Monday, March 5, 2012

Will Work for Trade?

When I was a kid, my neighborhood friends and I used to trade stuff all the time. I had something my neighbor wanted and she had something I wanted which made trading pretty much a win-win situation. Fast forward to adulthood – a magazine publisher I once worked with used to participate in trade a lot as she was first getting her publication off the ground. I was hired on to help her with her advertising, and the first thing I noticed is that most of her advertisers were not paying her for ad spots – they were paying in the form of product. This was seriously hurting her bottom line, and eventually she shifted away from it completely.

I’ve always been a bit wary of offering my services in exchange for anything other than monetary payment. I once had a long-term client offer to teach me some of the more technical aspects of Wordpress in exchange for work he normally paid me for, but I declined. Although the Wordpress knowledge was valuable, It’s not something I would spend lots of time doing anyway, and I already had someone I could outsource those tasks to so that I devote more time to writing projects for pay.

About a month ago, an acquaintance contacted me seeking advice about writing a proposal for an online retailer. She had developed a very niche specific product and wanted to contact online retailers to see about having them carry the product. Initially I assumed she just wanted pointers on developing a proposal, but it soon became clear that she wanted me to write it for her. She asked if I would be willing to accept one of her many products in exchange for my writing services. I hesitated and told her I’d get back with her. I needed to speak with my accountability partner first.

My accountability partner provided lots of helpful advice in helping me decide whether or not to trade my writing services. She said she’d only traded services a handful of times, and offered these tips to keep things professional:

Make sure that the product or service you receive is equal to the service you’re providing.

This really is important, otherwise a trade exchange makes no sense. The product or service that you will receive should match the time and effort that you will put into the writing project you’ve been asked to produce. You should also only participate in a trade agreement if the product/service you’ll be receiving is actually something you can use. Don’t participate in a trade just for the sake of doing so if you get no real value from the deal.

Detail the terms of the trade in a contract.

Yep, that’s right, even though you won’t be writing in exchange for money, you still need to have a contract in place. Treat this transaction the same as your other writing projects: outline the terms of service, the product or service that you will receive as payment, and when the “payment” is to be delivered. Don’t make the mistake of treating a trade agreement too informally or you could end up writing for nothing.

Follow up immediately if you do not receive “payment.”

Again, this is a professional business transaction. If you consented to provide writing services in exchange for a client’s product/service, you deserve to receive prompt payment just as if they were paying you via Pay Pal, check or direct deposit. Follow your own business protocol when it comes to contacting clients about past due payment.

Bottom line, I won’t make trading my services a regular occurrence, because financially I just can’t afford to; but it helps to know that a trade between businesses should be conducted in the same professional manner as any other business transaction.

Have you ever traded your writing services in exchange for a client’s product or services? What was your experience?


allena said...

I notice you said one trade was a friend...I don't work for friends at all. I did at first, but it was too stressful. I have to be OK with killing someone's darlings. I have to be OK with saying HEY YOU"RE LATE, PAY ME NOW. And I wasn't, with the friends.

Trade...I guess if it was something I needed/wanted. But not many of my clients have such a thing. Maybe if my mortgage company called, lol.

Kimberly Ben said...

Well, she wasn't a friend really - more an acquaintance. Still, I was nervous about taking on the project because I too have a "I don't work for friends" policy. Thankfully things went smoothly and she delivered my compensation as promised.

And oh yeah, I'd DEFINITELY consider a trade with my mortgage company too - LOL.

Lori said...

I've had great experiences with bartering. I bartered web copy for web design. We've exchanged services like that for a few years now, and I think it's a great complement to each others' skills.

Jennifer said...

I have had great experiences bartering too. I've gotten a really professional website out of the deal, some acting classes I really wanted, and a few other little things. You have to choose carefully, though.

Kimberly Ben said...

Lori & Jennifer, I think exchanging writing for a service like website design is an excellent barter. I agree with Jennifer - you have to be careful when you decide to trade your services. If it's someone you have a good relationship with (like Lori and her web designer friend) then it can be a good way for both parties to get what they need.

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