The following post is an excerpt from my new e-Book series, How to Become an e-Learning Freelancer. The three volumes in the series are designed to be easy-to-use, practical guides to getting your freelance e-Learning career off the ground. Learn more here!
Throughout the month of March, I’ve been focusing on the theme of marketing yourself and your business, and sharing everything that has worked well for me so far. This week, I’d like to change gears a little bit, and talk about the things you shouldn’t do when marketing your business. I’ve learned a lot from my own mistakes and the mistakes I see others making, so this week, let’s talk about how you can avoid all the pitfalls of self-marketing!
1. Don’t exchange services in lieu of getting paid.
Participating in an exchange—also known as bartering—may seem like a fine idea on paper, but in my experience, it never works out to my benefit, and it establishes a dangerous precedent. It’s fairly common for clients to offer to barter instead of paying me through trades such as:
“If you create this course for me, I’ll…”
- Get you some exposure on my company’s website!
- Give you some of my consulting expertise to help you with your business!
- Create a new logo for your business!
Again, these ideas sound like reasonable offers at first, until you consider some of the consequences. In these examples, there’s some “fine print” to consider.
The first question to ask yourself when a client proposes an exchange of services is, “Why don’t they want to pay me?” In most cases, the answer is “because they don’t have the money.” If a client doesn’t have money to pay you, that’s a bad sign for the future—and you definitely don’t want to have any long-term client relationships that don’t result in any compensation. If a client does have the money, but they prefer to barter instead, that’s not a good sign for you either: It indicates that they don’t think your services are worth paying for.
Also, most people aren’t aware that anything you receive through bartering counts as taxable income, and must be reported on IRS Form 1099-B, “Proceeds from Broker and Barter Exchange Transactions.” Some customers may want to barter because they prefer “under the table” transactions they don’t intend on reporting—and that practice is also known as tax fraud.
Finally, it’s worth considering the precedent you’re setting with this type of exchange. If you do a one-time barter, and a new need comes from the client, they are far less likely to want to pay you. If they could get your services without paying before, they’re going to want to do it again—and then you have a longer-term client that isn’t generating any revenue. (Another way of thinking about this is remembering that “Maybe if I barter now, they’ll pay for my services later” is flawed logic and wishful thinking!)
In these instances, it’s better to negotiate your fee, or politely decline if you and your client can’t find a mutually agreeable payment rate. Negotiating can be challenging, but is essential to the financial health of your business. (For more information about best practices for negotiating your e-Learning services, read my recent e-Learning Heroes forum post where I share the strategies that have worked best for me.)
[This topic continues in my e-Book series, How to Become an e-Learning Freelancer.]