Education is all well and good, but you’ll learn a great deal from dipping your toe into industry as a placement or intern. They’re not a necessity (I – Oliver – never did one) but if you do manage to get yourself a few weeks in a studio, you’ll reap the rewards. We’re not massive fans of taking year-long placements, but short ones can be great for fast learning in a short space of time.
Should a placement be paid? Should an internship be paid? What’s the difference between the two? Why is the sky blue? So many questions…
We see a placement as a short period of time (a couple of weeks, tops) and an internship as a lengthier stint (usually a few months). The major difference is that as a placement, we don’t expect you to be doing any work that we would be charging our clients for. You’re there purely to listen, ask lots & learn. As an intern, you’d be involved in real-life projects, sometimes your work may be used, other times not, but you will be working on commercial work.
Here’s how we do things…
Placements - we cover expenses (travel and lunch) which could range from £100 a week, to £200 a week (we had a placement who was travelling quite a distance, and trains aint cheap). We tend to do short placements with students who are half way through their course (mainly second years) to give them a little taster.
Internships - we pay an agreed monthly fee based on their experience (we usually work this out based on what salary we’d pay them as a full-time junior, pro-rata). For us, interns have been recent graduates, who’ve found us at a time that we can accommodate someone for a few months, but we’re not necessarily looking to hire full time. That said, make it as easy as possible for them to hire you with these tips from the top.
The amounts we pay are always variable, based on individual factors. But there’s always money in some form. You don’t want to be out of pocket on a placement, and definitely not on an internship.
There’s a lot of conversation about unpaid internships, and rightly so. Expecting someone to work for a lengthy amount of time with no financial support, is quite frankly fucking ridiculous. And the only people who would be able to do this are those with strong financial support (parents, savings, etc) so it creates an unfair playing field between those that can afford to work for free, and those who can’t. A studio/agency that expects interns to work for free, sounds like a wanky place to be. I’m getting that printed on a tote bag.
It’s always awkward talking money, especially when you’re inexperienced in it. If a placement/internship has been agreed, but money hasn’t been discussed, it may be worth dropping an email like the below:
Hey, Just a quick one, could you let me know if the placement (or internship) is paid? I’ve got a lot of outgoings with my accommodation, travel etc, so it’d be good to be clear on that so I can budget accordingly! Thanks.”
Depending on their response this then allows you to make an informed decision on whether you would take on an unpaid position or not.
From the side of the studio, there’s a lot of time that goes into having a placement/intern. At least there should be. When we’ve done them in the past it does take us away from our normal day-to-day work, so be mindful that it’s often a sacrifice the studio is making too.
If you get the chance to spend time in a studio, be considerate of the opportunity you’ve been given. There’s some useful tips about working on placement here.
Dave had a handful of placements before finding his first job, so here’s his experience, it’s a little contradictory to mine, but that’s why it’s important to decide for yourself:
“The question of paid/unpaid positions is very prominent at the minute. Some studios will pay you, others wont, it seems there’s no hard & fast rule.
What is important, is the quality of learning you’ll take from the experience. For me, what I gained from my short time at Twelve Studio in London and The Cafeteria in Sheffield, far outweighed any need for payment. FYI, Cafeteria did pay my expenses, Twelve gave me an Amazon voucher I believe (but this was 13 years ago, so I won’t pass judgement).
I think it’s important to consider the bigger picture when deciding whether to take on unpaid work. Personally, I still use skills learnt at these studios today. So I’m incredibly grateful for the time they invested in me. Was I out of pocket going down to London? Yes probably, but nothing huge, I stayed with friends so that helped. Do I regret undertaking the London experience without earning a penny? Honestly, not at all.”