See All Blog Posts
Flexible Jobs

Should I Become a Freelancer, Gig Worker, or Temporary Employee?

Posted On06/24/2019

ContributorKaila Prins

Freelancer. Temp employee. Independent contractor. Gig worker. These words all seem to have a lot in common, and yet, what do they mean? For a workforce that is increasingly leaning towards flexibility, these terms carry a lot of weight.

Understanding what it means to be independent is important before you take the leap – so we’ve broken down flexible and temporary work so you can make an informed decision.


Are you an industry expert ready to strike out on your own? Have years of experience or a strong portfolio?Value flexibility and have an impeccable sense of organization?

Freelancing is a type of independent and flexible work where you run the show. Not only must you be the CEO of your sole proprietorship, you also have to do the marketing and communications to make sure you get found, run billing to make sure you get paid on time, do your accounting to ensure that you’re in compliance with the IRS, become your own human resources and pay for health care and other “benefits,” and also do the work your client hires you to do.

Freelancers can work in a number of industries, although you’ll typically find freelancers in “creative” roles, like copywriting, editing, graphic design, and even software development.

If you choose to become a freelancer, you will need to build referral networks, get comfortable with cold calling and pitching, and potentially join freelance platforms like Upwork (although there are a number of considerations, including rate, fees, and competition that can interfere with success on those platforms). You’ll also need a stellar portfolio so you can pitch yourself effectively.

Freelancing can be a great option if you value flexibility, have a large network, and are proactive about finding jobs and getting your work done. Keep in mind that freelancing can be precarious, as you’re not guaranteed work and you may encounter issues with individual clients’ billing departments. 

Gig Work

Gig work, as we conceive of it today, has become a blurry category. Gigs work can include:

  • On-demand performance of tasks, through companies like Uber, GrubHub, and Postmates.
  • Making and/or selling your own products or used items, as on Etsy or Poshmark.
  • Offering services, which can be selected by a customer, as with TaskRabbit, Airbnb, and


Gigs, like freelancing, require you to do a lot of your own leg work – you often need to be in charge of your own supplies, manage your time effectively, and do the work; however, because gig platforms and companies often mediate between you and your potential customers, you may not have to do your own marketing or billing – and you definitely won’t have to be your own CEO.

With gig work, you often don’t get to set your own rates (or, when you do, you may find yourself competing with lower-cost items or services offered on the same platform). Gigging is often seen as a good way to fill in the gaps in your current income or make extra money while you are job searching, but many people find that it’s not a substitute for a full time job.

While there are now on-demand platforms that combine gig work, freelance, and consulting for higher-level work, most gig work is about completing tasks or selling your crafts or old items, not necessarily about building a career.    

Temporary Employment

Although we can consider temporary employment “the original gig economy,” temporary work through a staffing agency combines the best of freelance and true employment: you get flexibility and stability. While no job is guaranteed, staffing firms like Nelson work hard to place the right candidates in good, well-fitting roles across industries and levels. Some jobs are short contracts and others are paths to full-time hires.

Staffing firms do the billing for you, so you get paid on time, regardless of where you work and with whom you work. While you will still need to apply for jobs and provide your own resume and portfolio, recruiters like those at Nelson often work with their candidates to improve their resumes before submitting to a good role, and as the recruiters at your local staffing firm get to know you, they can advocate for you to employers and suggest great roles for which to apply. They can also offer their employees benefits and perks, so that temporary workers have even more incentive to seek and hold employment.

Temporary work can be done in nearly any industry, and with the country at full employment and employers looking to fill their open jobs, there is a great opportunity to find nearly any type of role. (In fact, lots of employers are hiring through Nelson – you can check out our open jobs here!)

Temporary work may be less flexible than freelancing or gigging, but it comes with a built-in network, more transparency about pay periods, and the possibility of benefits after a certain tenure. Temporary work can also be a pathway to salaried work, if that’s a desired career goal.

Ultimately, how you decide to work depends on your lifestyle, work habits, career goals, and needs. When you do decide to work with a staffing firm, Nelson has been helping job seekers like you find great roles in their industry and at their level for almost 50 years. Connect with your nearest Nelson branch to get started today!