Individual Business Cards: When Are They Appropriate And Are They Worth The Money?

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Business cardNot long ago, I had 1,500 business cards printed up with the logo of The Simple Dollar on it, a ten word description of the site, my name, my email address, and in large letters along the bottom, www.thesimpledollar.com (spanning the whole card). When these arrived in the mail, my wife rolled her eyes at this: “Do you really need business cards to promote yourself? Isn’t that a waste of money?”

Yesterday morning, I participated in an interesting breakfast conversation with an old friend. At the end of the conversation, I casually mentioned that I had been having great success as a blogger and handed him the card. Last night, he sent me an email that he had spent four hours reading The Simple Dollar and had sent the URL to a bunch of his acquaintances.

In a nutshell, individual business cards are only as useful as you are. Here are some reasons why individual business cards may be worthwhile for you, whether or not you run an individual or small business.

It’s a tangible reminder of what you have to offer. I actually have two different sets of business cards now: one for individual computer consulting in the community (I help people select computer systems, set up home networking, and the like) and another for The Simple Dollar. I give these out to different people based on the circumstances – are they more likely to want to visit The Simple Dollar (non-local people, bloggers, etc.) or are they more interested in a local service I can provide (local people)?

It lets you jot notes on the back to give away. I do this all the time with my consulting cards: I’ll write things like the specs they should look for when looking for a digital camera or something to that effect right on the back of the card. That way, they take the card with them and have a reason to look at it again, reinforcing the meeting we had in their mind.

It provides a portal to accessing what you have to offer. In the instance of my consulting cards, it contains my phone number and also appropriate contact hours. In the instance of my Simple Dollar card, it contains the site URL (for seeing what exactly it’s all about) and my email address (for getting ahold of me directly).

In short, it’s just a quick way of making sure people remember who you are. If the interaction is positive (and especially if you add value to the card by putting information on the back), the card will create a positive reminder of the meeting and perhaps result in positive things in the future.

Should I have a business card? If you are providing any sort of service at all in which you would like the person you’re conversing with to recall at a later time, then it is worth the cost of the business card to have one in your pocket. Do you have a non-personal blog? Are you involved in any sort of individual consulting? Do you sell anything at all? If any of these are true, it’s worthwhile to have a small pile of business cards.

What should a card contain? A business card should contain three elements:

Something that is visually striking This will increase the likelihood that the person will remember you. In some cases, a picture is appropriate; in my case, I used the bright Simple Dollar logo on one and a laptop on another.

A written reminder of what you have to offer Make sure the text actually reflects what it is you offer: a word or a phrase that defines the reason you would want them to remember you and remember what’s on the card.

Contact info If you have a website, your card should include the URL and your email address. If you’re doing local consulting, it should include your phone number and perhaps your mailing address. In most cases, if you will be dealing physically with the person, you should include your phone number and mailing address.

What should I spend? Spend the money to get them printed professionally if you’re going to get them done at all. You may even want someone to consult with you on the design before you have the first batch printed. However, that doesn’t mean that every bell and whistle is necessary, either; just make sure they’re crisp and clear and present you in a positive light.

How does this save or make money? Directly, business cards don’t save or make a dime, but indirectly, they set you up for long-term success if you present them well. For example, giving the business card to my friend actually cost me the amount of the card and didn’t give me anything directly, but I did gain a very happy reader and a person who is now evangelizing the site to others, which is far more valuable than that card will ever be.

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16 thoughts on “Individual Business Cards: When Are They Appropriate And Are They Worth The Money?

  1. Regarding ‘What should a card contain?’, you forgot blank space. Not because it’s classy, but because as you mention in the article, it gives you somewhere to write notes. You never know what extra info you might want to give someone when you give them a business card but chances are high that you’ll want to put something there. Make sure the cards are printed on uncoated paper, or at least a matt/silk finish (avoid gloss or plastic) and leave the back blank (or printed a fairly light colour) so that it can be written on easily with a biro or pencil. You’ll find yourself writing all sorts of stuff on them – appointment dates, local restaurants recommendations, badly drawn maps…all added value stuff.

  2. You can get free business cards from vistaprint.com. Using their templates, I designed my own and they look pretty sharp. There’s a small vistaprint logo on the back, but it’s hardly noticeable and to my thinking well worth it.

  3. I had cards printed up with just my email address and phone number and it saved me a lot of money as I just had that one card for my different business ventures. I could carry around a stack of them and give them away to whom I needed to, because more often than not the person I was giving it to knew what I was in the “business” of. If necessary, I just wrote a quick bit of info on the back. Personal business cards are a must have, no matter how you do it!

  4. There’s a service called VistaPrint that you can use if you want professional business cards but don’t want to break the bank. They have a certain number of designs, none of them spectacular, but all of them servicable, and you can get 250 for free. I’ve been really happy with mine, and I’ve not had anyone who looked at me oddly because of the logo on the back.

  5. Hey Trent — got a URL for your consulting business? I’m getting started doing something similar in southern AZ and would love to see what you offer. Thanks!

  6. These seem to be a compromise between the traditional “visiting card” (often with only a name on it; if you read the Little House books, you will remember Laura getting some) and the modern business card. I think it’s indicative of the current blurring of public and private (definitions of which have varied over time and depending upon social class) and the slow return to individual, home-situated employment (“You & Co.” as William Bridges has it).

  7. Great post and excellent insight re: blurring of public and private from Mitch. I definitely think personal business cards are in order, but how do you tactfully present them in situations where you will also be handing out your corporate business card (not your own business)? Can you hand out both together? If your employer found out, would he be offended that you bundled them? Do you just choose the more appropriate for the situation/contact? What is the etiquette?

  8. whenever i give and receive business cards, i’m often reminded of The American Psycho bit about business cards.

    Get good, heavy card stock. no one likes cheapo flimpsy ones. i prefer simple business cards made of heavy card stock, with a little texture, raised lettering with beveled edges, because it gives the impression of importance and being up front and to the point. remember, the first thing the person receiving the card will notice is the heft and texture of the card. If it it feels interesting, then it is probably worth looking at. People remember things more when more than one of their senses were engaged.

    I think simplicity stands out far more than something “visually” striking. visually striking is too busy. your business card shouldn’t be a billboard. something simple with company name/seal, your name, your position, your contact information in a readable but stylish font. this doesn’t mean it cannot be creative, especially if you are in a creative field.

    and let’s not forget that depending on which part of the world you find yourself in, the presentation of the card is just as if not more important than the card.

  9. It may pay off to check out Vista print as once you become a customer, they generally have a S&H special on their premium business cards. 250 for free with no vista print logoing makes for a pretty good deal.

  10. I’m a firm believer in “personal cards.” (After all, they’re promoting YOU, not the boss’s business.)

    As for Vista Print, rumor has it that their free cards are not full size. I can’t confirm that personally, but be careful, if that would bother you.

    Finally I wrote an article a while back about business cards for law students.

  11. Great article on business cards, I have been thinking of getting some of the moo.com cards since I am a photographer as well.

    Thanks for a great read.

  12. @Andrew:

    Unless they have recently changed their product, all Vista Print cards (including the free ones) are full-size. I’ve ordered from them several times, and have always been pleased.

  13. I’ve used overnightprints.com – similar to Vistaprint.com but faster turnaround times and a plethora of designs. google around for some $10 off your first order codes.

  14. I’ve used overnightprints.com as well. Their quality is excellent, they don’t charge for things like uploading your own design (vistaprint.com does), and they have some nice specials.

  15. We got just our website & e-mail on our business cards. Since our goal is to get people to our website (otherwise they call & ask all the questions that are answered on there). We used PS print and got them really cheap and they’re great quality.

  16. vistaprint.com will leave their ad off the back for a few dollars extra.

    Their business cards are *not* quite full size. They trim off about 1mm all around from the usual 3.5 x 2 inches.

    Does that matter? When someone holds your vistaprint business card, it will seem just fine. But if your card is in a stack with other business cards, it will be easily missed.

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