The other day I was reading an interesting magazine article about a new trend called skills swap which has been rediscovered over the last two years.
The premise of skill swapping is simple but powerful. People swap their unique skills for the services provided by like-minded people. No money ever changes hands, just an equivalent value of services.
And it’s this “you scratch my back” mindset which has led to some ingenious trades which have allowed people to achieve the things that they want without great financial expense.
How about getting a patio built in return for teaching somebody to speak french? Or getting business plans drawn up in return for showing somebody the basics of photography? Or even showing someone how to use a mobile phone in return for being shown the art of calligraphy?
It’s possible to benefit from the skills and experiences of just about anyone, provided you’re able to offer them a skill or a talent that they want in return.
And the indications are that even when the world economy improves, skill swapping will continue to grow, with many people predicting the continued movement towards a cashless society.
So with that in mind, what can skill swapping allows us to achieve from a business point of view?
1) Skill Swap For Bootstrapping
This is the art of being able to develop and grow a new business with little capital. At present, this is extremely important due to the inability of the banks to provide finance to help new businesses become established and grow.
The first step is to look at what both you and your business have to offer. Every person and every business has a skill that’s in demand somewhere. Your first job is to identify the skill that you can provide. How can you add value to the lives of other people?
The second step, which will be covered at the end of the article, is to find people who not only want what you provide, but who are also in a position to reciprocate by providing a skill/service that’s required by you or your business.
For example, if you’re a web designer, you could swap your skill in return for accountancy services, PR advice, business coaching or legal advice.
2) Skill Swap For Business Development
The second option is to use skill swapping to enrich the skills of your business team. For example, if you run an online media promotion company, you could help to promote the services of a business consultant in return for them showing you how to run your business more efficiently. It’s a situation where both parties benefit.
Or how about providing the skills and services of your business in return for someone teaching you or your team a foreign language?
And in the field of online business and internet marketing there are several potential avenues that you could explore.
If you need to learn more about copywriting, video production, blogging, podcasting, list building, programming, you’ll always be able to find someone who is willing to teach you in return for one of the skills possessed by your team. The list of opportunities is almost endless.
And as an added bonus, you may find people to work with on future projects or someone in the same line of work with whom you can share your thoughts and concerns about your industry.
3) Skill Swap For Using Spare Capacity
Skill swapping could also be employed to use up spare capacity within your business. Due to the recent business slowdown, many businesses have discovered that the number of orders has dropped and that the same level of demand is no longer present within the economy.
So they’re left in the position of having to cut business costs in order to survive. And in many cases this means reducing the size of their workforce.
In this situation, skill swapping could help to use up the spare capacity of their business and prevent them from having to make people redundant.
So instead of having to move team members from full-time down to part-time work, you may be able to use some of their time to benefit your business in other ways. For example, if you employ a computer programmer within your business and you don’t have enough work to keep them in full time employment, you could in effect hire them out (through skill swapping) to other businesses who need their skills.
In return you could receive various services which will allow you to cut the underlying costs of your business, meaning that you can keep your programmer working full time and avoid interrupting the continuity of your business during these difficult times.
4) Skill Swap For Building Experience
One of the greatest challenges when starting a new business is finding new customers. But to attract new clients and give them confidence in your abilities, it’s important to be able to provide them with evidence of the work that you’ve carried out for other people.
But if you don’t have that evidence it’s difficult to find clients to allow you to build up a portfolio of your previous work. It’s like the situation with the chicken and the egg.
But skill swapping offers the chance to break through this barrier. Going back to our example from earlier with the web-designer and the accountant, if you offer to create a website in exchange for the accountant preparing your tax return, not only will it get the tax authorities off your back, it provides you with evidence of work that you’ve done for a client that can then be shown to other prospective clients.
Skill swapping may be the perfect way to build up an early portfolio of both your work and client testimonials with will make it easier to find more new clients.
And finally, lets look at some of the places where you can find these skill swapping opportunities.
The main site mentioned in the magazine article was www.swapaskill.com which now has 10,000 members and around 30,000 listings of people looking for various skills and services to swap.
The second site is www.Gumtree.com which has 2500 skill swap listings at present with around 14,000 people searching these ads every month.
On a more specific subject there’s www.LingoFriends.com which brings people together who want to learn various foreign languages using a combination of forums, email, online telephony and meetups.
And as always, there’s a broad range of sites including Craigslist and other mainstream social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter where you can look for people who have an interest in swapping their unique skills and services.
If you’re willing to consider this type of arrangement and are prepared to get creative, skill swapping can be an extremely rewarding experience both personally and professionally.
If you’ve ever been involved with skill swapping, we’d love to hear about your experiences. What skills did you swap? How did you setup the arrangement? Did it work out well? And have you got any advice for other people who may be considering this growing phenomenon?
Take a moment and share some of your your experiences with the strategies listed above. Have you tried any of these or used some others great strategies to help save your company time or money. We would love to hear your feedback and stories