How to make the most of a remote internship

RedKnight's Marketing and Business Development Intern, Hannah, shares her top tips for making the most of a remote internship opportunity.

Birds eye view of woman working remotely at desk. Using laptop with notebook beside her.This week marks my 12th week with RedKnight Consultancy as a Marketing and Business Development Intern. When I first interviewed for the position in April, I never imagined that the internship would start on a remote basis. Let alone that now, in August, I’d still be working from home. I have never met RedKnight’s directors in person, nor have I stepped foot into their office. However, I have learned a lot over the course of the last three months and gained valuable experience. Here are some of my top tips to succeed in a remote internship:

1. Communicate often

With everyone working from their respective homes or workspaces, it is important to keep in touch regularly. Please don’t be afraid to reach out to a colleague if you need help with something! You can send them an email or a simple WhatsApp message in a matter of seconds. If something needs to be tackled in more depth, then a video call (at a time that works for everyone) can also be a great way to maintain productivity. At RedKnight Consultancy, we start each week with a team meeting held via Zoom. This is something that I’ve found really useful – it’s a great way to catch up and set goals for the week ahead.

2. Be proactive

Remote working provides great opportunities to be proactive – a moment of inspiration can be developed into a fully-fledged idea and put into practice. As there are no colleagues in the immediate vicinity to provide constant support throughout the day, it is essential that you use your initiative and have belief in your own ability. I’ve found that as a remote intern, you’re likely to have more responsibility and independence than you would if you were office-based. This isn’t something you should fear – rather, the challenge should be embraced. This kind of experience will help prepare you for your future career.

3. Get yourself into a routine

Without the regularity of a commute, routines can be a little harder to achieve and pin down. I try to wake up at the same time each day and then I get myself ready as if I am heading to the office. This prepares me for the working day ahead. When you have a routine in place, you can also be sure of the times you’re available for social and recreational activities. This is an important way of breaking up the day when your home becomes your office. I try to make time each day to go for a walk and get some fresh air. For me, this has been key to maintaining a healthy work-life balance.

4. Be organised

Organisation is the key to success when it comes to remote internships. I’ve found that carefully planning my time at the start of each week works well for me. It has introduced structure into my working week, subsequently increasing my motivation and productivity levels. Additionally, make sure your laptop is charged at the start of each day, have a pen and paper handy for meetings, and check your emails regularly; these small steps will all help you to have a productive working day.

5. Enjoy the benefits of home working

Remote internships have numerous advantages – home comforts can be a real treat when you’re working hard! The lack of a commute that could take up around two hours of your day can be replaced with a slightly later wake up time: a good night’s sleep will stand you in good stead to feel refreshed and motivated for the day ahead. In addition, remote internships are great in that there are no longer any geographical limitations. You can work from anywhere with an internet connection! I think that it would be great for remote internships to remain a long-term option. This would make work experience opportunities more accessible to those who live outside London and other major cities.

I hope that these tips are useful for anyone else who finds themselves in this unusual position. Working from home for the entirety of my internship was unexpected, but it hasn’t affected my overall experience. I am pleased to say that I will be continuing in my role with RedKnight, again on a remote basis – a clear sign that remote internships can work well for both interns and businesses alike! If you have any questions about remote internships or remote onboarding, please feel free to get in touch.

The good, the bad and the ugly: How to select the right bid writer

3 apples in a line to represent the good, the bad and the ugly. One is rotten, one is rotting, and one is ripe.With grant funding competitions now more competitive than ever, many businesses and research organisations are turning to an external bid writer to win them the funding they need. Of course, some organisations have in-house expertise in this field. However, many organisations struggle to cross the “valley of death”, i.e. the period between establishing proof of concept and validating the technology. They become unstuck and development stalls.

Grant funding is one vehicle to overcome this enormously challenging period, but with a typical timeframe of 6 to 10 weeks to develop a strong and robust grant application, it commonly falls to the bottom of the to-do list. Worse still, it may fall off the list altogether!

Obtaining the services of an external bid-writer is a useful means of ensuring your application is developed by an expert eye. It maximises your chance of success and ensures you can concentrate on running your business. However, bid writers come in all shapes and sizes.

There are large firms producing hundreds of applications on an annual basis, where the volume of proposals delivered drives a large, almost industrial scale business model. Smaller agencies, like RedKnight, are more selective about the proposals they support; they must carefully consider the time commitment required for each application. Then you have freelancers, people who are well versed in the art of writing an application but may struggle with capacity at peak times. Finally, there are organisations that offer bid-writing as a sort of ‘extra-curricular’ activity. Perhaps they were successful with their own application a few years ago and believe their methods can be of use to other organisations.

So, how do you see the wood from the trees? Regardless of the type of bid writer you engage with, it is crucial that you ask the right questions when you establish that initial engagement. We recommend asking the following key questions:

1. What is your business model?

Several commercial models operate in the sector. Some charge an upfront fee and no success fee, while others offer no-win no-fee. Additionally, some deliver based on a daily rate, whilst others have fixed fees. Different models will work for different businesses. Businesses should remember that bid writing for applications to Innovate UK and Horizon 2020 takes an enormous amount of time and effort. You should obtain a few quotes from 3 or 4 bid writers before proceeding. A word of caution – the cheaper the price, the more work you may end up doing yourself.

2. What is your success rate?

This is a standard question to ask any bid writer, and they should be able to provide you with an accurate figure without too much pause for thought. If they cannot give you a figure, it is probably worth moving on. Too high, and it might be too good to be true. It is not just the success rate of the bid writer that should interest you, but also the success rate of the competition. Some programmes are less than 5% whereas others can be as high as 25%.

3. Can you give me an example of a recent successful project you have supported?

Once you have enquired about the bid writer’s success rate, assuming they give you a figure, you can delve a little deeper and ask for recent examples of success. Do not fall for the old “sorry, I’m under NDA” trick. Any successful bid writer can give a general overview of some of their successful work. After all, isn’t that why we do what we do?

4. Can I have the contact details of those case studies, please?

As the saying goes, you want to hear it from the horse’s mouth. There is no shame in asking for a couple of references who will vouch for the bid writer and the work they have delivered. Try and push for references which best mimic your project. For example, if you’re applying as a single entity to Innovate UK’s SMART Grant, you ideally want to speak with a company who the bid writer supported either as a single entity or to that specific competition.

5. What is your capacity leading up to the deadline?

You will want to make certain that the bid writer is going to be able to support you every step of the way. You are investing in this process and you want to know the person you are entrusting with your application is going to be with you every step of the journey.

6. What is your bid writing process?

Every bid writer will have their own style and approach. At RedKnight, we try and stick to a 3-cycle development process of draft, optimised, final. This way it limits the amount of time the client has to spend reviewing the application, whilst ensuring they have enough contact to flag an issue at an appropriate milestone in the process. Try and find a bid writer whose style fits with your way of thinking.

The above points are by no means an exhaustive list of questions to ask a bid writer, but we’d recommend using them as part of your initial phone call or Zoom meeting. If you are talking with 3 or 4 different bid writers, remembering who had the best success rate and commercial offer can be tricky. Make a table and note the answers to all the above points for each bid writer. You can then cross-reference and come to an informed decision, which will hopefully lead to a successful grant funding application.

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