Your views on unpaid internships?


New Member
Hi I have the potential of being offered an unpaid internship whilst I'm studying part-time in the evenings. Ideally I want paid work - however I'm wondering if an unpaid internship will help me get my foot in the door? If I do it, I would only want to do it for up to 3 months maximum as I really need some form of income.

What are your views on unpaid internships? Are they beneficial? Do they look good on your CV etc? Will I be more employable to a company/agency afterwards?Any advice would be greatly appreciated.
If you're working with a team, assisting more experienced designers and learning from them then I see no harm in an unpaid internship. What you lack in salary, you gain in real world experience and knowledge. If however you're the sole designer or are working alone to produce work of a commercial standard then that's not an internship, that's an employer taking the piss.
I can't speak for all internships but any experience you can get in the industry is beneficial and will help on your CV, as it shows you went out and gained hopefully useful and necessary experience. I personally have never worked for free, even when I did an intern during my 2nd year at uni. I wouldn't advice anyone to work for free either, everyone deserves at least minimum wage or very least paid expenses eg. Travel, food etc. If I remember correctly, the very small company I worked for in my second year paid me £800p/m and also paid for my monthly travel card.

Whether this particular internship will be beneficial to you personally; that all depends on what they have you doing and what you can learn there during your time. More often than not, they are useful.
The company in question are not a design agency or company. They do however, have a in house graphic designer and they've offered me a chance to come in and have a chat with them on Friday. I'm guessing I shall be working a long side their in house graphic designer.

More than anything I just want to be employable and have a stable income. I'm hoping that this will be the first step of getting my foot in the door in doing that. I've got experience with regards to freelance but it seems to not matter when you're applying for an actual job.
If it's unpaid then get in there and start working. Keep looking for paid work though. If it comes up then leave the unpaid work for the paid work.

Any experience you can get is great.

Employment Act 1996 states that you only need to give 1 weeks notice in the first 2 years of continuous employment, and if it's less than 1 month you don't need to give even 1 weeks notice.

And the fact it's unpaid internship you wouldn't be required to give notice at all.

Get the experience, get in the door, start working, build on to your portfolio, get paid work.
Oh you make it sound so easy when you say it like that! :icon_wink:

But yes, I think this shall be the plan! :icon_biggrin:
Any internship should ideally be paid, there are funding bodies available that can help employers to pay for basic expenses like your travel and lunch.

Also internships, apprenticeships or voluntary work are all worthy to an employer, depending on who and what they are looking for - and it shows that you are not just sitting around, you are active and looking for new challenges. Consider the poor employment statistics, recession, cuts, depression, etc - you will be gaining up-to-date experience and if your employer likes you they may actually employ you. Think about your professional references. It's all about your experience (work) and your personality.

I'm surprised your freelance experience as self-employed does not matter when applying for an actual job, particularly when you have shown initiative, self-starter, enterprising, motivation, ambitious, client-relations, communication, exceeding expectation, creativity, etc - all of which are key employable skills.

I'm confident you'll get paid work in time! :icon_smile:
I'm already getting paid work via freelance stuff but it's not stable. It's here and there and sometimes nothing. You know that saying "You wait for a bus and none come and then they all come at once"? I find it to be quite the same with freelancing. Maybe I'm not very good at getting clients?! I don't know. :icon_confused:

I don't doubt that I have the skills to be a graphic designer. I've studied it and been doing it for about 9 years. I'm just having trouble getting my foot in the door with a stable income from it all.

Maybe it's my CV which is the issue? I'll nick some of those great keywords you just used and maybe that will help! :icon_wink:

Either way, I'd love to actually learn a bit more about the industry and the working environment, so that if I do get employed I won't be thrown in the deep end and be overwhelmed by it all.

I don't know the details of the internship as of yet. I will find out more on Friday when I go to the meeting. I am kinda hoping that they do pay me something. But they specifically said it was unpaid in the email. So who knows...

Also I am wary because I found the original ad posted in November 2014. My guess is that they had an intern from November - January (3 months) and they're now leaving so they're getting another intern? Free labour perhaps? I don't know...
I'm surprised your freelance experience as self-employed does not matter when applying for an actual job, particularly when you have shown initiative, self-starter, enterprising, motivation, ambitious, client-relations, communication, exceeding expectation, creativity, etc - all of which are key employable skills.

I think a lot of the time it's down to so many designers, particularly graduates, claiming to be 'freelance' when in fact they're jut 'unemployed' but don't want to say that. Also, a lot of studios want someone they can mould into the ideal employee. Freelancers, particularly those who rely on studios for work, tend to be pretty set in their ways. They'd rather have a block of wood to shape into the perfect peg, rather than trying to force a square one into a round hole.

Cassie, I think it's good to set a deadline, as it prevents them taking advantage. I know a girl who graduated about 3 years ago, and she 'works' for a big studio in Manchester every so often, but they can't/won't employ her, they just offer her 'freelance' work every so often. She's holding out hope that they'll employ her soon, but they've been saying they will for about 4 years and still no sign of that permanent position.

Don't be afraid to say no to the position either. In-house positions are often hit and miss, and the person you're working under may just have the title of designer, but you may not learn anything of value from them. Treat the interview process as a way for you to gauge whether or not it's worth your time. You may not be industry professional level yet, but that doesn't mean someone should get your time, energy and ideas for nothing.
I think freelance gets a bad rep because companies would see you as continuing to freelance on the side, potentially causing you to leave and startup a company yourself, or distract you from your day to day by doing freelance work when you should be working.

I said I freelanced a bit in my last interview, it didn't go down well, so I backtracked and basically said I only do the odd bit here or there for friends or family, nothing major. Last one I did was for a 1000 flyers and I only charged for the printing etc.

As long as they see you're committed to the long term with the company you become more employable.

Stating things like "I'm only doing this until I get my dream job", or "I want to be CEO of my own company" etc turn employers right off.

Best to be enthusiastic about the work you're going to be and stating this is what you want to be doing and where you want to be.

Find their website, pick out nice jobs on their portfolio section and talk about them, ask them about the design, the concepts used and be interested in them, the company itself and the work they have done, be enthusiastic.
Some small companies only employ freelancers, as they simply can't afford to have anyone on full or even part time. Saves them money by hiring someone in as and when they need. Also, some smaller companies don't always gain a sufficient work load which would equate to them needing a designer full/part time.

I weren't aware the term 'freelancer' was frowned upon, I may change my status to 'Self-Employed' in that case. Same shit different toilet if you ask me. It's because of ridiculous things like that why I went freelance full time, rather than staying in part time employment. Also, I am sure 90% of designers end up becoming freelancers, working for themselves and possibly starting their own business. Or at least they aspire to sooner or later. If you are a freelancer and can back up that you are actually active, that should be looked up upon in great credit, as anyone can work an 8-6 but not everyone are capable, or have the mindset to do everything for themselves; from negotiating with clients, to getting their attention in the first place to even be able to start negotiations, being your own accountant, time & money management, create the designs, meeting deadlines, attending meeting, filling the tax returns that everyone loves, the list goes on. A hell of a lot for a freelancer to do, half of which would be done for them if they were employed working for a company, making life a hell of a lot easier. People who work the hardest never get the credit or recognition they deserve.