"Required reading" for today's smart writer.

"Required reading" for today's smart writer.
Information & inspiration to hone your craft and increase your cash...Since 2009

Monday, November 17, 2014

Girls Just Wanna' Have Funds! The Value of Bartering for Your Freelance Business

“A penny saved is a penny earned.”

Seems the more I work, the less I can afford to comfortably pay for this year. No doubt, as a freelancer, you’re trying to come to terms with this conundrum as well.
In fact, recently when my Internet bill arrived, to my dismay I discovered that my monthly charges had almost doubled. Even though I had not acquired any additional services or requested any enhancements to my account.

Perplexed, I called my phone provider to get the “4-1-1” and choose a cheaper package to potentially save money. I was informed that I was already receiving their cheapest package! Hello?!
To make a long story short, the representative went on to explain that this “inflated” bill was because the cost of doing business is simply higher now due to fuel, delivery charges, taxes, regulations; you know the spiel.
But unfortunately, as my mom often says, “It is what it is.”

While I can’t do much about the steadily increasing cost of living and operating a business, I have found a way to use my “creativity” to reduce my out of pocket expenses, without reducing my quality of life.  And you can too.

Want to know my secret?
In a word: bartering.
And here’s the good news: without realizing it, you’ve likely had plenty of practice over the years.
Remember back in grade school when you’d “negotiate” your apple for your best friend’s pudding cup? Or baseball cards for popular action figures?
Well, bartering’s value has not diminished over time.

Though this form of doing business is as ancient as cavemen, far too few entrepreneurs use it today to enhance their operations and build their client base.
Don’t be one of them.

In a tough economy where people are “cash crunched,” bartering just makes good business sense. Trading services provides a win/win situation for all parties, while building important relationships and future collaborations.
And I should know. Over the last few years, bartering my creative services has saved me a bunch of cash, while providing the following perks and goodies:

Free tickets to events (like a live jazz concert with food)
New kitchen chairs from a local antique shop
Catering for parties
Tree trimming services
Plumbing work
And more…
Other “enlightened” entrepreneurs are getting on board too…One Chicago restaurant owner has even accepted bartering arrangements to score “hot deals” like vacation packages, new floors, and even dental services.

Bartering can “pay” big for you too! Here are a few practices and principles to observe to get the best from bartering:

Make sure to get everything in writing.
This includes any deliverables, deadlines, and “deal breakers.”

Ideally, the exchange should happen at the same time.
I once got burned because I provided  services for a guy who later changed his mind about his end of the bargain, and there was no way to “un-do” or “refund” my half.

Be certain that both parties agree that the services and/or goods are of equal value.

Bartering arrangements that work well include:
  • Exchanging photographic or design services for writing press releases or collateral materials
  • Providing social media management or clever blog posts to local merchants in exchange for free classes, meals, or merchandise
The possibilities are only limited by your imagination.
So, if you’re looking to operate more efficiently in the year ahead, take a new  look at the “old-school” advantages of bartering.
For bartering opportunities, consult Craigslist.org in your geographic area, or connect with other artists and entrepreneurs in your social media circles.

By the way...though today's post title is gender specific, these tips work equally well for my male readership.

Your turn. Have you ever bartered your creative services? Anything you would add here?

Image credit: Freedigitalphotos.net


  1. I've not bartered my writing services just yet, but have exchanged tutoring for custom made drapes. My husband and I have bartered for things such as the foundation for the first home we built, and for consultation and work from an interior designer. You are right, everything should be in writing to avoid misunderstandings. Good post!

    1. Drapes? Now I'd love that deal! Thanks, Karen. :-)

    2. I stand corrected; one parenting magazine that I write for doesn't pay their writers but they do exchange an ad (for my teen classes) for an article. The ad is worth $225 if I were to pay for it outright, so it's not a bad deal!

  2. I remember that some years back at a record-(Entertainment) company that I worked, we had a freelancer writer hanging around at the office that frequently came in to read trade magazines, and to use office space and the copy machine etc. etc.

    I can imagine that it can be a great reduction in costs when you don't have to buy such an advanced copy machine, and need to have subscriptions of all the thinkable trade magazines etc. etc.

    So there probably must have been some win/win-situation, or bartering agreement because I do think the management knew about this person being there.

  3. I haven't bartered yet, but would be willing. Let me think...now which concert would I like to attend? :)

    1. ...And believe me, it was a bodacious blast! Good to hear from you, Lin.

  4. I've bartered ads for my books with article writing. Thanks for the reminder of this 'tested by time" way of doing business, Jen.

    1. Thanks Sue, for stopping by and adding to the mix. :-)