When you are managing the impression that others have of you – and making sure that your professional presence is communicated, it’s wise to spend time thinking about your stationery and business cards.
When you work for an organization, there is a certain look that everybody has for their business cards and stationery (whether it’s good or bad). But when you are an entrepreneur, then you can have business cards and stationery that look however you want them to. Regardless of whether you currently work within an organization and have a side business or a business that you are building for when you leave your ‘day job,’ you want to make sure you have your cards and stationery that are ready to convey the professionalism and personality of your work. Here are some ideas to consider:
Think about the paper you are printing your card and stationery on. This includes the weight, the colors you choose, the fonts used, and so forth. You want both your card stock and your stationery paper to be something with a little ‘heft,’ rather than something flimsy. It needs to be of substantial quality, although it does not need to be heavy. Particularly if you are printing your own cards right at the beginning, the stock won’t be very thick since most personal printers can’t handle that without jamming.
Do not wait until you have a fancy logo to get some cards and stationery. This is often a procrastination technique and a way that people justify NOT getting their stationery done because they are thinking, “Well, I don’t have my logo yet.” The truth is, you need to have a business card. For a stand-in until you have something snazzy, you can go to Kinko’s, Office Max. or Office Depot (and the like) and buy the plain old cards you can run through your printer. Get the ones that are ivory, cream or white cardstock and that are already scored for tearing into business cards. Put your name, contact information and so forth on there and print up a few. Believe me, that is better than not having anything. There is one networking group I belong to – eWomenNetwork - and I can’t tell you the number of times that people come to the event (which has as its whole mission for women to network with one another). There will always be someone there who says, ”I don’t really have a card. Let me just write down my stuff on a piece of paper” and then she grabs some scrap of paper out of her purse and scribbles down her information. This does not leave a great impression, unfortunately. Even just having a plain white business card gives you something to hand out and say, “I’m just waiting for my final ones, but this has all the important contact information you will need.” The same holds true with the stationery: You do not have to have fancy stationery; you just have to have something (besides notebook paper) so that when you are sending letters, thank you notes, inquiries about a product, marketing letters, or any other type of professional correspondence, that has your name, contact information and so forth.
Have your materials proofed by MANY others. Don’t trust yourself or even a professional proofreader. Check everything and then have at least 5 other people check every detail. It doesn’t look good (to say the least) if you have to cross out or write over the top of something on your card because it’s wrong. I’ve seen misspelled words, letters omitted from domain names, phone numbers that were short one letter, and more. Eek! It could happen to any of us.
Get various bids and opinions. Before you go ahead and spend hundreds (or thousands!) of dollars getting your business cards, stationery, and envelopes printed by a professional, do two things: 1) Have your job big on by more than one company and 2) Give samples out to people you don’t know. Ask them what they think. It might hurt your feelings (I have had that happen before, i.e., having gone through various renditions of my logo and overall business look, there were times when people would say, “I don’t really know what this is.” I thought, ‘What do you mean you don’t know what this is?’ Then later on, as it got more and more professional, I started getting a better and very different kind of response. Note: Don’t ask if you don’t want people to tell you, but it is worth asking if you are interested in the feedback. You might save yourself a lot of money.
Managing the impression that others have of you takes focus and reflection. One of the easiest ways is to start with good quality stationery and business cards. And to make sure you are productive in your personal and professional life, you’ll want to access the resources at the Top Ten Productivity Tips series.