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.

Money kite

“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.”

Excerpted from the "Pricing your work" chapter of Work for Money, Design for Love.