Is Barter Ever a Good Idea?

Dear Danielle:

I’ve just been approached by someone who is a great contact and may be able to refer me to her clients down the road, but she is wanting to start out bartering for services. Is this ever a good idea? I’m also not really sure that I need what she is offering, but she could end being a paying client at some point.

If you don’t need what she has to offer, there’s no reason to enter into an arrangement that will only expend your business time and resources without getting anything of value in return except for the “promise” of possible referrals. Not a good business move.

I would graciously decline that offer, and instead propose that you become referral partners. You both get something of equal value that way.

Is barter ever a good idea? Well, if you ask me personally, I would vehemement shout “No way!” I have been burned several times, and this is even when expectations and agreements have been clearly spelled out ahead of time.

Are there ever any good barter experiences? I’m sure there are. But most of time, in my experience and based on what I’ve observed in other situations, it’s the Administrative Consultant who usually ends up with the short end of the stick when it comes time for the other person to live up to their end of the bargain.

People just don’t tend to value things unless they pay for them and have some skin in the game, so to speak. And let’s face it… when we’re approached by someone wanting to barter, it’s because they want something for nothing. You can’t let their poor business circumstances (including starting a business without proper capitalization) become your problem.

Now if you do find yourself with a barter opportunity that you think will be beneficial and of value to you, my advice would be to really lay the cards on the table with each other. Find out as much as you possibly can what the other person’s expectations are and what they intend to offer. Tell them exactly what you expect in return and when. Make sure there’s a high level of alignment (in terms of equal value, expectations, delivery times, etc.), negotiate the bugs, and then put it all in writing.

Otherwise, I would simply avoid situations that will only end up creating negative energy and wasting your time.

One Response

  1. Sandy Gavin says:

    I find currently that I run into this quite often – I know what I am worth and would like to charge that but the question is – will they pay what I think and know I am worth? I have just started my business and have been approached regarding work – I try and look at the good and the bad sides. From experience I too have been taken advantage of but I did it to myself by being blind.

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