Creative Money Maker: Barter Better

What does bartering have to do with creative money management? Over the past few columns I’ve talked a lot about value: valuing yourself, your time, and the work that you make.

Bartering and trading is a way to recognize the value of the work you and others make and exchange that value in a way that is mutually beneficial. To simplify further: bartering is a way to add value to your project or business without exchanging money.

Bartering is great if you have high quality skills or goods to offer, but don’t have a lot of cash on hand. The key to successful bartering is to ensure that what you are offering and what you are receiving are of equal value to each party involved.

For example, when I was regularly publishing a zine I would always offer my zines for trade to other zinesters. I would trade my hand stitched zine with hand printed covers for zines that were just a few photocopied pages because for me personally that the value of a self-made publication based on passion and artistic vision was equal. In addition, it was also important to me to get my zine into the hands of as many readers as possible and build relationships with other zine publishers.

Trading zines at the Portland Zine Symposium 2009. Photo from Last Hours

Just like pricing your work or your time, bartering well is a skill that you can develop. I asked Tim and Shana, the founders of the Punk Rope fitness program, about guidelines for bartering, which they have used to to build and expand their business.

Tips for successful bartering

From Tim Haft and Shana Brady of Punk Rope

  • Set realistic expectation what you can offer and what its worth
  • Be specific as possible on your terms
  • Be prepared for negotiation
  • Be careful when bartering with friends and mixing business and social relationships
  • Identify people who have the skills that you need. Go to the true experts
  • Examine the motivation of the person offering to barter
  • Avoid one-sided arrangements that only benefit one party

Bartering is still a transaction, even though no money is changing hands. When entering into a barter agreement be very clear when you are trading goods and skills and when you are asking for, or offering, a gift to a friend or colleague.  If you are trading be sure to make an agreement about what you are offering, what you will receive, and when you expect to deliver on your promises in writing. While it may seem overly formal at first, having an agreement in writing will help clarify an agreement should questions or complications arise.

Shana - Double Unders

Shana Brady of Punk Rope competing in double unders in the Punk Rope games

You have control over what you offer in trade. You don’t want to lose money when bartering. If there’s something you make you can’t afford to give away, even for something of equal value, brainstorm about what else you can offer. For example, if you can’t afford to give away your handmade blank books, maybe instead you could offer book binding classes or design advice?

Bartering is a great way to build knowledge and goodwill about your project. You may find you get more out of it then the monetary value of what you received or offered in trade.

If you are curious about more models for bartering check out Trade School, an alternative, self-organized school that runs on barter and offers classes all over the world.

Overall, bartering is a creative way to build the value of your project and is another important tool in the creative money maker tool belt.

What are some successful examples of bartering you have experienced?

What are your guidelines for bartering?

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A few more from the games…

The punkest photo of me that has ever been taken. By Tomer Grassiany

I know, the Punk Rope Games were already a few weeks ago, and now we’re on to the Tour de France as our sporting event obsession. However, these two photos from the Punk Rope Games by Tomer Grassiany were too good not to share!

During the agility jump. By Tomer Grassiany

Punk Rope Games Recap

Team Henri the Depressed French Cat: Peter, Me, Marisha and Brian

For the first time since I was sixteen and used to compete in horse shows, I got up early on a Sunday morning for a sporting event. The event was the fourth annual Punk Rope Games, where teams of punk ropers competed in events like the chicken toss relay, as well as more “traditional” jump rope events, in addition to performing a fight song to show off their skills.

Gang of Genghis Khan conquer the doubles jump

I love punk rope because it combines fitness drills with serious fun, absurdity, music and team spirit. Tim and Shana, who run Punk Rope, are the most giving and energetic people who make the idea of fitness accessible to those who whose first impulse is not to be active.

The “Asian Contagion” team show off their infectious skills during their fight song. Jeremy (in the front) just got a bronze metal in a national jump rope competition!

My bandmate Marisha signed me up to participate in the games and after some brainstorming we opted for the surreal and based our look and name our favorite internet video of the moment of Henri, the depressed French cat.

This being our first games, and the fact we hardly practiced at all, meant that we manged to not score any points. I do think we nailed our 75 second “fight song” routine, which we did to that enduring 90s classic “Jump Around” by House of Pain. The downside of this is that song is now stuck in my head. And the lyrics are way worse than I remember.

Cat moves during our team “fight song” performance

Floor punch!

Concentration during the chicken toss relay

We also managed to heckle and cheer the other teams in bizarre, not quite French accents using odd expressions that proclaimed the superiority of the French culture and lifestyle (you all know I love France and I love to laugh at it too as much as I like to laugh at my own country).

Team Henri the Depressed French Cat

The teams performances and costumes made the event like a mash up between gym class and CHERYL, my favorite arty, off the hook dance party.

“Plague” from team Asian Contagion. She made her rat wig herself!

The eventual champions, Phat Positive, also put together a video to show off their skills even before the games. They have raised the bar for next year, and next year, my teammates and I will be ready.

Phat Positive performing their “fight song”

Phat Positive: 2012 Punk Rope games victors

However, my favorite part of the games was the after party, where we got to revel in the camaraderie that is Punk Rope. Of course, I had to change my clothes and put together  a relaxed, sporty outfit for the occasion.

Punk Rope Games after party outfit. T-shirt and skirt by American Apparel, ASOS “Deny” wedge sneakers. Thanks to Marisha for the photo!

What gets you up early on a Sunday morning?

The final scores. We scored a crying cat!

Thank you to Felicity Hogan for the great shots of Team Henri in action!