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Do You Need A Personal Business Card?

Do You Need A Personal Business Card?

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    I have a business card collection. It started out unintentionally: I have one box that I throw any business cards into, after I add the relevant contact information to my address book. Every so often, though, I like to go through my little box and take a look at what the current trends for business cards are. Of course, there are some major differences between industries, but I have noticed some interesting things.

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    A surprising number of the names on the cards in my box are repeated. I’m not talking about duplicates: I’ve been introduced to quite a few people who have handed me a card for their day job, and then added a personal card to the stack. It seems that carrying multiple business cards is becoming common.

    How Many Business Cards Do You Need?

    If your employer goes to the effort of printing you business cards, the expectation seems to be that you’ll hand out those cards at each and every event you attend. But your job may not be the only thing you have going these days. The number of people pursuing something on the side is constantly growing. Heck, even full-time freelancers seem to wind up with multiple approaches and multiple cards — a blogger who also does SEO optimization may have a card for each aspect of his business.

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    But what does that mean for the rest of us? Just because the cool kids have multiple business cards doesn’t mean that all of us have to try to remember which card to hand out at which events, right? I think the answer really comes down to ‘it depends.’ And it depends mores on you than on your employer. Whether or not you have an employer who prints your cards for you, it’s still important to have at least one card. But that doesn’t mean you need to hand everyone you meet both your personal and your employer’s cards.

    Business Cards Versus Personal Cards

    The real decision maker on the type of card you need comes down to what your own plans for your career include. Is it a priority for you to (eventually) make money on your side projects or move into a career more closely related to those projects? Do you see yourself moving on from your current employer — by their choice or yours — any time soon? If you’re answering yes, it does make sense for you to have some kind of personal card listing contact information beyond your employer’s. Think of it this way: if you’re working for a company that doesn’t seem steady, you want to be building connections that will help you move on down the road. You definitely don’t want your best contacts trying to reach you at a work email address long after you’ve left a particular company.

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    That doesn’t mean that a business card with your name and your employer’s logo isn’t useful. If you’re acting in a capacity as a representative of your company, it’s probably best to limit yourself to handing out your official business cards. After all, no one wants word to get back to the boss that they’ve been looking for prospects on company time. Furthermore, odds are pretty good that you do different things in your off-time than you might for an employer. Your employer may be the contact information that a potential client is actually interested in. Networking isn’t so much a game of how many names can you get in your address book as how many people can you help get things done (and who might be able to help you out as well).

    A Basic Card

    Maybe you’re thinking that it’s time to create a personal card of your own. You may not have any side projects, but you even if you just want an easy way of sharing your personal contact information, a card can make the fit. Furthermore, you can do it very inexpensively. Online printers, like OvernightPrints or VistaPrints will run cards at prices as low as $10 for 100 cards. Put together a basic card with your name, phone number and email address and you’re ready to rock and roll. A simple card without a fancy design can actually be just as eye-catching as other options.

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    Sure, there are all sorts of social media cures for the card that are prefect for sharing your personal contact information at the touch of a button — Contxts comes to mind as an example — but the average member of the business is unlikely to join up with those services just to get one person’s contact information. If you’re thinking about relying on one of these tools to share your personal contact information, plan on needing to scribble it down on a napkin on a regular basis.

    That brings me to a last point. While it can be acceptable to write down a home phone number on a business card when you’re trying to make sure that a prospective client can get ahold of you if need be, it strikes me as unprofessional to flip over a card and proceed to write down a list of home contact information down to your Twitter ID and LinkedIn address. If you find yourself doing so on a regular basis, it’s a good warning sign that it’s time to get a personal business card.

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    The Gentle Art of Saying No

    The Gentle Art of Saying No

    No!

    It’s a simple fact that you can never be productive if you take on too many commitments — you simply spread yourself too thin and will not be able to get anything done, at least not well or on time.

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    But requests for your time are coming in all the time — through phone, email, IM or in person. To stay productive, and minimize stress, you have to learn the Gentle Art of Saying No — an art that many people have problems with.

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    What’s so hard about saying no? Well, to start with, it can hurt, anger or disappoint the person you’re saying “no” to, and that’s not usually a fun task. Second, if you hope to work with that person in the future, you’ll want to continue to have a good relationship with that person, and saying “no” in the wrong way can jeopardize that.

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    But it doesn’t have to be difficult or hard on your relationship. Here are the Top 10 tips for learning the Gentle Art of Saying No:

    1. Value your time. Know your commitments, and how valuable your precious time is. Then, when someone asks you to dedicate some of your time to a new commitment, you’ll know that you simply cannot do it. And tell them that: “I just can’t right now … my plate is overloaded as it is.”
    2. Know your priorities. Even if you do have some extra time (which for many of us is rare), is this new commitment really the way you want to spend that time? For myself, I know that more commitments means less time with my wife and kids, who are more important to me than anything.
    3. Practice saying no. Practice makes perfect. Saying “no” as often as you can is a great way to get better at it and more comfortable with saying the word. And sometimes, repeating the word is the only way to get a message through to extremely persistent people. When they keep insisting, just keep saying no. Eventually, they’ll get the message.
    4. Don’t apologize. A common way to start out is “I’m sorry but …” as people think that it sounds more polite. While politeness is important, apologizing just makes it sound weaker. You need to be firm, and unapologetic about guarding your time.
    5. Stop being nice. Again, it’s important to be polite, but being nice by saying yes all the time only hurts you. When you make it easy for people to grab your time (or money), they will continue to do it. But if you erect a wall, they will look for easier targets. Show them that your time is well guarded by being firm and turning down as many requests (that are not on your top priority list) as possible.
    6. Say no to your boss. Sometimes we feel that we have to say yes to our boss — they’re our boss, right? And if we say “no” then we look like we can’t handle the work — at least, that’s the common reasoning. But in fact, it’s the opposite — explain to your boss that by taking on too many commitments, you are weakening your productivity and jeopardizing your existing commitments. If your boss insists that you take on the project, go over your project or task list and ask him/her to re-prioritize, explaining that there’s only so much you can take on at one time.
    7. Pre-empting. It’s often much easier to pre-empt requests than to say “no” to them after the request has been made. If you know that requests are likely to be made, perhaps in a meeting, just say to everyone as soon as you come into the meeting, “Look guys, just to let you know, my week is booked full with some urgent projects and I won’t be able to take on any new requests.”
    8. Get back to you. Instead of providing an answer then and there, it’s often better to tell the person you’ll give their request some thought and get back to them. This will allow you to give it some consideration, and check your commitments and priorities. Then, if you can’t take on the request, simply tell them: “After giving this some thought, and checking my commitments, I won’t be able to accommodate the request at this time.” At least you gave it some consideration.
    9. Maybe later. If this is an option that you’d like to keep open, instead of just shutting the door on the person, it’s often better to just say, “This sounds like an interesting opportunity, but I just don’t have the time at the moment. Perhaps you could check back with me in [give a time frame].” Next time, when they check back with you, you might have some free time on your hands.
    10. It’s not you, it’s me. This classic dating rejection can work in other situations. Don’t be insincere about it, though. Often the person or project is a good one, but it’s just not right for you, at least not at this time. Simply say so — you can compliment the idea, the project, the person, the organization … but say that it’s not the right fit, or it’s not what you’re looking for at this time. Only say this if it’s true — people can sense insincerity.

    Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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