ABCs of Freelance Writing: T is for Trade

tTrading (or bartering) is a legitimate way to do business for some freelance writers. Instead of working for money, you can do work in exchange for things you need to grow your business.

For example, I once made an arrangement to write several blog posts in exchange for some behind-the-scenes work on an old blog template that was giving me fits. The miracle worker I worked with got some great content, and I got a more functional site. It was a total win-win situation.

The more veteran the freelance writer, the less likely she is to rely on trading or bartering services. However, it still works out from time to time, and it’s a great way to build relationships with other small business owners. Before you barter though, beware!

Tips for Trading or Bartering

  • Work with someone you trust. I don’t suggest finding a barter partner by posting anonymous ads or anything. Work with people who have a solid reputation in their field—whether they’ve established their reputation online or through real-life professional networks.
  • Agree to the terms before the work gets started. It can be a little tricky trying to determine what’s a fair trade. Is writing worth more per hour than logo designing? It’s not always cut and dry, particularly when you consider the differences in experience levels. Work out the details of your arrangement before anyone starts work. No one wants to feel like they’ve become an indentured servant.
  • Don’t trade for things you don’t need. Remember that your small business is supposed to make money. Politely decline an offer that doesn’t make good business sense. Trading limits you because you can’t, for example, pay the light bill with a new blog template. When money is what you need, take bartering options off the table.
  • Know your worth. The most important part of setting up a trade for services is to understand what your services are worth. Stand your ground, because trading is a lot like negotiating. There are plenty of people out there looking to get something for nothing.



[stextbox id=”grey” caption=”About Word Carnivals”]This post is part of the January Word Carnival — a monthly group blogging event specifically for small business owners. (It’s the most fun you’ll have all month!) Check out the rest of the fabulous carney work here. [/stextbox]

0 thoughts on “ABCs of Freelance Writing: T is for Trade

  1. Michelle says:

    I like your story and glad it turned out to be a win win. I also love the tips. This topic has taught me to be more open and even explore bartering from other angels such as team building that could lead to the abilities to handle more business, make more money..blah…Welcome to the Carnival too! Nice!

  2. Great post, Emily, and welcome to the Carnival! Always happy to see new blood. 😀

    Question for you – I get what you’re saying about working with people you trust, for sure. What do you think of BarterQuest, a site that was linked to in evan austin’s Carnival post this month? I haven’t ever used it, or anything like it for business purposes, though I have done some bartering on Craigslist for personal stuff. (Sold an old car for cash plus a PlayStation, which I then traded for $80 and a bed frame and box spring for my daughter’s bed. Worked out well, if a little convoluted-ly!)

    • His post is the first I’ve heard of the site, Annie. So I can’t really give my opinion on it, but I would tell you the same thing I’d tell anyone approaching something for the very first time — proceed with caution.

      You might find it to be a great tool. Who knows?

    • Just for clarity, i’ve never used BarterQuest either…just happened upon it when doing a little research. Seems at first glance like things of that nature may be better suited to personal bartering needs that may be more frequent, as opposed to business bartering, which seems to be more selective and infrequent. i’m open to being off the mark about that, though.

  3. I love these Word Carnival posts, because I always get such great info on the issues being discussed. My take-away from this post, Emily, is the matter of trust. We probably all use this as a marker without recognizing it explicitly. In one of my barter examples, I mentioned a new client who was cash strapped – my gut tells me this working relationship will be productive.

  4. How does it feel to be a carney? We’re so glad to have you in the group — nice work!

    Trust for me is big one…I’ve trusted and been burned in the past, so I like to have things in writing even if I’m working with a family member!

  5. Welcome to the carnival Emily! Love your contribution. I’m glad you highlighted the fact people shouldn’t trade for things they don’t need. Barter only works when you both agree you are exchanging something of equal value.

  6. Emily, a joy to read your first Word Carnival contribution! Love how you’ve worked it into an existing thread/series you have going. So clever, you.

    i’m with you on tip #2. i don’t know what ‘indentured’ means, but it sounds like it has something to do with teeth. And i’m sorry, but i will NOT be servituding someone’s teeth.

  7. “Is writing worth more per hour than logo designing? It’s not always cut and dry, particularly when you consider the differences in experience levels.”

    I think this sums up my problem with small business in general.

    Nobody seems to understand the concept of perceived value vs actual value.

    Perceived Value is what the client believes you’re rendering.

    Actual Value is what you’re hourly rate is.

    If the two are ever in conflict, someone is losing out. Whether it’s the freelancer who gets burned by a non-paying client or the client who pays way too much for simple services, somebody’s going home unhappy.

    Great post and welcome to the Carnival! 🙂

  8. Lisa says:

    Great post Emily! As bartering is a something that I have been working on this week:) Nothing like having a blog show up and feeling like it was personally written for me!

  9. Hi Emily, welcome to this wonderful party of bloggers.

    What’s so special about reading everyone’s posts, is that while their may be synergy in what we’re saying, there’s always a stand out line. For me it was this: “When money is what you need, take bartering options off the table.”

    It fits well with other sound business advice, like learning to say no to business that doesn’t fit your value set, or from someone you intuitively know is going to question your value.

    No matter what the temptation, if you know you need money rather than product or service, then say no, as your time must be prioritised accordingly. Thanks Emily, look forward to your future contributions.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s