You can’t get something for nothing.
It’s a trite old saying and it’s absolutely true. Everything has a cost.
And when you’re a start-up, a newly-hatched digipreneur? Honey, you KNOW about those costs.
Everything has a price and it’s almost always way more than you thought it would be, thought it should be.
And then, there’s this: No matter how carefully you budget, no matter how much research you do, there’s not just a money-cost involved in a purchase. There’s the time/effort cost.
That awesome tool or software? You have to learn how to use it to best advantage, so there’s that cost too — the cost in terms of your time, your energy, your effort.
Here’s the deal. You’ve got time, and you’ve got money. You’re going to spend:
- One, or
- The other, or
(That’s one of the 13 Principles of Pajama Productivity, by the way.)
But it’s totally OK, ’cause I have some awesome advice for you: Barter.
The Re-re-rebirth of Bartering
Way back in the day, of course, bartering was big business. It was all of business because money wasn’t the big deal it is now. People traded services for goods, goods for goods, services for services. You need your field plowed? Well, I gotta get my chicken coop built and I suck with the hammer thing but I’ve got a mule and a plow …
Bartering always made sense.
How did it go out of fashion? Probably something to do with the rise of the finance industry, the prevalence of credit in our lives. Buying and selling became the norm.
That’s not a bad thing, by the way. Money’s good. I like money. If you’re in business for yourself, either as an artist or a digital entrepreneur, you’re gonna have to get comfortable with the concept and the exchange process of money.
So why barter, then, if money’s all that?
Well, because it carries a much more significant value than a monetary exchange.
The Value-Added-Ness of Bartering
Bartering for what you or your business needs is a value-added transaction.
What I mean by that is this:
Say you need a website. There is absolutely nothing wrong with hiring a web developer (of course I say that, since I am one).
OK, let’s use a different analogy then. Let’s say you recognize that accounting and bookkeeping is not your strong suit and you need an accountant. You can go hire a CPA that works with small businesses like yours. You pay this CPA money and she takes care of your books.
The value is in the exchange of money for services. You get the services, your CPA gets the money which she can then go out and use to buy what she needs for her business. Let’s say she’s in need of some frames for the artwork for her office.
When you barter, you add another layer of value to the transaction. You still get the value of her services, but this time let’s say your business is — ta-da! — framing artwork and diplomas and such. So you exchange your services for hers. There’s the value of her services, and the value of your goods and services. You both get a client — and clients are valuable for much more than just the money they bring in. They go out and spread the word about how fabulous you are. And of course you do the same, ’cause your accountant rocks, naturally.
Here’s a real-life example. You see the header up there on this site? Pretty fabulous, I think. I didn’t pay a red cent for that. Another Word Carnival-er, the incredibly talented graphic designer evan austin, made that for me, in exchange for my services helping him with his marketing story.
I loved doing that, by the way. evan and I both received value in that transaction — my header, his marketing story.
And that’s to say nothing of the invaluable part of bartering, which lies in the much more personal nature of bartering over an arm’s length fair market exchange involving money. Simply put, I have a new friend, and he’s pretty freaking talented at what he does. Whose name do I mention when my clients need headers and logos? Right — evan’s.
Getting Started With Bartering
If you’re intrigued by the concept, but aren’t really sure where to start, here are a few suggestions:
- Define clearly what you need. Don’t barter for stuff you don’t need, and make sure you know exactly what you’re hoping to accomplish through the barter exchange.
- Figure out the value up-front. The worst thing you can do is get into an uneven barter exchange. If what you need and what you have to barter in return are not equivalent in value, then consider a mixed transaction, with cash or something else of value making up the difference.
- Get crystal clear on the terms with your barter partner. Make sure you spell out in emails or in writing exactly what’s being bartered on each side, what value you normally attach to each service or good being bartered, when delivery of each is expected, and any other terms you think are important.
- Keep a record of who’s good at what. This is something I’m working on myself by adding a note to each entry in my contacts app, noting the proficiencies and skills of the folks I meet or make contact with. I’m wondering whether a database like Bento would be a better place to keep that information, just to make it more searchable and user-friendly.
Barter Stories and Lessons Learned?
Have you bartered for things your business needed? What was your experience like? Let us know in the comments so we can all learn from each other!
This post is the Pajama Productivity entry in January’s Word Carnival, the theme of which is “Bartering.” Check out all the lovely Carnival-ers and the really smart stuff they have to offer!
Photo credit: Richard Dudley