Bartering. You have to love it; the exchange of goods and services without any money changing hands. :)
I've done quite a bit of it over the years, and in fact, am off this morning to do some sign painting for our local vet, in exchange for veterinary services for our five fur-kids. Here are two of them, Cosmo and Cadie the Wonder Dogs...
Sorry, I can't resist an opportunity to show people their cuteness, hehe...But I digress....
The thing is, I have a skill and the veterinarian has a skill. Neither of us is capable of doing what the other does, so recognizing that, we arrive at an agreement that benefits both of us.
Over the years, I've used whatever artistic ability I have in exchange for a pretty wide range of things, for instance, a year's share at a local CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) farm - basically free organic produce for our entire family from May through early November, including produce to freeze for the winter. Here's a pic of the illustration I bartered...
I've also swapped with other artists (sign painting for an absolutely stunning tarot deck a couple of years ago) and have done lettering for an Amish friend in exchange for homemade canned goods. I could go on, but you get the idea. :)
The first step is to keep an eye out for people who may have a need for your services. Whether you paint, knit, sew, cook - whatever your skill, odds are someone else out there doesn't have it. Talk to people in your community about your particular skill - make it known that you Do What You Do! Our vet became aware of my skill when I painted her a little "thank you" canvas for going above and beyond with one of our dogs. She remembered it and approached me about this recent project.
It helps to carry business or calling cards wherever you go, and to have a website or blog documenting your talents. But there's no substitute for word of mouth, especially in a small community. Put yourself and your talents out there - talk to people, and when it comes right down to it, just ASK. The worst that can happen is the other party won't be interested, in which case you're no worse off than you were before.
In this difficult economy, bartering may just be an idea whose time has come. In fact, there's even a hospital in Brooklyn bartering health care for mural painting. And how cool is that?
So give it a try. Not only will you share your skills, but you're likely to make new friends in the community. :)