Art tips: Bartering for supplies, services and payment

I have just been invited to a very active and exciting local Barter Group on Facebook, so I’d like to discuss bartering with you today as a good means of getting art supplies, services and payment from clients and friends.

Bartering, as we all probably know, is agreeing with another person to trade something you have in order to receive something they have. Ideally, you are trading them something you don’t need that they want or need very much, and you will be receiving something very useful or desirable to you in return. (That’s the way I do it anyhow.)

So the question is, “What do I have that I can barter?”

The answer is generally ART! But how does an artist go about making such a barter?

Table and Booth Spaces

In my case, I have one arrangement where I do art for a certain event. This event is run on a tight budget, so they are not in an ideal position to pay me what I am worth. However, this event has one thing I very much want: table spaces where artists can sell to the large crowds who come to it. I approached them, and once both of us examined what we really needed out of the relationship, it was quite simple to draw up a contract where I do the art for this event each year, and each year I get a free table. This table doesn’t cost the organizers too much to give me, but it earns me hundreds of dollars (much more than they could comfortably pay me).

The advantages of a barter such as this are evident: Not only does the artist receive a payment of higher value, but the client is gratified that they were able to save substantial money that can now be budgeted elsewhere. This is the magic of bartering. In the case of an event like this, the artist also receives exposure and the opportunity for making numerous contacts and future deals, as well as a fun time! These things drive the value of the deal well above the actual money made from sales, and also add more value to the event, pleasing the client more.

In another deal, I did a comic book for a client and was provided with a free booth at a comic book convention as part of my payment. Those booths aren’t cheap! But it benefited my client to have help running the booth to promote our comic, and I ended up making a good friend and steady business partner in the process of selling side-by-side with him. That may be the most priceless deal I have ever made!

Gift Cards

Another deal I made was designing a piece of glassware for a local restaurant. In return, I received a gift card for a substantial amount of free food and alcohol. This gift card had a value significantly above what the restaurant might have budgeted for monthly glassware artwork. But since it was a gift card, the restaurant saved money and I got paid a greater value than I would have gotten in cash money.

There’s no reason this “gift card” barter wouldn’t work with any other kind of local business. The business saves money and you get paid more. You might find this suggestion useful when trying to boost your payment from a project, if the business is somewhere you would want to spend your money anyway. And businesses are generally lovely places to try and get your art shown or sold, because a very wide variety of people come there or work there.

Lastly, bartering your work for an occasional gift card here and there to a nice place can improve your spirits and quality of life. At long last, you can go to that nice restaurant or taste steak or sushi again!! If you’ve been going through a dry period, there is just no over-emphasizing how much this will boost your mood and make you feel like a “normal” person again. It can be frustrating living a frugal existence while all your friends with “day jobs” are posting their latest food-selfie.

Other items

The bartering principle works for anything, as you may have guessed. And since you are a person as well as an artist, don’t hesitate to get together with your local environmentally conscious and artist friends (or meet some!) and begin swapping your art, unneeded supplies, or even your unneeded household items for anything you might need in the way of personal or business supplies. An artist needs to save money anyway they can, and with local groups being willing to barter invaluable services such as babysitting time, you can’t afford not to learn about local bartering systems in your community.

Other Artists are your friends

Another very handy tendency of artists is to go to art school and have supplies left over, or try a new art form and not like it, or hoard up useful items for art and then find they might not be able to use them. Pounce on this! You can relieve your friends and acquaintances of un-used supplies and save yourself untold costs in overhead. They might very much have a need for some item or piece of art you did that you could readily part with, or you can swap them your supplies that you decided you don’t have a use for. Everyone wins!

Now go forth and BARTER!!

I hope I have given you a few ideas about how bartering can be insanely useful to the active artist. Let me know in the Comments if you have any experiences with bartering or ideas for getting the most out of it that I haven’t covered!

About this Post:

You may remember when I was interviewed for Penny Hoarder awhile back. The subject of that article was saving money as an artist. The wonderful and talented author of that article, Lauren Tharp of LittleZotz Writing, suggested that sometime I needed to expand on my suggestions for the article. So, I’ll be doing so over the next several days. Incidentally, you may have noticed the “30 Day Blogging Challenge” tag. You can learn more about that here.


5 thoughts on “Art tips: Bartering for supplies, services and payment

  1. Great stuff, Heather! 😀 I’m so glad you’re doing this. The Penny Hoarder gave me an extended word count allowance for the article on you because you had SO much stellar information to share, but it still wasn’t enough to cover ALL of your amazing knowledge. Your readers are in for a treat!

    1. Oh neat, I had no idea!! Thanks so much for the encouragement, Lauren! =D I’m working on a piece about how to re-use ugly or damaged mats as we speak!

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