For Internet trading, your first area of concern is the headline or title you give your listing. Be specific about what you’re offering, and maybe add a descriptive word or two to boost interest. An example would be “never-worn wedding gown” or “Tiffany-style lamp, NWT” (new with tags). Add the location of the good or service, unless it’s a service that is readily available to clients nationwide, such as graphic design. Location is critical for items that can’t be shipped or are too expensive to move by postal mail or UPS. It’s also important for services that are area specific or limited, such as babysitting, lawn care, or vacation home rental. When using barter Web sites, you should be specific and descriptive about what you’re offering to trade. Instead of listing “playground equipment for sale” try “Playground Equipment including a swing, slide and roundabout for sale.” Which listing are you more likely to click on? Just because you are trading doesn’t mean you shouldn’t use eye-catching strategies from eBay.com or classified ads. Selling is selling, even if you are bartering. Your headline is critical to attracting attention immediately and standing out from the crowd of traders who are also offering cars. In the body of your barter listing, make sure you give as much detail as possible. Give the viewer plenty of reasons to contact you and begin the barter dialogue.
Photos are helpful, if not essential. Make sure they show the item from key angles and are of good quality. A good model is eBay, which has perfected the art of the online resale. Just as you would at eBay, note if there are flaws in the item. You should show them so that the viewer can see exactly what he or she is purchasing. This way, you will not only have an informed partner on your hands but also be establishing trust by showing everything, warts and all. You also eliminate the risk of a buyer later claiming that the flaws were hidden. For a service such as home repair or hairstyling, you may be able to take before-and-after photos to demonstrate your capabilities. Post a photo of yourself on sites that allow pictures. This sort of personalization fits perfectly with the atmosphere of barter.
Since this is a person-to-person interaction, personality matters—even over the Web. We all prefer to deal with someone who is more than just a name and an account on the Internet; your photo is just one more way to engender trust. Depending on the nature of the trading site, you should list your own Web site or blog, if you have one. An Internet presence shows that you are more professional and not a fly-by-night trader. Again, this is just more fodder to add to the bank of trust you are building. By listing a link to your Web site, you are able to supply even more detail about your goods or services, providing testimonials and direct contact information on your site. If you are a service provider, put your résumé on the trading site, or, if that’s not possible, let viewers know it’s available for downloading through e-mail or on your blog or Web site.
Consider whether urgency will be an element of the trade. While most trades are going to be for goods and services that have no particular shelf life, there are some that stick around for only a brief while. If what you are offering has a time limit on its availability, make sure you indicate that in either the title/headline of your listing or early on in your description. Limited-time offers such as a vacation home rental could slip by without a taker if you don’t promote the necessity of acting quickly on your offer. The same thing applies for produce, puppies, tickets to events, or anything that can age beyond desirability or usefulness.
If there are limits to your offer, you’ll save yourself a lot of misunderstanding and grief if you are clear about what they are. If you are offering a service, make sure you spell out exactly what you will and won’t do. (Example: “Home-based child care, ages six weeks and up. No nights or weekends.”) If there are aspects of what you do that require paying cash for a related service, mention that as well so that there is as little confusion as possible.
While we mentioned earlier that you should affix a value to what you are offering, keep in mind that it might vary by region. You may need to visit CraigsList.org or look at regional publications like your town’s newspaper to get a sense of regional values. Not sure exactly what the market value is? Then you’ll need to surf over to sites like eBay.com and Amazon.com to expand your research. Stores and catalogs are certainly other venues to check. Just remember that the value of the trade is based on current market value, not what you paid for it. That should take into consideration the condition of the item, if the market is flooded with it or not, what others are paying for it, limited-time availability, and other similar factors.