I got a lovely email yesterday from someone I’ve never met. Her name is Karen Katin and here’s what she said:
As a subscriber to your newsletter and avid reader of your blog, I wanted to say “Thank You” for the creative service that you are providing through your words and products. I find your investigative blog posts enlightening, helping to more clearly portray what goes on behind the scenes in the crafting industry. Until now, it was a complete mystery to a home sewer and small business owner such as myself. Also, because of reading your ebook about how to publish digital sewing patterns, I finally gained the confidence to try something I had wanted to do for so long. A couple of weeks ago I listed my first pattern in my Etsy shop for a reusable produce bag!
All this to say that I hope that you continue doing what you are doing! You are not only providing information to those of us trying to carve a niche while being flexible stay-at-home-parents, but more importantly you are giving us confidence to take whatever that next step may be in our business plans.
All the best,
I clicked on Karen’s link to check out her new Etsy shop and was so impressed with the beautiful listing photos she had.
For someone who’s brand new to writing and selling sewing patterns, her photography was professional and lovely so I asked her about it. Here’s what she told me:
Thank you so much for the compliment! I bartered with a fellow Navy spouse who is a photographer. She taught me to use my camera, I made her a nautical baby quilt for newborn photo sessions of Navy babies here in Newport. We both feel we got the better part of the deal!
All the best,
My discussion with Karen got me thinking about the value of bartering, especially when your business is still very small and not yet bringing in much money.
I’ve had some great experiences bartering for things I needed to grow my business over the years. A local friend whose a professional photographer came to my studio to take pictures of me working, for example. In exchange, I helped her to set up her blog and gave her some social media coaching. We both really enjoyed, and benefited, from the experience.
I was curious what else small creative business people barter for so yesterday afternoon I asked my Twitter and Facebook friends to share their bartering stories with me. I heard many and I’m sharing a few that I think really illustrate the clever way that you can trade your particular skills for the things you need when you don’t yet have dollars to trade instead.
Cynthia Toy is a doll maker. Her business is The Fairies Nest. When she was first starting out, Cynthia traded a doll for a website. “My friend Beth works in IT and when I was making my first forays into the world of online selling she offered to design me a website in exchange for a doll. She had lived in Hawaii for several years and wanted a doll of Pele, the volcano goddess, with her traditional leaf lei. So I did a little research, made her Pele and she made me a website. It was a wonderful trade!”
Kim McBrien dies yarn. Her company is Indigo Dragonfly. She bartered yarn for a new company logo. “Our logo and accompanying business cards were designed by a fantastic graphic designer who also happens to be a knitter,” Kim says. “We arranged to pay part of our bill with hand dyed yarn. And arrangement that made it possible and affordable for us to work with her.”
Chrissy Leibera-Titus designs sewing patterns for children’s items. She wanted to show her new Renaissance Maiden pattern on girls of different ages to demonstrate the size range and needed an older girl to model. She posted on a local message board, offering to make an outfit in exchange for a model to photograph and was able to find just what she was looking for. “The girl on the right is the one I traded with,” Chrissy explains. “The one on the left is my daughter.”
Jennifer Barroso worked with her friend, Taryn Lynn Torres, when they were both first starting out as pattern designers. “Taryn and I partnered up to help each other out with our first couple of patterns,” she explains. “I did her photos and instructions and she digitized my patterns since I didn’t have the programs or expertise.”
Stephanie’s new head shot that she got in exchange for playing model for a local photographer.
Stephanie Woodson bartered for a new head shot with her friend and local photographer, Renae Launder. Renae needed some practice in directing a model and Stephanie was happy to agree. “We were already friends – and I think I probably got the better end of the deal to be honest – but I’m glad we both got something out of it!” Stephanie says. She’s using her head shot for her blog, Swoodson Says.
The first step toward setting up a barter for your business is to identify what you need. If money and skills and software were no obstacles, what would you love to have? Your list might include help with:
- using your camera
- setting up an Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter account and learning to use it
- copy writing your About page
- writing clear, concise shop listings
- creating a banner for your Etsy shop
- logo design
- head shot
- product photography
- pattern testing
- setting up a newsletter
Think about what you have to offer in exchange. Sometimes we overlook and undervalue the skills we possess, but each of us has something (or many things!) to offer.
Finally, begin to identify who you know that might be up for an exchange and reach out to them.
Nobody is good at everything, especially not in the beginning of a business. If you wait until you’ve mastered every skill – photography, web development, graphic design, copy writing, editing – you’ll never get started. Exchange what you have for what you need and watch your business grow.