by Dana Detrick-Clark
The process of bartering (exchanging goods or services for other goods or services, in lieu of money) is attractive in the small business world, where budgets are tight and talent is plentiful. It’s win-win when another vendor has something you or your clients need, and vice versa, right?
Unfortunately, it’s easy for barters to leave at least one side unsatisfied. It could be that the agreements are treated too casually, the value of the exchange isn’t equalized upfront, or the two sides just aren’t on the same page.
Here’s how to barter smarter and make your professional “trades” successful:
Prioritize your barter as though you are both paying clients.
One of my earliest barters involved exchanging voice over work for web design. I quickly provided my side of the bargain (the voice over), but was left twiddling my thumbs while bits and pieces of the project I ordered trickled in. I posed my concerns at one point after yet another delay, and was told that there were paid projects ahead of me.
Lesson learned! If someone doesn’t value your product or service with the same weight you value theirs, it’s not a good fit.
Avoid this scenario with written agreements that outline deliverables and expectations.
Details such as itemized expenses, goals, and deadlines (like a creative brief or contract would illustrate) should be stated upfront and agreed upon by both parties.
And to make extra sure you both know the value you’re delivering…
Create invoices and receipts.
Even when the total due is $0.00, you’ll have a statement that reflects the precise amount you’re trading time and work for.
This also gives both sides the opportunity to opt out, if the agreement is unbalanced. Remember that even when money is not exchanged, you’re trading time that could be spent with clients that would be adding to your bottom line. If you’re not receiving the equivalent value for that, it’s not a match.
Which is the most important step:
Pick the right barter partners, and confidently walk away from the wrong ones.
Don’t be afraid to ask for comparable references, especially if your potential barter partner accomplishes most of their outsourcing through barter agreements.
I’ve worked with several professionals who promised me the moon in barter for my work, and never came through. One in particular went bankrupt with many contractors and barter partners left empty handed. Had I done a little more research, I would have never taken on this costly loss of time and effort.
Final Thoughts (and a free download)
Despite the risks, bartering can be a fantastic way for small businesses to benefit each other while keeping cash in hand. By committing to barter smarter, you’ll make the most of these opportunities without the fear of getting burned.
To make it even easier for you, I’ve developed this Barter Smarter Checklist & Agreement that you can download for absolutely free. Use it to streamline your barter workflow.
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