Why I avoid trading services as a freelancer

For those of us that have been building websites for a few years, the pitch for trading services is the norm.  At least a couple of times a year, someone approaches me to do a website and in turn, I will get their services for something.  Sounds like a good deal, right?  Well, more often that not, it’s not such a great deal for the designer.

I have accepted trade for services I never received more times that I want to admit.  On the flip side, there have been one or two trade situations that have worked for me.  Here are a few things to consider before agreeing to trade your services with another business owner:

  • Do you really need their services?  One of the worst trades I ever did was with an acupuncturist.  I’m terrified of acupuncture.  What was I thinking?  Also, this person was a big flake and didn’t pay the portion of the bill I did send.  Now, am I going to trust this person to stick me with needles?  No way.  I ate it on that deal for sure.
  • Is their service something that benefits your business?  If that’s the case, it could be a big plus for you if you can’t afford to hire them.  This is especially true for the new web design business owner.  This might be bookkeeping or housecleaning.  Something that frees you up for more work.
  • Do you trust them and know them well?  Never get into a trade situation with someone you don’t know well.

My best advice is to skip trading services altogether.  In addition to making IRS tracking messy, getting both parties to follow through isn’t easy.  The best thing to do is to have them hire you and then you hire them in return or vise versa.  Make it official and make it something you both pay for.  You will be more invested in services you’re paying for and so will they.  If you do accept a trade arrangement, make sure it’s amazing and a rare occurrence!

What’s your experience with trading services?  Please share with all of us!

RESOURCES:  Contently –  Freelancer Quandary: When Is It Okay to Barter?


About WebCami

Cami MacNamara has been designing websites since 2002 from her home office in Seattle, Washington. Her career started as a way to be a stay-at-home mom. Certification soon followed and persistence paid off. Cami has designed 500+ websites and wants to share what she learned along the way. Look for her at WordCamp Seattle. Follow: WebCami.com / Twitter / Instagram