Thursday, July 4, 2013

How To Make Money At An Unpaid Internship

GUYS. Or, since Ed's colloquialisms are way better: WHIPPERSNAPPERS.

Remember that woman from last week? The one who tipped me off on a fashion website looking for freelancers?


Here's a really quick backstory for those of you who don't remember and/or don't want to click back. Last week, I attended a swanky entertainment party and met a woman who ended up tipping me off to a fashion website that was looking for some freelance help. I emailed an editor from the site over the past weekend, and now I'm meeting with her next week.

It's pretty much blowing my introverted, network-adverse mind right now. So much so, in fact, that I wanted to make it the topic of this post.

If you have an unpaid internship this summer and you haven't complained at least 355 times about how unfair it is, I want to meet you and soak up some of your rays of sunshine. For the rest of us, we've been in the trenches for about a month now and the effects of long hours for no pay are starting to rub in a little, right?

So, what do we do? Well, we could keep filing lawsuits, as a few Condé kids are doing. It's a big, probably expensive step, but, thanks to these brave souls, I doubt future interns will have to endure the same financial woes that we are.

However, I am a baby. I don't want to go in that direction because, let's face it, it's really scary. When Diana filed her suit, the backlash and ridicule from editors was stunning. If my university had Greek life, this is what I imagine it being like. Basically, all the big kids (editors) told all the little kids (interns) to shut up and suck it up, because this is how the industry works. [Note: By "all," I am making a sweeping generalization that is almost certainly not true across the board. I just saw enough tweets and op-eds to make it feel like it was in the majority.]

Okay, so I’m not going to slap a lawsuit on anybody. What next?

I experienced a bit of a humbling moment last week when, right in front of my face, my editor got on the phone with a freelancer and offered him a flat monthly rate to do the exact same thing that I was doing. The site is looking to ramp up content and so we’re all pitching in more pieces from here on out, but it isn’t enough so she’s looking hire a few people to beef up content. Key word here being hire.

Granted, this superstar freelancer is probably a better writer than I am. But, we’ll all be grabbing stories from the same weekly content list, and we’ll all be pumping out the same amount of features each week. I wonder if this knowledge keeps her up at night.

Probably not.

So, you know what? I’m not going to lose sleep over it either. I’m actually going to gain sleep because I’m going to use this situation to my advantage. Here’s my plan—oh, wait a second. This is the part of my story where readers will find out that I’m only really talking to edit interns when I said “how to make money at an unpaid internship.” I sincerely apologize for shamelessly duping you into clicking on this post without specifying exactly what I was talking about. But, hey, maybe there’s freelance stylist or photography jobs out there within your reach. Just substitute that in whenever I say “freelance writing job.”

Anyways, back to the point. Here I am, getting bylines as an intern at this cool entertainment website. Whether I am paid or not, I’m really grateful for this opportunity. But why stop there? Getting an email from that editor this week made me realize: hey, I may be an intern, but she liked my writing and was impressed by the byline. It doesn’t matter that I’m 21 years old and don’t have reams of experience on my resume.

Up until this point, I have defined myself by the word “intern.” In my mind, that means I am at the lowest rung on the ladder. I am here to keep my head down, not cause trouble, and maybe learn a thing or two along the way.

All of those things are still true. But that’s not all. Who says I can’t pitch myself as a freelancer to other sites while I’m here? I’m getting these great bylines, might as well make them start working for me. I’ve seen it work for other people. A student at NYU freelanced briefly for the site I was interning with last summer. I liked his writing so I kept tabs on him, and, lo and behold, I started seeing his name pop up on as a weekly columnist halfway through the past school year. And he was still a student at the time.

I might be crazy, but I think it might work. I’m making a promise, right now, that I’m going to start pitching myself to other sites. If it doesn’t work, then I’ll be no worse for wear, but if it does pan out—guys, I can almost taste the Starbucks.

So, who’s with me? Or, have you already had success freelancing while still an intern? Tell us all about it below!

Until next week,

Ed’s Entertainment Intern

No comments:

Post a Comment