Do Temp Agencies Take A Cut Of Your Pay?

Finding temporary work through a staffing agency can be a great way to gain experience and earn income while searching for a permanent position. However, you may be wondering if using a temp agency comes at a cost in the form of lower pay.

Let’s take a closer look at how temp agencies are paid and what that means for your wages.

If you’re short on time, here’s the quick answer: Yes, temp agencies do take a cut of the hourly pay rate that companies pay them for placing temporary workers. However, the temp agency’s cut doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll make less overall.

How Do Temp Agencies Make Money?

Temp agencies play a crucial role in connecting job seekers with employers who need temporary or contract workers. But how do these agencies actually make money? Let’s take a closer look at some of the ways temp agencies generate revenue.

Fees Charged to Companies

One way temp agencies make money is by charging fees to the companies that hire their temporary workers. These fees can vary depending on the agency and the specific services provided. Some agencies charge a one-time placement fee, while others may charge a percentage of the worker’s hourly rate.

This fee structure allows temp agencies to cover their operational costs, such as recruiting, screening, and interviewing potential candidates. It also helps them generate profit by providing a valuable service to companies in need of temporary staff.

According to a report by the American Staffing Association, fees charged to companies can range from 15% to 50% of the worker’s hourly rate. This fee may seem significant, but it is important to consider the convenience and flexibility that temp agencies offer to both job seekers and companies.

Markups on Bill Rates

Another way temp agencies make money is by applying markups on the bill rates they charge to companies. Bill rates are the hourly rates that companies pay for the temporary workers they hire through the agency.

The markup is the difference between the bill rate and the rate the agency pays the temporary worker. This markup helps cover the agency’s expenses, including payroll taxes, workers’ compensation insurance, and administrative costs.

The exact markup percentage can vary depending on factors such as the skill level of the worker, industry demand, and the length of the assignment. According to the same report by the American Staffing Association, markups on bill rates typically range from 25% to 100%.

It’s worth noting that temp agencies have to strike a balance between setting markups that allow them to cover their costs and remain competitive in the market. Ultimately, their goal is to provide a win-win situation for both job seekers and companies.

How Does This Affect Your Pay as a Temp?

Working as a temporary employee through a temp agency can have both advantages and disadvantages when it comes to your pay. One of the main concerns for many individuals is whether temp agencies take a cut of their pay. Let’s explore how this can affect your earnings.

Lower Hourly Wage

One way that temp agencies can impact your pay is by offering a lower hourly wage compared to what you might earn as a direct hire. Temp agencies often have to cover their own costs, such as recruiting, training, and administrative expenses.

As a result, they may negotiate lower wages with their clients in order to remain competitive in the job market. However, it’s important to note that this can vary depending on the industry, job role, and location.

Did you know? According to a study conducted by the American Staffing Association, the average hourly wage for temporary employees in the United States was $16.45 in 2020.

Potential for Overtime Pay

While a lower hourly wage may be a concern, one advantage of working as a temp is the potential for overtime pay. Temp agencies often have contracts with companies that require additional personnel during busy seasons or for specific projects.

As a result, you may have the opportunity to work more hours and earn overtime pay, which can significantly increase your overall earnings. Make sure to check with your temp agency and familiarize yourself with the overtime policies in place.

Benefits like Health Insurance

Another consideration when it comes to your pay as a temp is the availability of benefits. Temp agencies may offer certain benefits to their employees, such as health insurance, retirement plans, or paid time off.

However, it’s important to note that these benefits may vary depending on the agency and the specific assignment. Some temp agencies may offer comprehensive benefits packages, while others may offer limited or no benefits at all.

It’s crucial to thoroughly review the terms and conditions of your employment contract to understand what benefits, if any, are provided.

Pro tip: If you’re interested in learning more about the benefits offered by temp agencies, websites like Robert Half or Randstad provide valuable information and resources on this topic.

Strategies to Maximize Earnings as a Temp

Temp agencies can be a great way to find flexible work opportunities, but it’s important to understand how they operate and how they impact your pay. While some temp agencies may take a cut of your pay, there are strategies you can employ to maximize your earnings.

Here are a few tips to help you get the most out of your temp job:

Ask About Bill Rates

When working with a temp agency, it’s important to ask about the bill rates they charge to clients. The bill rate is the amount the agency charges the client for your services. By understanding the bill rate, you can get a better idea of how much the agency is making off of your work.

This knowledge can empower you to negotiate for a higher pay rate or seek out agencies that offer a higher percentage of the bill rate to their employees.

Consider Direct Hire Opportunities

While temp agencies are commonly associated with short-term assignments, they may also offer direct hire opportunities. Direct hire positions are permanent roles with a company, and they often come with better pay and benefits compared to temporary assignments.

If you’re looking to maximize your earnings, it’s worth exploring direct hire opportunities through your temp agency. These positions can provide stability and the potential for long-term career growth.

Negotiate Higher Pay for Skills/Experience

When discussing pay with your temp agency, don’t be afraid to negotiate. If you have valuable skills or relevant experience, you may be able to secure a higher pay rate. Highlight your qualifications and demonstrate how your expertise can benefit the client.

Remember that temp agencies are motivated to find the best fit for their clients, so they may be willing to negotiate if it means securing a qualified candidate for the job.

By implementing these strategies, you can maximize your earnings as a temp and ensure that you are compensated fairly for your work. Remember to advocate for yourself and explore all available opportunities. With the right approach, temp work can be a rewarding and financially beneficial experience.

Alternatives to Temp Agency Work

While temp agencies can be a convenient way to find work, they do take a cut of your pay. If you’re looking to explore other options, here are some alternatives to consider:

Independent Contracting

One popular alternative to temp agencies is independent contracting. As an independent contractor, you have more control over your work and can negotiate your own rates. You can find independent contracting opportunities in various industries, such as IT, marketing, and consulting.

Websites like Upwork and Freelancer connect freelancers with clients looking for specific skills. This allows you to work directly with clients and keep the full amount you earn, without any middleman taking a cut.

Freelance Job Boards

If you’re looking for a wide range of freelance opportunities, freelance job boards can be a great resource. Websites like Fiverr and Guru offer a platform for freelancers to showcase their skills and connect with potential clients.

These platforms often have a wide variety of projects available, allowing you to choose the ones that align with your expertise and interests. With freelance job boards, you have the freedom to negotiate your rates and keep all the money you earn.

Direct Employment

Another alternative to temp agency work is seeking direct employment. This involves applying directly to companies for full-time or part-time positions. While it may require more effort in terms of job searching and applications, direct employment can offer stability and potential for growth within a company.

Websites like LinkedIn and Indeed are great resources for finding job opportunities, and many companies also have career pages on their websites where you can apply directly. By securing direct employment, you won’t have to worry about a temp agency taking a cut of your pay.

Remember, it’s important to carefully consider your options and choose the path that aligns with your career goals and preferences. Whether you decide to pursue independent contracting, freelance work, or direct employment, there are plenty of alternatives to temp agency work that can help you achieve your professional aspirations.


While temp agencies do take a portion of the hourly rate paid by companies, there are still potential financial benefits to temp work. With the right strategies and options, you can maximize your earnings as a temporary worker.

The key is being informed on how temp agencies work so you can make the best decisions for your situation. With an understanding of bill rates, overtime eligibility, and direct hire opportunities, you can thrive in your temp job search and career.

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