episode 11

Why Bartering Isn’t the Answer for Web Designers

Bartering originated long ago to trade items of value before currency even existed. In the present day, there is no reason to forfeit money and give up your valuable skills, time and energy in exchange for something you most likely don’t even need.

In this episode, Sam & Karyn discuss the value of your highly skilled work, why bartering isn’t equitable and the importance of getting paid your web design services.

Show Notes:

Where bartering originated and how it found its way back into the modern day online space.
Why bartering is so problematic and why women are more inclined to offer this option.
Dropping the discomfort around accepting money and acknowledging that it is more than okay to get paid for the services you provide.

The inequity and uncertainty in bartering services.

Episode Transcript:

Karyn Paige, Sam Munoz

Sam Munoz 00:00
The history of bartering dates all the way back to 6000 BC. So this is a very ancient, very outdated concept because like currency is a thing, right? We have money, we have dollar bills. And there’s a way for us to exchange our work for currency which we can then use to fund and purchase other things, not just the thing that is being bartered to us. So this idea in general, like that is like the the route of bartering, and it’s been pulled into the online and business space, where it’s like, if you’re just getting started, go find someone who wants what you do. Again, it’s like this whole testimonial thing, right? It’s like oh, to get exposure to get testimonials to get experience. But what if you got experience while you got paid? Why is that not a thing? Welcome to making website magic where we empower women to step boldly into their web design, businesses follow their intuition and claim the success they’re worthy of. I’m Sam Munoz.

Karyn Paige 00:59
And I’m Karyn page, where the tech wizards behind Sam Munoz consulting on the making website Magic School of Business. We’re two women here to talk about what it actually takes to run a web design business that’s aligned with your vision.

Sam Munoz 01:12
Spoiler alert, it probably isn’t what you think it is ready to hear about everything from refining your business vision, networking with intention and creating a magical client experience. Let’s do it. Karyn, I am coming to you hot and bothered about this episode topic. And I know we are both feeling very jazzed to talk about why bartering isn’t the answer. So how are you today?

Karyn Paige 01:40
I’m actually really a generalized because I’m excited to talk about this. But in thinking about it, I didn’t realize how passionate I am on this subject. So I have a lot of things I want to want to talk about today.

Sam Munoz 01:50
Yes, and I want to get into all of it. And I cannot wait. Before we do. Let’s go ahead and read one of our awesome reviews that has been left on the making website magic podcast. Thank you all again for leaving these reviews, letting us know how the podcast is impacting you. And just your feelings about the topics. So this one says so real. Sam and Karyn say the things I needed to hear years ago, I hope many new business owners and web designers find this podcast because it will skip over a huge learning curve and save so much time, which is awesome. I’m so glad that that is a feeling that’s being received and experienced from the podcast. We’re also talking about a lot of like controversial things I’ve noticed lately. And so it’s really cool to be just getting deeper into these topics and kind of going against the grain. So thank you for that review. And if you haven’t left a review yet for the podcast, we would super, super appreciate it. If you go to making website magic calm, you can see all the info about all the different places you can subscribe and leave reviews for the podcast. So thank you. Now, let’s talk about why bartering is not the answer to growth in your web design business. And we should probably start with like what is bartering in the first place?

Karyn Paige 03:04
Yeah, do you want to take it to the dictionary?

Sam Munoz 03:08
Let’s do it. According to Merriam Webster, the definition of barter is to trade by exchanging one commodity for another or to trade goods or services in exchange for other goods or services, which is basically how we have experienced it in the online world. And a lot of us are probably really aware of that idea. So basically, you build a website for someone in exchange for their service or their product.

Karyn Paige 03:33
Yes. And this is very commonly pushed in the online space industry community.

Sam Munoz 03:39
People say this all the time, right? They’re like, Oh, you don’t have a client yet. Or like struggling in between clients. Like just go barter your services, find someone else and you do website for them. They give you their service. The worst is where it’s just like they don’t even give you a service. They just give you a testimonial or you get exposure. Like Don’t even get me started on the whole exposure bs because that’s just ridiculous. And that’s another form of bartering. Right? It’s like, I do a website for you. And you like shout me out. What? Yeah,

Karyn Paige 04:06
okay, so where did this whole thing like come from, though? Because I feel like it was something that was already in motion. By the time I got in this space. How did we get here?

Sam Munoz 04:17
So I’m looking at this article, buy into it, you know, the company that hosts and owns QuickBooks and all those things, and they say here that the history of bartering dates all the way back to 6000 BC. So this is a very ancient, very outdated concept, because like currency is a thing, right? We have money, we have dollar bills, and there’s a way for us to exchange our work for currency which we can then use to fund and purchase other things, not just the thing that is being bartered to us. So this idea in general, like that is like the the route of bartering and it’s been pulled into the online and business space, where it’s like, if you’re just getting started, go find someone who wants what You do? Again, it’s like this whole testimonial thing, right? It’s like, oh, to get exposure to get testimonials to get experience. But what if you got experience while you got paid? Why is that not a thing? And so I think like, it’s just kind of peddled all over the the online world. And I’m no historian but like, that’s kind of where it’s come from, right? It’s like you’re getting started, you’re getting your feet wet, and you’re beginning in your business or again, like you’re in between clients, and like, this is quote, unquote, just what you do.

Karyn Paige 05:27
Okay, so to think about the historical perspective, which Hello, I am a history nerd, I love this stuff, right? Like, what kind of comes up for me, like, again, before we had currency, or whatever it was like, you would go to the next farm over or whatever. And you’re like, your neighbor has a pig, and you have a bushel of apples. And so you exchange what you have for what they have. And that works for everybody. Because you need some fiber, and I need some protein boom,

Sam Munoz 05:56
which Hello, that’s like that is the key there is that both people needed it,

Karyn Paige 06:00
then there’s that right? So that’s point number one is like we’re bartering for things that we both needed. And we didn’t have you had it. I didn’t, Let’s exchange right. And it felt very equitable. In that regard. I’m going to put something out here. Like, I feel like there’s this, there’s this new space that we’re in with millennials, and maybe like even some Gen Xers where it’s like, money is bad man, like, let’s just barter, like other stuff that we need. And like, it’s all good, whatever, like that whole mentality. And the reason why I’m saying this is because I grew up in the Bay Area, California. And so every year, there would be a certain like community of folks who would go to Burning Man, which is this huge festival. It’s basically the size of a metropolitan city at this point, and there’s no money there. You exchange everything that you need, the only thing that you use legal tender for is to buy like coffee and ice, right? Everything else is exchanged and bartered. And it’s this whole idea of like utopia. And I think what ended up happening is like the 10s of 1000s of people who would go there every year started to bring that back into like regular life. So like, you know, people from San Francisco and people from like Williamsburg in New York. And like all these hipster folks started being like, yeah, it is like this form of utopia where we exchange stuff, and we don’t use money, because that’s better. Right? And so then I think that actually, that because there’s a huge tech element of people who go to Burning Man, right? Like there’s a huge, I’m kind of going into the weeds here. But this is a theory that I have. So all the like tech folks were like, Yeah, we did this whole cool, bartering thing at Burning Man, let’s bring that back into the work that we do in the online space. This is a theory is not been proven. This is only based on my observations. But I think that’s how in the modern era, like we’re now like bartering with stuff.

Sam Munoz 07:48
new segment of the podcast, Karyn conspiracy theories. I like it. I’m here for it. I’m no, no, I love that. Because you know what? It’s, it’s again, it’s this idea that like, the reason that I think this topic so interesting is because we both apparently disagree with the idea of bartering. And so just thinking about it, and like the historical context, and how it really doesn’t even align with like, the business models that we’re perpetuating, because we were talking about goods, right, we were talking about, like, here is a cow for this, hey, now we’re talking about services, which also includes time and energy and like all sorts of other aspects as well. So it’s fascinating to think about, why are we doing this in the first place, and certainly a lot of us are doing it in our day to day businesses, because it’s something that we’ve been told and we’ve heard like, this is the way you do it. Right, which is like a theme of this podcast is what if we just stopped listening to all those things that we quote unquote, should do and just do the things that feel natural and feel right. I also think that there’s another level to this as women I think women are particularly prone to bartering for many reasons. One of which is that we maybe don’t think that we’re good enough to get paid for the services that we offer. And so we kind of start there we say Oh, once I like get my feet wet and like I start doing some work for someone and I barter for this and I get that exposure that testimonial. That’s what I need to actually get paid, which is complete and utter bs You do not need that in order to get paid for your work.

Karyn Paige 09:16
Yeah, like it’s the downplaying for me dog as the kids say on Tick Tock this idea that like my works, not good enough, so let me still do it but not get anything in return for it. That’s not equitable at all right? Like if you can do the thing, you should be paid for the thing because we’re now in this era where it’s about currency, right? So get the currency that you need for the bills for you know, all of the things etc. But it’s the downplay, yeah, that’s part of that I’m not good enough. How am I going to get good enough if I don’t give it away for free or you know, give it away for something that I don’t need?

Sam Munoz 09:54
Exactly. And I do think that I am not saying that this is how it actually is, but I know that this there’s like this weird feeling. Weird icky feeling about like charging for what you do. It’s like, I don’t want to talk about money, or I don’t want to, like, actually get paid for this. And we talked about this before, like, I just want to help people, I just want to like help people build websites and like good at it, I like maybe don’t want to charge for it. And that’s fine. But like, if you are like, I’m a business owner, right. So like, if you’re someone that’s like, I do websites on the side, it’s a hobby of mine, I don’t want to charge for I just want to help people. I am not saying that there’s anything wrong with that. But if you are saying that you’re a business owner, and that you’re running a business, and your goal here is to bring income into a business and income into your family income into, you know, creating revenue and creating a legacy. You can’t barter. If you are wanting to do that it is not sustainable for your business. And we’re going to talk about why bartering is problematic. But like this idea of like, I just want to help people, there are ways to help people and still get paid. There’s nothing wrong for getting paid for what you do. I’m like, like shaking with, like, frustration

Karyn Paige 10:55
that I just want to help people idea is real for women, especially women who are very, like heart centered and who have hearts of service and want to help people, right? It can sometimes feel like a disconnect to be like I just helped you. I feel great about that. Now give me money for it, there can be a clear like disconnect in that, right? But you also have to think about like, Okay, well, you’re running a business. So back to your point of if you want to do the helping, but you don’t want to run a business, that’s one piece. But if you want to run a business and help people, then you should be getting paid for the work that you do in the time that you do. And the effort and the results.

Sam Munoz 11:32
Yes. And if there’s nothing wrong with it, it’s not evil to get paid for your work. You’re loving yourself. That’s how I see it, right? Like, you can’t just like constantly be like giving and like outputting. And there is value in like, I’m not saying that I’m definitely not saying and I think we’ve discussed this plenty of times on the podcast, like money is not the end all be all of your existence, and certainly not reflective of your worth. But getting paid for what you do is okay, you have permission to get paid for what you do. And to value that appropriately and to say, you know what, I’m not going to barter for something that is not of equal value, because it’s not fair.

Karyn Paige 12:07
Part of the reason why I’m so passionate about why bartering is problematic is because as a black woman, I understand that bartering is basically rooted in free labor, it’s rooted in getting something for free. And I’ve spoken on this before that as a woman of color as a black woman, I am not in the business of giving away my labor for free, because I know that that is literally rooted in like free slave labor of black people. That’s another piece of where that comes from. Right. So let’s be real. So hey, you know, women of color, let’s not barter for our services, let’s get paid for our services. Because we’re trying to build legacy. We’re trying to close the wealth gap from 400 years of doing labor for free. And I’ve gotten pushback from it, you know, from people who are like, Well, you know, I’ve done bartering in my life. And it was really great. Like, I made some great relationships with it. And I’m like, those people who responded that way. We’re not people of color. And so I’m like, but what I’m trying to say to you is in the 21st century, I’m not giving away my work for free. I’m not giving away my work for something that cannot help me and my family, create an establish like legacies of generational wealth, when you already have it. It’s kind of a fun thing for you to do to do this exchange. You know, I’m like, I got bills, I have a mortgage. I want to leave something in my will for my nieces and nephews like, I can’t do that. If I’m bartering with you for something that I don’t even actually need.

Sam Munoz 13:39
Wow, there’s a lot of like white women, white men, suggesting and recommending bartering as an option. And so I feel like inherently in that too.

Karyn Paige 13:48
Yeah. Like, that’s cute and great for you. Because it’s highly likely that your generational wealth and your legacy is already established. And that’s actually why maybe you’re in the position where you can barter because it’s been passed down to you already. Right. But like I’m out here, trying to try to close these gaps and build something that is going to last beyond my lifetime. And bartering is not the way to do that for me. So that’s why I feel like bartering is problematic.

Sam Munoz 14:13
Wow. And you know, like it’s bartering is, what’s the word that I’m looking for? privilege. Thank you. That’s the word I was looking for. Yes, like based on your socio economic status, bartering might not even be available to you. So when you’re hearing this advice of like, Oh, go barter for your services, like you said, if it’s something that you don’t need, which most likely it’s not for your business, like if you can build websites, like that’s the thing that most people need. That’s like the thing that most people actually truly need for their business is a website and if you’re bartering for something that’s like a luxury to have. I’d rather have the money,

Karyn Paige 14:46
I’d rather have the money. And the other piece of it too is like when you actually look at like the two things that are being exchanged in the barter. Most times they’re not really like equitable, right. Like you said, like, if you’re giving a website, the person needs that website. For their own business, they need that website. But what are they giving you in exchange? Is it something that you actually need?

Sam Munoz 15:06
I’m not saying that there’s not like other needs in business. But what I am saying is that if we’re thinking from like a business perspective, I really can’t think of another thing that would be required, except for maybe a contract. Like that’s the only thing that I think you could. I’m not saying that anyone should barter. What I’m saying is like, it’s the only thing that I think could potentially be like legal support could potentially be an equitable exchange, but even that, like, why not just pay someone and then get paid? Why not like, give $1,000 and get $1,000? You guys do this with people all the time. Like, we laugh about it, like, oh, we’re just passing money back and forth. I’d much rather pass money back and forth, then tell someone I’m going to just like do this for them. In exchange, I had one friend that we did an exchange, and it worked out just fine. But like that was my one situation doing a bartering. And even that I still like, I kind of think back to it. And I’m like, we did it. Was it fair for her? Was it fair for me? Like, where? Because I don’t think it’s possible. Unless it’s like you’re building your website, and I’m building your website. Like, I don’t think it’s possible to be equitable. Exactly. Which means that someone’s always gonna lose.

Karyn Paige 16:12
Yes. And what is that thing that is being lost? Is it time? Is it money, that’s another piece that I find very challenging with bartering is like, Okay, if I build you this website, and it takes like maybe working together for a month, or like six weeks, or 12 weeks, that’s like three months, maybe of my time that we’re working together? And what did you give me an exchange? Goodness forbid, it’s like somebody gave you I don’t know, like yoga classes or something. It’s like, do you even do yoga? Or, like, I can do this in my home, I don’t need to leave the comfort of my home in order to give you what you need. But maybe in exchange, you’re giving me something where I need to get in my car, drive to go receive it, be there in person, do all of these things like that, in and of itself is not equitable? Because in order for me to get what you’re giving me, I have to go put in all this time and this effort, ease gas money or whatever, whatever to get it. Wow. Yeah. I often think too, sometimes about like, let’s think about who’s initiating the idea that this is something we should be bartering. Is it using, Hey, I’ll give you a website if you give me brand photos and so on. Right? So it’s like they’re in in lies the inequity of the barter if I can do this thing in the comfort of my home with yoga pants, but in order for me to collect on what you’re going to give me, I gotta go out and I got to do all this other stuff to make it happen. Right.

Sam Munoz 17:33
I even think like beyond it being unequal. I think that there is less intention, less effort and energy that’s put into bartered services, like think about it. If you’ve ever bartered for something, again, which is where you’re exchanging your web design, web development, tech support work in exchange for someone like doing something for you. Are you putting the same commitment in that you would put in with another client? are you sticking to timelines? Are you making sure that that person is giving you what you need in a timely fashion to guarantee your point about this idea of like, this could be like a three month time investment? like is this person honoring the fact that like they you need stuff so that you can get it done? Like what happens if a client comes in that actually wants to pay you money? Does that client now get precedent over the bartered work? I mean, presumably, right? Because they’re going to pay you are you doing contracts like are both people putting in like that same level of service when they’re not actually being paid for the work? Again, like exchange for testimonials and goodwill, and a mention? Or even another service? Like it’s not good enough? It’s not enough for the work that you’re doing and what you’re the time and effort that’s going to be required, even if you’re not putting in all of the same amount of work and commitment.

Karyn Paige 18:43
Yeah, like, what in your business? Are you bypassing in order to make this barter happen, right? Because there there are checks and balances that we do as business owners to protect ourselves from liability to protect ourselves from intellectual property theft, like protect our time and our calendars, right? Like there’s all these things that we’re doing. And if you’re in a bartering, it’s almost like those checkpoints go out the window, or they they’re more likely to go out the window. Because it’s like, Hey, this is just like an exchange. Like, you know, we’re not really tied to this. It’s not so serious, or heaven forbid, like, you go into a barter with somebody. And the thing that you’re supposed to receive is maybe like classes or lessons or like something like that, where it’s a continual series of things. And they don’t show up, like, Oh, can we can we cancel this? Can we reschedule this? I have some I have a client who’s going to pay me so I don’t have time for you anymore. Right? Like that’s the other piece is not only like, what are you missing in your business from being able to receive like paying clients and paying work, but now you’re beholden to this other person who’s like, clearly has a lack of commitment. And so it’s highly likely that they’ll bail on you when they go get an opportunity that’s going to pay that

Sam Munoz 19:55
right it makes sense because the like it’s a business again, This was the whole conversation about like women and maybe our desire to help people like that’s okay in certain contexts. But when it comes to running a business, like it’s about the services and like the revenue, like those numbers are really important, and they do matter. And so getting paid for what you do is important. And even thinking about it from like a from a very, very practical pragmatic standpoint, like income showing up on your revenue is important, like the income from what could be bartered, actually appearing on your taxes, the expense that you’re paying to pay for the service that you would have maybe bartered for showing up on your taxes as an expense. And you know, all of those very logistical, real life things a part of owning a business, like, wouldn’t you like to know that you made $5,000 instead of bartering for it?

Karyn Paige 20:48
Yeah. So that’s the other pieces like, Where’s the paper trail? Where are the receipts? Where are the invoices? Right? Like, how are you claiming this declaring this using this as data for yourself in your business for tracking your own growth? Sometimes I’m like, I’m very curious about like, the people who are bartering like, do they not care about the paper trail? Like, let me be more specific, the people who are inviting you to get in a barter dynamic with them? Do they not care about a paper trail? Do they not care about this in their own business? Again, another like, let me put on my Karyn’s conspiracy theory. Again, like growing up in, in the Bay Area, California really like led me to a lot of pieces around a lot, a lot of artists, a lot of like, you know, people living in like communal spaces and stuff. And there’s this thing where like, people would barter services for like, weed, like, I’m just gonna say it, I had heard some stories about people who would go and like harvest marijuana in these fields, and then they wouldn’t have cash, they would get paid in marijuana. So everything they did was like, Hey, I can’t pay you for this thing. But I can give you some weed. You know what I mean? It’s like, you can’t declare that on your taxes, sweetie. And also, that’s gone once it’s consumed, so you have nothing to show for it. So it’s like that, in and of itself is also very inequitable thing. But I’m like, Don’t drag me into your illegal, like non paper trail have been operations for something that I’m going to give you like, I don’t need the experience. Not bad.

Sam Munoz 22:13
Oh, my gosh, wow. Oh, yes. And like the whole thing about experience, like you can get experience in a variety of other ways, and you can still get paid for it. And also, I don’t know what it was something you said made me think about, like the longevity of what you are creating as a web designer is like yours, like someone could take a website that you created and have that for 10 years, what kind of thing could you be bartered that would be equitable, would be the same amount of time and energy? And would the last you in your business for like 10 plus years, the next time you are approached for a bartering situation, definitely consider that,

Karyn Paige 22:52
Sam, that is a huge observation. Because that in and of itself, lets you know where the people are at who are inviting you to barter. It lets you know where they’re at in their world, because they’re not looking 10 years ahead, they’re looking for something fast. They’re looking for something where maybe it’s like, I don’t even know if this thing’s gonna pan out. Like let’s just trade right now. It’s this very weird thing like, yes, what we have to offer as web designers, like a website, like your digital universe for your business should last you for years and years and years and years to come foundations that we are able to set people up with, with the websites that we build for them, like you might as well just give somebody a house basically, like you can live in that you pass that down and what you’re getting, you’re receiving an exchange, is that something that you will still have in 10 years time? Probably not?

Sam Munoz 23:44
Right? That’s what it was. That’s what made me think about it was because you said something about one of those was consumable, and the other one could last forever. So that’s like a way to think about it as well. And honestly, like, I think bartering comes up, you know, it comes up, I see it on like Facebook groups, I see leaders encouraging people to like, Okay, if you need a service, like post it down here, or like if you’re willing to barter your service, like post it down here and like connect with each other, and like I am all for collaborations collaborations will take you very, very far in your business. But there is no way you need to collaborate for free, even with your friends. I think that that’s it, there’s a tendency to like, I want to help this friend out. She’s got something she can offer me and it’s great. But like, I gladly pay my friends money, and they pay me money. And like, I think I said this already, like we joke about like, oh, we’re just sending this $1,000 back and forth. But again, like that $1,000 is showing up on my income and on her income. And like we feel good because we know that we’re like supplying a service for a client when I get that testimonial. I know I not only got a testimonial, but I also got paid for my time. And I feel like I can more adequately charge and I don’t have to feel like oh, I’m getting the short end of the stick here. It’s just like, this is how much it is and she paid me for it. And there you go. And also I don’t know why I’ve been thinking about this lately about this idea that like We arbitrarily, we being You and I, anyone that has builds websites and other people in the online and business space, we arbitrarily choose these prices. And it’s really arbitrary in the online space, people slap in a 99 997 tag on anything. So you’re going to tell me that just because you price your course, and 997. And I know my website work is worth $5,000 do get where I’m trying to go with that.

Karyn Paige 25:28
Yep, I do get where you’re trying to go with that. Because someone

Sam Munoz 25:31
could just be like, oh, for this barter, like, I’m gonna, for this barter, I’m gonna decide that this course is $4,997. Like, and now it’s equal? No, it’s not. Yeah, there are some, like, objective truths in value and pricing, there are facts.

Karyn Paige 25:46
There’s something that you said about working with friends, right? That really stuck out to me, it’s like, I think about my friends who are in business. And if they have something that interests me, I would love nothing more than to pay them for that. I would love nothing more than to help them keep their business afloat, like do the thing, fulfill your mission? I have some money for you. Let me give it to you. Right, why are we not giving ourselves that grace to be like, the stuff that I do? Somebody should pay me for that, because it’s my business. And my business deserves to like, be sustainable and thrive? Are we being taken advantage of like someone who really, really wants to support you and believes in what you’re doing? should not be taking advantage of that? Right? And if they are, that’s an invitation offer that maybe like you look into that, because now I’m thinking about people who’ve invited me to barter. And I’m like, Ah, that was a red flag. Thank you for that.

Sam Munoz 26:40
Definitely. And I do know that we have planned an entire podcast episode around this idea of like, working with friends and family and like getting paid for that work. And you know that what that dynamic could look like, because it’s not always a bad thing. But certainly having anyone who works with you pay you regardless of who they are, is very, very, very important. And I feel like that’s kind of where we want to leave this right is how do we solve this problem of bartering? And what do we do about it? The answer is simple. We have people pay you for your work. If someone wants a website from you, you charge them. And if you’re not sure what to charge them, go back and listen to what is it episode six? I think the one about undercharging, go listen to the episode on undercharging. Yes, Episode Six, why you keep under charging as a web designer and how to stop if you’re curious about like, what should I charge them? Go listen to that episode, because it’s very, very informative. But the answer is not to do it for free. The answer is not to barter for clout and for a shout out or for a testimonial. Get paid for your work. It’s okay you run a business get paid for your work.

Karyn Paige 27:44
Oh man. Ah, we just really went there.

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