Why Buy When You Can Swap?

caveman.gifOut of the many depressing and mind-numbing statistics, stories, and trends floating around in the recession, there is one which inspires hope: a growing economy based on trust, community, environmentalism, and smart consumerism.

It’s been called the “sharing economy” and “collaborative consumption.” We talk about it as part of a broader movement of mutualism.

You probably didn’t sign up for Netflix to “share” DVDs – you did it so you didn’t have to walk to Blockbuster. (Is Blockbuster even around anymore?) But if you became a Zipcar member, you might have decided car-sharing made sense as a way to a) save money and b) not put another car on the road.

The Daily News recently published a list of 10 websites with different swapping schema, which is surely only the tip of the iceberg. They don’t mention, for example, our friends at Loosecubes (where some people will swap you office space for a little creative juice), or groups like Skillshare and OurGoods. Some places are entirely cash-free, like BookMooch, others, like SnapGoods, allow you to rent your stuff when it’s lying around unused.

One site that seems really promising for freelancers is Caveman Trading, which is set up to swap services. It looks like it has some room to grow and catch up with the way freelancers work: you currently browse by geographic location, which is wonderful for building local communities, but if a freelance web designer and freelance accountant want to swap services, it doesn’t necessarily matter if they’re in the same city or state.

Freelancers, as one of the scrappier segments of the workforce, could stand to gain a lot from sharing goods and services with each other. But is it practical? Can it be efficient? Do you already use informal (or formal) swapping and bartering in your work and life? If so – what do you swap? And if not – what would it take to convince you to try it?

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