How to Politely Decline Barter Requests

Requests for barter can be the bane of a new business owner’s existence. For a zillion reasons, barter isn’t the wonderful alternative that so many make it out to be (but that’s a different post–or several, lol).

Whatever your feelings are about trading services, the topic of this post is how to politely decline barter requests when you’re not interested. Here are some of the ways I’ve phrased this:

“I’m not accepting barter clients at the moment, but I’ll keep your offer in mind for future reference.”

“Thank you for your kind offer. I have found that it’s much more difficult to keep track of bartering (trade) services. Plus, those services have to be reported as income come tax time, without the benefit of actually earning the cash with which to pay those taxes. To keep it all simple and uncomplicated, I strictly work with clients on a cash basis.”

“Thank you for your kind offer. I don’t need [whatever they are offering in exchange] right now, but I’ll keep this in mind if I ever do.”

“Thank you for your interest. I reserve all my trade and pro bono work for my pet charities/causes.”

One additional thought:  Some might suggest tying your own offer of paid support in with the polite decline to trade, the idea being along the lines of “hey, let’s talk about how my administrative support can help you move forward in your business so you can start earning better and actually pay for the services and things you need.”

Of course, you wouldn’t word it out loud that way, but that’s obviously one of the goals we work toward as we administratively support clients. By helping them get their business organized, humming along smoothly and moving forward, they will eventually start earning better because they’ll start making faster progress on getting things done and have more time to focus on growing their business, working with more clients, and doing more marketing and networking.

However, what I’ve found is that those who offer to trade really aren’t in any position to pay for your services or have no intention of paying for your services even if they were (the use ’em and abuse ’em, get-it-for-free camp).

And you know what rule #1 is for any target market and ideal client:  You can’t afford to work with anyone who can’t afford you. They must be able to pay in order to be a client.

For that reason, it’s perfectly sound business sense to simply decline the request politely and not bother to even try getting them interested in your paid support. Just continue focusing on those potential clients who are eager for your support and can easily pay.

So how have you phrased things when you’ve had to decline a barter request? Please do share in the comments so we can help each other out!

5 Responses

  1. I had two barter requests just last week. One wanted to barter a portion of my proposed fee. The other wanted a straight trade. I said something like “…I can’t barter my services.” Your examples are politely direct options for future reference. Thanks Danielle…you’ve done it Again!

  2. Arlene says:

    Eish Danielle. It sure is getting crazy out there. I’ve had a few of these myself and their sentiment was ‘we are giving you the opportunity’ to distribute your flyers and biz cards.’ In the beginning I found it cute but soon realised that it was B-S and even later that they were paying others so I was the A-H I guess however I’ve learnt an expensive lesson early on in my new biz so no longer negotiate if you can’t pay me and in full!!! In any case, you won’t be taking seriously if you offer this barter service I can guarantee you that. I also don’t use the discount term as that gives them an indication that you are for sale. Just my two pence again. As usual Danielle, you’ve hit the nail on the head. Thank you so much for all the wake-up calls.

  3. Jennifer Mitchell says:

    Thank you! Super helpful.

  4. Kelsey says:

    This is a great article, especially the part, “You can’t afford to work with anyone who can’t afford you. They must be able to pay in order to be a client” – I needed that reminder.

    I’m a personal trainer and other some business owners often want to trade their services for mine. It can often come off as insulting.

    Thanks for helping me clear my head before I responded to my most recent trade request!

  5. Glad to hear it, Kelsey! Honor yourself and the value you deliver. When you value yourself, your clients will, too. 🙂

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