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Business Cards – Two Inexpensive Solutions

Business cards have been part of my life for so many years that I can hardly remember the first one, but I’ll bet it’s over twenty-five years ago. Being an entrepreneur, I’ve started a number of businesses, and in the Czech Republic, I worked as an outside contractor, using business cards for each contract.

I have a great affection for business cards. Though I don’t normally keep collections of any kind, I have kept one copy of every business card I’ve had over the years. It’s a walk down memory lane, and it’s a chance to see how much I’ve grown and changed over the years. I can even see all the changes and growth I’ve made within the life of a particular business.

Besides being a walk down memory lane, business cards serve several important functions. The first and most obvious is that they provide a very efficient way of exchanging our contact information.

The second thing business cards do is act as a marketing piece for your business, and that’s closely tied to the third major function – providing others with an image of you and your business.

If someone expresses interest and asks how to get in touch with you, can you whip out a business card? Are your cards personalized in any way? Do they pack a lot of information about your business on one little bit of card stock? Do they speak great things about you and your business? Do your cards stand out in a stack of other cards?

Remember that business cards represent who we are; they help define our company and personal image. And they tend to stay around forever – Chelsea and I still get emails from people we met in campgrounds almost two years who tell us… “I lost track of you for awhile, but I was changing wallets a few days ago and I ran across your card, so I thought I’d check in with you! How are you?”

Business cards aren’t only for business. We have seen an increase in “personal cards” in recent years. What a switch it is from ten years ago!

I still remember my first few forays into home schooling meetings. The kids and I had been out of the country for some years, and I’d been working high stress, high profile jobs where business cards were handed out like candy at Halloween. Then suddenly I wasn’t working, and was attending home schooling get-togethers.

Wanting to get some kind of support network going, and being so used to networking, I’d introduce myself and ask for contact information. We’d all be digging around for a pen and piece of paper, ripping bits off larger pieces, and writing our names and numbers again and again on these ever-smaller bits of paper.

I finally commented one day “You know, we could all use some business cards here…it would sure be a lot easier!” A home schooling mom looked at me with distaste clearly written across her face, and responded, “You’ve been in the business world too long!” Ah well, let’s hear it for culture clash.

Now personal cards are more and more common, and I for one welcome the change. I would ever so much rather have a nice neat, easy-to-find and easy-to-store business card to tuck away, than I would have some scrap of paper.

These days getting good-looking and highly personalized cards is easier than ever. We have two low-cost and effective routes we’ve taken in recent years.

One route is to buy card stock from any office supply store. The cards come in packages of 250, and retail for just under $15. You create your own design in a word processing program like Microsoft Word, according to a template you’re given in the package. You can add logos, drawings, and even (really little) photos.

After you’ve gotten the design the way you like it, simply print as many copies as you need. After printing, bend carefully on the perforations, and separate the cards.

The pluses to this method are that you control the design, and you control the timing. You can make as many as you like or as few as you like, whenever you like. The card stock is pretty readily available – we’ve even found it in a small rural office supply store. The card stock comes in a variety of colors, and some even have preprinted designs, especially for personal cards.

One downside is that the cards do look homemade. We’ve tried a lot of varieties of stock over the years, and it’s pretty hard to get one that really does have an invisible perforation.

Another downside is that, though the templates can be created to your design, we found in practice that the templates were pretty limiting.

Yet another downside is that the cards can be really annoying to get lined up on the template, and they seem to change with each printer. If you’re on the road and having to get a printer wherever you can, this can be frustrating and time consuming.

And finally, the card stock varieties vary quite a bit by store, so you may in fact only get plain white or a cream color. It’s hard to maintain a “corporate identity” if your card stock design and color keep changing (this is assuming that you travel and don’t order online).

When we started our current trip in June of 2007, we knew that we wanted to hand out cards, so we opted for the do-it-yourself approach. We successfully managed it, though we had all the frustrations of finding an available printer, having to realign the template for each printer, and having to find the card stock somewhere (more of a challenge when you’re only on bicycle). Then we still had the weight of the card stock to carry with us if we wanted to reprint, and the cards definitely looked homemade.

Then in July last year we ran out of card stock and went searching in the rural areas here in southwestern Louisiana. We did find card stock, in the basic cream color we’d been using, but we’d been wanting to spiff up our image, and we kept putting off printing more cards. Besides, we also needed to hunt down a printer we could use.

Luck smiled on us right then…we got an ad for VistaPrint.com. We’d heard about VistaPrint some years earlier, and we’d actually used them for the cards for one of our old real estate LLCs. Somehow, we’d forgotten all about them. They’re the second low-cost route we’d recommend for getting business cards.

VistaPrint is a printing company with great prices and really good turnaround. They do all kinds of marketing materials and company identity products, from business cards and letterhead, to t-shirts, post cards, signs, and rubber stamps.

They’ve really kept up with the do-it-yourself movement – you can design your own products on their very easy-to-use templates, or partially design your own, using some of their stock images and fonts, or have them design the whole piece for you.

We had really liked VistaPrint when we used them earlier, and it was one of those “duh” moments when we rediscovered them. So, we decided to price things out and see what kind of design we could get.

Chelsea and I had a wonderful time over the next couple of days, designing our new cards. We tried out several different photos, and tried out a number of fonts and colors. We found the templates to be quite easy to use, and we found the font choices to be sufficient for our needs. We loved being able to upload our own photos.

We ended up with a photo of us on the bikes (one of our favorites from Colorado on our 2006 cross-country ride) on a sidebar on the left front of the cards, with our byline and all our contact information next to it. The same photo (in a fade-out) went on the back, with one of our favorite quotes superimposed on the faded photo.

The cards are very lively, and very pretty, and feel very personal to us. And we get compliments every time we hand one out.

Since we are headed into Mexico and beyond, and we’ll be spending up to six years “south of the border”, we also opted to have the same card done in Spanish.

Perhaps best of all is that we got 250 cards in English for $20, including an emailed document proof, a one-time charge for uploading the logo (our photo), with shipping and handling. Just the card stock alone at the office supply place had cost us over $15! We also got 250 cards in Spanish for $18.

We got our cards on a special that VistaPrint was running, but I just checked online and they have another special for 250 cards for $14.99, a 25 percent savings. We like our cards so well that we would order again at full price (around $33 – our original discounted the full-color backside to half-price). Another special they have now is for 50% Off Premium Business Cards+ Free Return Address Labels.

Note: We paid a higher fee for shipping because they say online that “regular” shipping is 14 days and “slow” shipping is 21 days, but we got both orders (one regular and one slow) in about 3-5 days.

VistaPrint does keep all your information in your own account, so reordering or making changes is extremely easy. We found our old card designs there from 2002!