Most people think of LinkedIn as an online resume service, but the social nature of this platform makes it a much richer and more powerful tool than most people could ever imagine. It is useful to anyone in business or with anything of value to offer, who understands the value of a network. That’s a much larger group than job hunters!
Now, before we dive into the details of combining two seemingly unrelated activities like using a “job hunting” site and bartering, let’s take a look at each one separately.
As a consultant or entrepreneur, you offer your talent for an established fee. But, just because you haven’t established yourself as a full-time professional, doesn’t mean you don’t have skills or can produce products that that others find valuable. These might be, for example, organizing, decorating, catering, coaching, giving lessons in a particular skill, hand-crafting, proofreading, or designing websites. If you’re already set up as a business, you have set a price for the output of your labor. If not, the game cannot start until you do.
You may take what you do for granted. But don’t let others do the same. Even if you have never charged $75 to $200 for a private knitting lesson or to organize an entrepreneur’s desk or teach the local toy store owner to set up a Twitter account, doesn’t mean you can’t barter for goods or services in that amount in exchange for that expertise. In fact, you’ll discover how valuable your offering is when you trade it for something that is valuable to you.
Now let’s go to your LinkedIn account, which is the marketplace where you will barter your “wares”. I’m going to assume for this purpose that you have already established a presence on LinkedIn and have been growing your connections. If your profile is not as fully filled out as it could be, don’t worry because that can be updated with more information when you’re ready to go to market.
You should also be part of relevant groups You can belong to alumni groups, interest groups, professional groups and hobby groups. As a member of a group you may communicate with others in that group, even if they are not one of your connections. It’s also a great way to widen your network because you’ll be able to contact them and ask them to become a connection by virtue of the shared group relationship.
Your final preparation on LinkedIn is to make sure that as many people as possible have recommended you for the product or service you’re looking to offer. That validates your authority and the quality of your work.
Let The Games Begin
It’s time to go to the marketplace. You’ve got something other people want. In order for you to be bartering as opposed to selling, you’ll need to be clear about what you’re looking for in exchange. If you’ve got a small business, there are probably plenty of services you need like accounting, real estate rental, web design, consulting of many different types, and virtual assistance.
Take a look at the advanced search function on LinkedIn if you can’t think of ideas for goods and services you’d like to exchange. You’ll find a surprising number of categories on LinkedIn. If you’re planning a party, you’ll find events and facilities services, performing arts, photography and printing. You’ll find healthcare providers, writers and editors. Think about all the things on your wish list that you may not have the budget for. It could be five sessions with a life coach or an editor for your blog.
When you’ve established what you want, share an update with your connections and in your groups. Update your profile with a statement about your interest in bartering. Ask your connections to share the offer with their connections. Even with only a couple of hundred connections you’ll have a network that reaches into the millions. The best part is that you’ll be connected to a large part of that network through people who know you or people who know them. That creates a level of trust that you wouldn’t have by placing your wares out in a public marketplace or even on a website or blog where you are completely anonymous. It’s a very modern way of using a very ancient method of trade.
NOTE: this post is part of the January Word Carnival — a monthly group blogging event focused on the interests of small business owners. Check out the rest of the fabulous carney work here. And don’t forget to join us for our Twitter Chat on Thursday (Jan 26) at noon (Pacific). We’ll be tweeting up a storm under the #WordCarnival hashtag.