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Carrington College Blog

Could You Barter Your Skills?

June 24, 2013

BarterMany Carrington College California students operate on a tight budget, but it’s not just students who are strapped for cash. In recent years a shortage of liquidity has led to the reemergence of one of the oldest forms of exchange – bartering.

Bartering is a way for people to trade goods for services (and vice versa) without cash changing hands. The International Reciprocal Trade Association estimates that in the U.S. alone, over 470,000 companies actively participate in barter for a total of over $12 billion in annual sales, with retail barter expanding by about 6% annually.*

So as you develop your particular skills, why not consider trading services with someone who can offer you a service you need, such as babysitting, help with chores around the house, or even something that you couldn’t ever justify paying for…like lessons on how to surf!

There are obviously limitations as there are certain things you cannot do ‘professionally’ without certification and licensure to practice, even in a barter situation. But for example if you’re a student in the Massage Therapy program, you need the hands-on practice and there are those who would enjoy a regular massage, but don’t have the funds to pay for it…think about an exchange.

Obviously students in certain programs may find it easier to barter their skills than others, but not if you think outside the box.

As a Medical Billing & Coding or Health Care Administration program student, you may not think your skills are suitable for bartering, but to be successful in your field you need to be highly organized with an excellent eye for detail. Those are sellable skills that individuals or small businesses may be looking for, so why not offer your organization & administration services in exchange for the service you need. Give it a try. Just make it for one or two service-to-service swaps with specific timelines and services in mind.

The skills you barter don’t have to be specific to your health care education. If you’re bi-lingual, maybe you could teach someone a language in exchange for piano lessons for your child… Maybe you’re an expert surfer? Teach someone to surf in exchange for their particular skills.

Bartering can be a way to enjoy a service that you might otherwise think a luxury (like surfing lessons), but remember that it doesn’t put food on your table or help you pay your rent/mortgage. Don’t get caught up in so many barter deals that you compromise your time or finances. Make sure you trust the person you’ll be exchanging services with, either through friendship, mutual acquaintance or reputation.

It’s not just services that you can barter. When kids outgrow their clothes, books or bikes, offer to trade these “gently used” items for toys or tutoring. If you need new books or your kids want to try a new video game, offer to swap books and games with friends. You’ll never know what someone is willing to part with unless you ask.

Just be sure you are comfortable with the complexities barter can introduce into your life and be up-front with your trade partner on the legalities. If you’re trading professional services (provided to or by you), it must be included in the income you report to the IRS. It doesn’t matter that the transaction was cash-free.
*According to the National Association of Trade Exchanges

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