We Should Talk More About Bartering, and How It’s Radical and Beautiful

Photo by  rawpixel  on  Unsplash

Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

Just like last week when I talked about sliding scales, I get it — money is a practical matter — bills must be paid, mouths must be fed, lights must stay on, etc. But when used strategically, I think bartering can do us a world of good financially and relationally.

Bartering as a Radical Act

We are brought up in this world to equate value with money. As I’ve expressed before and I’ll express always, there are a lot of ways to show someone you value them, their skills, their time, and what they provide you. We cannot forget this.

Bartering requires an extra level of communication with the folks we do work with and for. It requires us to be creative and insightful and really honest with each other. How does this act match up to that act? If you and I are talking strictly dollars, it’s just math. Take away the numbers and things can look a lot different really quickly.

Also worth mentioning: bartering is pretty simple as far as radical things go. You may have even done it a lot in little areas of your life, but have you thought about how you can pull it more intentionally into your life — not just personally, but professionally?

I'm still thinking on what that will look like for me moving forward; it's definitely on mind.

Bartering as a Beautiful Part of My Life

The first truly professional bartering I’d ever done (and am still doing) has been graphic design services for yoga classes. And honestly, this has to have been one of the best decisions of my 2017-2018 life.

I’ve struggled with anxiety all my life. Anxiety has manifested itself in many ways throughout my days including: lack of appetite, insomnia, social isolation, overwhelming thoughts, whatever you call that feeling where you’re suddenly too aware of your heart beating, and panic attacks with physical symptoms (ex. sweating, tingling sensations, hot flashes, etc.).

Anxiety caused me the most grief in college, when I took a few yoga classes but self-medicated mostly through chocolate.
#wholebagsofdarkchocolatecoveredacaiberries #notsohealingwhenimalmost30

I came back to yoga in my late twenties, in and around the time I was transitioning from nonprofit work to starting my business and I had noted a spike in some of those symptoms that I hadn’t experienced in a while.

I met my yoga teacher and partner in bartering, Syd the Yogini, at a local yoga studio I attended for a year. After a few months hers were the only classes I went to. Syd and I chatted before and after class and she learned I was a graphic designer (on top of all the other things). I’d put a few samples of my work up on a board in the studio, and when she liked what she saw, she asked me if I’d make her a logo. This first job we worked together was paid in the typical way, dollar dollar bills y'all.

By the end of my annual membership to the yoga studio, I noticed a fun pattern. When I had gone to yoga classes regularly, my anxiety quieted. When I had missed classes for a few weeks or a month, those issues resurfaced. At the edge of becoming a full-time self-employed person though, I was looking at a shoestring budget that pretty much laughed the cost of another annual membership off the table.

I approached Syd about taking classes just with her, and rightly so, my shoestring budget couldn’t make that happen either. But… what about a barter? This proposal was considered, and we decided to try!

Roughly an hour of yoga for an hour of design services, once a week.

It’s been more than six months now and I’ve worked with Syd on her website, Instagram, guiding on how to use Canva, creating worksheet templates, and more. And I've felt calmer and more well-adjusted in life in some major ways — through our sessions and valuable coping tools for when I start to feel off (like the child's pose I've been in for a portion of writing this post, and the deep yoga breaths I've been working on taking more often). 

Getting to know Syd through this barter has been such a meaningful example of how community can work. It's not all about the work. It's about the fact that we've shared common space, common time, common passion.

I want to stress that without this barter, I probably just wouldn’t have gotten these services. I probably would have labeled yoga a personal luxury I just couldn't make happen yet.

But this physical activity and meditation aren't just luxuries. They impact my whole being. My personal life and professional life, too. 

After a few months of yoga with Syd, I got a package of cycling classes on sale, so for a while, I got up to two points of physical activity in my week each week, one meditative, and one high-energy. After seeing the added benefit of that, I've been working on adding room for cycling to my budget too.

Where Do You Go from Here?

What's something that you could potentially have access to that could better your life if you bartered for it? What's something you would accept as a barter so that someone could benefit from the work you do?

How could bartering deepen your relationship with folks in your community? How could it change the way you look at value?

Take this and use it however works for you in this season of your life right now. I hope it opens a door to something wonderful, even if only a new perspective.