Personal Branding – The Business Card

April 14, 2008

Your business card says a lot about you, usually literally.  Most people have business cards that reflect who their employer is and what they do there and that’s fine, but typically you have little to no control over the content of those cards.  They usually consist of the same design that everyone else in your company has with the same logo, color scheme, and format.  These are fine when you’re networking for your company and trying to bring in business for someone else.  This post, however, deals with the personal brand.

This is when you need to decide if you want to establish yourself as an entity outside of your employer or if you want to be known as “that guy/girl who works for…”  First thing’s first:  you are not stabbing your employer in the back if you have a separate business card for just yourself.  If you are getting paid to network for your employer you should probably make sure you are doing that first, but you can carry both cards.  Don’t make a production out of handing people you meet each card individually though.  In your business card case arrange your cards so that first is your company card and your personal card is right underneath it and go every other one.  Then all you have to do is say “here are my cards” instead of “here is my card.”  So let’s talk a little bit more about your personal card.

If you are going to have a personal business card, the content should be slightly different from the content of the one you receive from your employer.  The good news: your name doesn’t change!  Where you would normally put your title, don’t.  Instead of a title, put what you want to be known for, for instance, my personal business card, in the title slot, says Marketing and Public Relations Professional.  A company derived title only says what you do, not who you are.  Remember we’re trying to establish you as you, not you as an employee of…

So, what else?  It’s for you to decide what personal information you decide to hand out to new contacts.  A very easy place to start is your e-mail address.  I would suggest a web based e-mail for this, my personal preference is Gmail.  If you are creating a new e-mail account, remember that your username is a reflection of who you are.  You don’t want the CEO of a Fortune 500 company to know you as  hotstud55@_____.com.

Next, you’ll want to include a phone number if you are comfortable doing so.  I wouldn’t recommend your house phone so much as I would a cellular phone for obvious reasons.  It’s entirely up to your discression, but I did not include my address on mine.  If you are comfortable doing so, go for it, but the first time I meet someone is not when I want them to know where I live.

Do you have a website, blog or social media profile that you’re particularly proud of?  Stick that on the bottom (or top whatever your preference may be).  It’s a great way to increase traffic to your site.

As far as paper goes, you probably want middle of the line.  Your business card can speak volumes about your credibility.  Sixteen pound copier paper as a business card say something all on it’s own.  I have met a few people who have business cards that almost feel like they are credit cards; high gloss shiny plastic makes a statement, but it might be over the top for your personality (and your budget).  A simple gloss or matte paper business card will do just fine. 

As far as design goes, you can use a pre-fabricated design or you can create one on your own if you’re design savvy.  Just make sure that the design is simple and doesn’t distract the eye away from the important part: you!