Recently, I was at a meet-up, having a really great discussion with a designer about a new business idea. We were on the same page about everything. He was loving my ideas about my proposed product and I was loving his vision of the brand’s app, execution, and website. Things were going really well until … he handed me his business card.

There it was: a flimsy, glossy, 250-for-$10.00, super-cluttered, unbranded business card.

My stomach immediately sank.

I thought to myself, “Can I count on this guy to come through for me and my business if he didn’t even take the time to make a good business card? I mean, he’s whip-smart and I love his design ideas … but so much of his business is presentation! If he’s this unwilling to present himself in the best light with such a low-hanging fruit of impression … should I be willing to take a chance on him? I mean, he’s a designer … his business card should be a visual feast!”

Business cards convey a lot about you, quite quickly. They are a part of your personal brand. That’s right, YOU are a brand when you present yourself to someone. Your personal style and the way you carry yourself are part of your brand and your business card should reflect those characteristics.

Follow these tips to ensure your business cards don’t put someone to sleep or, worse, send them a message that you just don’t care:

  • Keep It Simple: Don’t go overboard or be afraid of white space on your card. Your logo needs to be clear, your text needs to be large enough to read, and that’s all. Be strategic about the contact info you put on your card; no one needs access to every email address or social account you’ve ever had.
  • Be Adventurous (but not too adventurous): Nowadays, there are all sorts of ways to make your business card stand out. You can have rounded edges, QR codes, or something even more out there if you like, but be mindful of one thing: if it doesn’t fit into someone’s wallet, or can’t be easily scanned by something like ScanBizCards, there’s a good chance it’ll get lost.
  • Don’t Put Important Information on the Back: Most of the time, people don’t look at the back of business cards; it’s just a fact. If there’s anything one of your potential contacts needs to know, be sure the info makes it to the front.
  • Don’t Cheap Out: Yes, it may seem crazy to pay top dollar for textured paper or flashy designs that you’ll literally just give away, but every business person who’s worth his/her salt can spot a cheap business card from a mile away. Unfortunately, it doesn’t communicate endearingly; it suggests a lack of commitment and can make a big difference.
  • Consider Hiring a Designer: If you can’t get your card to look just right on your own, don’t settle. Let a pro take a shot at it.
  • Make Sure Your Card Conveys Your Brand: Your card can say it all with clear logos that simply and elegantly convey who you are, what you do, and what you care about.

Follow these tips, and let your business cards work for you. After all, you don’t want to compete against yourself!