Bartering is the exchange of goods or services for the goods and services offered by someone else. Money typically doesn’t change hands, provided the value of the exchange is deemed equivalent. Bartering can be a good way to get experience when you’re just starting out, fulfill a need without a financial investment, expand your network and find new business.
While it can seem like an informal situation, there are potential damaging consequences that can occur if you don’t do certain things to protect the bartering arrangement. Here is a checklist of the most important steps you should take before beginning a bartering relationship.
Evaluate the Value
You want to make sure the arrangement isn’t lopsided, and that both parties are getting what they put into it. A mismatched barter can result in resentment, frustration and potentially even legal issues. To start, assign a dollar value to the goods or services that are to be traded. If there isn’t an even comparison, adjust the trade to make it comparable (i.e. trade 5 hours of a service A for 8 hours of service B).
Do your research into the person you’re considering bartering with, just as you would if you were hiring them to do something. Ask for references, check past work, dig into who they are and verify they have the skills and experience they are claiming. Just because bartering doesn’t involve money doesn’t mean it should imply discounted or less professional services, and you’ll save yourself a huge headache by verifying this in the early stages.
Use a Written Agreement
Again, just like any other business relationship, you should have a written agreement that explicitly outlines the terms of the arrangement. This is especially important when there isn’t a clear one-for-one exchange. Your agreement should outline the scope of the work on both sides, identify the deliverables, specify the duration or deadline for the work and spell out what happens if either side wants to end the arrangement before completion.
Keep Open Lines of Communication
Stay in the loop with your bartering partner to ensure that the trade is effective and that both sides are happy with the service they’re getting. If something isn’t working out as expected, or if you’re unhappy with the work you’re receiving, speak up and work toward a resolution. It’s also a good idea to schedule regular check-ins and milestones to make sure the bartered services don’t get dropped below paid work and forgotten.
Don’t Forget About Taxes
The rules for reporting barter transactions may vary depending on which form of bartering takes place and where you are located. According to the IRS, in the U.S. barter dollars are identical to real dollars for tax reporting, so you need to treat barter income as you would any other business activity. Keep good records and consult an accountant if you have questions or need advice.
Do you barter your services? What advice do you have?
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