Trading Your Services


I want to talk about trading your services or bartering with other small business owners. 

When you’re new and starting out, you don’t have a bunch of cash flow and a trade is something that is tantalizing. Like, “Ooh, I could just trade some of my time and I can get this done.”

But I want you to be really careful about it if you are considering making trades when you start.

I’ve got some guidelines for you to think about if you do decide or maybe even to think about making trades. 

So let’s dive into trades for your brand new, small business.

My General Rule

Generally I say, don’t make trade.

If I had to pick one or the other, I’m more against trades than I am for them because you can’t pay rent with trades. You pay rent with cash money. And so you should be paid for what you do. And I feel the same way for what you’re doing.

But there are occasions, (I mean, I’ve done them in the past.) when it makes sense. So I just want to talk you through maybe some things to consider. If you are considering making a trade with another small business owner. 

Is This Trade Costing You?

First thing to consider is what is this actually costing you?

If you are saying I’m going to provide X service in return for your X service, what is that X service actually costing you? And is it a value to value for value trade with that other individual? 

So what I generally like to do is say. Here is my retail value of this service. What is your retail value that you would sell that service for? And let’s do a dollar for dollar exchange and make sure that we can figure out how to make that fair between the two of you and close enough to where everybody’s happy. 

The other way you can go about doing it is to set an hourly rate. If you don’t have a retail value, maybe you charge hourly for what you do.

Set an hourly rate that you guys are both happy with. And say, okay, we can trade time back and forth. I typically charge X number of dollars. 

That way you can make sure that you guys are staying fair in what trades that you do.

It’s really important that when you create these relationships with people, that it feels like a win-win. 

So while I want to be protective of your time, energy and resources in making trades, you also need to protect that relationship so that they also feel like they’re getting a lot of value from a trade as well.

How Important Is The Trade For You?

The second thing I want you to think about is how important what you’re trading for is. How important of a priority is it for now?

Is it something that you need to trade your time in return to get it? Or is it something that in a matter of months, charging for your services you can pay for.

I’d much rather you learn the lessons and practice your cash flow and your finding your business finances and learn how to save up for it in your business and charge correctly to afford those things that you need in your business as well. 

I think sometimes that can just delay the success that you have in your business, because you are trading for things so often that you’re not realizing how much you need to actually charge for your services so that you can have a little nest egg in your business at all times, coming out of profit.

That will help you afford some of these upgrades that you want, whether it’s a new website, new headshots, maybe some new marketing material, whatever it is. That’s important to be able to budget for, because eventually you’re going to get to a point where you’re like, I don’t want to just have whoever I can get to trade with me. I want to pay somebody that is really, really great at it to get that done.

Is The Value The Same?

Here’s the last reason why I am not a super, super fan of trades.

It really comes down to if you’re not being paid for it, you’re probably not going to provide the same level you would for a paying client. And it’s just human nature. 

You’re just like, well it’s a trade. I’m gonna just do what has to be done, and I’m going to kind of schedule them where it fits.

And you’re not, you know, providing the level of service that you really, really want to provide. And that’s just what I found for me and for our clients.

You don’t want to do business ever not at a level that you are really, really proud of. 

So that’s another reason that I don’t really like trades. 

It just puts you kind of in a different mindset around that service that you’re providing to them. And typically you just don’t give it the same oomph that you would if it was a paying client.

If You Don’t Have To Do Them, Don’t Do Them

So to recap on this super quick, this is how I feel about trades. Generally, if you don’t have to do them, don’t do them. I just don’t love him. 

If you are, be really careful about the value that you’re providing, make sure it’s value for value and that you’re not losing because it’s probably costing you to provide that service.

And in addition to that make sure that you’re providing it at a level that you’re super proud of. And you’re not degrading the level of service that you’re providing because it is a trade. You’ve never, ever wanted to do that. 

So just be really careful if you’re making that decision. I totally understand if you’re like, heck yeah, I’ll make a quick trade for maybe you were a massage therapist and you want to get some pictures done and you’re like, I’ll give you five free massages if you take my new headshots. 

Sometimes that makes total sense. Just make sure it makes sense for you and that you understand what you’re getting into when it comes to making trades for your small business. 

All of that being said, when you’re new and you don’t have any cash, sometimes that’s a great way to get off the ground. And I totally get that. 

But remember, you can’t pay your mortgage or rent with trades, so you gotta be making that money or you’ve got an expensive hobby and that’s not the goal. 

The goal is for you to be making money and getting better and more successful every day in your business.

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