How to get expert services for your business for free with a skills-trade

If you’re struggling with a small start-up business or freelance career, and are beginning to wonder if you can ever afford all the professional services you need to compete with established companies, don’t panic.

Paula Hutchings from  Marketing Vision explains how a simple skills-trade can help you secure what you need for free – while helping another business.

Starting a business can be expensive

The initial set up of a start-up business or freelance career can be costly. Even just the basics – website, logo, legal requirements and a modest marketing budget to get word out about your products or service – can quickly add up. And that doesn’t include any market research, warehousing or other such costs that are often necessary for many new businesses.

So for many people, it’s vital to think outside the box – and one popular solution for many start-up owners and freelancers is a skills-trade.

How to kick off your start-up with a skills-trade

If you’re struggling to finance your own start-up business or freelance work, consider whether this may be an option for you. Do you have a tradable skill that you can offer someone in return for something that you need for your business?

My first experience of skills-trading was in Sydney when I first set up Marketing Vision in 2010. As a start-up business I was on a shoestring budget but needed a website. How else would people know about my services?

I was lucky enough to find a web designer who was looking for some marketing help with a second business of his – and he proposed a skills-trade. So I gave him marketing support in return for a sparkly new website. Result. It worked out perfectly with both of us getting something that we really needed. In fact it was such a success that in my early start-up phase I went on to skills-trade in return for graphic design work, photography and even haircuts!

What makes a successful skills-trade?

For a successful trade of skills there needs to be:

  • A mutual trust between both parties to deliver on their promises.
  • An upfront agreement of exactly what each party will be delivering for the other.
  • Consideration of the monetary value of each party’s services, to ensure an equal trade.
  • A commitment to meeting agreed deadlines.

How can you find someone to trade skills with?

Today, thanks to social media tools like Twitter, your potential skills-trading network is vast. But while it’s great to have the opportunity to reach out to many thousands of people virtually, you do need to be mindful of trading with reputable people, so it’s probably best to start with people that come recommended to you.

So your first step may be to ask friends, family and business contacts who they’d recommend for particular services. Or even social media contacts that you trust.

If carried out correctly, skills-trading can be a great way to tap into a pool of amazing talent, even if your funds are limited as you start off in the business world. You also have the potential to make some like-minded contacts, grow your business network and enjoy the collective spirit of entrepreneurship along the way.

Note: In the UK there is a VAT implication if either party is VAT registered. Check with HMRC to find out more and ensure that you are meeting the necessary legal requirements.

By Paula Hutchings from Marketing Vision