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Real Simple: How to Barter Your Skills to Save Money

Are you a pet whisperer? A pro at fixing things? An expert baker? See what those talents can get you.

If you're short on discretionary income but have talents to spare, you may want to consider bartering your skills so you don't have to pay out-of-pocket for common services. You can barter for things like pet-sitting, tutoring, house-painting, haircuts, web design, house-cleaning, babysitting, administrative services, home-decluttering, and much more. "Everyone has a skill or talent that they love, that other people just plain hate doing," says Kari Lorz, a certified financial education instructor, and founder of

There are endless ways to trade your skills to save money, but putting yourself out there to initiate a barter can be a little intimidating. So, we've asked experts how to figure out your skills, create a plan of action, and promote your skills and services to ensure the swaps you're making are worth your time and talents.

Assess what talents are in your wheelhouse

Do you have a knack for closet clean-outs? Or, are you poised to pet-sit on the weekends? Are you a professional copywriter with experience polishing resumes? Whatever your talent, perhaps your skill can be exchanged for something that you'd otherwise have to shell out and pay for. When you are brainstorming, think about how your talents could be in demand and truly exchangeable. Remember, those things that come easy to you might be a chore for someone else.

Start spreading the news

Once you're inclined to start bartering with others, you need to develop your network. You can do this by word-of-mouth, through community partners, and through prudent social media efforts. Tell your neighbors, friends, and book club pals that you're looking to barter your skillset. Or, if you volunteer somewhere, communicate with fellow volunteers about your intention to trade talents; that's a crowd that may be even more inclined to exchange services.

If you're tech-savvy, you can target potential skill-swap partners online. "Figure out your skill, then research your target audience, and go where they are on local social media groups," says Lorz. "Figure out what you need to achieve that win-win outcome." Lorz specifically recommends, a social media platform that connects users to local communities of others who are looking to make new friends, learn new things, network, and find support.

You can also post an offer on the bartering section of Craigslist or find a barter group near you on Facebook. A quick search on the Craigslist bartering page for New York results in everything from offers and requests for musical instrument repairs, garden cleanup, swimming lessons, photography, and more. Spend a little time exploring these groups and you'll be assured that no skill is too niche to put out there. Just be sure to practice safety when bartering online—by asking plenty of questions, meeting in public places, and bringing a buddy along when you can.

Expand your efforts to businesses

Beyond bartering with individuals for services like pet-walking and landscaping, you could branch off to solicit businesses to exchange services to save money. Alex Mastin, CEO and founder of Homegrounds, a community of coffee hobbyists, baristas, and travelers who share knowledge in the home barista market, says bartering is a great way to save money when you need a specific service performed, but you don't have cash on hand to pay for it.

"Bartering can be done with individuals, or with small businesses. It's a very flexible method of payment, and can be used in a variety of situations," Mastin says.

For example, say you're a baker who makes delicious cookies and cupcakes. "A local hair salon might offer to trade you a haircut for some baked goods every week," Mastin says. "They get free treats for their customers, and you get your hair cut for free. It's a win-win for both sides."

Or, maybe you're someone who has a knack for design. There's likely an emerging business out there that needs help designing promotional materials and it's worth seeing if you can make a trade.

Don't be afraid to put yourself out there

Jaqueline Fisch, a writing coach, author, and copywriter, has a successful history of bartering her professional writing services. "I've been bartering since day one of starting my business several years ago," she says. "I've bartered my writing and editing services, including trading copywriting for my son's hockey camps and private training; trading resume-writing and LinkedIn updates for online courses; and trading bookkeeping services for copy editing."

Whenever you see an opportunity to suggest a barter arrangement, seize the chance. "Be upfront with people about your willingness to trade," advises Lorz. "Things may start slow, but keep at it, word of mouth is key when choosing this avenue, but soon you will be the go-to person in your neighborhood for that skill."

Macy Sarbacker, a digital marketing specialist and holistic living blogger, shares that she has used her social media skills to barter and save money. "The first time I bartered my services, I did so in exchange for dog training for our rescue pup," she says.

Once you determine partners that may be able to use your services, reach out and ask them. "In my experience, I have found that it works well to first ask the company or individual if they are open to exchanging services," Sarbacker says. "After you get a response, you can send over a more detailed proposal or pitch."

And finally, she says it never hurts to ask about bartering. "Worst case scenario, you don't hear back or they say no," says Sarbacker. "That costs you nothing!"


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