Bartering for delicious grass-fed beef or homemade soap can be the beginning of a beautiful friendship. Just ask Dylan Benito.

The Portland native and charismatic freelancer has a penchant for swapping to support her eco-friendly lifestyle. Over the years she has discovered that community connections are powerful forms of social capital. You can turn everyday hobbies and your professional expertise into currency.

Here are her tips on how to begin bartering and discover opportunities within your existing community:

1. Figure out what services to offer

Your ability to barter is limited only by your imagination. You can exchange things as varied as photography, music lessons, or even interior-decorating help. Ask yourself:

  • What hobbies could you teach someone?
  • Could you craft something to swap?
  • Which common tasks do you enjoy?

Dylan's longtime friend, Caitlin, was a rancher turned PHD candidate at Washington State University when they struck up a mutually beneficial bartership. In exchange for editing a paper, Caitlin provided Dylan with an array of fresh locally sourced edibles.

“She brought a cooler full of beef. It took up over half of our freezer. It was amazing. I had a seemingly forever supply of free range, organic, grass-fed beef to cook to my heart's content."

Dylan's list of potential exchanges include: Pickles, beer, spirits, massage, house cleaning, meats/fish, canned goods, and clothing. The opportunities are endless when it comes to exchanging goods!

2. Outline all expectations

According to Dylan, the key to a successful barter is outlining all expectations from both sides in advance.

"The biggest lesson to learn when you work with other people is to take make it worthwhile for both parties. There is a perceived cost for everything, and I think when bartering you have to think about both sides of the equation a little more. That way, everyone gets what they should for doing (hopefully) an awesome job."

Part of the discussion should include determining the time frame and creating deadlines. If it’s an ongoing partnership, set a review date to make sure you’re both still happy. When developing trade transactions, practicing transparency builds trust and increases the likelihood for future exchanges.

3. Use bartering to connect with your community

A major difference between regular gigs and barter transactions is the wonderful way bartering connects you with your community and other business owners. You have a wealth of knowledge and skills to contribute; use your network, online and offline, to identify opportunities to trade services.

For instance, Dylan works with the Portland-based writing group, The Copywriter Conclave. Most of their day to day communication is via email and social media. This allows her to connect and share resources with some amazing writers. If needed, she has access to a rich, vibrant community to trade goods and services with.

Ultimately, bartering can strengthen bonds and revitalize community spirit. It’s eco-friendly, personally profitable and provides colleagues, neighbors, and friends with a method to support each other.

Learn more about Dylan at dylanbenito.com and follow her on Twitter @dylanbenito!

Your turn: Everyone out there has something to barter. How do you embrace swapping into your lifestyle?