Thursday, December 27, 2012

Income in Uncertain Times: Barter and Cottage Industry

The universe has certain natural laws.  And sometimes its first one seems subtitled Murphy.  But whether you find yourself searching the Help Wanted Ads, are trying to make ends meet just that tiny bit further, or are rebuilding your life after a major disaster--you can still provide for your needs and keep your independence.  As Disney says, all it takes is faith and a little bit of Pixie Dust--or in other words, ingenuity, hard work, and careful planning!


By bartering or through your own cottage industry, of course!


Bartering is simply the exchange of goods or services.  When we barter, we trade an item for an item, an item for a service, or a service for a service.

Before you freak out that you don't know how to barter, you need to remember that, actually, you do.  Remember trading stuff out of your lunch at school?  Or how about trading 'favors' with your sibling?  Or how about going to work each day and getting a piece of paper at the end of the month with a dollar sign on it?  The truth is, we've been bartering all our lives--and all of humanity's history!  While the stuff we've bartered for has changed according to our needs and what we value, the fact that we barter still remains.

Sure, you can pick up training books on Amazon to learn how to barter better--and I highly recommend it!--even watch tv shows like Trading Up to see how some people go at it and pick up ideas from their ideas--but in truth, the basics of bartering are actually quite simple and steady.

After all, you bartered as a child, remember?

So let's refresh the adult you on the basics of bartering.

First, you have to decide what you want to get or what service you need done.  This includes taking the time to research the current 'market value' of them.  Remember, you can only successfully close a trade if everyone involved feels it is actually fair.  Hopefully, you already know this, but make sure that what you want is legal.  Or you might find that you end up trading for a neat pair of orange coveralls!

Second, you must choose what you will be willing to provide in trade back--either in goods or services.  Bartering is a two way street!  This means you need to know the market value of things at your end, as well.  Just as you don't want to cheat someone else, you definately don't want to under sell yourself, either!  And again, keep it legal!  Federal Agents do pose as potential barter partners to catch illegal trades--I actually know someone who learned this the hard way!

Third, you need to connect yourself with the person who has or does what you want or need.  And not just any Joe Schmoe, it needs to be the person who also wants what you have or do back.  This takes networking--and includes taking the time to ask around, post ads (think bulletin boards, newspapers, magazines, or online), and going to barter organizations (both online and off) to make the connections you're looking for.  Be patient and choose carefully, you want to deal with a reputable person--and in a good way!

Fourth, start talking with your potential barter partner.  If you've done all your research ahead of time and are talking to someone who has a good chance of being interested, all you have to do now is be courteous and chat for a bit.  Make that human connection.  This lets both of you decide if you want to deal with each other.  Then propose your trade.  If the other guy is interested, the haggling can now begin.  Stay courteous.  If the two of you can't agree on a deal, that's fine.  Shake hands and part respectfully.  If you can, then shake hands and keep your part of the bargain.  Murphy's may be the universe's first law, but The Golden Rule is definately the second!

So have fun and be careful, bartering can be a really powerful financial assist.

But if bartering is a powerful assist, cottage industry and be a mainstay strength.

Cottage Industry

Cottage Industry is simply small-scale industry done at home--usually by family members using their own skills and equipment.  In other words, it is the industry that comes out of the home rather than out of the factory.

Where does cottage industry happen?

Why, all around you!  You can see the goods at craft fairs, small 'mom and pop' shops, SCA markets, and online at personal websites or in 'shops' on internet markets like Etsy or even eBay.  You see its services advertised on family owned cleaning vans or on their landscaping trucks.   Cottage industry can be done by grandmothers knitting in their favorite chair or by a young college student bent over a computer keyboard.  It can be baked goods done in a small kitchen or photography sessions performed in a corner of a garage.  It can be an income supplement or the entire income itself.

So how do you begin your own cottage industry?

First, sit down with some paper and a pen, and carefully decide what goods or service you want to provide.  Analyze yourself!  Know your abilities and interests, research the costs (which include needed equipment, base supplies, advertising, etc.), and determine your market (who you are selling to, your competitors, all projected sales, and your future revenue sustainability).  Here is where the quality of your research will make or break you later.  Be smart--don't pull punches with your ego--if you aren't truly skilled enough to produce a particular item or service in quality, either get skilled or find something you are actually good at!  This isn't a pride issue, this is a monetary issue.  Those that are skilled, get the income.

Second, get to know your local, state and federal laws in reference to cottage industry.  Again, it's the orange coverall.  Don't short yourself in the end for a tempting short cut now!  Keep careful records, pay your taxes, deliver quality goods or services, follow all regulations, and be wise.  Risk taking is for Vegas, not for when you or your family are relying on food getting on the table and bills being paid!

Third, create an 'official' workspace and hammer out a 'real' work schedule.  Why?  Because this will make the difference between having a hobby and having a cottage industry.  Professional structure gives professional results.  If you want your cottage industry to be a true income--whether in goods or services--you must give it true attention.

Fourth, do your self marketing.  This can be stuff like business cards and websites, ads in papers and online forums, flyers on bulletin boards or attending activities in your target markets.  If people don't know you exist, they can't buy from you.  Basic logic.  And don't forget to take advantage of the already esisting barter organizations and network--or available targeted markets like Etsy!  They are some of the best and fastest ways to get yourself out there.

So, now you are thinking about barter and cottage industry!

Remember that whether times are hard or just tight, bartering and cottage industry can help you make ends meet and keep your financial independence.  And there is nothing as satisfying as providing for yourself or your family through your own ingenuity, hard work, and careful planning! 

Take the evening to sit down and do some thinking.

Uncertain times doesn't have to mean uncertain income.

So be your own Pixie Dust.

You can do it!