I have done a number of business and entrepreneurial related ventures in my life. Some things were very successful, some were miserable failures and there were some that were somewhere between the two extremes. Often, when dealing with people I wanted to do business with, I used the barter system. Sometimes it worked and sometimes it didn't.
As an example, I am a web developer and I have offered my services as a web developer in exchange for certain things. One thing I did was design a website and maintain it for a local bar that I was playing in as a musician. I did monthly updates in exchange for a paid gig every month. So even though the work I did as a web developer was done for free, I still made money from playing out. I did a lot of gigs in that establishment. In that particular case, the barter system worked out very well for me and i made pretty good money.
Being a musician, I also met a lot of other musicians and bands along the way. So I would offer my web development services to them in exchange for other things. One thing was to get a chance to play at one of their gigs at a time when the owner or the person who did the bookings was there. That way I cold use it as an opportunity to do somewhat of an audition to try to get gigs in those establishments. Well, that panned out rather well for me. I was able to get a lot of gigs that way. Eventually, I ended up playing out regularly and making some pretty good money along the way, even though I initially did things for free like developing and maintaining websites.
However, sometimes there comes a point where you may continue to do your part but the other party stops doing his and it starts to become a one-sided relationship, where you do all of the giving and the other person does all of the taking. That's when the bartering relationship no longer works. You could have a lot of situations that work out in the beginning and after a while start to go sour. The main thing is that you either get the other party to start giving in return or terminate the bartering relationship.
Some bartering relationships will turn out bad right from the beginning. There is no point in sticking around if that is the case. The main thing is that the other party needs to follow through on his or her obligations and promises. if that does not happen, you need to terminate the bartering relationship. If you keep on getting into one bad bartering relationship after another, you will end up doing a lot of work for nothing. You will be the hardest working individual that ever ended up in the poorhouse.
When you have a lot of good bartering relationships, life can be good and your efforts can be quite rewarding. If you have a lot of bad bartering relationships, life can be hard. You will find yourself working very hard while achieving very little. I don't think that's where you want to be.
I have learned, after having done this whole bartering thing, that there are times when you are much better off just doing things for money. If someone I worked with in the past that I had a bad bartering relationship with approached me and asked me to do something for them, I would tell them that I would only do it for a fee. I will not set myself up to be taken advantage of once again by the same person. It's not just bad business, it's extremely bad business. Believe me, once one person takes advantage of you in a business sense, others will come along and try the same thing. At that point, you might as well have the word sucker printed on your forehead.
So, in conclusion, I say that there is nothing wrong with the bartering system if the situation is mutually beneficial. If not, it's a bad deal not worth making. I've been there and I know from my own experiences. Hopefully you can take some of the advice I have just provided and save yourself a few headaches along the way.
Photo Credit: "The Traders" by Bob Craypoe, also known as R. L. Crepeau