Barter for my kid's College Education?

I’ve got three kids in grade school and no college savings to speak of.  That being said of course I want to give my kids all the advantages in life that I can.  High on that list would be a college education that does not burden them with tens (or hundreds) of thousands of dollars of debt on graduation day.  So my question to all of you wonderful barter fanatics with a whole lot more barter experience than myself:  How would you pursue bartering for college?

The good news is that my “real” business is online marketing.  Building, maintaining and promoting websites is something that every university needs.  My guess is that bartering with government agencies would be difficult/impossible so I shouldn’t bother with state schools.  I’m thinking that I should make a list of private institutions, ideally in my state that are “drivable” and start right now making calls and looking to make  a deal that will allow me to earn credit with them that will accrue over the years.  Then come high school graduation I can tell my kids they can go to any school they want as long as it’s the one I have my deal with.  The flaw with my plan is that it’s my understanding that most private schools have plenty of money.  It’s been my experience that folks with plenty of money don’t usually want to bother with the extra work it takes to barter.  Another problem is that a college education is more expensive than many websites are.  Even if I had a deal conducting $10k worth of work every year from now until when my twins leave for college, that’s only 8 years from now.  $80k doesn’t pay for whole college education for even one student does it?  I’m thinking that I’ll need to find at least one school for each of my kids that would want to do a lot of trading. 

Ideas?  Have any of you ever done this?  Please send your inspirations my way and I’ll be happy to share them.  Better yet….does anyone have contacts at colleges that would be in a position to discuss barter?

Improved Networking through Barter

Sales is a numbers game. The more people you talk to, the more sales you will make. One of the most primary rules of sales success is to get in front of as many people as possible.  With that in mind I’d like to point out that barter gets you in front of more people.  Additionally you can never tell where relationships will go so even if the particular barter deal that you were pursuing falls through, another one or even a cash one may end up proceeding from that relationship.  Here’s a case-in-point for me:

Recently there was a change in ownership at a custom butcher shop near me.  I’m always looking to barter for good meat so I tracked down the owner and offered to build him a website in exchange for credit at his shop.  He thought it was an interesting offer and decided to discuss it with his business partner.  While that was being discussed he mentioned that he has another much larger business that also is in need of a website.  Within a couple weeks I had a good sized cash contract with him for that business.  The butcher shop is still being discussed so that may happen too, but what I’m excited about is the cash job.  I NEVER would have gotten this job if it wasn’t for a call that I would not have made if it were not for barter.

I’d love to hear more stories like this.  Please post yours back by clicking on the “conversation” link below.

Multiple barter exchanges?

Should you belong to multiple barter exchanges?  The advice I get has varied greatly depending on who I ask.

If I talk to a broker I have always been told that you should only belong to one exchange.  I’ve even been told that some exchanges will kick you out if they find out that you belong to more than one.  I have been given two reasons for this:  1)  It takes resources (membership fees and time) for you to make good use of an exchange so it is more efficient to belong to just one exchange.  2)  Brokers feel like it’s less likely that they will get their agreed commission if you belong to multiple exchanges.  The concern is that they will do the work of setting up a deal then you will not necessarily fund the deal through their exchange.   Although I like and trust my brokers, I have to admit that these arguements smack of self interest to me.

In speaking to experienced successful traders it appears to me that the majority of them belong to multiple barter exchanges in addition to trading directly.   When I’ve asked specifics for which exchanges they recommend to join I have been told the following:  1)  Join whatever exchange is most popular in your area (of interest or geography).  2)  With regard to national exchanges, join the “big three.”  The big three include IMS, ITEX and Dobarter (which is really a collection of independent exchanges).   The reasons that these 3 in particular were recommended to me are that IMS has one of the strongest currencies, ITEX is one of the most established exchanges and the Dobarter system has one of the largest member networks.

Personally I think there is great value in having as large a personal barter network as possible because it means that I have greater trading options.  I do belong to multiple exchanges as well as do a lot of direct trading.  Certainly there is a point of diminishing returns with this and (for example) I have not seen fit at this time for me to personally join all three of the networks I mentioned above.  That doesn’t mean I won’t at some time though.  I’ve also looked at a regional exchange in my area that is pretty tempting to join.  There are additional cash costs so it makes common sense to keep that in mind before you join 50 different exchanges.  I should also point out that I am indeed a barter fanatic and put more time into these things that most folks.  With that in mind I could see that many traders could get overwhelmed by multiple exchanges.

So…I’m hoping I may have opened up some what of a can of worms here.  Please feel free to post back your thoughts in the comments area.

Too broke for barter?

When you are in sales you always have to be ready for objections to the sale.  Most objections I’m ready for but occasionally I run into something truly baffling.  The concept that one can be “too broke to barter” is one of those ideas that eludes me.  My goal here is to map out exactly what the issues are when you run into someone who says this what you can do about it.

The objection
In case you haven’t run into this issue before, here’s how it usually goes:  Somewhere usually pretty early in the discussion with a potential trade partner the talks break down.  You are told that they simply can’t continue to trade anymore.  They have hard-cash expenses and they just afford to spend “real money” to earn trade credits that they can’t use to pay their bills.

What’s behind it
Usually there are two things going on behind the scenes when you hear this:

  1. Fear.  It’s a very motivating emotion.  People with a weak business are running scared and doing anything they can think of (rational or not) to stop the bleeding.
  2. On top of that there is often a basic lack of understanding about how barter works.  People who are not effective at spending trade credits wisely will never understand the real value of barter

What you can do about it
Honestly many times you can’t do much.  Scared people are pretty tough to reason with.  If they will listen with an open mind, try to address both the fear and the educational aspects of the issue.  With regard to fear, I simply tell them that I understand where they are coming from.  It’s tough for a lot of businesses now.  The good news is that barter can help them through this.  It’s a source of relief, not trouble.  I explain that I used barter to buy things that I would otherwise have to spend cash on, then I can take that saved cash and use it to pay rent, utility bills and other things that I can’t barter for.  During lean times it can be very tough to find new clients and keep staff busy, but barter makes it much easier to bring in those new clients.  My barter exchanges are my secret sales weapon.  I then spend those barter credits on essential services for my business.  Offer to help your barter partner find smart ways to spend the barter credits that you want to pay them with.  Assure them that you can work together to find how to spend them BEFORE you make your deal with them.

I will sometimes personalize the issue and tell them that times can be tough for me as well and how much barter has helped me.  In times when there wasn’t money for bonuses, I could still do nice things for my staff.  Same thing on a personal level.  At times when I couldn’t buy some things for my kids, I was still able to keep all three of my kids in karate lessons because of barter.

If you are one of those people who doesn’t think you can afford to barter any more, please feel free to give me a ring.  I’d love to see if I can brainstorm with you about how you can use barter to help your business through tough times.  Now more than ever it’s time to stick together and help one another out.

One more thought before I wrap this up.  If you are in debt, it is possible that barter can help you dig your way out.  Talk to your barter broker and see what ideas they have.  You can also offer to trade directly with folks that you owe money to.  Even if it’s only a partial payment, it generally means a lot to your creditors to see how motivated you are to make good on your debt.

Assuming you truly understand barter you can NEVER be too broke to barter.  You can only be too broke NOT to barter.

Online Barter Stores

Over the years I’ve run into a number of online stores that are willing to sell all of their products on barter.  Sometimes the online store is set up specifically for barter and sometimes it’s a cash store but you can contact them directly to barter for anything in the store.  The value of these stores is twofold:

  1. Of course online stores are easy to shop from for business or personal use.
  2. Online stores are a great way to show potential new barter partners that there are many good things to purchase with barter credits.

The only issue I have with this concept is that I’ve never found a good directory of online barter stores.  I’ve devoted one page on my blog to list these but I know I only have a tiny fraction of all the sites out there.  Please check it out here:  Online Barter Stores

More importantly I’m looking for many new stores to add.  Please contact me with the web address of any online barter store that I can ad.  The website does not have to indicate on it publicly that it barters, but I would request that all stores that I add accept barter on all products/services in their store.

What the heck is Bitcoin?

For all you experienced barter geeks reading this, there is absolutely nothing new about the concept of an alternative currency.  By that I mean a currency that is not government sponsored and appeals to a specific sub-set of the total global market; a currency that has plenty of value, however is not as liquid as traditional green-backs.  Bitcoins are an electronic alternative currency.  One of it’s developer’s main goals was for it to be totally decentralized so (in theory) no single organization or government controls it.  This currency is still little known other than in the geekiest of the Internet culture, however it is starting to catch on and there are a number of (mostly online) stores that accept bitcoins as payment.  What makes bitcoins different from barter exchange currency is that there is no organization to join to use the currency, no commisions to pay when transactions are made and (Wow) it’s easy to convert to cash for a minimal fee.  What makes bitcoins a lot like barter currencies is that there are a number of folks that have bitcoins and are looking to buy products/services exclusively using that currency.

So what are you supposed to do with this information?  Honestly I don’t know yet.  I think I’m going to see if I can sell a couple items for BitCoins (BTC) and see how easy it is to spend bitcoins or convert them into dollars.  Much like barter currency, if you can’t figure out a good way to spend it, there really isn’t any value.  Be forewarned:  This concept doesn’t come without risk.  Unfortunately an untraceable currency has a lot of value to an undesirable segment of society so there is a criminal element.  There also can be volatility in the value of BTC because it is not tied to the value of any traditional currency.  In the last week there was a hacking incident where some BTCs were stolen which caused confidence in the currency to drop.   BTC value dropped dramatically.  Everybody involved in the currency now is holding their breath and hoping that the value will rebound over time.  Of course, that could mean that it’s a great time to get into the game.

simple explaination of bitcoin:
official bitcoin website:
technical article in The Economist about bitcon:

Stealth barter

Since the very beginning of my fascination with barter, it’s always been something I do “in stealth mode.”   It’s not something that I mention on my main business website.  It’s not something I mention to my “regular” business associates.  It’s not something I put on my business cards.  It’s as if I have a secret second life.  Of course it’s a horribly kept secret within my own office and in my personal life because I can’t stop blabbering about it.

Of course the cause for this duplicity is that I want to preserve my cash clients and only use barter to bring in new clients that I can only get on barter.  I’ve always assumed that most other businesses that operate on a cash and barter basis do the same.  The only lapse of my separation between “church and state” has been when I sweeten a cash deal by offering to do a portion of a cash project on barter to win a new cash client.  I’ve even had a few barter partners request that I never discuss barter in front of their other clients because they don’t especially want the beans spilled either.

So….here I am happily running my life as a double agent when, while reading a new book on barter I slammed into a brand new concept:  Outing yourself as a barter geek.  The book (that I’ll review on the blog soon) recommended printing right on your business cards that you are open to barter.  I was aghast.  In shock.  And then…intrigued.  Maybe it would work.  We all know all of the reasons why we keep barter secret from cash clients, but on the flip side; think of all the deals you could make if you were open about the fact that you barter.  Thinking about it was like the clouds were parting on a rainy day and sun was pouring down on me.  I could have so much fun bartering out in the open!  And here was the thought that makes me think it just might work without killing your cash business:  Most people are terrible at barter and only vaguely even understand what it is.  As such, most people prefer to pay for products/services in cash.  Honestly when I’m recruiting new barter partners I always have to sell them on the concept.  So…what if I was open about barter?  Would I really lose my cash clients?  Maybe not!!!!!

So far I’m too much of a chicken to actually try this concept out, but I would be most interested in your input on the topic.  Please post back comments using our new Facebook-comment feature.  If you don’t have a Facebook account, please just email me through our contact page.

A Barter Mentoring Program

Don’t you wish Yoda would have shown you the ropes when you first started bartering?  There is so much to learn when you first start bartering.  Many business owners are so busy trying to run their own business that they really have no time to devote to teaching themselves how to get the most out of trading.  Additionally many brokers are so over-loaded that they simply don’t spend a lot of time training their members.  The end result:  There are a lot of people that are really bad at barter and there is a much higher attrition rate for exchange membership than there needs to be.

I propose that all barter exchanges develop a formal training/mentoring program.  Everyone gains from having more potential barter partners so everyone should get involved.   My vision is two-pronged:

  1. Exchanges should set up formal group training sessions.  The sessions should include basic training for new members and advanced training for folks that have been around the block and just need some new ideas.  These classes can either be taught by management, brokers or even by advanced members that are paid on barter.  I wouldn’t pay members to attend, but I would have lots of good food/prizes at all the events (all purchased on barter of course).  The events could even have a “mixer” feel to them and be hosted by a member that has products/servcies for sale at the event.
  2. Exchanges should set up a formal mentoring program where advanced members can help newer members one on one.  Mentors could be minimally compensated (on barter of course).  Mentors can help their assigned members find good ways to spend their credits (the most common problem for new members) as well as help with all other aspects of barter.

Please post back if you are familiar with programs along these lines of if you have any suggestions for improvements.