Lots of forums and websites offer swaps. Usually you have a sort of sign up so that you can be assigned a swap buddy. The most popular sites I know to do somewhat regular trades are Ravelry and Craftster.
I'm fortunate to have a permanent swap buddy, Sweety Darlin' of Sweety Darlin' Designs. We met around a year ago online and have been swapping stories, crafting tips, business info, and goods ever since. She's the kind of gal you enjoy texting until your phone dies.
During one of many (usually daily) texting sessions the proper etiquette of online trading and swapping came up. We found ourselves in agreement that there's a lot of confusion about how to best go about it and a lot of worry about finding yourself having given up things only to get nothing in return. This is a problem we've decided to team up about and create a special blog post for you covering the proper etiquette for an online trade.
In everything you do you should strive to be respectful of the person, their time, their work, and their process. Trades are in the same ballpark as favors, someone has decided to do something for you and in return you will be doing something for them.
Be courteous and polite
Kindergarten rules always apply! If someone doesn't want to make a private trade with you, they don't have to. Be an adult and be a gentleman or lady when proposing a trade and through all of your communications. Keep in mind that your tone and cantor do not always translate in the written language, so make sure that your correspondence could not be read in any way that would be deemed rude or pushy.
All parties involved in a trade need to have terms that are clear and agreeable to them. Sometimes you agreed terms can be a little loose, you don't have to create a contract worthy of notarization unless that's what both of you want.
Example of loose terms:
Before Saint Patricks Day I sold Sweety Darlin' a pair of green, high-heeled, sneaker boots that never fit me the way I prefer (in fact she mentions the shoes in one of her bog posts). I told her I had shoes for sale, she looked, chose a pair she liked, I sent them to her, told her the final total, and waited until she Paypaled me the money. Because we were trading with a friend, and someone we felt comfortable and familiar with, no terms of "pay by this day or else" were set. I got the shoes out to her quickly and she paid me quickly. It was all just a matter of common sense and common courtesy.
More defined terms can still be simplistic… Such as….
The total for the amazeballs sneaker boots will be $45. I have them ready to ship via priority mail which should take 2-3 business days. Please keep this in mind when rendering payment, so that the item arrive sin the time frame you need them. However if payment isn’t received in two weeks and no arrangements made I will offer them for sale to other parties.
For most of the trades I've been involved in, the item I was supposed to end up with was not time sensitive. If what you want to trade for is time sensitive then you need to make sure anyone you approach would have ample time to create whatever the item is. A hand-knit sweater will take longer to make than say . . . handmade sidewalk chalk.
If time is a factor then it may be best for you and the person you trade with to come to an agreement about how long each of you will take to hold up your end of the bargain.
Example of time:
The most recent trade the two of us are working on between each other is for some clothes for my little girl. None of the items Sweety Darlin' will be making are in sizes that I have any worry of my daughter no longer fitting by the time they arrive. What does she get in return? Money and shoes, because who doesn't need money and who doesn't love shoes!?
Now here's where things can get uncomfortable no matter how well you know the person or persons you are swapping with. All trades will involve material and labor costs for one or both parties.
These costs can include:
If you're trading a finished item manufactured by anyone other than yourself you can really only factor in cost because you didn't make the item. When the item you are trading for needs to be created specific for the trade appropriate labor costs occasionally apply. This is not the case with all trades but it's a factor worth being aware of before asking someone to trade.
Production of items can be slowed by things like family, commissioned work (goods that are being bought and paid via the traditional routes), jobs outside of the crafting community (maybe you're trading with someone that only crafts by night and is a sous chef in a busy restaurant - you never know).
What are you trading for? A hand-knit item? Pieces of custom-made clothing? Hand-made jewelery? Between friends this is one of those costs that can sometimes fall subject to "the friend price". You may be getting a better deal than any customer could hope for because not only are they getting something in return but there are other costs that the two of you are factoring in to create an agreeable trade.
It is common practice when doing a trade that each party pay the shipping costs for the item they are sending. Since shipping costs will be incurred both ways it is disrespectful for one party to ask another party to pay shipping for both parties. This also makes the trade inequitable.
For most this is combined with shipping but if for any reason the packaging necessary to ship your item is something that could create an issue then this is something you need to discuss in the terms of your trade.
Example of packaging differentials:
The transport of packaging of a piece of furniture or a finished canvas painting may bring up a possible packaging discrepancy when the other trader is sending you a piece of precious metal jewelry. This is something that needs to be discussed and the beginning of your agreement and not the end when everyone has already created their piece.
Acceptable End Results
In the end people need to realize that a trade is exactly that - a trade and that if it isn't of equal value or agreed upon sacrifice by both parties then it really isn't a trade. You should never seek to make excessive profit from anyone trading raw materials for your goods.
We leave you with one final example:
If you handmade a dress and you are trading for raw fabric, then there is a equitable calculator for that process. You paid $10 for the dress materials. You typically sell that dress for $25 to cover labor and profit. You are trading for $20 in raw materials which will result in a total of $50+ in final product. Therefore you take a little hit on labor, but the overall trade you end up with more profit. Because you effectively paid $10 for $20 in raw materials which creates $50+ in profit, that is a good margin.
Here is how it works if you are being a little too pushy. Same dress has $10 in materials and another $15 in labor and profit. You are trading for a total valued cost of $45 in raw materials. You are getting way more than your product is worth and the profit you make on the final product from those raw materials will increase equally. However the person on the other end has not gotten their money’s worth, because they paid $45 for a $25 item. No one wants to lose money.