Whether you're a trainee accountant or a fledgling freelance poet, there will be a point when someone says "oh- do you have a card?" and if you don't, you'll be writing your email address on a bit of receipt you found on the floor. Bit unprofessional.
For starters, it really doesn't cost that much to get a few cards printed. Unless you're the CEO of a large corporation, there's no need to get sixty thousand done; 100 will keep you covered for ages and you won't need to part with obscene levels of stirling.
HOW TO DESIGN YOUR OWN CARD...
If you don't want to spend anything at all, Microsoft do some nice, and not-so-nice, templates. They also provide this basic tutorial on how to add artwork, as well as info on actually laying out the cards. Because nobody wants to print out 70 A4 sheets before realising they're badly align or absolutely massive.
Websites like Moo.com allow you to play the designer too, with ready-made templates alongside blank canvasses for those who wish to unleash their creative side. But make sure you follow these top tips before going OTT:
Keep it clean
We're not telling you to avoid F bombs as, presumably, you're aware of that. Rather, don't clutter your card with unnecessary information, pictures, watermarks and gimmicks.
Your name. Your profession. Your phone number. Your website. Your email address. Maybe a small feature (such as a borderline, an illustration or a simple decoration)
Anything else is nice, but optional. Twitter handles, facebook pages, blogs, witty quotes and a "notes" section all come under this aforementioned banner of "nice but optional"
What to do about the "profession" bit?
It's easier for creative types to circumvent the student or unemployed problem on BCs. Unemployed freelance designer? Lose the "unemployed". Student journalist? You're a freelance journalist. However, you can't do this for the vocational and corporate professions - it can lead to a lot of confused people wondering why the supposedly fully-qualified doctor just ran away from the urgent medical emergency. Just omit your profession, and say it in the design.
Make it modern
No comic sans. No word art. No rainbow colours. No terrifyingly dated themes. See "keep it clean" and, if in doubt, go for black and white with one strong hint of a single primary colour.
Do not include photos of yourself
The business card is a way of being memorable and of conveying information from one person to the other. It's not the place for an instagrammed, or pouting, selfie that makes you look dead fit. And, for the record, "professional" shots where you're smiling blandly in a suit never fail to look like parodies.
Tailor it to your profession
If you're a corporate solicitor, don't have a business card that turns into a tiny little chair. Or is shaped like the moon. Moo does different templates for various careers, but make sure you keep it small and subtle. A simple stethoscope silhouette if you're a trainee doctor. A pencil illustration if you're a writer. A comedy/tragedy picture if you work in the theatre. There are ways of getting across what you do without going OTT, but that complement the career you're hoping to get into/have just started getting into.
Don't be enigmatic
It comes across as gimmicky, arrogant or slightly incompetent; did you forget to put your phone number and email address on there, only leaving your twitter handle? Or do you want me to work in order to get in touch with you? Either way, this isn't a good idea. People could be put off.
Get a friend to roadtest it.Not only will they spot any spelling errors, but they can also let you know if the font's small, the colour unreadable or the overall effect is too busy. Never send to the printers before getting smoeone to proof-read.
I'VE GOT MY BUSINESS CARDS. NOW WHERE DO I PUT THEM?
Business etiquette expert Lydia Ramsay, author of Manners That Sell, gives her top three tips on what to do with your business cards:
Always have some with you. Not all of them, but a couple in your wallet. "There is nothing more unprofessional than the business person who has to say, 'I'm sorry. I didn't bring any with me.'" says Lydia.
Keep them somewhere safe: "A crumpled business card makes a poor first impression."
Not sure when to exchange cards? "Wait to be asked for yours," suggests Lydia, "then, if that isn't happening, ask the other person for a card. Reciprocity generally follows."
Be assertive. Don't say "Do you mind if I give you my card?" because that sounds flighty, nervous and unprofessional. Do say "here's my card". You've heard it in the movies. You've seen it in high-powered business meetings. Now it's your turn. Hooray!