The Reluctant Networker’s Guide to Business Cards - Christine Kane

There may be no one in history who resisted business cards more than I did.

I didn’t see the need for them. After all, I’m an artist. I have CD’s. I have a website. Isn’t that enough?

Maybe you have your own reasons why you think you don’t need or want to have a business card. And maybe they’re good reasons.

I got some cards printed before I went off to eWomenNetwork this past weekend. I’m glad I did. What I realized is this: It makes you findable. And it’s simply one more avenue for connection and outreach. So, why not have a card?

What if 100 of the 110 people you give your card to end up tossing it out because they’re just too overwhelmed to do anything constructive with it? (We’ve all been there.) But what if those other 10 people keep it and remember you? Maybe they decide to check out your website one day, or subscribe to your blog, or call you about some coaching. Who knows? Internet marketing teaches you that it takes multiple avenues to create business connections and income streams. And yes, that’s true even if you’re an artist with a website.

After keenly observing people all weekend long, I compiled a these ten tips for basic business card networking…

Business Card Tip #1: Listen first

The reason some people don’t like the idea of business cards is that they can seem shallow. (Artists and musicians really get weird about this.) Business cards don’t have to be shallow. Always remember that the human is more important than the card. Listen when someone speaks to you. Be present to the conversation before reaching into your pocket or purse to shove your card at someone.

Business Card Tip #2: Write notes on the back

When you’re at a conference and collecting lots of cards, you might soon forget the amazing connection you had with someone at a lunch table. Even if it seems like you could never forget her fabulous taste in clothing or her sparkly eyes and funny laugh, take a second to write on the back of her business card: “Cool jacket, great eyes, funny laugh. Talked about our dogs.” Write it in your own language. Make it brief. Believe me, this works.

Business Card Tip #3: Use your photo

I know. I know. Photos can be a little much sometimes. It makes you think of a realtor’s business card. But photos work. The cards I received this weekend that had photos on them have helped me remember exactly who this person was. I didn’t think of it as flaunting or bragging. Women remember faces and expressions. They relate to photos. If you’re networking with women, they’ll appreciate the extra touch.

Business Card Tip #4: One-sided cards

Some cards just have way too much information. Two columns of writing all over the front. And then there’s more on the back! This actually works against you for 2 reasons:

1 – Most people aren’t going to read that mess of tiny writing. That’s what websites are for – all that extra stuff.

2 – When there’s writing all over the card front and back, it makes it hard for people to write notes about connecting with you.

Business Card Tip #5: Offer a Freebie on the back

If you do put some text on the back of your card, try offering a link to a freebie – like a download of your eBook. (And make the text small so that there’s still room so I can jot down our great conversation about our dogs on there!)

Business Card Tip #6: Don’t get your card made at the nail salon

Is it me? Or do some business cards seem to have a layer of acrylic coating on them that would make a Jersey manicurist proud? There’s just no way to write any notes on these cards! At one point, I found myself literally carving a note in one of these high gloss cards with the tang on my fork. These cards are often quite lovely. They’re just not practical. Matte finish is boring – but it offers better usability for us note-takers.

Business Card Tip #7 – Be discerning with your business card

Some people hand out their cards like Tootsie Pops on Halloween. I don’t know the logic behind this, but it seems pushy. You don’t need to hand your card out to everyone. Not everyone connects with what you do! So, it takes away from your authenticity when you randomly hand your card to everyone. Sometimes it’s good to ask permission. “Can we exchange cards? I’d like to contact you next week about that.”

Business Card Tip #8 – Keep your card updated

Handing people your card while saying, “Oh wait! That’s my old phone number!” Or crossing out an email address. Or writing in a new website address. This’ll make you look like…well, let’s be honest…a musician!

Business Card Tip #9 – Don’t add people to your newsletter list just because they gave you their card

When someone gives you their card, they’re saying, “Let’s connect.”

They’re not saying, “Oh please put me on your once a month mailing list that you send out to your fans, readers and family!”

Honor their trust. I can’t tell you how many musicians put me on their list just because we did a show together at some random venue. Even if I liked their music, I always felt a little slimed. Don’t assume that anyone wants to be on your newsletter list. Always ask first.

Business Card Tip #10 – Start a database

If you make a connection with someone, keep them in a special database. Even if don’t have your own rockin’ business, and even if this seems like a stupid idea, you never know when you’ll want to connect again, or if you have some exciting news to share. (“Hey everyone, I wrote my first book!”) Some of these people will become your cheering section, or even your fans! At some point, when you do start a monthly eZine, you can ask people if they want to receive it. But in the meantime, just begin collecting the names of people you meet. Don’t forget to type in the notes you made!

  • Suzie Cheel

    Hi Christine,
    I was doing a google search on you and I found that my partner/soulmate Des Walsh had referred to this post back in 2008 what a small world.

  • Rory

    Business cards represents who you are. It is the easiest way to advertise yourself.

  • John

    I love creating business cards. I go to weekly networking meetings with a different card and tell a different story. I make them at home on my HP (it’s actually a Canon) and laser perforated cards are indistinguishable from “real” cards these days. They don’t have furry edges. This means you can print just 10 cards and they can all be different!

    My latest card is here: It has a barcode on it. It isn’t a matter of finding people with the barcode reader, but the conversation that is started because of it.


  • Erin

    I don’t recommend anyone see American Psycho (it is REALLY disturbing) but there is a hilarious scene in it when a bunch of high-powered NYC yuppies are showing off their business cards and the main character is breaking a sweat because his super-duper card has been upstaged.

    I always remember the tip I learned in Japan, where there is a huge amount of cultural customs surrounding business cards (as well as everything else). Listen carefully to what the person is saying, when they offer you their card accept it with BOTH hands and thoroughly study the card. Don’t jam it in your pocket while jawing on about connecting. Thank them sincerely for the card and only put it away after the conversation is complete. I do this when I get a business card and I think it shows great respect.

  • Marilyn

    Good tips. You know how you see “tag clouds?” About a year ago, I made some tag cloud business cards. I don’t hand them out, because they don’t have any personal info on them other than my name. But I use them as sort of a micro vision board…since the words surrounding my name are visions (labels) I have of myself.

  • Tamal Anwar

    Wow Kane, a great article you gave me to read! Not just you’re a musician, you are a great business woman too and I liked it. Stumbled this article 🙂

  • Chelle Parmele

    I got a great card at BlogHer from a lady by the name of Shannon Renee Mouton and on the back of the card is printed “Shannon Renee is the woman who…” which I thought was a really smart and clever thing to do. A prompt to put notes about meeting her.

  • Amylia Grace

    well said! I like the cards and you can make your own on Flickr with them that are pretty awesome. I use my photographs, but not my own face…hmmm…i totally get the idea, but don’t know if I’m there yet. You’re right about it reminding me of a real estate agent’s card.

    I’d love to see how your card came out. will you give me your card? You have my information (dec retreat here I come!) 🙂

  • Deb

    I just ordered new business cards for BlogHer. With an option of printing something on the back, I added two lines:

    We met at:

    We talked about:

    So the idea is already on the cards. I sometimes write something there before I hand it out; other times, give them the option of adding to it themselves. It’s been the BEST idea in a card.

  • Reno

    A business card is a great vehicle for an artist to convey his or her artistic sensibility. I think Linda should consider creating an artistic statement with her inderutilized 1,000 business cards. On the next 1,000 consider giving them away and allowing them to work for you. Great post with many good ideas. Aim for 3 per day and don’t think to much their cheap.

  • Mary

    wow! that’s a lot of thought about a simple card! i’ve had a business card forever, it seems, from way back in the day when i was pounding pavement in nyc looking for illustration work. my first card had my name, the word illustrator and my phone number….i change up my card often and now have one with an image and my info, including my website. i often get calls from people who have had my card hanging around for years….having an image helps people remember who you are and what you do in this world of networking and business cards…

  • Bowers Industrial Sales, Inc

    You can’t underestimate the value of cards, that for sure. There really isn’t one perfect business card template either. You just have to see what works for you and stick with it. Nice post!

  • elkit

    I use cards, like m above – you can use your own photos from Flickr and other sources. Perfect for artists, no?

    I just got a new set for the upcoming conference for women bloggers. Love love love them!

    Here’s a picture of an older set:

    Aren’t they great?

  • Christine Kane

    Pati – that’s great advice! i got a card from a designer this weekend. it was gorgeous. but the font was really light and so perfectly designed, that the person didn’t consider your average person on a dimly lit airplane staring at her card trying to read it!

  • Christine Kane

    sylvia c. – yes, that’s the joy of blogging. people get to watch as you change and grow up!

    you go caren!

    molly, that makes me think of hugh macleod and all his gaping void drawings and cartoons. (if your card is glossy on both sides – then you’ll never get the chance to have him make you a cartoon on your card should the opportunity arrive. that’s like missing out on a chance to win the lottery!) and yes indeed – you are right about the professional quality.

    colin – sometimes i think for artists it’s about self-esteem more than professionalism. i think lots of artist types see themselves as small sometimes – so they are scared to show up in big ways. (i know this was one of my biggest lessons at first.)

    well sue – you know that #10 was actually aimed at you. 🙂

    mackie – i burst out laughing when i read your comment. That’s SO funny. and i love all your ideas and thoughts about this.

  • pati

    Hi, all.

    I broke rule #4 when I designed my cards: I use them to “show” an example of information design (I’m an information designer). I’ll add this thought: Make the font legible and large enough so that people can actually read the text. Include only the essential: the essence.


  • Christine Kane

    Well Wendi – I’ll just have to get a Christine Kane magnet business card – just for your fridge! I like your ideas!

    lance – there’s apparently some machine (this is for uber-networkers) that you can put your gathering of business cards into – and it looks at them and adds the info from them into your database. I have NO idea how this works. but I hear things from my savvy networking friends. (or is it saavy? and why do words like this confuse me so? i still can’t spell vacuum right.)

    tracy – great to hear that the high gloss is only on the front! and that you dig out those old business cards and look at them later. (i do that too.)

    mark – i believe that’s called “fake it til you make it.” 🙂

  • Mackie

    I have ordered all kinds of business cards (based on mood, job, imagination, etc) for free (plus a small shipping fee) from I even ordered some that say “Money Magnet” just to carry with me as a reminder!! Once you go to that site and begin designing your own cards, you will be hooked.

    As for writing on the back of cards…when my husband and I met ooooooooohhhh so many years ago, we exchanged business cards. (We met on an airplane on the way to CA.) He still carries my card upon which he had written “G.CH.” on the back. G.CH.?? His notation for “great chest”. What can I say? 😉 Whatever notation works!!

    One more point…even if you are between jobs or jobless by choice…have cards with your name, address, phone, email, blog, etc. They are GREAT to have available rather than scrambling for a bit of paper and a pen when you run into old friends, potential friends, etc.

    Great column, Christine!

  • Sue

    This is great Christine! I need to update my email on mine (it works but is not the one i like to use the most) and also, #10 made me lol. I will do this. It’s a wonderful idea. I need to apply a ’30mins’ attitude to all of these adventures in organization and clarity. Great ideas, thanks!

  • Colin

    Nice post. People must remember that no matter how “artsy” (don’t ask me to define that) one may be, good, old-fashioned business sense is so often a necessity in the business side of any endeavor; it sort of says “I see myself as a professional product (art, music, creative writing, etc.)supplier. There is nothing unartsy about being professional, to which I imagine you personally can testify. Truth be told, I’m even thinking about printing some really old-fashioned ‘calling’ cards. How’s that for square!

  • Molly

    I am a business card collector…something about the size…I pick them up for everything and then when I get back home…IF I can still remember why I took it in the first place I either put the info in my address book, or bookmark their website OR toss it.

    I love blank backs because you can make notes about the person who gave it to you OR if you are the giver, you can write important info on the back…make the mistake of a 2 sided glossy…use a regular ole ball point on it.

    finally (cause this ain’t ma’blog) please if you are gonna get them made, do it professionally…nothing screams “unprofessional” or “unprepared” like a perforated card printed on your HP. (or even, will this dood be around next week?)

  • Caren

    A few years ago, a friend suggested I have business cards made. She said it will force you to come up with a concise way to describe what you do! It was really good for me. I can’t even remember that first one! Wish I had kept a copy – it was something like “mother, drummer, healer”. THEN I needed to come up with a more professional one, and now I need two! One for drumming, one for healing… I went from business card – wha? to “of course!”

  • Sylvia C.

    Hey Christine,

    I remember you saying that you didn’t like business cards. I am happy to see this follow up, with all this great advice.

    Have a blessed day,

    Sylvia C.

  • Mark

    No doubt you’ve done quite well without a business card all these years!

    To clarify a bit – I think if you’re starting a service from scratch, making a business card is not only a great way to start promoting yourself…it makes you feel like a pro. You’ve then got to start ‘living up’ to your business card…if that makes sense. It’s a neat tool.

  • Tracy McCabe Stewart

    I am a visual artist also. I have always included a detail or full shot of my work on my card. For my profession, it’s a no brainer. I confess I always go for high gloss; artwork looks much better that way. doesn’t seem to shellac the backs of them. Hopefully, no one needs their fork to jot a note down.
    I have dug cards out of my wallet months after I picked them up and remembered other artist’s work instantly from their business cards. Often I go to a website right then and there. I do appreciate a one sided card-I jot notes related to where I meet people.

  • Lance

    Great list Christine. In fact, just yesterday I was going through my stack of business cards I’d collected recently and putting the relevant ones into my contact database. What I really like is the idea of using the back for notes. I’ve never thought of that and it makes so much sense (especially with my memory, or lack of it really!). I always think “oh, I’ll remember that”, but then a couple of days later there I am racking my brain trying to recall what someone told me. I’m getting better at it, and this is just another tool in the arsenal now. I prefer simple. It looks “cool” when someone has a flashy card, but if I look at the ones I’ve held onto, there usually not flashy and cool – but they are functional.

  • Wendi Kelly

    I believe in the power of business cards! As a past Realtor especially. One extra little secret is that you can go to an office supply store and get peel off sticky magnets to stick on the back of them to make your business card a magnet. Up you will go right on their fridge. I would put a Christine Cane Magnet busness card on my fridge any day!Especially if it has your picture on it! How cool! Like a souviner!It turns it into more than just a business card shoved in their pocket and still has all the info they need.

    I used to do this when we would do promotions at parades and fairs and things like that. Put them in goody bags with candy and little fun stuff. I ended up on lots of refrigerators that way.Got a lot of calls too.And you only have to do as many as you need.

  • Christine Kane

    barbara – that’s great to read. and i’ve seen painters with cards that have their art on them. I forgot about that. it’s perfect.

    linda – i know that feeling with other printables i’ve had to update. AND it’s okay to let go of those 1000 and take them to recycling. (i order in smaller quantities now and get recycled paper!)

    jesann – as sarah wrote, coating on the front only will help with the writing issue. i forgot to mention that part. but YHO is totally valid too! 🙂

    thanks for the resource, m. i’m heading there now.

    mark – well, i’ve been in business for 15 years as a songwriter – and I only just now had cards made. so there is SOME argument that you can have a business without cards! 🙂 but overall, i do agree!

    thanks sarah! yea – those front/back high gloss cards are tough to use. (but great for scraping ice off your windshield in a pinch!)

  • Sarah Regan Snavely

    Great post. Made the mistake of ordering business cards with coating on front AND back – never again- made it impossible to write on the backs. Best part about it is that I learned how much I use the backs of business cards for notes. Terrific technique.

  • Mark

    Good stuff, Christine.

    A business card is one of the first things to do when you want to start a business.

    Even if you don’t have all your ducks in a row, make a business card. They’re cheap to make, and give others the impression that you’re someone to be taken seriously.

  • m

    A friend made some cool cards with images of her pictures on them at moo – and very reasonable cost.

  • Jesann

    Heh, I know someone who got work from someone else who’d gotten her card three years earlier! 🙂

    I ordered new business cards about a week ago and had to decide between matte and gloss finish. Matte works in many cases, but gloss looks much better in others, especially when lots of color is involved. I’d rather have a good card that gets people’s attention than one that people can write on but looks “off,” IMHO.

    It sounds like you had a great time at the conference!

  • Linda

    My business cards have an old phone number on them but this is because I got a special deal a few years ago by ordering 1000 of them. I’m too cheap to throw them out. At least my website is the current one. I often have cards that I find in my purse and can’t remember a thing about why I kept them. Writing a note on the back is a great idea.

  • Barbara J Carter

    Business cards definitely make sense for artists. Yes, most will be tossed. But I’ve also made sales to people purely because they took a card, looked up my web site, and later decided to make a purchase.

    As a visual artist, I put one of my paintings on my business card. It helps people remember my work, and remember why they took a card in the first place.