skip to content

Intern vs Freelancer vs Employee: The Difference That Is Misunderstood.

Intern vs Freelancer vs Employee

Intern vs Freelancer vs Employee: The Difference That Is Misunderstood. 

Interns should be paid a stipend or not? It has been a very hot topic every time.  Some of these discussions lead to a ton of feuds or aggressive discussions between the intern group and the intern hiring group. Well, internships are the beginning ladder of anyone’s career. I would say, a good way to get started [if beginning, while you are in college]  I shall be talking about how this career ladder is devaluing the potential of a candidate while making a translation from a college grad to a corporate professional. I am writing this because I wish to enlighten the minds of my early career decision-makers, we call them interns. So let’s understand how all this valuation can turn out to be a devaluation. 

Why are we all existing? To live a lifestyle that offers things that we wish we can have or own. We have no limits to our dreams but our actions decide how far we can reach our goals. 

Talking it from the perspective of an intern or a freelancer or any employee of a company. They all wish to work. That’s a pillar thought. They can work in line with their passion or with the skills they own or maybe just doing it because they have to get the bread and butter to survive. 

We all know time is money and we can recover the money but not time. So, it is very important that our economics should be time-bound instead of money. We need to work towards increasing the worth of our time instead of increasing only money. You can have tons of sources to gain income but that income growth should be exponential or at least having a rising graph. 

When I say that the worth of your time should be increased at priority instead of focusing on increasing your income, I mean to say, you have to build skills that have a higher worth. Let’s take an example. 

A car cleaner has a skill that he can wash 10 cars in 1 minute. That’s his skill. That skill will not help him to buy the car which he is washing. For that, he needs to understand the logic of upgrading his skill that can get him the Car. But, if he doesn’t do that, his worth for 10 minutes will remain the same. If he invests some of his time in understanding how he can get more cars in his garage to get cleaned then, he is upgrading the worth of his time. Here, it is important to note that it requires learning to increase the worth of your time. 

Learning is the key to earning. If you learn something, you are eligible to convert some currency out of it. Probably that learning can be converted into a service or a product that you can offer to someone in return for some remuneration. 

Imagine you don’t know anything. Will you be able to create something that people can buy from you? People buy skill, people buy time, people buy products. All are buyers of something or the other. 

As an intern, or freelancer, or employee of a company, you are going to offer your time that will take your skill to deliver a result to people who hire you. 

Now take this, you are giving your time to someone that generates an X amount of money to someone. You deserve compensation because if we subtract your time from that money, the value of the revenue will obviously go down. 

This means you were worth enough to be bought for an X amount of time to use your skill which can deliver an ROI to the business.

Now, considering the above facts. Let’s keep Interns, Freelancers, and employees in this senario. 

An Intern

A company hires an intern who doesn’t have skills, is undergoing some degree, and has bookish knowledge. He/she is spending time during an internship where they are trained on how you should work in the field. During their training process, they are only being made to believe that whatever you read in books? It works like this in the industry. And, there is always a gap between what you read and how things work. 

So, while you were learning something in college, you were paying a fee to learn that thing. Now, when you are learning the practicality of what you read in books by going to an industry, you ask for money in terms of stipend? 

As long as you are skilled to deliver a service to a business, you must be eligible for compensation. But, until and unless you have not crossed the threshold of learning that can become a package of delivering a service to someone, you must only focus on being more learned. 

I have seen a lot of interns having no knowledge and skills and they openly say that they wish to learn something out of this internship but when the stipend shows the compensation only for TA/DA, they get agitated. I Strongly believe that earning without learning is gambling. You are somehow trying to make some money. That’s it. If you want to make money only, that’s freelancing. I will explain the difference between freelancers and interns later in this article. 

When an intern opens the doors of learning when they have no skills, they have a high chance that they are going to attain and enlighten themselves with the knowledge that will shine them out of the unemployed crowd. 

To all those interns, who are only looking out for a stipend in an internship while possessing no basic learning and understanding, you guys are losing a lot of opportunities. When you reject offers of internships that can teach you a lot, you are closing your doors of being industry-ready. 

But, here is part 2 of it. Due to this internet boom, I see that a lot of interns have already undergone tons of courses, workshops, live projects, and personal projects that have sparked their skills and they are all set to be employable. They don’t need much training or any mentorship. All set to deliver after a little bit of knowledge transfer. They are highly eligible to get paid stipends.

It will be completely illogical to take them into some unpaid internships. I would call such intern hiring companies as exploiters. 

But again, a skilled intern still lacks industry exposure. They are not equal to what an experienced full-time employee holds out of working in the industry. So, expecting too much in an internship in terms of remuneration would be a bad idea. Let yourself be welcomed into the industry while you are graduating. 

For me, starting as an intern during college and in the early stage while you are just about to begin your first employment is the best time to get the batch of internships. 

After becoming industry-ready, you must not get yourself entangled between one to another internship. Now you are employable and eligible to be calculated at a CTC. 

Let’s dive into Freelancing. 

What is freelancing?

I have my personal definition of it. When you possess a skill, knowledge that can add value to your employee but you don’t wish to work in a time and place-bound structure with your employee and operate under a contractual role. You are a freelancer. Here the free word in freelancer doesn’t mean you work for free. It means you are free to work in your own style under any unbounded frames. In such cases, companies only get work done from you and pay remuneration based on your time or sometimes the skill that you had priced for a certain value. Just like employees, freelancers are still required to pay taxes. However, instead of receiving a W-2, a freelancer receives a 1099-MISC form. Both forms pertain to earned income and are used to file federal and state tax returns

So how is a freelancer different from an Intern? Let’s take it in a tabular structure. 

They don’t work at a fixed timeThey are time-bound
Remuneration is quoted by themIt is offered by the company
They don’t need certifications They need it most of the time.
They may or may not be graduatesThey are generally grads
They possess skillsThey are mostly learners
They never work for freeLearning interns sometimes work for free.

Why am I trying to show differences? It is for those interns who don’t possess any skills and knowledge, they straightforward leave opportunities of learning from industry experts just because of a few bucks of stipend. They don’t understand that learning can pump up their valuation in the coming years. They end up sitting ideal and waiting for some paid internship while losing time, money, and opportunity to learn more. 

When I was in my university, I was always ready to learn from people who are working in any business. I never thought about a stipend because getting a chance to understand how businesses work was an achievement for me during my college days. Everything has a time. If we respect the value of time, time will respect our efforts.

If you wish to start a freelancing career or grow as a digital consultant, you would love to read my book "Digitaltants" which is a roadmap to becoming digital consultants and breaking freelancing stereotypes. 

Digitaltants: Break Freelancing Stereotypes


Now let’s talk about the segment where the entire world resides. 

The employees. 

They are full-time guys. An employee can work on a contractual role for a short or on a long-term agreement. They get remunerated for their skills, their vision, attitude towards work, and finally the degree or diploma they hold. If I talk about the last decade that we observed, [2010 to 2020 ] we glorified degrees from Tier 1 institutions and forgot that talent doesn’t need a batch of any institution. It only needs the commitment to archive. 

In the last decade, we thought an MBA graduate would be a better manager because he had read management books while we forgot that managing is an art that is drawn and not imagined. But the decade also saw the transitions of people with no backgrounds, were building the startup ecosystems. They were hiring people who were more qualified than their hiring managers. 

In the end, we want talents instead of tortoises. Everyone is trying to grow both at a professional and a personal level. The employees have changed from a team of people to deliver to a team that can build. 

The employees that can build, have folded their sleeves to give a new direction to unicorns that we have known. It is this group of employees sitting in your cubicles who are warming up to solve the challenges of real-life with what they have learned while being an employee and I think interns have to understand this again that without learning if you are trying to earn, you will end up being an employee of those cubicles that generally stays frustrated because they only see people growing around them, breaking stereotypes and building things from scratch while the cubic frustrated employee will be busy thinking why I am not getting promoted, why my appraisals are poor. Because you were after money instead of upgrading yourself while reddening your back over those cubicle chairs.

Final thought. 

If you try to understand this chronology of beginning as an intern to a highly qualified employee, I see four roadmaps.

Roadmap 1: An intern, who is after a stipend with no skill.

They will end up sitting frustrated in an office cubicle with a hard life if they don’t change their attitudes towards learning.

Roadmap 2: An intern, who is after learning with no stipend. 

They are going to be great employees in the future and if they pull their sleeves up to do more, they can have a great future if they maintain their learning attitude. 

Roadmap 3: An intern after learning with a stipend. 

These are lucky plus they must be holding some glorified batches and in the future, they must be turning the corporate tables with more passion and zeal. 

Roadmap 4: An intern after a stipend and skill. 

These people are multi-talented. They can go into freelancing, or become an employee or start on their own. These people are the smartest of all and would find them in good hands in the future. 

It will be wiser to follow roadmap 4 to enjoy success. It won’t come that easy but you must have heard, read, and listened to all those lectures around “Impossible”? It works. To college grads, Start wisely. Book reading, tests, exams, etc are important but DIY in learning is the most beautiful gift that you can give to yourself. Don’t stop learning and keep growing. 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Share via
Copy link
Powered by Social Snap