Choosing the right business card design agency

Nowadays, everyone seems to do things digitally. “Oh, you want us to meet up? No problem, how about 4 PM on Skype?” “Do you need to talk to me? Shoot me an email with all the info and I’ll read it later on.”

This approach works for a lot of people, cloud companies, freelancers, essentially all businesses who offer online services and people who work in a non-traditional office environment. But it’s practically killing others.

If you offer a service that requires meeting with and talking to people every day, it’s a big mistake to try to do everything online. Let me explain why.

Back when I was still in university, I went to a lot of conventions. I wasn ‘t there to look for a job. I was just going there to meet interesting people.

So, it usually went something like this: I saw someone interesting and I went to introduce myself and get to know their business. I was attracted mostly to big design agencies, illustration studios and freelancers. I was ready with my business card (which I must admit had a long way to go, but it’s understandable since I was knee high to a grasshopper). People seemed happy enough to see me and talk for a while.

No, it was better than that, they seemed thrilled that young entrepreneurs were interested in their work. But here’s the problem. While some of them were happy to exchange a business card, smile, talk and shake hands, others just looked at me and said: “Here, this is my phone. Just type in your email address and I’ll send you my personal info”.

Ok, I thought, we are getting somewhere.  This feels like a much more personal interaction.  However, I was wrong.  In fact, the people that chose not to get a business card from me were the people that I had the least amount of contact with. I was just lost in the maze of telephone numbers on their phone as soon as I walked away.

A business card is more than just a card. It’s the first impression that you are a serious business person because you care enough to create those cards. You ‘ve spent time and effort designing them and have provided information that potential clients can look at before they contact you.

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Who’s this guide for? Anyone looking to find a business card design agency and wants to know the pitfalls and problems that can occur.

What is business card design and what makes it special?

Business cards are part of your stationery design and in a way an extension of your logo and brand.

They should include only your vital information, as well as a way for people to reach you: a phone number, email address and a website. Also, include your name and possibly a photo.

Everything else is up to you, but a good rule of thumb is no more than five ways to reach you (that includes your address too). More lines of text than that usually clutter the card and to make more space lots of people make the font smaller.

Don’t do that and never make your designer do that!

Always do a test print at 100% of the design to check if it is legible (just a standard desktop printer will be fine). You can even print it in black and white. It doesn’t matter, the important thing is to make sure the font is big enough.

Why is choosing the right business card designer important?

The right business card designer should be a specialist and should have a portfolio that highlights the work they have done before.

You do tend to get a lot of yes men in this field so just because someone says they can make businesses cards, do not take their word for it and do your research.

Choosing the wrong designer means they may not produce something that delivers a great first impression.

It should look sharp and professional and give out the message you need to send to your audience.

Why is business card design so important for a SME?

Your business card works for you always. Even when there’s no internet connection or your website is down for maintenance. They can still work even several years after you first met the person.

You need a business card mostly because people are forgetful. Probably several days, weeks or months from now they won’t remember your business name or even your name. But, there’s a strong possibility that they will remember your face, the conversation and even the colours of your company card.

Yes, that’s right. They are more likely to remember your logo or its colours than the name of your company. It’s just the way the human mind is. Visual stimulus is more likely to be recalled later on.

Luckily for you, your customers don’t need to remember anything like this. You just need to give them your business card and they’ll read it later on and contact you.

How to save money, how much to spend and how to save time

What are the best ways to save money?

It’s best to contact your logo or stationery designer since they know your brand the best and will be able to offer you the best design. You may even get a discount since you’re a repeat client.

If you prefer, you can always hire someone new based on their portfolio.  Creating a business card is straightforward and it shouldn’t be a problem to choose another designer.

Which areas should I be aware of that take the most amount of time?

A good rule of thumb is:

  • 10% for research
  • 15% for sketches and drafts
  • 25% for making the card
  • 10% for tweaks and fixes
  • 10% for preprint and final touches
  • 30% for the printers.

As always keep in mind the possibility of setbacks and leave an extra week both for the printers and another for the design.

What should I do first to make sure I pick the right digital partner?

If you’re happy with your logo/branding/stationery designer stick with them. If not, you can search for another based on their portfolio (as always you should first define a budget). Another option is that a lot of printing places have their own in-house designers.

Most of these designers do business cards all day long so they can most certainly do the job quickly and professionally. As a bonus some of these places offer the design for free if you choose to print with them, so that’s a nice way to save some money.

What are the main pitfalls and problems?

Be very careful and always double check the info on your business cards. If you order in bulk, make some cards for your colleagues too and make them check their own information.

Mistakes happen, but once the files hit the printers there’s no going back. You’ll probably need to print these cards again which can be very inconvenient, not to mention expensive.

What can I do myself, if any?

To save some money, you can choose one of the online services on offer that allow you to make your business card from a template.

It’s pretty simple, and the final result will probably look good enough. However, you lose the opportunity to have a design customised just for your business and your customers will probably notice it.

Template cards look generic and are not very impressive and you lose that personal touch that business cards are supposed to provide.

What are the signs that my digital partner is ripping me off?

A business card design is not a very pricey service. If that’s not the case with your designer, you should discuss it. Also, if you’re a regular client, it’s normal to receive a discount. So, make sure you ask for one.


Cluttering your business card

I’ll never forget the first time a client asked me if I could fit three maps on the back of their card as well as pictures of their local stores. Yes, I said the first time, because some clients seem to think that business cards should work like a Swiss army knife.

A business card should be more like a suit. It should look professional, sharp, simple and should advertise your business. It should include only the most vital information about you: your name, your email, your location or the location of your business (if that’s necessary), your phone and your website.

If it’s crucial for your business you can include some other information like a portfolio website or a LinkedIn or Twitter profile, but keep in mind that everything should be legible after the card is printed.

An illegible business card is simply a collection of pretty graphics, nothing more.

Another good practice is to put your picture on the business card. This gives a personal touch and allows the person to remember you.  After a long day of meetings, customers are likely to call the person they remember most vividly. If you include your photo you’ll give their memory a nice little push.


Wanting to be too original and breaking the rules

I understand that with business cards it’s very tempting to go overboard and have a strangely shaped one. The business card should be interesting enough for people to want to keep it, right? Well here’s a little secret – you can make your card as interesting as you want as long as you keep your information legible and keep it 2” x 3,5” (5x9cm).

It will be extremely difficult for anyone to keep your business card if it has an unusual shape or size and they’ll probably throw it away. Also, don’t forget that a business card is just an extension of your stationery design.


Cheap can be expensive

When we talk about design, a little extra effort can go a long way. Many people think that the quality of the cards doesn’t matter if you have a good design. That’s not true, even the best-designed business card can feel cheap.

That’s why lots of business cards feel flimsy. They ‘re printed on a low-quality paper (usually under 300gsm). For a nice hard feeling choose paper that weighs 300+gsm (people usually choose 300, 350 or 400gsm).

Printers usually offer extras like matt laminate (that smooth velvet feeling when you touch a card) or part glossing (when only some elements of the design seem glossy, while the others are matt). If you’re willing to take the extra step then you will always thank yourself later.


Making the mistake of not always keeping a business card with you

This one is a bit special as it’s not directly related to the way the card is designed.

The first rule of having a business card is to always keep some with you. You can just put them in your wallet with the rest of the receipts.

Five is usually more than enough. But you should have them on you always. Yes, even when you’re on holiday. It’s like bringing your work from home. You never know when you’re going to meet someone who needs your services. It might be the manager of the hotel, the barkeeper or the people you asked to look after your things at the beach. And don’t you want your clients to be happy people you wanted to talk to anyway and with whom you share nice memories from your holiday?

Golden Rules – before you hire a business card design agency

Before you hire a business card design company you must remember to follow a few golden rules.


Say no to clutter

Your business card should be clutter free, with around 5 (or less) ways to reach you.

Think about including a photo of yourself and as a rule avoid QR codes. It’s a trend that never really caught on and they usually take too much space.

If it’s possible, leave the back side of your card blank (or partially blank). People tend to put little notes there about the conversation you had. If you want a double-sided business card you can always just put your business logo on the back. It looks stylish, and it leaves more space on the other side for your info.


Don’t break the rules

A business card which has the right dimensions (2” x 3.5” or 5 x 9cm) is way easier to keep in your pocket or wallet than an irregular one. Keep that in mind when you order your card.


Don’t be too cheap

Your business card is the face of your business. A cheap print job can ruin even the best design. So, always choose quality paper and consider adding a few extras with some different finishes.


Have at least five business cards with you at all times

You never know when a casual conversation will lead to a future business partner so always have some business cards with you.


Don’t forget about your brand

Your business card should reinforce the message of your brand, not go against it.

Remember your card is a part of the stationery design and as such, it should match the other products.

The stationery itself is created to complement your logo as well as introducing new people to your identity. Keep your branding consistent and you’ll have nothing to worry about. Your business card will look great.