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Business Card Basics
By Terry Pile,  Special to Seattle Times - NWjobs

Whether Marilyn Richards is going to the dry cleaners, church or a work-related meeting, she always has a few business cards tucked into her pocket.

“Business is everywhere, and the business card is a powerful way to communicate,” Richards says.

The Seattle consultant carries three different cards, each with its own image on the back designed to show a facet of her mentoring business. Although the situation determines which card she hands out, Richards says that when people see her cards, they often ask for all three.

At a recent networking lunch, Richards passed her cards around the table and spoke briefly about her company.

“After surveying my card and hearing my brief business introduction, the woman sitting next to me offered me a speaking engagement to a group of executives in North Seattle,” Richards says.

Whether you’re looking for new business or a job, what you present on your business card is critical.
Marketing specialist Andrea Sames says she paid careful attention to her brand while she was in the job market.

“Your business card, résumé and cover letter should have the same look and feel,” she says. “The card should match the position you are seeking. For example, don’t use flowers on your card unless you are looking for a job as a florist.”

Eye 2 Eye Graphics creative director Nancy Owyang advises people to create something that stands out. “Perhaps it’s an unusual shape, a color or a teaser for which people will remember you,” she says.

Owyang’s own business card folds to a standard size. She takes advantage of the real estate inside the card by listing five reasons potential customers should use her services, including this lighthearted one: “If your logo and website were designed by the neighbor’s 16-year-old nephew.”

Career consultant Tom Washington coaches his clients to use business cards as a job-search tool. He finds that many people who are unemployed have lost not only their job, but also their identity.

The cost for business cards ranges from less than $10 for online templates to more than $1,000 for a professionally designed card with custom logo and full-color printing.

Many online companies such as Vistaprint offer free business cards, but you must pay shipping. Other popular sites to consider include MOO, Zazzle and Overnight Prints.

If you’re looking for something more exotic, All Things Business Cards links to companies that create cards made out of plastic, metal, wood or chocolate. Whatever the wow factor, experts say business cards should also be easy to store and scan into an electronic business-card reader.

“They don’t know what kind of information to communicate on a business card,” Washington says.

The card that has the greatest impact contains information about your experience and strengths, he says.

“Even if you don’t have a specific employer or job title, you still have a career,” Washington says. “If you’ve been a project manager and intend to stay in that field, print ‘project manager’ for your job title.”

Washington also advises job seekers to maximize the card’s space. A personal slogan or branding statement fits nicely on the back of a card, he says, and folded cards such as Owyang’s have room for a condensed version of your résumé.

Following proper business-card etiquette also makes a good impression. If you have gone to the effort to create a memorable card, keep it in a cardholder to avoid bent corners. If your information has changed, print new cards immediately. Crossed-out phone numbers or e-mail addresses don’t impress.

Likewise, when you are handed a business card, treat it with respect; don’t immediately tuck it away. Take a few moments to glance at it and comment, or make a few notes on the back to jog your memory about the card’s owner should you want to follow up.