Up until earlier this year, when I thought of the term “bartering” pictures of Pilgrims, the Amish, and even some current third-world countries came to mind. Why “barter” for goods when we have this wonderful thing called paper (and metal) money?
Then I found out that bartering is a great way to exchange services or goods without having to deal with the hassle of money. Unfortunately, the IRS still requires that you report your bartering “income” come tax time. My philosophy? Don’t ask, don’t tell. Like it? I got the idea from the government. Brilliant, isn’t it? If you want to find out more about taxes and bartering, the IRS has lovingly put together a detailed informational page for anyone who wants to report their bartered “earnings”.
Right now, my bartering income is quite limited. My freelance business model isn’t designed to support itself through bartering, but I decided to try it out. My personal opinion on bartering is that, since it does not involve money, should also not involve the government.
Bartering feels like a ‘clean’ way to deal with commerce. At the moment I’m doing a barter deal with a personal trainer. She’s offering me training sessions in exchange for web design. I’m still sans quality health insurance right now (I’m signing up for a catastrophic plan next week) so I feel like preventative care via working out is probably a good idea. Besides, I like that I can use my skill as a web designer and make this personal trainer a fabulous homepage, which she needs, and in exchange, I work out at least two times a week, which I need.
If you don’t have a “skill” that you think would be valuable for trade, think again. Some people just like the idea of bartering, and they’ll trade for just about anything, as seen on this Craigslist Barter page for the SF Bay Area.
Just be careful about trading services, because you might get screwed over in the end. The woman who is giving me personal training sessions lives close by, and we trust each other enough to exchange services. It would get messy if I decided to just up and walk away from designing the site after she has given me a few training sessions. I imagine that at some point, such a situation could conclude with an icky court situation. Lucky for us, we’re both game on this deal, and I’m making a great website for her, and she’s kicking my ass into shape.
Here are some other barter sites that I’ve found on the interest that may be of interest to you:
(disclaimer: I haven’t used any of these sites)