To Barter or Not to Barter – Answers to Freelancers Questions

Bartering is the act of trading goods and services for other goods and services. Someone may trade writing services in exchange for a television or in exchange for someone mowing their lawn or fixing their roof. Most gigs don’t work this way, but there are situations where writers will have the opportunity to barter.

The question is whether you should be bartering, or whether the almighty dollar reigns supreme as sufficient compensation.

It won’t always be in your interests to barter. In this article, we’re going to take a look at how to decide whether bartering is the best option for you.

Prestige and Experience

The most common form of bartering in the world of freelancing is where you can trade your writing for ‘prestige’ and ‘experience’. In the vast majority of cases, this is a ploy by stingy employers to get free writing work.

The only occasion where prestige and experience should come into it is if you’re either working for a charity or a household name. There are few situations where these will come in handy.

As a general rule of thumb, stay away from this form of bartering.

Determining the Value of the Barter

Let’s pretend that you are being offered something of real tangible value. Take a look at Craig’s List and you’ll soon see lots of opportunities to barter your services. You may be able to trade writing services for concert tickets, yoga lessons, or objects like lawn mowers and blenders.

To determine whether it’s a good deal, you need to come up with a sort of intrinsic value. In the case of items, you can weigh up how much the item would cost you to buy, and that would be the intrinsic value.

You also have to look at the emotional value. Ask yourself whether you truly need what’s on offer. Yes, it might be nice to get tickets to the local comedy club, but is it worth you giving up some of your working day to earn these tickets?

It’s easy to get carried away bartering for lots of cool items. If it’s starting to take time away from your working day, however, then it’s not a good deal.

Your Current Needs

The best way to barter is to figure out what you need right now. If what you need right now is money for groceries, bartering isn’t for you, unless the barter happens to be for groceries.


Some writers may decide to market themselves. Instead of spending money on a marketing expert, they work with a magazine and receive some free advertising space in return. This is a good barter because both parties have a real need for what’s on offer.

The Golden Rule of Bartering

The golden rule of bartering is to get into a relationship with a party that has something you need. Both parties must need the other party to make it a good barter. If what you have on offer is a ‘want’ and not a ‘need’, it’s probably better to look for a straight cash payment.


Bartering is an easy way to get what you need quickly, but it’s also easy to get carried away with. Stay away from anything that you can’t give any intrinsic value to, such as offers of ‘experience’ and ‘prestige’. Stick to what you can calculate a value for.

On top of this, only barter for what you actually need. Yes, a trinket or the chance to attend a conference for free may look attractive, but is it something that’s going to pay the bills and boost your business?


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