To get started figuring out what your talents are, make a list of your hobbies, pastimes, activities that you enjoy, and work skills. What do you love to do? Ask other people what they think your talents and skills are. Is there something that you enjoyed doing when you were a child, teenager, or young adult that you haven’t thought of in years? Could you do it now as barter? Perhaps you’ve got a skill that you could develop a bit more to turn it into a trade, such as turning sewing into tailoring or upholstering. Do you love to shop? Can you rank websites on Google and offer your own SEO Services? Become someone’s personal shopper. Do you love to cook? Relieve a bit of the pressure around the holidays and trade your cooking skills with a neighbor for some much-needed housecleaning. There is a nearly unlimited list of possibilities to consider.
Once you have your inventory, ask yourself which thing you’d like to do the most and/or what would bring you the most in trade. If you’re not sure what skill is most in demand, check out some of the barter Web sites to see what people need. It’s a safe bet that those are the highly sought-after services. Make sure you can actually do what you're selling too - nobody will get cataract surgery done off an ad on Craigs List! Also check to see what is available in abundance. If a dozen people in your area are offering housecleaning, you might be better served by offering something different or offering an unusual version of it. Instead of general housecleaning, offer deep- or spring-cleaning services. That sort of differentiation can measurably increase how many trades come your way.
But we don’t want you to have all the fun alone. Ask your spouse/partner and kids if they want to join in. Make a skills and labor inventory with them. You might be surprised what they are willing to do once they realize what bartering can bring them. Your children might make great babysitters, dog walkers, lawn mowers, elder sitters, tutors, fish-tank cleaners, car detailers, or gardeners, depending on their age and likes. It’s possible that the whole family could barter one activity together. Does everyone in your crew love birthday parties? What about offering a party-on-demand service? Mom bakes the cake and goodies, Dad procures supplies and dresses up like a clown, the kids plan and direct party games, and everyone cleans up.
While it might be tempting to force your kids to barter their labor, unless your family’s situation isn’t dire, we don’t recommend it. When people choose to offer a labor out of what they love, you’ll get less resistance and more barter hours from them simply because they enjoy it. Attraction is a better policy than compulsion. Reward is a strong incentive as well. If kids see what barter can produce for them, they’ll be more eager to become barter babies. It also helps take the pressure off Mom and Dad. Think of all the times your children have whined for this or that. With barter, saying “no” turns into “What can you barter for that?”
Plus, barter is a great life skill to teach your children. They’ll learn what the value of their labor is worth, discover that it can be equated to more than the dollar, and forge a sense of self-reliance rather than victimhood that will serve them well for the rest of their years and for generations to come.
After you’ve made a skills inventory and rounded up the goods you have available to barter, make a wish list of your needs and wants. Take a look at your personal budget and prioritize the list by needs first. You may not be able to barter for necessities, but it helps to put your energy into getting your needs met before the desires of your heart. If the desires are what you get offers for first, you’ll still save cash. But keep in mind that when you are trading labor, you have a finite amount of barterable time. If you sell your time for wants rather than needs, your fixed expenses won’t shrink, you may miss out on some stress relief, and you’ll find that you don’t have enough capacity to take advantage of an offer that could fill a high-priority need.