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Despite being a starving artist myself, I’ve managed to put together quite a few big projects – and almost all of them were done for less than $300. Now, yes, I know… I happen to be in the video business and therefore my technical knowledge and ability make it so that a high production value is a little easier for me to achieve than a non-video professional, but I sincerely believe that if you’re willing to learn, be resourceful, and be considerate, that you’ll be able to make some great, high quality videos affordably, too.

What’s Your Secret?
My big secret is not really that secret: I am a huge fan of bartering.

As I explained in last week’s video, time is money. If you have the means to produce a service or product for someone who needs that particular service or product, then that _is_ actually a thing of value. It can be as simple as consulting, driving someone from point A to B, or even baking cookies! Your time, talent, and ability is always worth something. YOU are worth something!

For example, to make my “Stalker” video, I bartered a website design for use of the location. I tracked down the owner of the property, asked him what two days of filming was worth to him, and offered a service that I knew was of comparable value in return. It was a win-win outcome for the both of us.

Nothing Is Free
By that same token, other people’s time, talent, and ability is also worth something. So be mindful of if it’s a fair trade on your part. If you’re offering a service that’s worth $15/hr to trade someone who’s service is worth $50/hr, then you’re going to need to be willing to spend a bit more time on your side to make that fair.

That said, different people value different things… well, differently, so you may to have to spend some time seeking people out and wade through quite a few to find the right fit. You never know, you might get lucky!

But regardless, it’s really as easy as just following the golden rule – treat others how you want to be treated. If you treat other people’s time and experience with respect, then they’ll most likely be willing to give you their best in return.

I made a pact with myself in high school that no one works for free on my projects. I don’t always pay people with fiat currency, but I go out of my way to make sure that they feel like their time was well spent and worth the effort once they’re done working on my project.

Types of Agreements
This is where your personal experience can vary greatly and you’ll have to feel out your particular scenario. With bartering, it can be easier to get burned than when exchanging dollar bills (though you can definitely get burned that way too), so I always recommend some kind of clearly worded written agreement. You don’t necessarily have to get hardcore and write up legal contracts, but it protects both yourself and the other party when there’s a record of what exactly was agreed to.

This way you can also make sure that you keep your end of the bargain, and account for the time that you’ll need to achieve it with the same level of commitment that your counterpart has. The last thing you want to do in any creative industry is burn bridges. This community is smaller than you think!