Your Ticket Out of Intern Land: Freelancing
Ready to quit those coffee runs and escape the internship rat race?
Popular career advice experts typically tell college students and recent grads about the importance of interning to gain work experience. But some of us seasoned interns need things like benefits, sick days and an opportunity to pay off student debt. Believe it or not, there’s such a thing as working as an intern for too long.
Interning in The Great Recession after college can be a Catch-22. Companies value internships but don’t hire interns. Ten years ago, having just one internship put you ahead of the career curve. Today, holding several internships—and not turning them into jobs—might work against you. Instead of looking uber-driven to prospective employers, you run the risk of being pigeonholed as “just the intern.”
What’s a seasoned intern?
If any of these scenarios apply, you may be a bit too seasoned:
- You’ve held two or more quality internships (after college) where your main task wasn’t fetching coffee.
- You’ve been told by an interviewer that his or her company doesn’t hire anyone who’s only held internships because it’s not “real experience”—only to be offered yet another internship.
- You’ve been mistaken for an entry-level employee at your company because you’ve interned there for so long and actually do real work.
So, what’s a seasoned intern to do? Here’s a ticket out of intern land you might not have considered: freelancing. So here are three steps to help you get on this path:
1. Create Your Own Job
If you’ve worked a few quality internships without landing that first job, you can always start freelancing. Whether you want to be a journalist, a graphic designer or an app developer, if you have the skills, do it! You don’t need anyone’s approval.
Thanks to technology and social media, you can do almost any career on your own, short of operating on patients on your kitchen table.
Before you get started, do a little research on your field and competitors, and then determine which niche you should occupy. Decide on your services, prices and get started. Don’t forget to create your own business cards to pass out to prospective clients.
The first step to stop being an intern is to stop calling yourself one.
2. Get Your First Client
You have to get paid somehow, so go out and find some business.
Finding a client can be a little like the case of which came first, the chicken or the egg. It’s generally easier to get a client when you already have a client, but you have to start somewhere. Try alerting everyone in your network of your services; you never know who will need your help.
Also go to industry networking events and pass out those business cards. Chat about your background and the types of projects you’ve done. Just make sure you never ever say, “ Oh, I was just an intern.”
Another good way to find clients is by offering your services to a not-for-profit organization that needs help. If they can’t pay you, volunteer your services—and then list them as a client. No one knows the organization didn’t pay you, and you can use that client to get another that pays!
Whatever route you take, get any and all deals in writing and keep track of all of your expenses and billings for tax time.
3. Get a Case Study
Whether you’re volunteering or getting paid for your services, make sure you get one good case study. Think of a case study as a project that allows you to show the world your awesome work.
Your case study should document everything you did to help your client reach success. Include your objectives, your strategy, how you led your client to success and the results of your work. Collect as much evidence as possible. Whether that means including statistics, testimonials, photos or screenshots of media mentions, your case study needs to show any prospective client that you’re the right person to hire to get the job done.
Take this freelancing time to push the envelope and do everything you ever wanted to do as an intern but couldn’t. This isn’t the time to play it safe. A good case study shows some measure of innovation and creativity.
If you don’t bet on yourself, how can you be mad if a company won’t bet on you?
If you truly think you’re an over-qualified intern, stop grumbling and start your career.
Prove everyone wrong by making your career happen. Who knows? You may have a knack for business and could end up expanding your one-person team to include staff members… and maybe an intern or two of your own.
Brazen Life is a lifestyle and career blog for ambitious young professionals. Hosted by Brazen Careerist, we offer edgy and fun ideas for navigating the changing world of work. Be Brazen!