Networking events are awesome places to make friends and new connections. But a trip to the grocery store has the same potential, where a friendly chat in a checkout line might land you a worthwhile business opportunity. Connections can happen anywhere. It pays to be prepared.
And the absolute, number one thing you need in order to be ready? A business card.
Nothing's worse than having someone ask for your contact information when you don't have a card at the ready. You're left scrounging around your pockets looking for a slip of paper, then trying to write your information down neatly. And all the while, you can feel the person slowly starting to wish they hadn't asked. Yikes.
The good news is business cards are fun to design and delightfully easy to order. Even if you're not a freelancer or don't have a side hustle, a personal business card is an asset even the smallest of cogs in the machine can put to work. If you've never had one and aren't sure what should be on a business card, here's what you need to know to get rolling.
Your standard business card is 3.5 inches by 2 inches. There are endless choices in sizes and shapes, actually, but the standard is that for a reason. You can make your card stand out without it being annoyingly over- or under-sized.
Traditionally, colors are in shades of white, from ivory to bone. Creative industries allow for a wider variety, but for your first card, it's okay to play it safe.
When choosing and designing your card, keep in mind your budget, who you'll (ideally) be handing it to and what message you'd like it to convey about who you are and what you do.
This might seem like a restrictive canvas, but there are endless small variables when deciding what should be on your business card. These include everything from what kind of edges or corners you'd like to settling on a font.
Who you are should be right up front. Seem like a no brainer? Don't knock the reminder. Designing your business card can become more stressful than you think, and whether you're designing and ordering them yourself online or working with a printer, it's all too easy to get so caught up in proofreading what is on your card that you forget to look for what isn't. (Subtle hint: remember to proofread!)
Because obviously. But while we're at it, let's talk about your email address. Is it the one you made in high school? Is it still an @netscape account with a sounded-cool-in-school name? Don't be that person. You want a professional-looking address that's just your name, possibly in combination with your freelance/side hustle company. Make sure not to use the business email account you may have through your current employer on your card. This is for your own personal use (including job hunting).
And if, say, [email protected] isn't available, do not (repeat: not) become bethsnyder139. Try using periods between your name or adding a middle initial. Take the time to create a simple, clean email address, one you won't be embarrassed to say out loud.
Remember that thing in your hand that you use to check your bank account, update social media and scroll through memes? It has a cool app that lets you connect it to the thing in someone else's hand. Then you can talk out loud to one another (no texting required!), in real-time.
Face to face is still the best way to connect, and over the phone is the next best thing. And in the business world a lot of oldies are still goodies, so don't feel too old-fashioned about dialing in. People you want to connect with are going to want to talk to you on the phone.
If you work in or for a specific industry or would like to, note this on your card. This will help you narrow your networking circle as well. And if you're building a sideline business that caters to a particular industry, it helps to clarify who your clientele is.
If, for example, you run Marketing Excellence, the person reading your card can't tell it's an agency that creates marketing materials exclusively for tech companies. Noting this will save them having to ask and remember exactly what it is you do.
Think of industry or niche as further explicit definitions of what you do and for whom you do it.
This doesn't have to be long or complicated. You only have so much space to work with, here. And keep in mind, your current employer doesn't need to be noted on your card. This is for you, the professional, not you, the employee at [blank]. You don't want to work at [blank] forever. That's why you're getting these cards and learning to network better and smarter. Your general title or area of expertise will suffice.
You have media, right? For freelancers, consultants and other independent contractors, a website is essentially your brick and mortar business. It's where people go to find out all about what you do, why they need it and how much it costs.
But a carefully cultivated and professional online presence is useful to traditional business folk, too. Networking happens online now more than ever, and you need a face to go with your name, some sort of profile to go with your title or business. No doubt you've heard of LinkedIn. It's... getting pretty popular.
There are lots of portfolio hosting sites out there (even Google Docs works, in a pinch), and you can get creative with what you share. Remember, a portfolio, like a resume, is all about showing you as someone capable of and qualified for, the position you want. Any materials you add, such as presentations or designs you've created, should all be relevant to the position and career direction you hope to attain.
Another note: like your email address, your portfolio name or link should be professional (and short enough to fit on your business card).
Go ahead and think of this as a slogan. No, not the hokey kind with a little jingle. More a super distilled version of your personal mission statement. Something that sums up your approach to work and your expertise. Something as simple as paraphrasing and condensing your resume summary will totally work.
Think of yourself as a business, as a brand, regardless of your industry or job. Your business card is a marketing tool. You want it to show who you are and what you do in an easy-to-digest fashion.
In a word: clutter. Your professional goals, industry and preferences will dictate how you arrange the information that should be on your business card, of course, but be aware of how much you try to cram in. White space is crucial to readability and usability.
Cramming in too much text or an overlarge or indistinct logo or picture will muddy the look of your card, making it difficult to read. When designing, step back and view your card from a distance. Ask yourself, if someone handed this to me, what would I think of it? Assess both the front and the back of your card with this in mind.
Aside from being more pleasant to look at and easier to read, leaving enough space on your card also leaves the recipient room to jot a note about you or your conversation for later reference.
Just like proofreading, don't skip this simple step. What shouldn't be, due to space, quality or relevance, is of equal importance as what should be on a business card.
Business cards originated from calling cards, which Victorian-era visitors used when out making social calls. These cards were left with, or in lieu of, a message if whomever they called on was out. If they were in, it served to announce their presence before they were allowed to see the host.
Your personal business card functions in the exact same way, a calling card announcing who you are, what you do and why the person you're giving it to might want to talk to you again.
Even if you aren't a freelancer or a side-gig hustler, having a personal professional business card is a wonderful networking tool to add to your arsenal. Your card will clearly communicate not just you but also your brand.
Take your time deciding what should be on your business cards. You want clean, concise and informative. This goes beyond aesthetics: you want to make sure you card that is as solid and professional as you are.
Heather Adams has designed (and re-designed) so, so many business cards. She also writes, makes pictures & creates little notes.