Interns, VAs, and Temps: What’s the Difference?

Whether you’re facing a temporary surge in workload, an unexpected staff shortage, or just the usual seasonal uptick, sometimes you just need some short-term help! But with so many different kinds of temporary employees available, how do you choose which one is right for your business?

In this blog post, I’ll give you a breakdown of the three most popular options — interns, VAs, and temps — including the pros and cons of hiring each. With any luck, you’ll find that one of these works for you, and you’ll be solving your business’s needs in no time!


What is an intern?

An intern is anyone working for your business under the terms of an internship, which usually differs from other employment contracts in two main ways: 

  1. An internship usually lasts for a set amount of time, often two or three months over local schools’ summer break or semester — but sometimes they’re shorter or longer.
  2. Internships are sometimes unpaid, offering work experience in exchange for school credit rather than money. Bear in mind, this is not always the case, and some states have very strict rules about when an internship can be unpaid.


The most common people who do internships are high school or college students, looking to get some hands-on experience in their field of interest before they leave school and enter the workforce ‘for real.’ But older professionals will also sometimes apply for internships, especially if they’re transitioning into a new field.

Benefits to hiring interns

The obvious benefit, if your internship applies, is that you may be able to get ‘free’ help for your day to day business operations. Of course, it’s not entirely free, because the intern needs to get value out of the exchange as well, which means at the very least someone on your team should be spending time training and managing your intern. 

Another benefit is that — if you plan your internship well enough — you’ll be well prepared to tackle short-term projects that need a focused, enthusiastic person to focus on them. Great internships add value to both your business and your intern’s resume, and they can also be a tool for building relationships that might lead to better new hires in the future.

Drawbacks to hiring interns

Interns can be a great asset to your team, but they do require a certain amount of guidance and oversight. If your team is small and stretched thin, or if your workload is complex and requires mid- to high-level skills, an intern may not be the right solution for your business.


What is a VA?

VA stands for Virtual Assistant, which is pretty much what it sounds like: someone who helps out with administration and operations remotely, often from another state or even country.  

Benefits to hiring VAs

VAs are usually contract employees, paid by the hour without PTO or other benefits, which can be a major cost-saver for small businesses or temporary workforce overload. They’re used to working without much guidance, so you shouldn’t need to spend too much time making sure they do their job.

Many VAs are pros at digital organization, communications, calendar management, and social media management, among other tasks; some might even be talented writers or editors. If you need someone to delegate straightforward job duties to, a VA is a great option.

Drawbacks to hiring VAs

Like any contractor, a VA is untethered to your business — for better ($$) and worse. The drawback to paying by the hour is that contractors are usually not invested in your business. They’re here to do the tasks you’ve asked them to do, within the agreed-upon time frame, and then they go on about their lives without giving your business another thought. They have other clients to juggle.


This is all totally fine if you just need help with some admin or another simple job, but if you’re looking for someone who’ll be more of a team player, a VA is probably not your best bet.  


What is a temp?

A temp is a temporary employee, usually someone hired from an agency for a contracted period of time. Unlike VAs, temps often work regular full- or part-time hours and have the potential to become an integrated member of the team, even if only for a short time.

Benefits to hiring temps

Temps are perfect for high-volume periods of time, like the first quarter for an accounting firm. If you regularly experience a surge in your team’s workload each year, a temp is a great option for getting ahead of it before your team burns out.

Temps are also, like VAs, an hourly commitment without the overhead of a full-time employee, but instead of billing you for hours spent they’ll show up at the pre-arranged time every day. Their hourly rate will be high, since you’re paying both them and their agency, but it’s often still less expensive than hiring a new employee. Plus, the agency’s recruitment team has saved you the time-consuming process of sourcing the right person for the job.

Drawbacks to hiring temps

Some full-time employees struggle to work closely with temps, since they know they’ll be gone before long — this can make teamwork difficult. Temps may also (like VAs) be disinterested in your business’s long-term goals, as they’re only temporary so they’re unlikely to see the outcomes of their hard work.

Finding a solution for a temporary employment need can be tricky, but all three of these — interns, VAs, and temps — are great options. Which one is right for your business is entirely dependent on your unique needs and situation, but hopefully this blog post has helped you get a feel for which direction might work best.


If you’re still uncertain and you want to talk through your options, I’m happy to connect! Just shoot me a message and we can set up a time to chat.

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