You operate a growing photography business and realize one day that you could use an extra pair of hands to do many of the tasks, so you could concentrate on serving more customers. If you’ve been a one-person operation since you started your business, then this may be an excellent opportunity to offer a photography student an internship. It’s a learning experience for both of you. He or she is able to participate in a working photography business and you can determine if you actually need a regular assistant before hiring one.
Before you even consider looking for an intern and offering him or her a position, study your business carefully. You want to have a clear idea, even a written plan or schedule, of which tasks an intern could do for you. Your photography business may have busy seasons, when you must spend all your time behind the camera, leaving many common business management jobs undone. You won’t be doing you or the intern a favor, however, if he or she is simply a gofer for coffee and the mail. You want to give him or her tasks that will definitely help you and help him or her learn about photography as a business.
Interns are typically high school or college students, so they are not available for full-time work and may only be available during the summer months, for example. If you’re very busy during the holidays, then these same students may have time between semesters too.
Your best sources of interns are high schools and universities, and students with an interest in a photography career or are already studying photography. Contact the schools’ career/guidance counselors; some may have internship programs. They will help you understand the school’s process for acquiring an intern. Make sure your internship plan is outlined on a one-page document that you can share with the counselors.
Whatever process a school has for finding an intern, you should view it from your perspective, as if you were hiring an employee. You want to see the candidates’ résumés, samples of their photography work, if any, teacher references, etc. You also want to share your internship plan with them and revise it, according to their schedule availability and skills level.
Just as with any job, you want to give your intern a set of rules and procedures pertaining to working with you: a schedule you expect him or her to work, a specific number of sick or absence days, etc.
Many interns are not paid for their time, although some programs may ask that you pay for their transportation and/or a meal, if necessary. If you do decide to pay your intern even a small amount, then he or she is considered an employer and you must withhold taxes, etc. It’s a good idea to review your intern plan with your attorney and/or accountant before selecting an intern, so you are aware of all the legal and tax implications and your responsibilities.
The most important part of your internship plan is what opportunities you will provide for him or her to learn about the photography business that is also a help to you. For example, an intern may have the Internet skills to update your Web site for you. Maybe, he or she has social networking skills and experience that could help you penetrate your target markets better. Give the intern a few actual customer photos (copies) that require computer editing and see what they can do. An intern could be a naturally gifted salesperson that could spend some of his or her time making sales calls or helping in other ways to grow your business.
Once the internship period is completed, provide your intern with a written evaluation that he or she can include as part of his or her résumé.
Maybe the greatest benefit to you is that if your business continues to grow, then you know a trusted, hard-working person you could offer a regular job as an assistant once he or she graduates.
Photograph by Photography Talk Member: Rebecca L Latson’s