The arts and media are rather known for being a closed shop, and to get access to a job you would often have to do a lengthy, unpaid internship. Which I have a problem with, as it limits the number of people who can apply for the work to those who have families who are prepared to give money to their offspring while they are working for free.
This would not have been an option for me as a graduate, nor for many people, and so I object to them, as it is easy for them to turn into a white, middle class ghetto.
While I was doing my MA I made a point of asking everyone how they got to their position. One lady, who was still in her twenties, said that she interned for 3 years. 3 years! As I am in my 30s and have a mortgage and bills to pay this just was not an option for me. I have to say that I just didn’t listen to anything else she said after that point.
So, when I saw that freestak, who are a relatively new company, were offering a paid internship I asked Simon Freeman, owner/director, to talk to me about why they decided to pay an intern. I met Simon when I was an Inov-8 athlete (you can read about my sporting exploits over at Action Jen if you are interested) and stayed in contact with him.
Jen: can you tell me a bit about you and freestak?
Simon: freestak is a social media marketing agency for running and endurance sports organisations/brands. The company was set up by husband and wife team Julie and Simon Freeman, with Julie in charge of most of the technical side of the business and Simon focussed on social media and campaign management. The business launched in October 2012. There are more details athttp://www.freestak.com
Jen: Why have you decided to get an intern now and what sort of things do you see them doing? –
Simon: Julie and I have always wanted the business to be able to do more than just generate money. We want it to be a vehicle for encouraging people to try and thrive in endurance sports. And we also always hoped that we would be able to help people who want to get involved in our other passion: social media communications and marketing. Julie is from Switzerland where there is a very well developed and important internship/apprenticeship culture and we wanted to adopt that for freestak. Obviously we needed to grow the business to the point where we had enough income to be able to pay someone and we have now reached the point where we have the amount of work that both requires and allows us to pay for someone to join us. There are also a number of opportunities that the business has been presented with and we think that having someone new in the business will mean we have more fresh thinking and capacity to respond to those opportunities. The intern will be spending half of their time helping us on the day-to-day delivery of social media marketing to existing clients (the bread and butter stuff) and half of their time developing exciting and effective social media campaigns, marketing ideas, events, etc for existing and prospective clients (the fun stuff!)
Jen: As you know I am passionate about equal access to the media and arts and paid internships are a key part of this. Why did you decide you wanted to offer a paid role?
Simon: It didn’t really occur to us to not offer a paid internship. If we could we would offer more and will do so when income allows. We think that the only way to grow the business is to have bright, enthusiastic people as part of it and by paying them we hope they will be able to maintain a lifestyle and then, without the constant worry of where money will come from, focus all of their energies on how to do great work. As I mentioned, Julie’s experience of internships/apprenticeships in Switzerland convinced her that paying someone, even if it is only a little, is the right thing to do. We also know the owner of a very successful branding agency who hired interns from time to time and he talks passionately about the need to pay interns so that they feel there is some cash in their pocket and they can then focus on the job at hand, rather than worrying about how to pay for lunch.
Thanks for taking the time to talk to me Simon and I hope you find the right intern very soon!