Is a Remote Internship for You?


Guest blogger Rachel Lewis ’14

This summer I worked remotely as an Editorial Intern for Women Writers, Women Books, an online literary magazine where women submit pieces about their identity and experiences as female writers. This post will examine the pros and cons of being a remote intern and seeks to help other Professional Writing and Rhetoric majors figure out if a remote internship is right for them.

What is a remote internship?
A remote or virtual internship is an internship just like any other, except that you don’t actually go anywhere – the work can be done from wherever you are.

So how does it work? My supervisor and I chat via phone at the start of every other week in order to come up with a list of tasks that we would like to see accomplished. We each bring something to the conversation. I tell her about what I have been thinking about working on, and she makes recommendations as to how I could get those things accomplished. I take notes during our conversation, and those notes become my to-do list for the week. Throughout the week, we keep in touch via email. I try to have a running list of questions, comments, and concerns so that I do not have to bog her down with several emails and can instead have one or two concise and clear ones. I carry out my tasks, which often means editing posts, communicating with writers and clients via Twitter and email, and corresponding with other workers in order to make sure there is not too much overlap in our work.

Pros of a remote internship
Saving money. Because I don’t actually have to go anywhere, I don’t have to drive or take the Metro. This means I save money. Considering that many internships are unpaid, travel results in a negative expenditure that can be very frustrating.

No need to worry about housing. When I was looking for an internship, I knew that I didn’t want anything that would force me to stress about finding a place to stay for the summer. I have some friends who couldn’t find housing until the very last minute – one even had to room with someone she’d never met or spoken to in much depth. Luckily, it worked out for her, but this added stress is something I was lucky to avoid.

Flexible schedule. Many organizations that offer remote internships claim to offer more flexible hours as well. Since you don’t actually have to go into an office, you are doing the work on your own time and not on the hours of the office or the other workers. This is helpful during the school year and during the summer because I am able to plan my internship hours around my time in class or around vacation time.

More freedom. One of my favorite things about having a remote internship is having the opportunity to become more independent. Often when I work, it’s just me sitting in my room and coming up with a list of tasks based on the recommendations my supervisor gave me during our chat at the beginning of the week. I feel that I have more freedom to make creative suggestions, and as I gain credibility within my organization, I gain the freedom to go ahead with these suggestions.

Cons of a remote internship
More freedom. I list this as a con as well as a pro because a remote internship requires a lot of responsibility. Because you don’t have anyone standing over your shoulder, it really is your responsibility to get your work done. My supervisor will check in with me via email, but that is not the same as having someone call you into their office and ask where you are with your work. I have to hold myself accountable so that I get everything done that I said I would get done, and go the extra mile to take on more work.

Not always having enough work to do. Because I am hours away from my supervisor rather than a few feet away, she never walks by and sees how much work I am or am not getting done. There are some weeks when I have little more than two hours of work to do, and there are other weeks when I am working more than ten hours to get everything accomplished. This means that I really have to step up to the plate and request more work or come up with my own projects in order to make a contribution to my organization.

Less of a sense of community. Because I am alone rather than in an office or similar environment, I am missing out on the sense of community that comes with physically being with other people. There is not much witty banter or friendly conversation in a biweekly phone call or in a Tweet. Still, I have developed a bond with my supervisor that keeps me from feeling like I’m working in solitude.

In conclusion, depending on your situation, a remote internship may or may not work well for you. If money is less of a concern and you prefer a sense of community to independent work, you may not enjoy a remote internship as much. If creative freedom is important to you and you prefer working on your own, it could be a perfect fit. As you continue to do research, it may become more clear if a remote internship is something that would benefit your work style or not.

Need a starting point? Check out this article in the NY Times  and this piece on the good and the bad of remote internships (

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