Internship or Freelance Position: Which is Best for Your Career?

freelance positionBefore you near the end of your college years and join the workforce, you’ll likely find many types of temporary opportunities available. In fact, you may need to choose: internship or freelance position.

Of course, both internships and freelance opportunities have their benefits. Either of these trial jobs can be the turning points that put you solidly above your competitors when seeking full-time positions.

But which path is right for you and your career?

The Difference Between an Internship and a Freelance Position

Before we dive in, it’s important to note that there is some overlap between interns and freelancers, depending on the company in question. Some businesses even see the two roles as interchangeable when they look for people to fill them. On a general level, however, we’ve found the following differences to be true:


Interns are hired as temporary, (too) often unpaid employees in positions designed to provide additional help where and when it is needed in exchange for a learning opportunity. Unlike some freelance positions, an internship typically takes place within the offices of the company itself. A huge benefit to this type of position is the ability to witness the breadth of tasks available within one department, or perhaps even the entire business.

Often, these positions come with structured learning exercises and clear start and end dates (one summer, for example). There is also usually a predetermined number of internships filled at a given time. This means that the business has put thought into estimating the amount of work available within this period so that you’re doing more than just going on coffee runs. Thus one of the main advantages to an internship is your ability to try your hand at various responsibilities.

Freelance Positions

Freelancers are self-employed workers contracted by companies to complete a specific task, often at an hourly rate or for a predetermined total sum. This can include creating content for a blog, providing videography services for marketing material, or even helping with accounting during tax season. For many, freelance work puts more emphasis on honing a skill than exploring a specific company in depth. For example, if you seek a career as a graphic designer or SEO analyst, you can deepen your resume by working with multiple clients in different industries.

While interns are able to take a peek at several works-in-progress, typical freelancers are assigned to see one project through from start to finish. This provides you with the opportunity to build a portfolio of work that you can truly call your own. And finally, because many freelance jobs don’t have to be done in person, you can often do them from home and—if you’re organized—maintain several projects at the same time.

The bottom line is both internships and freelance opportunities greatly boost your experience, and resume, before you even enter the workforce full-time.

Choosing the right option for you depends on what you feel would work best with your current experience level and career ambitions. Browse a list of available internships and freelance opportunities in your area and keep your mind open to new experiences as they come!


John-lidingtonAbout the author: John Lidington founded HireOwl, the leading student freelance work platform, to address the skills gap with our nation’s graduates. HireOwl tackles this problem both by providing students with experiential learning opportunities and by reducing the inefficiencies companies face in hiring students.



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