Bartering and the Bassoon Teacher

Bartering is a common and accepted way for you to receive compensation for teaching lessons. It’s so mainstream that even the IRS provides a space for you to report bartering transactions on your taxes. So how do you know if a bartering arrangement is right for you?

How to set up a bartering arrangement for music lessonsFigure out what your needs really are

Don’t accept anything as payment that won’t really help you. Both parties need to feel like they are getting a good deal.

Good example: A student comes an hour before her lesson to babysit your kids, and you give the student a discount.

Bad example: Your student’s dad is a sushi chef and your spouse really likes sushi—but you don’t.

If either you or your students feel like everyone isn’t benefitting from the arrangement, you all run the risk of becoming bitter. No student-teacher relationship should have to deal with that stress.

Only barter with students/families that have a history of being responsible

I won’t even consider a bartering arrangement until I have worked with a student for six months. I need to have a good idea of whether or not I can trust them to hold up their end of the bargain. Families that don’t pay on time, constantly cancel, or are otherwise flaky are NOT good candidates.

Put your terms in writing

Sometimes verbal agreements can be misunderstood. Lay out a time frame for when you will receive payment in the form of goods/services/other compensation.

Good example: The ______ family will provide $400 in freeze-dried vegetables* every three months (January, April, July, & October). The teacher will provide weekly 45 minute lessons to the student. If payment of vegetables is not delivered by the 10th of the month, the teacher will send an invoice for a corresponding dollar amount.

Bad example: The ______ family will mow the lawn during the summer in exchange for lessons.

Be as specific as you can. Otherwise you may only get your lawn mowed twice in exchange for a summer full of lessons.

*Yes, I have actually taken freeze-dried vegetables as payment

Evaluate every few months to make sure everyone is happy!

Touch base with the parents and/or students to make sure that the arrangement is working well for everyone. I do this every four months (January, June, & September). Remember, this doesn’t have to be an all or nothing arrangement. Instead of bartering for lessons, you could provide handmade reeds or performance services.

More examples

A student’s mom brings dinner to the teacher when she picks up her child from his lesson. The dinner covers $20 of the $40 lesson fee, so the teacher gets money and dinner!

A student’s mom cleans houses for a living and charges $25/hr. Lessons cost $120/month, so the mom comes and cleans for a little under five hours a month.

A student’s father is a web designer. The teacher and student work out a system where the father designs and/or maintains the teacher’s website for a monthly discount on lessons.

The possibilities are endless! You could get massages, dental work, guitar lessons, help with your taxes, etc. Once you know a student is reliable, discuss the options! Let me know in the comments below what bartering arrangements have (or haven’t) worked for you!

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