Barter, Bullshit and Blag!
Okay, so if you’ve made it to this issue and I’ve not talked you out of a creative life, congratulations! You recognised that it might be hard, at times challenging and a struggle, yet massively rewarding. You’ve selected the right path to continue on, kinda like those pick your own adventure books we read as kids. Life is very much like that and while sometimes you might think you’re on an awesome and excellent adventure (Bill and Ted style), other times it might be short lived and soul crushing. Persevere, as quitting never got you closer to pursuing or following your dreams.
I’m not going to go on any further about the doom and gloom, the times where you sit in your room burning a candle, listening to some moody folk music and write some sad poetry, (unless, well that’s what you’re known for, and want to make your living and career, in which case write on brothers and sisters). I’m going to tell you about the truly awesome things, people and opportunities I’ve created and encountered because of my life, career and most importantly my excellent ability to blag, negotiate or talk shit.
I’m not talking about living a life like Leonardo Di Caprio in “Catch Me if You Can”, but more so that there are many perks, privileges and opportunities out there, you just need to know how to find them. There is nothing wrong with overselling yourself, or that you may just embellish a little how actually important you are, or exactly what it is what you do.
Before you put your judgy pants on, I’m sure there is a time or situation in your life you can think back of, or that one friend who’s just popped right into your head! They just got everyone into the nightclub for free as they name dropped the right individual’s name or wound up with tickets to an event that’s been sold out a month in advance. Think of me as that friend!
So what’s the secret? First and foremost don’t be an arsehole and learn to appreciate people and offer things in return. However there are a great number of opportunities to be had, you just need to initiate them. Don’t feel bad or think that you’re conning or ripping someone off; companies, brand, suppliers and salespeople have budgets, stock and funds allocated specifically for marketing and promotional purposes. That and everything in life is a potential negotiation. Let me explain.
For my business, we work with quite a few suppliers and companies as our preferred suppliers, meaning that we like to work with them because we have an established relationship. They’ve gotten to know us and how we work and vice versa, and because we utilise and send them business regularly, we get a discount for our return business and loyalty to them. The business world can be cut throat, I suggest that if you have people you liaise with often, look into these regular return relationships, discounts or quotes. Ask the question. What is the benefit? This allows me to pass these price cuts and discounts down to my clients (which they appreciate) plus it often creates opportunity for my suppliers to send me business opportunities too.
It sometimes (not always) means that a company might give me access to a publication, service, product or item for free or at cost to encourage me to familiarise myself with it and then in turn tell others about it. Then there’s some cross promotion and pollination going on which benefits us both. Let me stress that I only form relationships with people and companies I genuinely believe in, that their product or service is in my life and that will be of benefit to my clients. I’m not one to sell snake oil and I’m never motivated by profit or the bright lights, I’ve said no to many people in the past (if it’s not in line with our ethos or ethics I want none of it). I also disclose any of these arrangements and partnerships not only for full disclosure and transparency but because the law says so too. Did you know that as a blogger and well across all social and digital platforms, there are legal requirements and guidelines in place? I highly suggest that you look into this and get yourself a non-disclosure statement (to cover your own arse). You can read more here.
Okay, now that’s out of the way, the fun stuff. There are loads of opportunities out there, and if you don’t ever ask, you’ll never ever know. Let’s talk about sponsorship or the barter and trade out!
I’m not talking about a photo of you ending up on an affluent families fridge, sending them a Christmas Card and letter once a year or them sending you a creative care package consisting of artisan coffee, Dunhill Blues and a fedora, but more that there are other ways to survive, just think out of the norm. I have load of friends that are musicians who are sponsored by clothing labels. They wear the labels and range on stage at their gigs, give them a big ups on their social media pages and they endorse the labels and range. As the people who attend their performances aspire and want to be one of the cool kids, the exposure provided by said performers to an influential crowd then means access to new audiences and consumers. The bigger the star, their social media followings and influence, the bigger the pay check and bigger the brand they align with. Brand endorsement and product placement is real, and if you’re good at it, can make you some really fricking good coin! There by a reason why all “them bitches be drinking Patron up in the club” and it’s not because it tastes good!
While you and I might still be waiting by the phone for them to call us, it can still be cool to alight with or form a relationship with. Painter? See if one of your fave stores or suppliers might shout you some brushes or supplies. Tattooist? Give someone who’s of influence a rad custom piece, a discount and in return they shout you out across social media or you wind up being a walking canvas and referral (I’m totally in the market for this btw if there is anyone out there; will create and trade for rad ink – seriously call me).
In ye old days our ancestors were big on barter and trade, where they’d form co-ops, trade and swap this corn for some of that wheat. I’m a huge advocate of this kind or relationship and partnership. While it might be ingrained as part of my Greek ancestry (you know back when they’d swap their daughters hand in marriage for a few goats or chickens; thank God those days have changed and my parents are sweet on the livestock front). Seriously though, I don’t think I’d fetch many acres of land… Creatives getting together to trade and co-op their services more is a must. I encourage you to do it more amongst yourselves.
Are you a graphic designer in need of a gift for your Mum? Does the hand poured Soy Wax candle making lady across the road from you need a logo? Boom! Trade that shit out! Network, get your friends or family to refer your services and make good choices when and if the opportunity arises. My brother has a fresh produce business and even though we’re related (we’re both in small business) he brings me honey and figs and I help him with his social media. It’s a win win. Sometimes cash is required for services rendered and I’m not saying trade completely in kind for product or services but it’s something that should be looked at. The best way to put a value on your worth I suggest is look at what you’re providing still as a dollar value and redeem/trade to that value in return.
So where do I find these people willing and wanting to trade and exchange skills? Other than your network of friends there are a large variety of groups you can find online usually billed as an “Inter-skills Exchange”. Facebook alone has loads and they’re usually separated by region and location. You can find people willing to cut your hair, clean your gutters do your tax returns or build a website. It’s also a great way to get exposure and will open you up to some people to share what you’re all about and what you’ve got to offer.
It can be a massive cost saver, life saver and allow you to meet and connect with others too. Think outside of the box, and look for non-traditional ways of doing. If you offer a skill, service or product chances are there are people that value that, they’ve just not met you yet. Banter, bullshit, negotiate, offset your living costs and don’t be afraid to barter!