David Airey is an independent graphic designer working with companies of all sizes since 2005.

It’s not always about the money

The following is an excerpt from the “Pricing your work” chapter of Work for Money, Design for Love. You can download a PDF for the full chapter on the book’s website.

Money kite

When Ivan Chermayeff and Tom Geismar started their design practice in the late 1950s, one of the first things they did whenever possible was to trade design for some minor services they needed. Ivan cites the following example.

“When the time came to have an attorney to help with a simple contract agreement, we traded the legal fee for a letterhead design. We did such trades from time to time with landlords and other suppliers to whom we owed something — anyone who could use a little graphic design and didn’t have anything of any quality in place.”

Ivan isn’t the only professional who has traded design for something else of value. Vancouver-based Nancy Wu recounts an occasion when she traded her design skills with a man who specialized in custom woodwork and home renovations.

“He asked if I ever traded services, as he needed some design work done and wondered if I needed anything done around the house. In fact, I did. I live in an old house with splintered wood in one spot, so I traded for minor work redoing the floors in my son’s room, fixing some bathroom tile cracks, and creating a removable cover for one of the vents to keep the house warm during the winter months. In return, I designed a postcard, banner, and business card for an upcoming trade show. Our form of trade was less about monetary figures and more about value for value. He had one of his experienced men come in to put in new high quality laminate, taking advantage of the kind of discount rates they could obtain with their suppliers. Likewise, I had my own printing contacts and signage suppliers to help keep things affordable and on schedule to meet his deadline.

“In the end, it was a win-win situation and we ended up both being quite happy with the results. The key is that we kept it professional at the start, getting everything outlined in detail so that each of us knew what was needed and what the expected outcomes were.”

Get the full “Pricing your work” chapter when you join the mailing list.

Contributors to chapter 16 are Alina Wheeler, Ivan Chermayeff, Nancy Wu, Ted Leonhardt, Andrea Austoni, Karishma Kasabia, and Mike Reed.

Your choice of chapter was a close call between “Pricing your work” and “Marketing yourself and finding good clients.” Those who voted for the latter can read an excerpt on the AIGA website.

Thanks for all your votes, by the way.

In other news, Oscar Martinez papped a stylish young man wearing some unofficial merchandise on the Bangkok Skytrain.

Work for Money, Design for Love tshirt

My second book on Amazon

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8 comments about “It’s not always about the money”

  1. Trading services has been a practice we have embraced. We have BPA and Chamber memberships paid for through Internet marketing services that allow us to add and showcase value to proximity of many target clients while supporting the local business and education communities that we all live in. We have found these situations to be a win-win as the BPA and Chamber organizations have lean, member funded operating budgets. Just make sure to put it on your books as barter of services, even in kind, needs to be accounted for. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Bartering is the best! Here are a few of the services I’ve bartered for:
    Chamber of Commerce membership
    Garden design
    Physical Therapy
    Chiropractor
    Detox/Cleanse products
    Greeting cards
    Bookkeeping/Quickbooks support
    Gourmet Sandwiches

  3. Much appreciated! :)

    I’ve also traded services over the years to great success, both for professional and personal return. Such items would be tickets to 6Nations/Autumn Internationals. One client paid for a training course if I would return and facilitate two modules in return and another supplied my current Mac Book if I would extend my contract by one month, which also included full pay for hours worked.

    I do think it is important to limit it yourself however, as you could find yourself being offered trade as opposed to payment. But if works for the individual sure why not!

    My Mam asked me what I’d like for Christmas, so ordered the book earlier today, really looking forward to reading over the hols! :)

    Eóin

  4. Rick, Anne, good on you. There’ll almost always be times when potential clients tell you they can’t afford your rates, but as you show, that doesn’t need to be the end of the conversation.

    Thanks very much for ordering a copy, Eóin.

  5. As a graphic designer who has fallen out of love with the profession, trading is now my way of restoring equality to the client/designer relationship.

    So far I have designed a website/brand in return for a month’s accommodation in New York, and am now having a custom-built bike crafted for me, in return for another website redesign (current site: http://www.saffronframeworks.com/)

    I think I’d like to trade for a holiday (somewhere tropical) next!

    James

  6. I just learned the other day the value of trading design services for services that one needs. I’m going to definitely start doing so whenever the time comes. Also I feel that it’ll be a win win situation for both people involved.

  7. So true, countless times I have gotten programmers to do work for free by simply sending them referrals — other friends I have who need their service. Solid post and a good reminder.

  8. Once you reach a certain level of income security, I’m a firm believer that your goals should not to be to keep increasing money, but to spend more time doing what you enjoy (if work isn’t already!).

    Life is short and you can’t take money with you when you go.

    Interesting article, thanks David.

    – Stuart

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