I’ll scratch your back if you scratch mine…

Oh and if you could do our taxes too that would be awesome. Ok so we don’t usually ask our clients to do our taxes in exchange for design work, but it just so happened that a very smart CPA offered us a bartering opportunity that we couldn’t refuse. Elizabeth Hildebrand, CPA and owner of the educational video company, Legally Informed, LLC (and a previous guest blogger) requested our help on adding some professional pop to her current website.

In the small business and start-up world, business bartering is a common practice. The act of trading product or services allows many companies to free excess inventory or capacity, aid in cycles of seasonality, preserve capital and buy media. The design industry tends to lend itself to the swapping of services because of its ability to grow from visual reach. Not to mention, when a design team puts together a website, brochure or printed advertisement for free they are usually able to indirectly advertise themselves, therefore making it a win-win for both parties.

Bartering can be a shrewd business move, but there are a few things to keep in mind before you start swapping. First, check out the company that you are going to trade with. Don’t ever go into a situation blindly. Be sure to know the status of the company, as well as their reputation as a business partner to both clients and vendors. Next, weigh the value of the services or products being exchanged. Are they equal in time and value on both sides? Bartering will only be successful if both parties view the exchange as an equal trade. Also, keep in mind that income from bartering is taxable in the year in which you receive the goods or services. Finally, make sure once you’ve decided that the trade is beneficial, that you set clear project parameters and that both parties stick to them in order that no one becomes sucked into the freebie vortex.

Having known Ms. Hildebrand and her business, Rhyme & Reason had no problem assessing that the company was reputable and building a solid foundation. Next we discussed the individual needs of both parties. IRS does not take kindly to businesses not properly filing taxes therefore Ms. Hildebrand’s CPA status was highly valuable to us. Whereas Legally Informed, LLC wanted their website to match the professional and educated brand image that they have created offline. With the site framework already established, it was just a matter of taking the current look and feel and refining the elements to create a cohesive aesthetic. The bartering checklist enabled us to come to a mutually beneficial agreement. Which means, we have since filed our taxes before the deadline and Legally Informed, LLC now has a refined site that they are proud to showcase.