Should you even have business cards?

Should you even have business cards?

Chris Wolfgang's Layout avatar

Who out there has designed their own business cards?

I mean, why wouldn’t you?

It’s a small project with quick turnaround, and it allows for a decent amount of creativity within a relatively strict set of parameters. You need your name, business, and contact info on a card that fits easily in a wallet. Go. Show off those design skills and your in-depth knowledge of paper quality.


Do you even need business cards?

Let’s talk about what’s going to happen to that business card

trashcan closeup

Photo courtesy of mjesse

Looking on the very brightest side, your business card has a super short life span. It will be turned into digital information sooner rather than later. Possibly even while you are still standing in front of your new business contact.

You’ve spent hours designing, selecting paper, and selecting a letterpress artist. You’ve handed one of those quite-possibly-very-expensive-by-now cards to your new business contact.

If they’re polite, they’ll compliment your design and then carefully put the card in their wallet or bag to be digitized at a later moment (if they can find it again).

If they’re efficient, they’ll whip out their phone and use a card-scanning app immediately.

If they’re rude, they’ll hand your card back to you or throw it in a trashcan while you watch, quietly horrified.

At best, you’ve made a fleeting impression that’s lasted perhaps half a second. At worst, you’ve handed a brand-new business acquaintance a piece of trash to throw away.

In both cases, you’re putting the ball in their court. If you want to ensure future communication, it’s more important to get their contact info than it is to give them yours.

Let’s talk about what you’re trying to do with that business card


Photo courtesy of Ed Yourdon

A business card is supposed to serve a few specific purposes:

  • communicate positive, useful information,
  • about you specifically and your business generally,
  • utilizing text and design,
  • with an end goal of drawing business to your door.

But if someone’s just throwing your contact info into their phone and then your card into the garbage, the card isn’t doing the job you’ve designed it for. Chances are the end user (ie, the person you’ve handed your card to) is stripping the content and leaving the design.

And if someone loses your card before they can transfer the contact info, it’s not working at all.

You need a better way to make a lasting impression on a new business acquaintance and still easily transfer your information to them.

Let’s talk about refocusing that energy


Photo courtesy of David Zeuthen

The key is to stop looking for all those bullet points to converge in one place (like your business card). For example, positive, useful information about your expertise and your business is, of course, already online.

We’ve already talked about the importance of self promotion. And, let’s face it, your brand is so much more than any business card can convey. It’s the entirety of your online presence, which is definitely not all in one place. Get your online info up to speed, keep it accurate, and use consistent language and philosophy when you engage with people online.

That takes care of communicating positive, useful information about you and your business. But what about the design element? There’s no design effort going into a Tweet.

You’ve got an online portfolio, right? Consider that link to be a business card constantly offered at every interaction.

Let’s talk about what to do when you meet someone in real life


Okay, so ditching business cards entirely is all fine and dandy and very now, but what about, you know, exchanging information with someone you’ve actually just met? Physically. In person.

When you meet someone new socially and you’d like to get in touch again, the normal course of action is to ask if you can text your number to their phone. If they’re into the idea, sure, no problem, here’s my phone number, text me yours. If they’re not into the idea, they’ll find some excuse, don’t you worry.

Take that practice with you into a business networking situation but add a more professional tone. Ask for their email address. This isn’t a new idea — people have been advocating this since smartphones became a thing. Either email them your contact info while you’re standing there (efficient! Eager! On the ball!) or follow up the next day. Don’t wait longer than that. Voilà. Your contact info is an inbox instead of a wallet or, worse, a trashcan.

Now we’ve already discussed that what you want is their contact info, but if you really do want to get your info into their hands fast, don’t forget (and so many people seem to) about AirDrop.

Let’s talk about how you really just want to design something on paper already


But, you say, eyeing new paper stock, I want to show people how much I love paper and how well I can design with it. What should I do?

Design your own stationery. Elegant. Timeless. Really difficult to lose in a wallet or bag. Use it. Sending thank-you notes on personal letterhead? You classy individual.

And hey. Remember how I mentioned at the beginning that designing business cards is a small, creative project? That means it can be fun. And if you just want to do something fun, well. Go ahead and make those business cards and flourish them with pride.

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