminder that you’re not the only one who’s so much more than her day job of fielding emails, ducking out of meetings, and dodging dodgy managers.
  • You may think your boss, officemate, or job description is the worst, but they’re not. Just read You’ll feel better instantly.

Lest you worry that this has turned into a working stiff’s blog, here are a few freelance resources:

Have a question for the Cubicle Expat? Ask away.

Entry Filed under: Ask the Cubicle Expat

6 Comments Add your own

  • 1. The Anti 9-to-5 Guide &ra&hellip  |  September 14th, 2007 at 5:10 am

    [...] OK, so now you know that I like to dabble in short-term contract work once every few years. Some call it temping, others call it permatemping, still others call it seasonal work. I call it Putting Myself Back In The 9-to-5 Marketplace Every So Often To See Just How Much Job Responsibility And Corporate Clout I Can Command, While Earning A Pretty Penny To Boot. Not only does this experience make me more marketable as a freelancer, it helps pad my savings account so that I can run off later and freelance for a slightly less lucrative industry — say, perhaps, maybe, oh, I dunno, book publishing. [...]

  • 2. Elizabeth  |  September 18th, 2007 at 11:47 am

    In my experience, a short-term contract can be an ideal way to gain hands-on, marketable experience in a new niche. Clients generally like to work with someone who has in-house experience in their industry, and a short-term contract allows you to gain this advantage without committing to the cube.

  • 3. Michelle Goodman  |  September 18th, 2007 at 11:52 am

    fabulous point, elizabeth. thank you.

  • 4. The Anti 9-to-5 Guide &ra&hellip  |  September 18th, 2007 at 12:05 pm

    [...] And of course, my temp gig, which happily has turned into a 75-percent telecommuting gig [...]

  • 5. The Anti 9-to-5 Guide &ra&hellip  |  October 31st, 2007 at 1:12 am

    [...] In honor of the last week of my work-from-home permatemp gig with A Very Big Corporation, I bring you this question… [...]

  • 6. The Anti 9-to-5 Guide &ra&hellip  |  November 20th, 2007 at 1:27 pm

    [...] My life has changed a lot since the month began. From July to November, I was burning the candle at both ends, jugging a contract gig with freelance writing deadlines, which I realize is ironic for someone who wrote a book with a hefty work/life balance theme. But sometimes you need to bring home a little extra bacon, so I bit the bullet and toiled a little more than I should. And now I am free. FREE. [...]

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Hi, my name's Michelle Goodman and I've been freelancing since 1992. I'm author of My So-Called Freelance Life and The Anti 9-to-5 Guide. Read my full bio here.

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