Did you know you can use your writing skills to help you get the things you want most in life for free?

Things like regular massages, fine dining, or a romantic get-away to a countryside Bed-and-Breakfast… and that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

It’s all thanks to what some call the “human-powered economy” and it is also the oldest form of commerce known to man, although it’s alive and thriving today.

I’m talking about bartering — but in a newer, fresher, easier way.

Why Is Bartering Making a Resurgence?

Let me back up for a minute to tell you why this method has suddenly gained ground.

When the recession first took hold, most companies were on the lookout for better, cheaper ways to do business. This sparked a revival of the age-old practice of bartering, or trading goods and services without exchanging cash.

Bartering today is both an old and new trick. Also called a service trade or exchange, it’s been around for centuries, but made a comeback when the economy tanked. People didn’t have money so they started swapping things.

Now, many experts agree the economy is finally on the mend. Though there’s certainly a long way to go to get back to where we were, things are definitely looking up.

But even as the economy starts to heal, businesses are still being more careful about how they spend their money. Like consumers, they’re looking for bargains and other ways to keep their spending in check.

Essentially, this means bartering as a mainstream form of commerce is here to stay.

That’s great news for Barefoot Writers. Virtually every business or service-provider in existence benefits from well-written, persuasive communication materials.

How Can Bartering Benefit Freelance Writers?

The best part about barter agreements gaining ground is that it puts Barefoot Writers like you in prime position for new projects. With more businesses embracing barter as a way to meet demand and turn a profit, your pool of potential clients grows exponentially.

Plus, bartering is a lot more sophisticated these days thanks to the internet and the many online service trade sites. Social technologies are really what are making barter a twenty-first century track.

Here’s just a sampling of perks other writers have landed through barter:

  • One writer wrote a brochure about a limousine company’s services. In exchange, they transported her wedding party.
  • There is a family practice clinic in Jenks, Oklahoma, that lets patients pay through barter. One writer penned a brochure for the two doctors who ran the clinic and got her medical care free.
  • A graphic artist designed business cards for his friend, a restaurant owner. A few weeks later, the artist took his family to the restaurant — a lovely, Greek tavern — and the friend tore up the bill.
  • Another writer we know offered his writing services to a music teacher who needed a brochure. In exchange, the writer got free guitar lessons.
  • Many writers exchange their written materials for website design or marketing assistance from experts in those fields. It makes sense — most marketers want high-quality content, and most freelance writers appreciate extra marketing help.
  • In a past issue of Barefoot Writer, we told you about Melissa Broughton, a Barefoot Writer who writes reviews for spas and spa treatments. Not only does she get complimentary, “signature” treatments when she writes about her experiences, she also gets paid on top of that. She even frequently gets free nights in the boutique hotels connected to resort spas.

Actually, travel writing is an area where you have loads of barter options along with the opportunity to land a fee. Barefoot Writers new to travel writing often write material in exchange for a free night’s stay or a complimentary meal.

As their portfolios grow and they can showcase their experience, they’re able to charge a fee for their written material as well. But, they still get to enjoy all the complimentary bonuses as part of their project research — especially if they’ve had practice negotiating free perks through barters.

In short, the skills you get from bartering give you a lot of advantages. Not only is it a respectable way to gain clients and fill your portfolio with strong samples and testimonials, it’s also a great way to compensate yourself with the things you really need or want to have in life.

Better yet, it adds a more personal element to a transaction than what you get when exchanging cash for service.

The thing about being a writer is that your skills have tremendous value for anyone in business. If you think about it, powerful, persuasive writing can improve sales for virtually any kind of transaction. It can also boost reputations, prompt donations, inform, and entertain.

Bartering is one of the most casual and friendly ways to use your writing skills to get things for free. In fact, people say there’s a great psychological connection to bartering because it fosters human contact.

Better yet, if you’re able to barter for something you really want or need, it holds greater value for you than its cash equivalent.

How to Get Started with Bartering

As a Barefoot Writer, it’s easy to make bartering work for you.

The best bartered deals are done in individual settings where both parties are independent in their skill and don’t pay others to fulfill their service. For example, if you want to barter your writing skills for dental work, approach a private-practice dentist instead of someone who shares obligations with others in a large group practice.

Here are the top five guidelines to negotiating a successful barter:

  • Acknowledge that your services are especially useful in a recovering economy.
  • Know the value of your writing ability.
  • Go after things you really want or will benefit from.
  • Put everything in writing and share it with your bartering partner just to make sure you’re both clear on what is being exchanged. Be especially specific about things like the number of revisions you’re willing to do so you don’t end up giving more value than you initially agreed to.
  • Keep records for tax purposes. Income from bartering is taxable, so you have to report any transactions that take place. Remember though, as a writing professional, you can deduct the costs you incurred to perform the work that was bartered.

To find a barter partner, check out postings in local coffee shops or alternative newspapers. Consider looking for regional networks. Or, start your own bartering club among friends and peers. You may even want to start a Meetup group so other people can post their needs and swap with each other.

If you can’t think of any local person or business you’d like to barter with, turn to the internet. The number of bartering websites has doubled in the last few years. Here are just a few of the more popular ones:

  • Itex.com
  • TradeAFavor.com
  • BarterQuest.com
  • Craigslist.org (in fact, Craigslist saw activity on its bartering board double over the last few years)

Some of these websites even let you earn “barter dollars” like a credit system. First, you put your service out there to start earning barter dollars. Then, you apply those barter dollars as a way to pay other members of that barter website.

That way, you can still exchange your writing services for exactly what you want even if the trader you want it from isn’t looking for writing services at the time.

Bartering your writing services online lets you sidestep bank charges and PayPal fees for things you’d normally buy with a credit card. Plus, it even gives you the option to easily trade your services internationally.

Another way to barter successfully is to use a barter broker, which is someone who creates one-to-one deals between you and another company in exchange for a commission (usually 15% for both parties). Sometimes brokers even set up three-way trades or trade directly using their own inventory, typically made up of advertising time (as in a radio ad) or space (as in a newspaper).

You can even trade like for like. A lot of writers don’t care to write copy about themselves. Connect with another Barefoot Writer and write a bio for each other, or an “About” page for each other’s website. It’s a win-win — you walk away with a great sample, and you end up with your own well-written material.

Think outside the box and make an adventure out of it. Don’t hesitate if you come up with a good idea. After all, the people who trade successfully are usually the ones making the offer.

Remember, Barefoot living is about more than just cash. And every business or service professional out there needs a writer these days, especially if that writer knows the fundamental rules of good, persuasive copy. Bartering is a great opportunity to exchange value with others, and use your writing skills to get things for free.