Copywriting Q&A: The Right Way to Barter Your Services

The right way to barter your copywriting servicesBartering your copywriting services can be a great way to acquire things you need without having to lay out any cash. But just as with anything else, there’s a right way and a wrong way to go about it. Ready for the right way? Read on…

Today’s question comes from Ingrid S. who asks “Is it okay to trade copywriting services for other things, like design or web building? How would I do it?”

First of all, whether or not it’s okay to barter your copywriting services is completely up to you. No one can force you to do it and, as long as the other party is amenable and you’re not doing it on another client’s time, no one can prevent you. So, that said, here are a few guidelines for proposing your barter and then for handling it and terminating it.

First, make sure the barter is actually of use to them before you propose it. For example, a fledgling writer once offered to barter his copywriting services in exchange for my feedback on his writing. (And I don’t mention this to embarrass him; it never hurts to ask—it just makes for a good example.) Well, this wasn’t really a great deal for me. Considering I’m a copywriter and many people on my team/in my network are as well, it doesn’t really benefit me to get copywriting services from someone who is newer to it and needs feedback.

You’ll have a better chance of working out a barter with someone who truly needs what you have to offer, not just what you want to give.

The second point is that you’ll have much better luck working out a barter with an individual than with an entire company. Companies can have complicated policies regarding bartering, but it’s also just easier to balance your individual offering with another individual’s offering.

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Speaking of balance, make sure that you ask for something in return that is commensurate with what you’re offering. For example, if you’re offering to write the copy for a web developer’s entire site, it might be reasonable to ask him/her to do the web development for your entire site. An unbalanced barter might be to ask for web development for your entire site in exchange for rewriting the developer’s LinkedIn profile bio.

As you’re coming to an agreement, make sure the terms of the bartering are clear—if not, there will be miscommunications, missed expectations and at least one ticked of person. Know exactly what you’re providing, what you’re getting in return, when these things will be delivered and what kinds of changes are reasonable to ask for. Don’t assume that you’re both on the same page; you’re probably not.

Make sure the reciprocation time is clear, too. Let’s say you’re writing copy for a designer’s site and a the designer will be designing your site in return. Well, if you get the writing done and send it over, you should know exactly when you’ll be getting your design in return. This comes from personal experience: I sent over copy, assuming that the receipt of my copy for their site would light a fire under them. It didn’t. I’m still waiting for that design…

And finally, give each party an easy out. You can keep this as easy as, “We’ll each provide as much as the other has done, but either of us should feel free to speak up if the arrangement isn’t working. No hard feelings.” You don’t want to burn bridges with anyone in the creative community, but you also don’t want to end up getting, essentially, ripped off.

Your turn! Have you ever bartered your copywriting services? What was the experience like? Let us know in the comments below!

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