Barter Your Way to New Clients
and Valuable Payoffs

What if your skills as a web writer freed you from having to pay for the things you want most in life? Things like regular massages, fine dining, or a vacation get-away.

All of these things are possible when you barter your web-writing services.

I’ll admit, at first glance I had bartering confused with something you’d see at a flea market — one guy loudly trying to cajole the next into giving him a break on a purchase in exchange for something the first guy didn’t really want.

I’ve since discovered that bartering is so much more. Not only is it a perfectly respectable way to gain clients and fill your portfolio with strong samples and testimonials, it’s also a way to compensate yourself with the things you really need or want to have in life.

On top of that, it adds a more personal element to a transaction than you achieve when exchanging cash for service.

Read on to learn how you can make bartering work for you and find out why your services are of particular value in this recovering economy.

Why You’re in a Prime Position to Land New Work

Let me back up for a minute to tell you why this method has suddenly gained ground.

When the recession first took hold, most companies were on the lookout for better, cheaper ways to do business. This sparked a revival of the age-old practice of bartering, or trading goods and services without exchanging cash.

Bartering is both an old and new trick. Also called a service trade or exchange, it’s been around for centuries, but made a comeback when the economy tanked. People didn’t have money so they started swapping things. The last few years brought about a repeat of this.

Now, many experts agree the economy is finally on the mend. There’s certainly a long way to go to get back to where we were, but things are definitely looking up.

But, even as the economy starts to heal, businesses are more careful about how they spend their money. Like consumers, they’re looking for bargains and other ways to keep their spending in check.

Essentially, this means bartering as a mainstream form of commerce is here to stay.

The best part is, this puts web writers like us in prime position for new work. With more businesses embracing bartering as a way to meet demand and turn a profit, our pool of potential clients grows exponentially.

What Bartering Is (and Isn’t)

The thing about being a web writer is that your skills have tremendous value for anyone in business. If you think about it, powerful web copy can improve sales for virtually any kind of transaction.

But, the place where a lot of good web writers freeze up (myself included), is in the act of actually asking for money in exchange for writing services. The reasons behind this problem vary, but for a lot of writers it’s daunting because money is so often viewed as the measure of your worth.

In contrast, bartering takes the pressure out of the situation. It’s more casual and friendly. Lots of people say there’s a great psychological connection to bartering because it fosters human contact.

Better yet, if you’re able to barter for something you really want or need, it holds greater value for you than its cash equivalent.

4 Steps to a Successful Barter

You can barter for just about anything, so in terms of finding a new client, your possibilities are endless.

Start by thinking about things you need or want. Maybe you’d like to have regular massages or you need some repair work done on your car. Maybe your daughter wants piano lessons or your dog needs regular grooming.

Essentially, brainstorm all the things you’re likely to buy in the near future, then consider whether the vendors you’ll be paying can benefit instead from your web writing.

Once you have a specific service or product in mind, follow these steps to land a successful barter:

  • Be specific about what you’re willing to do. Start by drafting a simple proposal that outlines your offer. Consider the needs of your potential client while writing your proposal. For example, a local carpet dealer might need better copy on his website. A massage therapist might want help building a list so she can use email to advertise specials. A veterinarian might appreciate a downloadable e-book that covers nutrition for dogs and cats.
  • List benefits. Put as many details as possible into your proposal and make sure you clearly explain the benefits of targeted web copy. Remember, several of the professionals who will profit most from great web copy may not know exactly what it is and how much it can help them.
  • Assign a value. Give your service a dollar value. You can consider discounting your regular fee, but make sure you make it known that you’re doing this. If you want somebody to give you their goods at a wholesale rate, it’s ethical to offer a discount on your own services.
  • Ask. Approach your ideal client with your proposal and simply ask if they’re interested. A lot of merchants will be more than happy to consider your offer if you just put it out there. Plus, asking for a bartered deal is more like asking for a favor and less like asking for a job.

The best bartered deals are done in individual settings where both parties are independent in their skill and don’t pay others to fulfill their service. For example, if you want to barter your web-writing skills for dental work, approach a private-practice dentist instead of someone who shares obligations with others in a large group practice.

What to Do When You Land Your New Client

Once you land a bartered deal, make sure you do the following:

  • Put everything in writing. Just to make sure you’re both clear on what exactly is being exchanged, put everything in writing and share it with your bartering client. Be especially specific about things like the number of revisions you’re willing to do so you don’t end up giving more value than your client.
  • Keep records for tax purposes. Income from bartering is taxable, so you have to report any transactions that take place. Remember though, as a business person, you can deduct the costs you incurred to perform the work that was bartered.

Where to Find Barter-Friendly Clients

If you can’t think of any local person you’d like to barter with, turn to the Internet. The number of bartering websites has doubled in the last few years. Here are just a few of the more popular ones:

You can also check out postings in local coffee shops or alternative newspapers. Consider looking for regional networks. Or, start your own bartering club amongst friends and peers. You may even want to start a Meetup group so other people can post their needs and swap with each other.

Another option is to use a barter broker, which is someone who creates one-to-one deals between you and another company in exchange for a commission (usually 15% for both parties). Sometimes brokers even set up three-way trades or trade directly using their own inventory, typically made up of advertising time (as in a radio ad) or space (as in a newspaper).

You can even trade like for like. A lot of web writers have a tough time writing copy to promote themselves. Hook up with another web writer and write a promotional sales page for each other. It’s a win-win — you walk away with a great sample, and you end up with your own sales page (Tip: visit the WWW forum to find interested writers!).

Think outside the box and make an adventure out of it. Don’t hesitate if you come up with a good idea. People who trade successfully are usually the ones making the offer.

The Professional Writers’ Alliance

The Professional Writers’ Alliance

At last, a professional organization that caters to the needs of direct-response industry writers. Find out how membership can change the course of your career. Learn More »


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Published: April 21, 2010

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