It may be 2014 but business cards are still important. I know, you could just exchange numbers at the gig, but that’s not as professional. Plus, putting your number in someone else’s phone feels like you’re saying, “Heeeeey, call me!!!” There’s nothing more professional than busting out a polished business card when someone asks for your info. It shows you’re a prepared professional musician.
What Not To Do
I love business cards. In fact, I collect them. Specifically bad ones. Like laughably bad ones. While I can’t show you the actual cards for privacy reasons, I can tell you all about them. Here’s two of my favorites:
This first awful business card is from a bass player I met at a gig. The front of the card was fairly normal and had his name, phone number, and email listed horizonally. Totally normal card until I flipped it over. On the back was a full-page picture of him. Wearing a Christmas sweater. In front of a Christmas tree. That was upside down.
I have so many questions for this man. Do you really love Christmas that much? Why is the tree upside down? Did you really not have any other picture?
Moral of the story: either put a great picture of yourself, or don’t put one at all.
Best Card Ever
This next card is my favorite of all time. It’s the perfect storm of terrible business cards.
The front featured a cheesy looking violin with swirls and circles to make it look fancy, though I could clearly tell this was a stock picture from some business card site. The card listed this musician’s name, their instrument (violin/viola), their email, and 2 phone numbers. Both numbers were then crossed out and a third was handwritten in pen. I flipped the card over to reveal the icing on the cake. The back simply said, “Order FREE business cards at VistaPrint.com.”
I don’t even know where to start.
1. The stock looking violin may seem cool because “I play violin too!” but it only shows that you know how to browse the business card templates on vista print.
Go simple. The result will be a classy card that doesn’t match 3,000 other violinists out there.
2. Listing 2 phone numbers is confusing. Which one do I call? Is one of them your home number and one of them your cell number? In that case, do you also have a fax number? I mean, since we’re just giving away numbers.
List just one phone number. It’s simpler and gets that person connected with you faster.
3. Both numbers crossed out and a new number written in? Are you on the run? Do you have a crazy ex-girlfriend? What is going on in your life that you have had 3 phone numbers? Not only does this make it look like you’re wanted, it’s very tacky.
Again, just one number.
4. Wait, I can order free business cards from vista print? That must mean that you can RE-order free business cards from vista print as well.
The ad on the back of your card is tacky, tells the recipient that you’re too cheap to pay for real cards and too lazy to reorder new ones after your last breakup with Crazy.
Don’t have a terrible business card. Do this instead:
Let’s talk about some basics here. Don’t think of the design of your business card as “flashy and cool”. What’s the point of a business card? To deliver information about you so that the receiver can get a hold of you. By adding stock pictures of violins, you’re distracting from your main objective: getting this person to call you for work. That’s not to say that you can’t have any flair on your card at all, but just keep in mind the main objective here. When in doubt, keep it simple. Notice I didn’t say plain. Your information should be displayed in a way that makes it the center of attention on your card, but done in a professional way.
1 Side or 2?
Should you use both sides of the business card? Let me answer your question with a question. When you hand a card to someone, do they usually flip it over? Now let me answer that question. Yes, almost every time, because that’s what people are conditioned to do. Leaving a blank white back is only designing half of your card. But what should you put on the back of your card?
Some musicians like to put their pictures on the back of their business card, but I’m not that good looking. You may get a new haircut in a couple months and then you’ll look nothing like your card. Maybe the only good picture of you is in front of an upside down Christmas tree. A picture on the back is optional. The person who received this card probably met you when they gave it to you, so they have a good idea what you look like. Besides, your new website features some great photos of you, right?
Overall, don’t worry too much about design. The point of this card is to deliver your information, not to show off a cool pre made template.
What should actually be listed on your card? Well your name would be a great place to start. After that, what you do in music should be paired with it. As musicians, we have to to do multiple things to make a living, but that doesn’t mean you should list absolutely everything on your business card. Clarity is the key here. Listing “Tevin Sebastian – Electric Guitar, Acoustic Guitar, Pedal Steel, Sitar, Ukulele, Electric Bass, Piano, Producer, Engineer, Live Sound, Educator, Lecturer” is obviously ridiculous.
You may think that you’re impressing the other person by listing every single thing you do, but if you do everything, then you effectively do nothing. Plus you kind of sound like a tool. In that whole list there isn’t one instrument or job that sticks out as your main thing. A better alternative would be “Tevin Sebastian – Guitar”.
“But then they won’t know that I also do live sound, producing, and chapman stick!” You’re saying. I guess you’re right about that. But now they do know that you’re a guitar player and maybe they’ll call you. If you’re serious about your career as a producer, you should probably make a separate card for that. (Side note: You should know though that saying, “what if we got quieter at this part?” during a session doesn’t make you a producer.)
Alright so now we have our name and main thing on the card. “Tevin Sebastian – Guitar”. Now they gotta get a hold of you somehow. List your phone number, email and website in that order. Phone and/or text is still the most common way to book someone for a gig, then they’ll email you the details. You also have your website listed because you put in the time making it an awesome portfolio of your work.
What else should go on your card? It’s 2014. Social Media is a given. You’re on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+ and LiveJournal (If you’re not, you should be especially LiveJournal). But should you list that on your card? Here’s an easy test: imagine the person you are handing the card to reading your feed. Tweets about your recent breakup and endless instagrams of Starbucks don’t exactly say professional. If you two work together a lot and become friends, you’ll probably follow each other eventually, but unless you’re posting stuff about being a musician, the social usernames shouldn’t go on your business card.
Let’s Do This
Talk is cheap, let’s do this.
No, you don’t need to have Photoshop to make a decent card. I’ll walk you through the specifics.
Where To Order
I order all my business cards from GotPrint.com. They make great quality cards, offer a decent price, and have good basic designing tools built into their site.
Designing Your Card
GotPrint (and other sites) have tons of stock business card options, but we wanna keep it simple, remember? Solid colors on a business card help the content to stand out, so I’m gonna go with solid black. You can choose whatever you want though.
Other sites have business card designers, but I’m going to walk you through GotPrint. They have a Quick Designer and an Advanced Designer. Don’t let the name fool you, it’s not that complicated. Let’s take the Advanced option. Click here then click on “Advanced Designer.”
(Yeah, I know it’s flash, I hate it too)
From here, the designer pretty much works like the MS Paint of your childhood. I selected the rectangle draw tool, selected the fill and stroke to be black, made a black rectangle, then grabbed the text tool to insert my front information. If while you’re making your rectangle, you get a warning that says, “Object outside safe zone, clipping may occur” don’t worry about it.
When you select the text tool, you can change the font color to be whatever you’d like. The line you see in the middle of this example card is just a bunch of consecutive underscores. You can use the alignment tools on the top right to center your text.
Feel free to mess around with colors and fonts. This is your business card after all. It should reflect you. Yes, you can even add other shapes and things. Make it however you want, but keep our main goal in mind.
Alright, the front of Tevin’s card is done. It looks nice, doesn’t it?
Click on the “Back” tab just above the card to check out the back.
For the back of this card, I’m going to contrast the front and have black letters on a white background. Remember how we want to use both sides? And we also really want our content to stand out? Splitting up your name and contact info makes your name and main thing more memorable. It also leaves all the business-y details for the back.
Using the same tools, we now have an awesome business card back.
Everything look good? Click on the big red “Order Now” button at the top. You’ve got a few different options for paper types. Order 16pt dull cover with matte finish. A matte finish looks professional and doesn’t show fingerprints. The 16pt paper makes for a solid feeing card.
Select “color both sides” if you are using other colors. Since I’m only using black and white, I selected “color front b&w back” because it was a little cheaper.
How many should you order? They get cheaper the more you order, but keep in mind, you may want a different card in 25 years, so as tempting as it is, don’t spring for the 50,000.
There was only a $5.58 difference between 100 and 250, so I ordered 250.
Next are your rounded corners and UV coating options. As trendy as rounded corners are, when I ordered them they came back not nearly as cool as I thought they would be. Straight corners are a timeless look, so stick with that. The UV coating actually adds a coat of gloss on top, and we’re sticking with matte, so skip it. Also, does your card really need UV protection? I mean, I get it, global warming and whatever, but really?
After filling out the appropriate info, initial the box saying that you’ve proof read everything. Oh, also proofread everything. And then proofread it again. You don’t want to end up with a bunch of cards that have your name spelled wrong.
Click “add to cart”, checkout, and you’re good to go.
When you get your cards in the mail, keep a few in your wallet, and a bunch in your case. You should always have one on you at a gig.
First impressions are everything, and having a professional business card sets you apart from the sea of musicians with crossed out numbers and upside down Christmas trees. Now that you have a great looking card, how’s your website looking?
Photo credit: Petter Pallander