When I was a freelance graphic designer, I tried just about every trick in the book to get work. Especially in early 2002 when our economy was in a slump and the market was saturated with laid-off graphic designers. I spent a lot of time at Elance & Guru.com, went to Chamber of Commerce meetings, set up a website, networked, and I even did some cold calling when I got really desperate for leads. I didn’t like spending money on marketing, but when I finally got a great paying gig and I couldn’t avoid the inevitable anymore.
My business card sucked.
Okay, maybe sucked is a little harsh, but I was a graphic designer. The last thing I wanted my business card to do was convey a message of “meh.”
And my business card was 100 percent “Meh.”
So I decided to spend some money on business cards. And not just any business cards. I wanted nice, full color cards on premium-recycled stock that would make the recipient say “Wow”. I spent weeks designing them. And I knew they would cost me a small fortune, especially back then when quality on-demand short run printing didn’t exist.
Small fortune indeed—my bill was around $1150.00. But you know what? My new cards were effing gorgeous. They were a mini brochure that folded up to the right size with a perforated traditional business card on the end.
When I started handing them out to people, they said “Wow.” Some people even put them into a special holder away from the other business cards they had collected because they didn’t want my card to get lost. People requested extras, they started conversations, and people remembered me because of them. And yes, I was able to attribute getting at least two projects directly to the great impression my business card made on a prospect.
My graphic design business never made me rich—it gave me a good part-time income while my children were little and while I went through my last pregnancy. So $1150 was a LOT of money to spend, in fact, it was the most I ever spent on anything related to marketing.
But after I did it, I wished I had done it in my first year of business. I wondered how many potential clients liked me, but wondered about my talent when they saw my old card. I wondered how many cards I could have had in circulation over that time, pre-selling my talent and services for me.
And I wondered if I could have prevented my 2002 business slump if I had paid more attention to appearances when I started out in 2000. My answer to that today would be yes.
Today, you might not ever do any business in person, and you might not even have a business card. But you have a website, a blog, or a profile somewhere like Elance or Freelance Nation. You have more opportunities to get a “Wow” from a potential customer than ever before. But are you still on BlogSpot? Is your headshot taken in a bar? Did you throw together a profile on a freelance marketplace site and say to yourself, “I’ll get back to it when I have more time”?
You might not probably will never know what business you have lost if you can say yes to any of the above. And maybe you haven’t ‘lost’ any business at all. But I can tell you that if you had a website, portfolio, blog, or profile that made people say “Wow” in the first 2 seconds, then you will get more business.
You don’t need to be a selling yourself as a designer for this to apply to you – people want to hire professionals who will make them or their company/product look great. If you can’t do that for yourself, how do you expect them to know you can do it for them?
Got your own $1000 business card, or other big investment that has paid for itself over and over again? I’d love to hear about it!
Photo Courtesy of eMomsatHome