bar•ter verb ‘bär-t?r : to trade by exchanging one commodity for another
Bartering has been around since the dawn of man. It can be quite beneficial in a variety of ways, especially when cash is short. Personally, I see nothing wrong with bartering. However, over the years I’ve had to reform my bartering habits. So, here are my Bartering Commandments:
*cue Biggie’s Crack Commandments instrumental*
- Bartering must be mutually beneficial. Both parties should feel as if they are getting something they need or want out of the deal.
- Bartering shouldn’t make you exert more energy than if you were being paid for the good/service.
- Bartered items/services should be of equal value. If they aren’t, be willing to donate the difference; if not, no trade. If you have a product, don't forget to add COGS into your barter value.
- When trading services, feel free to up that value a tad. I usually go 25%. Why? If someone pays you in currency, you can spend that where you want. When you barter, you are limited to that one place/thing. Shoutout to my divalawyersistagirlfriend for hipping me to that some years ago.
*transitions into Beyonce’s Single Ladies, sings*
- If you barter put an expiration date on it! If you barter put an expiration date on it! Uh oh oooh uh oh oooh ohoh No. Seriously. Put an expiration date on it! I usually do 30 days on services. Otherwise, people will be knocking on your [proverbial] door years from now looking to cash in. Nope. Not gon’ happen.
- Put it in writing! Whether it’s a currency sale or bartered exchange, you still need an agreement. This isn’t 500 B.C. and even then someone’s hand got chopped off. I’m exaggercavewomanating, but it got my point across, right?
- Quality shouldn’t be compromised. In the event I really have to explain this, if you agree to barter with someone, you are to give that the same 100% you give when someone is paying you in cash. If you are unable to do that, don't agree to barter.
- Check your schedule. Be sure you’re not displacing other clients or that you will be available to “cash in” on your exchange.
- Make some products/services sacred. For instance, my general rule is no bartering or discounts on logos. Why? Because revenue is generated off a logo I create and, for me, it is a deeply personal process. It’s the face and foundation of whatever you’re doing. What the other party may be offering may be good, but not a future revenue generator, making the exchange uneven. *cavewoman voice* Logo? You pay. Now, I may throw in a business card or postcard design at the end of it all, but logos are my No Freebies zone.
- Be wary of the person that ALWAYS wants to barter with you. For everything. They’re cheap. AF. And disrespectful. And will use you til you ain’t got nothing left to give.
Bonus: a promise for exposure in exchange for goods/services is NOT bartering. You can’t spend that. You can’t use it. ROI on exposure is not guaranteed. Remember, the exchange must make sense AND hold value. Once upon a time if someone asked me to do something because it was going to be on Oprah, I’d do it, no problem. Today? Notsomuch. No love lost with Ms. Winfrey, but real talk, the Oprah Effect isn’t nearly what it was while her TV show was airing.
Oh. One more thing. People aren't obligated to provide their services to you for free just because you are in the same Facebook group.
Keep these things in mind next time you find yourself in a bartering situation and save yourself – or someone else – some headaches.
This post – written by me – originally appeared under the Suite369 blog in 2012.
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Hi! I’m Auntee Rik (Rikki) and as a Business Operations Analyst, I use my 20+ years of experience in Operations, brand and web design, to help service-based owners and solopreneurs to organize their business in order to increase efficiency and income. My work days are usually powered by 90s sitcoms, 90s hip-hop and dancehall, “cheesy” movies, and a good mocha macchiato.