Friday, February 3, 2012

The Barter System: What do You Trade For?

I love the barter system. And I've gotten a lot of valuable things from it. In the past few years, I got a swanky overhaul on my freelance writing website by bartering for freelance work. I also got a great deal on a really expensive acting class through bartering--I now write the occasional press release for the company for free. Throughout the years, I've bartered for business advice, restaurant meals, and even (once) health care.

Freelance writers can definitely get discounts and freebies for business favors. There's a bit of a trick to it, though. Here are a few tips for bartering.

Pick the right people. Not everyone is a candidate for a trade. I usually try it with companies I know a). have worked with freelance writers in the past, or b). are seeking to work with them. For example, with the website overhaul, I knew this company was used to working with freelancers in a lot of ways--and I didn't have to sell them on the concept of working with a freelancer. This wasn't a new and strange proposition for them.

I usually wouldn't offer just for any dentist's office, restaurant, car repair place, or anywhere else that I didn't know already worked with freelancers. For some businesses, even if I could help them, it's just too alien a concept for them and requires too much up-front sales. Although for some people, it may be worth it.

Look for someone you know wants to hire you. Some clients won't hire you because you're too expensive. In some cases, these are prime opportunities for a trade. With the company that ran the acting classes, they'd asked me for a quote in the past--and didn't wind up hiring me because I didn't fit their budget. Usually, that would be the end of it--but I saw how they could offer me something besides money to get me working for them.

Don't overcommit. I usually try to keep any for-free project fairly small--or to spread it out over a relatively long stretch of time. That's because I need to be sure I've set aside enough time for paid work to get my bills paid. That said, I also treat all my barter projects with the same professionalism I'd give to a paying project. I meet my deadlines, I do the research work, and I don't worry about how much the client paid (or didn't). If I agree to a deal, I do it to the best of my ability--period. Because of this, I need to make sure I don't take on too much. A big lengthy project or a long-term, regular agreement that doesn't take more than an hour or two per week is probably not the best candidate for a trade for me.

What do you barter for?

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