The extra ingredient to book  yourself solid

It’s hard to get and stay booked solid as an artist.  There’s all sorts of highs and lows in freelancing but there’s one over looked method of pimping out your work calendar that artists overlook, and it’s called bartering.  

When most people think of bartering they go too far old school.  They think I’ll trade you one of my chickens for some of your rum.  Yes that is bartering but I’mtalking about pixels not livestock.  

Most artists rule out bartering because we think of the days before we were established and we think about working for “favors”.  Like remember when your cousin wanted you to design his logo and you never got paid or that back end deal you did for that budding director who’s film was going to be “bigger” than Star Wars.  

Bartering is awesome if it is done right, if not it can completely suck.  Here’s a few tips.

  • Don’t barter for your art, barter for your rate.  Let’s say your uncle wants an illustration for his dry cleaning company’s website and you charge $1,000.  Don’t give him a lower rate, tell him your rate is $1,000 and that will buy you $1,000 in dry cleaning in his store.  If you have no need for a dry cleaner, bartering with him could be pointless but this brings us to number 2.
  • If you barter for something you don’t use, sell your credit to a third party.  For example, let’s say you barter with your sisterwho runs a printing shop.  Sure you could use business cards and a few things butyou may not need $1,000 in printing.  Find a third party who needs printing and sell them the credit that you have thru your barter with the printer.  In the end what started out a barter ends upas a cash transaction for you.
  • Use a barter/exchange network.  I personally use a company called Value Card Alliance.  I pay a small monthly fee to trade with all sorts of businesses.  OnceI sell my art I can then trade with other businesses.  Thru this organization I’ve had my car detailed, weeds sprayed, and traded for vitamins, all while having another outlet to promote and market my business.  

Bartering can be a fun and creative way to fill some of the holes in your calendar.  Make sure you treat your bartering clients the same as everyone else.  Don’t be that guy that doesn’t give 100% because your client isn’t paying in “cash”.  

Also keep in mind that all bartering is subject to taxation according to the IRS so check with your tax professional.