How to Barter Your Photography Services
Updated: Dec 22, 2020
Shh...I have a secret.
I don't always get paid in cash money.
I enjoy bartering and think that it is a wonderful way to get to know your local community while getting things that you would have spent money on. Honestly, I would be so happy to live in a trade-based economy! But it has to be done right in order to protect you and the other person. So, how do you barter correctly? Here's what I do.
Costs of the Barter: Know your worth AND the other person's worth
The first and most important thing is to know the worth of both of your services. Neither of you are giving anything away for free. Do you normally charge $250 for a session? Does your gym offer personal training sessions for $50/hour? Perhaps you can trade branding photography for 5 personal training sessions! If it isn't as easy as this example, look at the pricing of your packages and create a custom package for your client.
What to Barter: Make a list of services or things that you want
What do you normally spend money on? Really think outside the box. You don't just need to trade photography for photography.
In the past year, I have traded photography services for seedlings and for harp lessons. Why these two things? Well, I LOVE my garden and have grown my own food for over 5 years now but vegetable seedlings can really get expensive. Luckily, I have a robust community of fellow gardeners. When we began discussing the portrait session, the idea of a trade came about. So now I have a flourishing garden full of zucchini, several different types of cabbage, onions, snap peas, spaghetti squash, peppers, tomatoes, and cucumbers.
As for the harp lessons, this past year I have pushed myself to learn new things. I think that harp music is just beautiful. It was an instrument that I always wanted to learn but it was inaccessible to me. My friend needed new headshots and I had already approached her in the past about the possibility of harp lessons but the timing was never right. Again, it was a very easy trade to make and I'm really looking forward to learning a new instrument come September!
Things you can barter for:
Cleaning services, handyman services, gardening, clothes, website development, graphic design, salon services, styling, gym memberships, piano lessons, art lessons, tax help, vacation rentals, restaurant meals, the list is literally endless! Do you know someone that has a skill or a local business with whom you could trade? Are you looking for photography services and you have something to offer besides money? Ask! You never know what someone is receptive to until you bring it up.
The Logistics of Bartering
Barter with people you trust. This is pretty self-explanatory. There are so many horror stories of people not sticking to their end of the bargain. I barter with friends or friends of friends that can offer me something I want. If you want to barter with someone who you do not know, thoroughly research the business and read reviews.
Put a time frame on your barter. You don't want to wait a year for the barter to be complete. Both of you will be happier if you exchange services close in time. Are you exchanging a hair cut and styling for a personal branding session? I'd try to book both within two weeks of each other. You then avoid any party feeling like they were taken advantage of.
Be upfront about any restrictions. Can you only do the family portrait session on Tuesday evenings because you are in the midst of wedding season? Be clear about when you can and cannot offer your part of the trade and make sure that your client is okay with those restrictions. And be open to their restrictions as well. Maybe your stylist always has openings on weekday mornings. Mutually beneficial barters are the best!
Get it in writing. It's as simple as that. Treat a barter the same way that you treat any other service that you charge for. Outline the expectations, responsibilities, deadlines, and a description of the goods/services the same way that you do in any other standard agreement. Be sure to address anything you normally cover in your contract, including rescheduling/cancellation, proofing, artistic rights, usage, indemnification, and copyright. When writing up your agreement, remember that the agreement is in place to protect both parties.
Accurate accounting is key. Check with your tax professional (perhaps that's another barter!). Remember that the IRS treats barters the same as cash. There are no special benefits for bartering. You must report the fair market value of the goods received.
Do you also like to form relationships with others in your community? Have you bartered for services in the past? Do you need photography services and have something to offer? Reach out! I would be interested in discussing Horseback riding lessons, season ski lift pass within 3 hours of Albany, NY, and CSA shares. Have a different idea? It never hurts to ask!