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To Barter or Not to Barter

Bartering is a great way to get something you want even when cash is tight. Early in my career as a coach, I exchanged professional coaching services for a number of services. They were all things I would have purchased anyway, but cash was tight and I had something of value to offer these business owners. That is my over-riding policy when it comes to bartering or professional trade: Would I purchase these products/services anyway?

You want to think carefully through your policies for bartering. Here is what I recommend for those engaging in a professional trade:
1. First, make sure you communicate clearly that you intend to trade services. Be specific what services/products are being exchanged and open about the value offered on both sides. Agree upon what is fair and equitable. For example, Sue and Betty will exchange housecleaning services for skin care products and agree that 3 hours of housecleaning is worth a certain dollars worth of product.
2. Be sure to make the agreement time specific. Example: Mike will do a brake job on Pam’s car; Pam will provide 4 hours of graphic design work on Mike’s website .
3. Create checkpoints along the way to evaluate whether the trade is offering value on both sides. Either party should be able to end the arrangement at specific points during the agreement.
4. Check with your accountant to see whether your arrangement needs to be reported to the IRS.
5. Both parties need to treat one another with quality customer service, just as if the transaction was for cash instead of barter.

There is a potential problem with bartering for services or products. It is possible that your services will be seen as less valuable somehow when money is not exchanged. The act of paying for something often seems to create a greater sense of value. Make sure that your products/services are valued by asking for feedback frequently.

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