Your online presence may be incredible. Your portfolio sparkling. You could be a computer programmer who never leaves the house.

But yes, you still need business cards. Also, you need to leave your house.

So what makes a good business card? Why do we need business cards, and what do they do?

(Thanks to freelancer Hilary Potkewitz who emailed us a question about business cards and inspired this post!)

What a good business card does:

1. It conveys professionalism and quality.
2. It tells others how to contact you.
3. It communicates a unique attribute of your business, in line with your personal brand.

That’s it. It’s not more complicated than that. And each of these things can be conveyed simply, without a lot of words!

The text on your business cards:

1. Your name
2. What you do

  • Think about a “job title” from your prospective client’s point of view. You want your business card to work for clients who know what they want and clients who don’t. So if you’re a front-end developer who specializes in JS and dabbles in PHP and you want to build other people’s small business websites, you might want to think about putting “Developer” or “Programmer” on your business card. If your ideal client is a technologist, you can be more specific.
  • The important part of this is keywords. People are just going to scan your card.
  • Your job title could change on a dime. Your career will evolve. You don’t want to be stuck with 500 business cards with an outdated title. So be forward-thinking (and possible on the safe side, i.e., general).
  • No matter what, don’t be too wordy. Business cards are not for explanations or marketing pitches.

3. How to contact you

  • Email address
  • Website
  • Social media accounts, especially field-specific profiles (Dribbble, GitHub)
  • Phone number, possibly. Do you really like to be called on the phone or do you prefer email? Phone number isn’t as necessary as it once was. You may choose to include your phone number in the footer of your emails or on your invoices instead (for current clients) rather than on material for future clients.

4. (Optional) A value statement or slogan. Hopefully this is brief.

The design of your business cards:

In many ways, the design of your business cards (and the quality of the paper they’re printed on) are better subtle indicators of professionalism and your personal brand than any text you put on them.

Here are your options.

1. Use an online template and printer

The cheaper route, perfect for beginning freelancers. Lots of nice templates, but this can actually make it hard to know what goes with your brand. Try Minted (which supports fellow independent designers!) or Moo. They are both design and printing services.

Some pointers if you’re using a template:

  • Use both sides of the business card. It’s not much more expensive and this is the new industry standard.
  • Pay attention to typefaces. An overly fancy typeface can be hard to read and get outdated quickly.
  • Keep white/blank space. Don’t crowd your card with info or color.
  • If this is your first set of cards and you’re caught between going funky and going simple, go simple. People are probably going to dislike this advice (especially when I talk a lot about how to stand out), but I think it’s better to start this way while you’re refining your brand than going funky and hating your cards in 6 months.

2. Hire a freelance graphic designer

A well-designed business card can be well worth the investment, especially if you know your ideal clientele is visually sensitive or you work in an area related to the design industry. A freelance graphic designer can think creatively about how to convey your special or unique value visually in a way you probably can’t. They may even choose a creative layout or shape, which will make them stand out from the stack on your prospective client’s desk. You can hire a decent graphic designer for your business cards for $200-$300.

Remember, if you use a freelance graphic designer, you’ll need to find your own printer separately.

That said, don’t delay!

If you’re equivocating about getting the right design, or spending weeks making sure your cards are perfect, you’ve already waited too long. If this is your first batch, you just need to take the plunge. Buy cheap ones. Get it done. Refining can come later.

It’s much better than showing up at a networking event with the excuse that your business cards are “in production.” Your future client’s first clue that you don’t have your stuff together!

**Looking for more great freelancing tips like these? Join Freelancers Union today. Membership is free. **