Creative Business: Bartering For Service

by Kathy Jager

We encounter people everyday with which we can do business, and there are ways to be creative and build great business relationships at the same time.

One way to foster new relationships is by bartering for services. Have you ever imagined exchanging a haircut for a sump pump installation, or giving someone a perm in exchange for lawn services? Bartering allows your creative spirit and business sense to open up new avenues for you to build your trade.

No Money Involved – The biggest advantage of bartering is that there is no money required up front – and let's face it, we all like a good deal. Occasionally, not having to go into your pocketbook is somewhat sweet. You just have to know how to keep the score even so no one feels slighted.

I remember one time, the carpenter husband of a very good client of mine had an idea for my salon, but at the time I was not in a financial situation to afford to pay for his work. My client told me not to worry. We would exchange my hair services for her husband's carpentry work. She kept a log of the monetary value of my services and the value of his work, and we shook hands. It was a wonderful exchange that benefited both of us.

Keep It Simple – Most bartering exchanges in salons are informal. They range from simple, one-time agreements to more complicated, ongoing swaps. Unfortunately, there are occasions when one trader is looking for even more than you bartered for. That is when you run the risk of ending a relationship instead of building one. So you need to keep all swaps clear.

You can also expand the bartering field to include friends and members of your family, if they are willing to trade services as well. If a client is looking for home repairs, I let them know that my husband can fix anything, and then we work out a trade for his services. That is the intertwined connection beauty professionals have with the world, and it is a powerful business tool.

Just Ask – When it comes to bartering, I am not shy. If a client has something I want, I do not hesitate to try to work out a deal. A client of mine just got her esthetician license and now does facials. Now I cut and color her hair in exchange for her wonderful facials. I feel good about that barter and so does she. We both have agreed that there will be no money exchanged, just services.

Keeping Track and Bartering Consultation – To determine a fair price, both parties need to determine what they would charge for the bartered service, whether it is a plumbing job or a new coat of paint. On my end, I give the person I am bartering with a credit for a specific amount of my services. I keep a record of the amount in a book and each time they come in, I make a deduction until they have used up the total amount of the trade. Spending one-on-one time with the trader will help clarify the terms of the barter. I call this the consultation technique, which involves the following steps: Listen, Clarify, Suggest, Get Permission and Act.

Well-detailed records have another bonus: lowering the stress level that may arise during tax time. Not having to put money up front is definitely a bartering bonus, but do keep in mind that Uncle Sam will want to collect his share come April 15.

Barter and cash transactions are the same in the eyes of the Internal Revenue Service. So, just keep that in mind as you trade in your baloney sandwich at the lunch table for your friend's peanut butter and jelly. Bartering is a great way to network your business, and it will foster good will in your community.

Kathy Jager is an author, speaker, educator, cosmetologist and peer. You can reach her at 708 687-7263 or visit

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