One of the perennial questions that plague my mind when I seek advice or service is “how much do you charge.” Interestingly, when I get asked this question myself, I find it very hard to answer.

You see, the value of my time is subjective and conditional. It depends on how much I want the work. I may crave the work to satisfy a curiosity or fulfill a need to top up my bank account. I may want the work to access a network. I may want the work to get me out of the house.

I would give a low fee so I’d get hired again because I love doing it anyway. Such is the case of giving thematic concerts that I’ve given before.

If I’m busy, I may give an unreasonably high fee, especially if I think of it as work — a four letter word. I have been surprised that I was hired because no one else could or would do it. Examples:

GBP 600 or 700 to set up an appointment for a dealing room technology company: I had to make several cold calls in Mandarin Chinese to get past the fierce receptionist at a Chinese bank in London. Year: 1990.

GBP 1 per word to write energy articles for a leading risk management magazine. Year: 2002. It turns out that having a full-time job as energy magazine editor paid a lot more, with the added bonus of travel perks.

The same goes for renting out rooms or other such accommodation. If I want it let quickly, I’d give a rate below the competition.

So how do you hire me if you don’t have the means or refuse to pay in cash?

I do barter. Some of my best relationships come from bartering. I’ve set-up, built, and maintained a website in exchange for tax filing and consultation. I have introduced paying clients in exchange for another service. I do proofreading and editing in exchange. I give feedback in exchange.

If you have extra airmiles, voucher for a meal, accommodation space, specialist skill, niche advice, or useful contacts, you have something to barter!