The right business card can help you get work for yourself or for your company. It can help remind someone that they want to work with you. This can be especially helpful at trade shows and conferences, where there is an endless stream of people to be met. If your business card follows a few simple rules, it will be more effective in helping you get work and make contacts.
I have seen hundreds of business cards over the years. Here are my opinions on what makes a good business card, and a few rules about how to make a business card work for you. Some of these rules are obvious, some less so. I would like to think that some are so obvious that they don’t even need to be stated, but that is not always the case. So here are my top 25 tips to help you create a better business card.
- Include your first and last name on the card. OK, I know this sounds obvious, but I have seen a few too many cards that do not have this information. Sometimes it is because they just have the generic business card from their company, but that format is really impersonal. As often as not, I will throw the card out if I don’t know the name of my contact at the company. If you work for a company, ask them for your own business cards with your name. If they won’t give you a business card, it is not that expensive to have your own printed up.
- Include a meaningful job title on the card. This should be something that describes what you do. If you write down pirate ninja, you are not helping yourself. I do not actually know what a pirate ninja does. I have no idea if you are someone that I could work with in the future. I don’t know if you own a company, install toilets, deliver coffee, or kill people. You have left me with nothing but confusion.
- Do not write down student as a job title. If you are a student, write down what you are studying for, and a title that expresses your current level of understanding of the field, not that you are a student. Obviously if you are studying medicine and you are just going through Bio 101, don’t write down surgeon. “Student” short changes what you have learned, and it does not help the people you hand it to know if they would be interested in hiring you.
- Include your email address on the card. I hope this one is obvious. This card is to help you make contacts. Those contacts will want to contact you. Give them a reliable way to do that.
- Have a professional email address. That means something like [email protected], [email protected], or [email protected] This is not the time to show off that you were able to get [email protected] Your email should not cast doubt on if you are able to be professional.
- Include a phone number on the card. If you have a phone number, include it. Again, contacts want to contact you. I find it helpful to specify if the number is an office or a mobile number. This way people don’t try to text a landline. Also, include any extensions to reach you. Nothing is more frustrating than having to work your way through one of those automated systems to get the right extension.
- Include your website on the card. This is where you can really let your card go to work. You can really show off what you know and what you can do on your website. This is where decisions are made on if you are worth hiring or if your company is worth working with.
- If you have a professional social media page, you can include that on the card. Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, Instagram… Whatever social media you use to promote your business, you can include your page on the card. This helps especially if there are multiple other people or companies with the same or similar names.
Whatever social media you use to promote your business, you can include your page on the card. This helps especially if there are multiple other people or companies with the same or similar names.
- Proofread. Proofread the card yourself and have others proofread it. You require zero mistakes. A misspelling here can be disaster. Either you look very unprofessional, or even worse, the contact info is wrong and they can’t get hold of you because the email or phone number were wrong.
- Use fonts that are easy to read. The goal is not to prevent someone from contacting you. If the font makes your eyes bug out, it is not right for a business card. In general, if you couldn’t use it for a college paper, it probably isn’t right for a business card either.
- Do not use a dark font on a dark background. I once spent way too much time trying to read the info from a card that was black font on a dark brown background. It is almost impossible to read. You should not have to rotate the card in different lights to catch what it might say.
- Dark text on a light background is easier to read than light text on a dark background. Most people find it easier to read a card that has dark text on a light background.
- Print text on a plain background. It is hard to read text on a busy background. Text should be written on a solid color background so that it is easy to read, and no details get lost in the design patterns.
- Have all text going the same direction. Your card should not have to be turned to read all the text. I don’t know why, but this rule is broken a lot. I don’t know who started the idea of writing your information in a spiral, or having the name one way and the contact info at a right angle.
- Don’t make your card too gimmicky. It should be a way to clearly communicate your contact information. You do not want them to have to cut up your card or dip it in water before they get the information they need from it. I have seen cards that you cut up to make papercrafts, cards that have seeds in the paper so you dip the card in water and plant it, even cards written on dog treats where the info will be eaten. I would not want my card to be eaten by a dog. Do not try to get the message across that your information is worth destroying. Or eating.
Do not try to get the message across that your information is worth destroying. Or eating.
- Have your cards professionally printed. We all know what the perforated edges mean, and they look tacky. You will not get that same professional look at home, so don’t try. There are a lot of professional printers out there now that are affordable. Find one and use them.
- Choose a standard size business card. In the US, that size is generally 3.5 in x 2 in. Other countries have slightly different dimensions. Look at all the business cards you have ever received, put them in a pile. Your card should be the same basic size as the average card. Having a card that is larger or significantly smaller makes it difficult to store with the rest of the cards a person is getting. It may be thrown out just because it is the wrong size. I don’t know who came up with those new tiny cards that are half size, but they are easily lost and they slip out of stacks of business cards, I do not recommend them.
- Your card should not be too flimsy. A card that is too thin can come across as cheap. On the other hand, it should not be too thick either. You don’t want someone destroying your card because they think that it is two cards stuck together. Try to choose a standard card stock paper weight for your cards. This is typically 100lb weight or something close to it.
- Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. What do the business cards of the top companies in your field look like? Don’t be afraid to take ideas from the cards that are doing it right. Big companies often have somewhat plain cards. When it comes to card design and layout, less is more. Keep it simple.
- Carry at least a few business cards with you at all times. You never know who you are going to meet while you are out. New business can happen when you are least expecting it. You should always be ready to meet someone and present them your card.
- If you are going to a trade show or conference, bring a lot of cards. This one is important so I will say it again. If you are going to a trade show, conference, meeting, or some other professional event where you are sure to meet new people, bring lots of cards. There is no reason that you should be out of cards when you meet the right people. Know how many days the trade show is, and be prepared to hand your cards out like candy the whole time you are there.
If you are going to a trade show, conference, meeting, or some other professional event where you are sure to meet new people, bring lots of cards. There is no reason that you should be out of cards when you meet the right people.
- Hand out your business cards. Do not be stingy with your cards. They are not precious in your hands, only in the hands of your contacts. It is better to have dozens of people just throw out your card than to not give it to the right person that needs it. If you give them your name, give them your card. If you shake their hand, give them your card.
- Do not clutter your card with art. You may be a great artist, but your business card should not be cluttered with your art. Your contact info is more important. Have your card send them to your website where they can see all of your art, in a way that does your art justice.
- Take bleed areas into account. Don’t have any text or logos too close to the edge of the card. When the card is being cut, it can cut off anything that falls in this area. This can make a card look cheap, and it can make the owner look like they don’t care about details. For this reason, also avoid borders.
- Check that most pens can write on your card without smearing. Sometimes you need to write information for the person you are handing the card to. It can helpful to have it right on the card; it is also less likely to get lost. The person getting your card may also want to write notes on the card. (Be aware that, in some cultures, it is considered rude to write on business cards.)
So there you have it, my 25 most basic tips for business cards. I hope these help you find the work of your dreams!