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What You Need To Know To Make Sense of Business Bartering

What You Need To Know To Make Sense of Business Bartering

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    Bartering, trading one good for another, is becoming increasingly popular as the value of the dollar continues to plummet. There are several bartering systems available online (some better than others) and activity on these web sites has increased as the economy has gotten more and more troubled. However, when you move into cashless economies, it’s easy to get sucked in. Here are a few things you need to know to make it work for you.

    1. Use an established bartering system.

    Bartering on your own is often fraught with difficulties. Establishing “what’s fair” is rarely easy, especially if you’re the guy who charges $100/hour and you’re negotiating with someone who charges substantially less. One hour isn’t always equal to one hour, and that’s not always an easy concept to explain.

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    Instead, use established systems that operate with their own version of “dollars” and have structures in place to ensure that everyone follows through on their end of the bargain. The way these systems work is that you join the system and let people know what you have to offer. People use dollars they already have in the system pay you for your products or services. Then you use your system dollars to pay for products and services that you need.

    2. Use bartering systems as a marketing tool.

    Bartering systems can act as a solid marketing tool for your business, when used the right way. People already in bartering systems have dollars that have to be spent in the system. So you’re entering a marketplace of willing investors.

    Plus, people tend to look at these dollars slightly differently from “real dollars” and are more willing to spend them. Bring the right product or service into the system, and you could introduce your product or service to a large group of willing buyers very quickly.

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    3. Avoid getting too heavily invested.

    One thing you want to avoid is getting too heavily invested in any bartering community. If there’s something in the system that you really need and would have invested in anyway, this can be a good way to obtain it. However, you can’t guarantee the quality of the professionals in the system. Just because they’re in the system doesn’t mean they’re the best ones for the job.

    And let’s face it…your mortgage company and the utility companies probably don’t accept bartering dollars. You need real dollars for the real world, and bartering dollars just don’t transfer.

    4. Spend your bartering dollars right away.

    There’s another truth about bartering dollars, and that’s that all of these bartering systems are businesses that are owned by someone. In this uncertain economy, companies go out of business in the blink of an eye. So make sure you don’t leave your bartering dollars in these systems for long. Spend your dollars quickly, just in case, so you don’t have thousands invested in this system that could drop off the face of existence without any warning.

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    5. Transition bartering relationships to cash relationships.

    When clients ask me about entering into bartering systems, I advise them to keep their offerings to introductory services only. Figure out which services frequently act as a “point of entry” to your business and offer those as barters, then convert your bartering clients into cash-paying clients as quickly as possible to avoid getting too heavily invested in the long-term.

    And, make sure you don’t get behind the eight-ball on any transaction — don’t offer to barter for something you yourself have to pay real dollars for.

    6. Prepare for taxes.

    Finally, don’t forget that the IRS views bartering dollars as exactly the same as real dollars. Earn a dollar in a bartering system, and you’ll still have to pay taxes on that money in real dollars later. Plan accordingly!

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    Bartering can be a great way to market your business and gain new clients and trade for services you need for your business. However, there are pitfalls. Plan ahead, avoid being too heavily invested, and transition barter clients into cash-paying ones, and you can benefit greatly from these systems.

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    Last Updated on August 20, 2019

    Becoming Self-Taught (The How-To Guide)

    Becoming Self-Taught (The How-To Guide)

    Most of the skills I use to make a living are skills I’ve learned on my own: Web design, desktop publishing, marketing, personal productivity skills, even teaching! And most of what I know about science, politics, computers, art, guitar-playing, world history, writing, and a dozen other topics, I’ve picked up outside of any formal education.

    This is not to toot my own horn at all; if you stop to think about it, much of what you know how to do you’ve picked up on your own. But we rarely think about the process of becoming self-taught. This is too bad, because often, we shy away from things we don’t know how to do without stopping to think about how we might learn it — in many cases, fairly easily.

    The way you approach the world around you dictates to a great degree whether you will find learning something new easy or hard. Learning comes easily to people who have developed:

    Curiosity

    Being curious means you look forward to learning new things and are troubled by gaps in your understanding of the world. New words and ideas are received as challenges and the work of understanding them is embraced.

    People who lack curiosity see learning new things as a chore — or worse, as beyond their capacities.

    Patience

    Depending on the complexity of a topic, learning something new can take a long time. And it’s bound to be frustrating as you grapple with new terminologies, new models, and apparently irrelevant information.

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    When you are learning something by yourself, there is nobody to control the flow of information, to make sure you move from basic knowledge to intermediate and finally advanced concepts.

    Patience with your topic, and more importantly with yourself is crucial — there’s no field of knowledge that someone in the world hasn’t managed to learn, starting from exactly where you are.

    A Feeling for Connectedness

    This is the hardest talent to cultivate, and is where most people flounder when approaching a new topic.

    A new body of knowledge is always easiest to learn if you can figure out the way it connects to what you already know. For years, I struggled with calculus in college until one day, my chemistry professor demonstrated how to do half-life calculations using integrals. From then on, calculus came much easier, because I had made a connection between a concept I understood well (the chemistry of half-lifes) and a field I had always struggled in (higher maths).

    The more you look for and pay attention to the connections between different fields, the more readily your mind will be able to latch onto new concepts.

    With a learning attitude in place, working your way into a new topic is simply a matter of research, practice, networking, and scheduling:

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    1. Research

    Of course, the most important step in learning something new is actually finding out stuff about it. I tend to go through three distinct phases when I’m teaching myself a new topic:

    Learning the Basics

    Start as all things start today: Google it! Somehow people managed to learn before Google ( I learned HTML when Altavista was the best we got!) but nowadays a well-formed search on Google will get you a wealth of information on any topic in seconds.

    Surfing Wikipedia articles is a great way to get a basic grounding in a new field, too — and usually the Wikipedia entry for your search term will be on the first page of your Google search.

    What I look for is basic information and then the work of experts — blogs by researchers in a field, forums about a topic, organizational websites, magazines. I subscribe to a bunch of RSS feeds to keep up with new material as it’s posted, I print out articles to read in-depth later, and I look for the names of top authors or top books in the field.

    Hitting the Books

    Once I have a good outline of a field of knowledge, I hit the library. I look up the key names and titles I came across online, and then scan the shelves around those titles for other books that look interesting.

    Then, I go to the children’s section of the library and look up the same call numbers — a good overview for teens is probably going to be clearer, more concise, and more geared towards learning than many adult books.

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    Long-Term Reference

    While I’m reading my stack of books from the library, I start keeping my eyes out for books I will want to give a permanent place on my shelves. I check online and brick-and-mortar bookstores, but also search thrift stores, used bookstores, library book sales, garage sales, wherever I happen to find myself in the presence of books.

    My goal is a collection of reference manuals and top books that I will come back to either to answer thorny questions or to refresh my knowledge as I put new skills into practice. And to do this cheaply and quickly.

    2. Practice

    Putting new knowledges into practice helps us develop better understandings now and remember more later. Although a lot of books offer exercises and self-tests, I prefer to jump right in and build something: a website, an essay, a desk, whatever.

    A great way to put any new body of knowledge into action is to start a blog on it — put it out there for the world to see and comment on.

    Just don’t lock your learning up in your head where nobody ever sees how much you know about something, and you never see how much you still don’t know.

    3. Network

    One of the most powerful sources of knowledge and understanding in my life have been the social networks I have become embedded in over the years — the websites I write on, the LISTSERV I belong to, the people I talk with and present alongside at conferences, my colleagues in the department where I studied and the department where I now teach, and so on.

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    These networks are crucial to extending my knowledge in areas I am already involved, and for referring me to contacts in areas where I have no prior experience. Joining an email list, emailing someone working in the field, asking colleagues for recommendations, all are useful ways of getting a foothold in a new field.

    Networking also allows you to test your newly-acquired knowledge against others’ understandings, giving you a chance to grow and further develop.

    4. Schedule

    For anything more complex than a simple overview, it pays to schedule time to commit to learning. Having the books on the shelf, the top websites bookmarked, and a string of contacts does no good if you don’t give yourself time to focus on reading, digesting, and implementing your knowledge.

    Give yourself a deadline, even if there is no externally imposed time limit, and work out a schedule to reach that deadline.

    Final Thoughts

    In a sense, even formal education is a form of self-guided learning — in the end, a teacher can only suggest and encourage a path to learning, at best cutting out some of the work of finding reliable sources to learn from.

    If you’re already working, or have a range of interests beside the purely academic, formal instruction may be too inconvenient or too expensive to undertake. That doesn’t mean you have to set aside the possibility of learning, though; history is full of self-taught successes.

    At its best, even a formal education is meant to prepare you for a life of self-guided learning; with the power of the Internet and the mass media at our disposal, there’s really no reason not to follow your muse wherever it may lead.

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    Featured photo credit: Priscilla Du Preez via unsplash.com

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