Friday, April 11, 2008

You're Not Paying For Business Cards?

Business cards are the universal way to make sure someone knows your name, phone number and nature of your business. They are little advertising billboards on 2.5 x 3.5 card stock. You've got to have them, but they become obsolete before you ever hand them all out and they cost a bundle.

Cost? A bundle? I hope you're not talking about business cards. Oh, I know you can get some really elaborate embossed designs on heavy cardboard or even plastic with metalized lettering. Those can run a buck-a-card. But most of us just need something that looks professional and won't dent the budget. Fortunately, these are so universal and easily made that there's no reason not to have a few in every shirt pocket and make sure you distribute them as widely as possible.

So just run down to the print shop and order a batch of 5,000, right? Wrong. Very few of us need such quantities. We meet people in the course of doing business, but not whole cities full. With the way careers change and people relocate, chances are that you'll never hand out the last of those 5,000 cards. In fact, you'll probably put several thousand in the recycling bin. Sadly.

If you work for a large company and they automatically issue you new business cards when you get a new job, just smile and take them. But if you work in a smaller company, as an independent professional, have your own online or bricks and mortar business, or don't qualify for free company cards, you can still have great looking business cards for little or no money.

Think dozens or hundreds of cards, not thousands. If you are not sure what you need or want to play around with designs, why not make your own? Go to your local office supply store and see what they have to offer in the way of business card blanks. They are usually 10 to a page on heavy paper that will work in laser printers, inkjet printers and copiers. Some are just white card stock that is partially perforated. Other card blanks have a color design already printed as a background.

Now how do you get your information on those card blanks? You can use a graphics program or a word processor depending on how fancy you want to get. Avery offers both the card stock blanks and a free downloadable template. You may also find inexpensive software packages at office supply stores that let you fill in the blanks to quickly make card designs.

But there's an easier way that takes only a few minutes and gets you professional quality business cards for free. The company that makes this offer is Vista Print. It's an online service that lets you pick a design and enter your business information from your Web browser. If you are in a hurry, you can do everything in a matter of minutes. But you'll probably take longer to browse the site. In addition to the free card offer, you can get more designs and two-sided customization for a few dollars. Plus they offer other products like customized hats, letterhead, envelopes and mailing labels at pretty reasonable prices.

The free cards really are available gratis. You do have to pay for shipping and processing, but that's only a few dollars. I count over 40 designs to pick from, so there should be something that projects the image you want. You just fill in the form with your name, address, phone number, business name, email, etc. and then select which color design template to use. It really only does take a few minutes.

We ordered a set for to post on bulletin boards in restaurants, hardware and grocery stores, and to hand out to people we meet. You can't count on people remembering your URL by the time they get back to their computer. They'll never remember your name or phone number if you want them to call. Business cards are cheap advertising. Free business cards are the best deal going. These are printed, so the lettering is clear and the ink doesn't smear when it gets moist. Anything made on an inkjet printer has that problem. Vista Print sent us 250 cards neatly organized in handy dispenser boxes. They're on a nice firm 80 lb. card stock with smooth edges.

We ordered just the basic set of free cards, but you can upgrade to your heart's content with access to over 300 additional designs, glossy finish, foil accents and even heavier paper for additional fees. Since you're not making a huge investment, you can go ahead and get professional looking cards to support your small business venture or professional image. Interested? Go ahead. Design and order your free business cards now.

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