Freelancers and interns: the good, the bad, and the ugly

Should I Hire Interns?

Please raise your hand if you’ve ever felt personally confused about hiring an intern.

When you initially think about it, you envision a super (cheap) intern swooping in, saving yourself from all of the work you have no time to do. The feeling of tranquility quickly dissipates though as your head of swirls with the logistics.

Where do I find an intern?

Do I have to pay my intern?

What paperwork do I have to complete?

Should I just hire a freelancer? What’s the difference anyway?

Getting the extra help you need doesn’t have to be stressful. With the right advice and resources at your disposal, you can easily find and land the intern or freelancer of your dreams — without headaches, huge budgets and legal problems.

We’ll walk you through the differences and similarities between freelancers and interns. When we’re done, you’ll know exactly who to hire and a little-known, secret alternative.

Freelancer, Intern – Are they the same? Not exactly.

Before you start recruiting, you need to write exactly what you need down on paper.

Some questions to consider asking yourself are:

  1. What’s my budget?

  2. Is it cheaper to pay hourly or per project?

  3. How much time do I have to dedicate to training or hand holding someone?

  4. Do I need this done ASAP? Or can I afford to hire a self-learner, who will take a bit more time teaching themselves how to complete a task?

  5. Which tasks do I need help completing because I am unsure how to do it myself?

  6. Which tasks do I know how to do but just do not like or have the time to do?

  7. How long do you need someone for – until the project is complete or on an ongoing basis?

  8. Do you have someone to manage this intern?

  9. Think about how hiring an intern affects you and the economy.

Your answers to these questions will help you decide whether a contractor or an intern is best for you. Once you learn the basic definitions of each, we’ll help you get started weighing the pros and cons.

Should I Hire Freelancers?


A contractor is a self-employed individual, who can work whenever and wherever they want to, and they are always paid – typically on a per-project basis.

Freelancers are usually very driven self-starters, who will not need you to coddle them throughout the project. In fact, they should be coddling you throughout the process, guiding you along the way.

They actually can (and sometimes do) hire interns themselves or outsource pieces of projects that require additional expertise or more time than they have.


  • Freelancers require very little of your time to complete a project(s).

  • Contractors are typically experienced.

  • They are usually experts in their field.

  • You don’t have to tell them what to do.


  • Potentially, depending where you outsource to, there may be language barriers.

  • Freelancers charge more than interns.

  • They typically take care of their own paperwork, i.e. proposals, quotes, invoices, etc.


Interns are usually college students, who want to gain experience (proven portfolio pieces) in an occupation, profession or pursuit.

An overwhelming amount of internships are unpaid, but many of these are flying under the radar and are illegal.

For an unpaid internship to be legal, the intern must be getting something in return for her time, which may mean college credit (which the student has to pay a lot of money for), stipends, covering commuting costs, extremely valuable experience, increasing her network and the potential for full-time employment.

The unpaid intern must almost be hindering your business and impeding on your time in order to be in good standing with the law. This is why it can be a headache.


  • Interns are cheaper than contractors.

  • Their motivation, drive and excitement is contagious.

  • They are loyal, when treated well.

  • Young interns, specifically Millennials, will give you the inside scoop to Millennial consumers, and you may even be able to hack their networks.


  • They can be a legal headache.

  • Interns are less experienced so there can be a learning curve and potentially training required.

So who should I hire?

It’s time to stop reflecting and start deciding: freelancer or intern or an alternative solution?

As someone who helps businesses make this decision daily, here is my opinion.

Work with a contractor if:

  • You have a tight deadline.

  • You have a good feeling about them.

  • You can tell they know their stuff.

  • You can afford their services.

Work with an intern if:

  • You want to give back to someone professionally.

  • You have something valuable to offer them too.

  • You know they are knowledgeable on a topic, but just haven’t had the chance to gain experience.

  • You have an incentive(s) to provide them with upon completion of their work.

If neither are fitting, consider a non-traditional, hybrid option: a freelance internship.

By now, I assume no one’s hand is still raised about internships. Of course, if I assumed wrong, please tell me in the comments below.

Ask your lingering hiring question(s), and I will be more than happy to help.

Interested in workspace? Get in touch.