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Freelancing During Your Internship

March 17, 2021
by Angel Valdes

If you:

  • Have a portfolio of work
  • Need a portfolio of work
  • Are developing a set of skills that create a specific output, or
  • Are completing tasks that others need on a small scale

then chances are you are capable of freelancing.

One month into my CEA virtual internship placement with a Paris-based hotel booking site I joined the freelance platform, Upwork. Now, there’s over a hundred different platforms out there, each with their own niche and client base. As a writer and marketer, Upwork seemed to be the right fit.


Why Freelancing

It may seem counterintuitive to add to your school and internship load by starting a freelance business, but you’d be mistaken.

Businesses, even freelance businesses, take a while to build. When you’re first starting out, it’s unlikely you’ll be swamped with projects until you put in the effort to get to that point.

In fact, the Career Planning Project you’ll be asked to complete part-way through CEA’s Cultural and Professional development course will already have you clarifying your skills, assets, and offerings. The work you’re already doing translates into a kick-ass profile.

Even if you’re only doing a side project, here and there you’re accomplishing 4 things:

  1. Articulating what you know you can accomplish on a consistent basis through proposal submissions, effectively fine-tuning your pitch.
  2. Expanding your portfolio and further developing your skill set with “continued education” through low-stake projects.
  3. Developing a network. Like with a credit card, the longer you have an account open, the more credibility you establish in your industry.
  4. Reaping the long-term reward of supplementing and diversifying your income.


There are so many ways to go about freelancing, and each platform has their own set of guides, tips, tricks, and community forums to help you get started.

My General Advice:

Don’t sell yourself short.

Businesses will try to take advantage of new freelancers, offering 5-star reviews for $5/hour pay. Unlike an unpaid internship, there is no mentorship or additional resources that will help you grow by taking these jobs. If anything, these jobs will show up on your profile and send a signal that you’ll work for less than you’re worth.

Let go of the pressure to grow at an aggressive rate.

Money is not the primary objective here. At the same time, you grow at your own pace. Make sure you set aside even just an hour or two once or twice a week to market yourself and pitch proposals. That’s part of the practice.

Your freelancer profile is not an extensive resume.

Try to pare it down to what’s relevant in your background, projects, and certifications.

Ask around for testimonials.

You may be new to the platform but you are NOT new to the game! Updating your profile with projects from your internship and testimonials from former bosses, coworkers, and even your current mentor will help establish you at the start.

The biggest barrier I confronted before creating my profile was doubting my own abilities. We’re all interns, defined as: “a student or trainee who works at a trade or occupation in order to gain work experience.” Acknowledging that our professional development is never ending, even post-internship, and giving credit to everything we’ve learned thus far on this University track is the key to trying even that which you feel unqualified for.


Learn more about study abroad.

CEA helps students develop perspective, take stock of their skills, and articulate their value to their industry to help them prepare for the workforce. My goal with this article is to explore ways for students to take action sooner rather than later, keeping in mind that a CEA advisor is there to help along the way.

Angel Valdes is the Spring 2021 CEA MOJO Blogger in Virtual, and is currently studying at DePaul University.
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