Monday, 23 January 2012

Bartering, Bitching, and Contracts

So this might be totally not what you expected but I need a catalyst and there is really nowhere that compares more than 4SW. So here goes.

I am an author and literary strategist. When I first started out I did a lot of work for trade. Trade for editing, book covers, social media marketing, blog building, blog posts, content reads. You name it and I had a talent for it and I worked out a deal.

However, I don’t do that as much. There are several reasons why the number one being is the temporal needs of my family. But that isn’t the point of this rant. The real point is (and this can pertain to any industry) I want to share a few things about bartering.

1. Bartering has been around since man was created. No matter where you think we came from the realization is that bartering has been here since Adam and Eve. There was no overall way to recognize monetary value so the barterer and the barteree negotiated a deal of what they felt was an equal trade for goods or services. Now the point of the history lesson is the terms are set out in the beginning. That doesn’t mean later if things circumstances change you can throw a fit and break the deal. Nevertheless, renegotiation is always an option.

2. Terms need to be spelled out clearly in the beginning. This is one I suffer from. Meaning if you do a trade of services—find out how much those services are and figure out an hourly amount of time and rate or whatever so that it’s equal for both parties at the beginning. For example this one time I offered to stage a home for a client (back in my Realtor days) in exchange for some print work. The print work was about $300.00. After talking over what they wanted done initially I figured it would be an equal deal and take me about 10 hours to come up with a plan, present it to them, and they could go from there. Wrong! It was more like 100 contentious hours later I was literally hurting financially from the amount of time on the project. Because I had not spelled out what I was doing from the beginning, they misunderstood me and assumed I would be spearheading and following through with the entire staging of the home. So after prayer and speaking with my husband I approached them and expressed how sorry I was about not communicating fully. I also said this is how many hours I’ve put into this, this is how much I usually charge an hour, and I can’t afford to do anymore under the terms of our agreement. They were embarrassed and sad that I had done more. We renegotiated a deal and I was paid some money. I didn’t make a profit. In fact, I barely broke even but I learned and the relationship was still at a great place. On the latter I did the same thing with another person they had a fit and ended up bitching about it to any and every person they could. In the end, this hurt them more than it did me. If you do find yourself on the bad end of a barter accept what part is your fault learn and move on. Don’t be a baby about it.

3. Sometimes free is worth more than a dollar amount. I probably spend more time doing free stuff from consultations, speaking, workshops, and blogging than I do writing as an author or making money as a consultant. However, I almost make enough money for my family. When I started in this business, I sat down and said “How will I measure my success?” And I decided that a certain dollar amount made monthly was my ultimate goal. I’m ¾ of the way there in the first year. I couldn’t be more thrilled. I attribute this to the fact all my consulting business is done by referral. I am always happy to refer someone out some business if I am too busy to handle it. Or to just simply sit and brainstorm about their platform. It’s in this I learn and I serve and I’m very happy to do it.

4. It is not ok to take advantage of the novice. Too many times, I’ve seen people who have been around the block a long time or who are very shrewd take advantage of someone just starting because they see a lot of talent and not as much confidence. It is not ok to take advantage of that. If you have a deal from the beginning while it may not be the industry standard it still does not need to be for pennies or a crappy trade. While I can’t sit here and draw up a list of acceptable trades just keep that in mind. It hurts us all when good talent is burned and leaves.

5. Word of mouth contracts are still contracts. In Tennessee word of mouth contracts are not consider legal under real estate law. It’s like that in most states. However, for myself as a person who likes to think of honor and character I still do my utmost to honor verbal contracts as well as print. With that in mind, I also do majority of my work with written contracts now. Mainly so I know exactly what’s expected.

So that was my little rant. Thanks for letting me get it out. And if you could be so kind as to share with me any of your own experiences or ideas.

Bri Clark

Literary Strategist/Consultant/Author/Speaker


Kim Bowman Author said...

Very good, Bri. Truer words were never spoken. And congrats on the business going so well:)))

Bri Clark said...

Thanks so much Kim :)

Sharon Hamilton said...

Waving to Kim there - been awhile! And followed your success!

Bri, I've been on the wrong end of those types of things several times. You're right, there's always something I did to contribute to the confusion/mixup. I like what Kristen Lamb says (I'm paraphrasing) - I use this a lot: "Sharp people who cut (people who are mean, people who take advantage) are like diamonds that polish you into the gem you are." Okay, she really didn't say it that way, but you get the idea.

Didn't know your Realtor background. No wonder we're often on the same wavelength. Staging? OMG I used to love spending days at the SF Merchandise Mart to decorate my husband's model homes...

But that was then, this is now. I keep asking for this prayer, "Bless them, change me."

But it also works to throw things.

Faith said...

I totally relate to everything you've said, Bri!

Cassie Exline said...

Great words of wisdom. Once I made the mistake of not clarifying the task. The short story was close to 90k words and apparently spell check and use of grammar took a holiday.

Liz said...

Oh look! A bunch of former Realtors bitching about contracts! me too ladies. And now that I own a brewery (and write for publication) I have discovered the sheer beauty of the barter. I trade beer for:
artistic services
web design help
videography (all this mostly from art students looking to bulk up a portfolio)
among other things but one thing I always always (always) do THANKS to my own real estate career:
do NOTHING in exchange for ANYTHING until it's IN WRITING!
good luck to you and your many endeavors!

Anonymous said...

Words of wisdom for sure...I've put myself out there a few times full-hearted, ready and willing to take something on...only to learn too late how much I miscalculated my time commitment to it.

This is really a toughy for me to learn, as I continue to do it (LOL). I understand when there aren't enough funds, it feeds me to help...but only in a spiritual way not in a 'feed my hungry belly' way.

So, it's good to know what's expected of my time going in...and I'm getting better at figuring that out before I open my mouth...but not quite perfected it yet.

Thanks for sharing, Bri.

Anthology Authors said...

I've bartered before. I don't do it often. You have to be sure that whoever you barter with values your service. I had one person who tried to get me to do more because they felt that what they offered was far superior to mine service. After a while, I stopped working with them.


jeff7salter said...

You live in TN?
We're neighbors!
I'm in Southeast KY.

Yeah, I've seen people really 'taken advantage of' because things weren't spelled out in advance.
Yet, I've gotten my feathers burned when I've tried to lay things on the table BEFORE something got underway.

K. M. Springsteen said...

I literally heard your voice telling me to stop being such a novice for part of this blog. :-)

Bri Clark said...

@Sharon Kim is my woman you quit that waving. LOL Oh I loved staging. Sigh that was then now lets throw stuff. Sharon we are often on they same page because we are awesome!

@Faith thanks. I was afraid this wouldn't be bitchy enough. LOL

@Cassie I'm poor thing.

@Liz I love your barter examples that so rocks.

@Kay Dee hun I'm doing it too. It's like you have the knowledge but you can't seem to give up on the blessings that come with service.

@Marci dang those are the ones I hate the most!

@Jeff I actually live in ID now. But I'm from TN.

@Kay you lost me hun.

LKF said...

Congrats on your success and thank you for this information. I am new to writing, but have fallen in the trap of not clarifying details upfront before. don't want to make that mistake again.

Louise Behiel said...

couldn't agree more. I learned the hard way to spell out terms in advance - people might be offended by my requirement for an agreement but I'm always happier in the end.

Jaime Samms said...

Bri, this is a great post. And you know, certain other writers on this very blog have, at times, bartered their not inconsiderable talents with me, as a way of helping a new author get experience and put her best foot forward, and the good faith they showed is as memorable and important to me as any bad bartering I've ever experienced. It's more than just fair exchange of skills. It's about good faith and garnering an excellent reputation for just being an awesome person. You can't put any kind of price on that kind of good press. :D

Fiona McGier said...

I've done a bit of bartering, especially for tattoos with the artist whose work I worship. Fortunately he loves peach pies with homemade crust...along with muffins, cookies, etc. It's a relationship made in heaven for both of us!

But my late FIL used to work for the IRS. He once heard me say that I had my latest ink done in return for a pie and some muffins. He asked if I was aware that bartering is subject to income tax. I was shocked. I asked him if he was going to "rat me out". He held out his hands like they were scales and said, "Hmm, 4 grandchildren, versus rat you out? Nah!" PHEW!

Jaime Samms said...

Fiona, I think your FIL bartered your freedom for grandkids! lol!