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Do’s and Don’ts of the Modern Business Card

I don’t care how digital this age is, the next time you’re at a networking event, I doubt you’re going to tell the recruiter you’re talking with to “@ ME!” While this may be appropriate at a college party (and for my sake, I really hope that it is), it just isn’t in a professional setting.

Cue the oldest networking tool in the book: business cards.

Often forgotten, business cards are still a major feature of the professional world. Running around handing out an 8×11 resume isn’t going to get you anywhere, but a standard-sized card has a much better chance of making it out of the pocket or wallet and onto the desk of someone important.

So if we need business cards for the same reason we always have, why am I writing this post? Well, because the modern day business card for 2014 must be optimized to be transferred on all sorts of mediums.

With this digital age, many previously useful platforms and pieces of information are losing importance, while even more are becoming vital. The fax number on your old card? Toss it. Oh, your business card isn’t readable to a business card app? Too much work to do it myself, see ya never.

It’s important to make sure that your business cards are optimized and innovative by 2014 standards. They could seriously make or break how far you go with a potential client or employer.

So let’s get down to it. What should and shouldn’t you do when crafting the perfect business card?


Include multiple ways to contact you

Well duh. Never sacrifice space to do this for other things. It doesn’t matter how awesome the design of your logo or brand is, or how beautiful the picture of you is, if I don’t have AT LEAST your name and phone number, I don’t really care. But really, you should have more.

As a rule of thumb, always try to include your name, email, and phone number. Other possibilities here for your personal information can include your Twitter handle (try to avoid ‘@ me bro’ when listing it), website or blog, or some other important digital or social media contact.

When it comes to specific business information, of course include the name, and try to also list the website. After this, space permitting, add the address, phone number and email, in that order of importance.

Remember simplicity is key

It’s a tale as old as time. Someone decides they need a more memorable business card, so they hand it over to the creative department, and the business cards arrive from the printer…cupcake-shaped purple and blue cards with orange type! YAY! So ideal. NOT.

A bright orange or cheetah print business card is not necessarily a great idea. It’s easy to believe the idea that this shows off your personality and is memorable, but in reality it is often just perceived as an eyesore or immature, and more often than not, it finds its way to the trash.

Instead, remember the KISS principle: Keep it simple, stupid!

When in doubt that the design or font choices may be too much, they probably are! Don’t try so hard to convey your entire brand image or portfolio on a 3.5×2 card, it just isn’t practical. Save this for the meeting or review you get from giving them your simple and sleek business card.

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Prioritize readability over creativity

I don’t care, and more importantly that potential connection doesn’t care, how superly (not a word) awesome your card is if they can’t even figure out what it is that you do.

Make sure, no matter how much Ted from Creative cries about it, that the card is readable. Memorable is great, legible is better.

Remember the point of your business cards. You’re not handing over a hand-sized card to impress someone, you’re handing it over so that one day they may call you and give you the opportunity to impress them. Make sure when that comes, they know who they’re calling, how to call them, and what they’re calling for.

Simple, right?

Keep a standard size

Oh what a cool human-shaped little business card you gave me! Cool. You’re so great. Okay, I’m going to put it in my wallet now. Oh.. It doesn’t fit? Too bad. *throws in garbage*

It’s awesome if you’re creative and have a really cool idea for a business card, but in most cases, that just isn’t practical. If you’re at a networking event or on the elevator, chances are the person is either receiving 100s of them, or has nowhere but a wallet to put them in, so remember this.

If you just can’t part with your creatives, consider providing them at your business! Keep them as cards, or turn them into little paperweights or magnets. They will work as mini advertising tools for future customers.

Separate advertising goals from your business cards, don’t forget that each of these things has separate, specific purposes. Don’t mix them.

Make it tech-friendly

This one encompasses all of the above. The newest feature of modern business cards are apps. With these new apps, you can take photos that read and transfer the information from the business card into your contacts, either on your phone or LinkedIn.

This is great, as so many papers and hard copies without digital versions get lost so easily these days. The person receiving your card can quickly scan it in with Evernote or CardCloud or an app like that and connect with you on LinkedIn, all in just a few minutes.

This also can be bad. While there is no specific formula that can ensure your card will be easily read by the app, there are some key things to do to better your chances.

See: above. The more information your include, the more information will be transferred into their contacts. The easier it is for them to get in touch with you! This is a great thing. People like things as simple as possible, if it’s difficult, they probably won’t do it.

Making it simple and readable is also vital. Technology is amazing, but it is not going to read through your zebra print stripes to find your email address.

These apps aren’t the only great way to digitalize your business cards. You could also consider including a scannable barcode that prompts the reader to your website or another landing page. Barcodes aren’t dead, and they add a great personal touch that shows you are innovative and moving forward.

Digital-friendly features are the main point of this article. This is the future, so go out and make sure yours are! Even consider downloading a few of the apps to make sure yours are accepted on a few different platforms. A little work is better than having one of yours land in the trash because it was too difficult to transfer.

Now that you know what to do to make a great card. Let’s figure out what NOT to do.


Be cheap

Would you purchase a stroller for your newborn baby that had some holes in it because it was a great deal? No? Then why are you skimping on your business card orders?! Your company and your success are kinda like your babies, no?

I’m not saying you need to take out a loan or ruin your credit score to get some business cards, but understand the impression they can make (or not make) on a potential connection.

Spend the extra money to get it on a nicer material, make it glossier, or add a pop of color. All of these things will go a long way. They will give off a professional vibe, and will be seen as an investment in your success.

Include too much info

Use some common sense here. Think about what you’re trying to convey with your business cards.

If you’re working in the plumbing industry, you probably don’t need to include your Twitter handle. But if you’re a social media specialist, you probably should. Weigh what is important based on your goals.

Like I said earlier, contact information is really important. Make sure there are multiple ways to get in touch with you, that is never a bad thing. Where it gets tricky goes beyond that.

You don’t need a 150 word description about the work and services you provide on a business card. By adding your website, you save a ton of space, and they know they’ll be able to visit the site and see all of that info there!

The best advice here is to really weigh your personal or business goals, and determine what information, beyond your contact info, is best to include.

Clutter the back of the card

As they have been for decades, the backs of business cards are for note-taking purposes. Don’t clutter it up with more information, use the fact that whoever you meet may jot down some notes to remember you by to your advantage!

Plus, most of the card-reading apps don’t have double-sided features anyway. So don’t worry about adding more stuff there.

Most people aren’t going to flip over your business card, unless they are writing something down about your meeting. Don’t bother cluttering it. It’s more of an annoyance than a proactive gesture.

If you just have to add something, add a small logo, disclaimer or barcode on there. Be sure to leave most of it as blank space, though.

Use gaudy colors or fonts

I know you probably think I’ve said this 5 times already in this post. And I have. But that’s because it is important.

Save your crazy colors and diverse fonts for your advertising or website. Separate advertising yourself/your business and networking yourself/your business. I cannot stress enough how different these are.

If you’re really concerned about giving your business card a personality, choose a small pop of color or use a bolded font to make something stand out. Less is more here.

Keep outdated or edited cards

If your business card still has a fax number on it (unless it’s a necessary aspect of the card), it’s probably time to upgrade. Check out your business cards every few months to make sure the information on it is still relevant and up-to-date.

With that being said, if your business cards have typos on them (like, really? if they do… there are no words), THROW THEM OUT. Start over. Do not dare take a red pen, or even a pen the same color as the font to them. Because guess what, after you hand one over, it is going in the trash without a second look.

That being said, don’t try to update any information with white-out and a pen either. If your phone number changes, order a set of new cards with the updated number, and throw the old ones out. Better yet, recycle them!

This may seem like wasted money and time, but it is so much more professional. To avoid wasting a ton, don’t order massive amounts of cards at a time. Order what you need as you go. That way, when you do need to make changes, you’re not throwing out hundreds of cards and thousands of dollars.

So there you have it folks, the fool-proof guide to creating the business card of 2014. Of course, with all of these budding networking tools and technologies, I may as well call this the guide of the month. But, you get what I mean.

Follow these do’s and don’ts to get the most out of your #1 networking tool. It’s your best friend when it comes to being remembered.

Do you have a special tip or trick you use to make your business card memorable or unique? Let us know below!

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