5 Alternatives to Hiring a Temp Agency

5 Alternatives to Hiring a Temp Agency

When you have skills gaps or lack capacity to tackle key projects, finding the right talent right away quickly jumps to the top of your priority list.

Traditionally, many businesses have turned to temp agencies to fill open positions or for help staffing short-term projects. Yet, 61% of hiring managers said they aren’t fully satisfied with their staffing firm. There has to be a better way, right?

Below, we’ll discuss alternatives to hiring a temp agency to fill your workforce needs.

What is a temp agency?

Also known as a staffing agency or temp services, a temp agency (short for temporary agency) is a recruitment firm that focuses on placing temp workers with companies that are looking to fill long- or short-term contract positions.

Companies outsource their recruitment needs to a temp agency to find temporary, seasonal, part-time, or temp-to-hire workers.

How does a temp agency work?

Temp agencies offer a pool of applicants looking for temporary work. These workers register with the temp agency, and, in turn, the agency finds positions for them. The agency may require temporary employees to take skills-based tests, like typing assessments, to demonstrate their knowledge and skill.

While the process may vary from agency to agency, you can typically expect a temp agency to follow these steps when finding a job candidate:

  • Create a job description and post the position. A company will contact a temp agency and explain the responsibilities, pay rate, duration, and other basic details of the position they’re looking to fill. The agency will take this information and create a job posting, which they will usually post on major job boards.
  • Vet and interview candidates. Once the job is posted, the temp agency will sort through applicants and identify candidates that fit the description. The agency will send a batch of candidates to the client company, which will conduct interviews and decide who they want to hire.
  • Select the hire. The temp agency takes care of the paperwork and payment once the client selects a hire. Since part-time and seasonal workers are employees of the temp agency, the agency—not the client company—is responsible for paying employer taxes and providing any required benefits, such as health insurance.

Note if the worker has a problem with a client, they must go to the temp agency to report it. And if the client decides the temporary worker is not a good fit, they must go through the temp agency to terminate the worker.

Temp agency challenges

Companies have been turning to temp agencies for decades, largely out of habit. There are several reasons you may want to consider a different option when looking to add talent:

  • Temp agencies can cost more. When working with a temp agency, you’ll pay a markup above the rate the worker is being paid—anywhere from 25% to even 100%. The more niche the skill set is, the higher the markup. Depending on what position you’re looking to fill, this might not be the most cost-effective route.
  • Time to hire can be slow. There’s no guarantee that working with a temp agency will lead to the quick solution you’re looking for. It can still take weeks to find the right candidate. To put this in perspective, the average time to hire a freelance professional on Upwork is just a few days.
  • You aren’t in control. When you work with a temp agency, you give up control to the representative you’re working with. That person sources candidates, reviews resumes, and conducts the initial screening steps. You have to hope they know your business and your needs well enough to identify talent that not only has the skills you require but also the soft skills to fit well within your organizational culture. A lot’s riding on your relationship with your temp agency contact. At the same time, it can be very hard to gauge the progress they’re making in filling your need because they’re driving the process, not you.
  • Temp workers may not be fully invested in your firm. A majority of temp workers are really looking for a full-time role. They’ll take a temporary position in order to keep working or pay bills or in the hopes a temp job may lead to a permanent role. Many will quickly jump on a full-time opportunity as soon as one comes along. And that could leave you in the lurch if a temporary worker on your team suddenly leaves.  

5 Alternatives to hiring a temp agency

Here are five alternative methods of securing top talent without turning to a temp agency.

1. Hire top independent professionals through Upwork

Upwork gives you control in hiring temporary and project-based talent and provides a level of transparency you can’t get when working with a temp agency.

When you post your job on Upwork and receive proposals from interested applicants, you can view their full profile. Their Upwork profile includes not only details about the person’s work history and samples of their work but also ratings and reviews from past clients so you can choose the right professional for your needs.

Because you craft the job description yourself and are able to explain the most important elements, you’re less likely to receive applications from talent that doesn’t match your skills requirements or pay rate.

Millions of freelance professionals from across the world use our work marketplace to connect with clients. You have access to more—and better talent—because you’re not limited to local applicants only, like most staffing agencies are.

The independent professionals on Upwork have expertise in more than 8,000 skills and are passionate about working as freelancers. They enjoy working on contract assignments for various clients.

2. Search within your network

Another option instead of working with a temp agency is to ask around within your own professional network. Connect with similar professionals and companies to find out how they source talent.

The downside of this approach is that it’s not very efficient because your efforts can be hit-or-miss. For the same reason, this approach can be very time-consuming. Simply put, it may be difficult to find temporary help with the skills and at the speed you need.

3. Source talent online

Another option to secure top talent is to source online. If you’re looking for a freelance writer that specializes in the financial services industry, for instance, you can conduct a Google search using a phrase like “top freelance writer financial services.” From there, you’ll be directed to job boards, work marketplaces like Upwork, or even the personal websites of writers who specialize in finance.

A downside to this method is that it can be time-consuming. You may have to wade through a few pages of results before finding a promising candidate, and there’s no guarantee the people you identify are the right fit for the role or available and interested in the opportunity.

4. Post positions on job boards

Another popular method for securing outside talent is by posting on job boards. The good news is you’re in control: You write a job description, post it yourself, and review applicants.

The downside to this approach is that many job boards make it very easy for candidates to apply for jobs using the information stored in their online profile. Often, candidates can submit an application with just one or two clicks. That means you may be flooded with applications—too many, in fact. Finding the perfect candidate can be like looking for a needle in a haystack, especially when you consider that many people are likely to apply even if they are unqualified for the position because it’s so easy to do so.

Job boards also typically cater to people who are primarily looking for full-time employment. So this might not be your best option when you’re looking for a temporary worker.  

5. Look for talent on social media platforms

Another way some companies look for talent is by posting their needs on social media, like Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn. Your company to reach a wide audience or target paid posts to a particular segment of users.

However, even if you target your audience, you’re still reaching out to people who may not be looking for temporary work.


Working with a temporary staffing company can drastically limit your company’s choices and options when searching for the talent you need. Working directly with independent professionals is often a better option.


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5 Alternatives to Hiring a Temp Agency
The Upwork Team

Upwork is the world’s work marketplace that connects businesses with independent talent from across the globe. We serve everyone from one-person startups to large, Fortune 100 enterprises with a powerful, trust-driven platform that enables companies and talent to work together in new ways that unlock their potential.

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