A properly prepared business card is one of those business tools that many people overlook. For a small investment, usually less than $30 for 500 cards, you can tell the world who you are and what services you can provide. Your business card is a silent seller, so what will it say about you?

When planning a card, it’s important to keep your message in mind. Your card will be what people reference or use to remember you. It should be professional, legible and contain the necessary information. Some exceptions would be a humorous card if you were a clown or comedian and a juvenile card if you were involved with children’s services. In any case, you would still have to cover the essential points in your creation.

Think ahead about the layout and how to capture all the necessary information in such a small space. Draw a template and try different versions and placement of information. You can also use some of the online websites that have sample business card templates readily available. (You’ll probably have to order them to use it.)

Tip: Fax your card to yourself. This is a good way to see how legible you’ve made important details.

In some cases, a folded card may be acceptable. It’s important to recognize that many people don’t like cards that come in different shapes and sizes (especially ones that aren’t conventionally stored in a rolodex or business card organizer).

Some issues to consider when preparing your business card
1) Who will receive your card? Hopefully everyone you meet. You should always be prepared to deal your cards. I am amazed at the number of people who attend business functions and come without their cards. Students are notorious for not having a business card. It is an essential part of the job search.

Tip: When you attend a function where card trading is expected, wear something with pockets. Keep your own cards in the right pocket and the cards of people you know in the left.

2) What will you do with the card once you receive it? Store it in a Rolodex, add it to the database, and put it in a stack with a rubber band around it? My personal favorite for services I use around the house, vet, pharmacy, cleaning, etc. is the refrigerator magnet business card. All of them are easily accessible. They are a bit more expensive, but those are the cards I use the most.

3) Under what conditions will your card be used? In an emergency (if you need a plumber), you’ll want your card to jump off the stack.

Exotic or unusual cards are smart, but they’re not exactly suited to the business environment. The exceptions are if you can identify on your card any service you perform, such as embossing, hot stamping, or product you sell, specialty papers, or if you are an exotic dancer. Bright colors are not a good idea unless you are involved with color in your painting, flower, decorating, etc. business. Special effects like vignettes and shadows get lost in such a small space. Keep it simple and distraction-free. I recently received a card on an opaque material and I just couldn’t read what was printed on it.

Many people now include their photos, this is especially sensitive. But if you are involved in the photography business like Eastman Kodak or are a photographer, this is a great idea.

A couple of things to consider about photos:

o Some people judge services by a person’s appearance.

o There may be security reasons why you don’t want your photo on your card.

o Photos can “hang out” with you or your product.

o Photos can personalize it and make it more accessible.

It is perfectly acceptable to have multiple cards. You should consider having both a professional and personal business card. My husband, a retired Marine, has a somewhat risque but fun business card that he hands out to Marines he might know. Another example would be if he was looking for a job and wanted to differentiate his work, address, and contact information from his home information. He may also have a side business that he would like to separately identify.

Business Card Essentials:

On the front:

o Name, title, company name and logo, mailing address, telephone and fax numbers, email address, website and cell phone number.

In the back:

o Who you are, what you do, your mission statement, your vision, the services you perform, the skills you have, the awards you have won, associations/memberships.

TIP: Make sure one side of your card is always in English. If you plan to travel or do business in a foreign country, it is a good idea to invest in a translation of your essential data for the other side of the card. If you do a lot of international travel, especially to countries that have security risks, it might be worth downplaying your title. DO NOT have a card that shows that you are someone of great importance.

General writing tips:

o Stay away from unusual fonts and different fonts on the same card;

o Make sure your card is legible and credible;

o Make sure the information is well organized and makes sense in the layout;

o Make sure your name is large enough for people to read without glasses;

Don’t rely on one card to do it all.

Plan your cards as carefully as you would a resume. Be proud of your card. It is a reflection of you. Business cards are an inexpensive but essential sales tool. Be prepared to give your card in any circumstance and for God’s sake “Don’t leave home without it”.

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