Most people come across bartering opportunities in the course of doing business. If you work for yourself, you have the ultimate freedom in deciding who you “gift” services to in exchange for other products or services. Your expertise can be your currency and often money needn’t exchange hands for you to get a hole in your business filled or problem solved. There are glitches, however, with bartering, that you need to consider before casually agreeing to swap out products or services with another provider. After 10 years of experience doing trades and barters, here’s what I’ve learned:
1. Make sure you really and truly want or need the service someone is offering you. They may want your graphic design or organization skills as much as an organic cotton Stella McCartney bikini in July,
but that doesn’t mean what they have to give is so important to you. You’ll feel resentful if you aren’t as in love with the swap as they are. Disaster will quickly ensue.
2. Bartering, by nature, does not change the fact that someone just became your client. Would you arrive late to a client meeting? Would you drop the ball in following up with a client? Would you
do sloppy work with a paying client? Just because someone isn’t paying, they are giving you value with their service or product and more, they have the power to recommend you to clients if you perform
well. SO many times I have not recommended someone to HUGE clients because their barter with me looked a little too “seat of the pants.” I can’t, with confidence, hand over a $20,000 job to someone who doesn’t take MY job seriously.
3. Approach bartering with awareness. Not everyone will want your service or product and they need the freedom do say “no thank you” without ticking you off or getting deleted from your
Facebook page. Take your feelings and send them across town when you make the call. If you get a no, be appreciative that you didn’t get tangled up in a mismatched agreement that is more
complicated to get IN to then get OUT of.
4. Over communicate. Bartering requires so much communication about what exact services and products you are exchanging for what. Vague is not an option. Specifically lay out what you are wiling to do for XYZ. Understand that often the price of your thing versus their thing isn’t always an accurate indication of the “value.” Sometimes things take more time. Sometimes there is a cost of goods involved. Talk about it every step of the way.
5. Say thank you. If you’re not getting a check in the mail for your work, a barter can sometimes feel like more hassle than its worth. Saying thanks with some homemade cookies, a personal note, a
gift certificate for a manicure, goes a long way.
With all this caution though comes a big endorsement. I have had many successful barter relationships and continue to rely on them where my services or offering is as appreciated as what I’m asking.
It goes back to being in a community where the exchange really and truly works, everyone feels respected and acknowledged and barters are not the only kind of business you do. It’s good to
throw money down for services you want, and you should do it. Bartering only makes sense where someone want something you have as badly as you want what they have and the exchange is commensurate with work done by both parties. That’s the secret to successful trades.