Unbusinesslike Business Cards

This article was one of my MicroSoft Small Business Forum pieces. 

I am currently enjoying a very rewarding consulting stint within an agency of the Canadian federal government, where pretty much everyone else is also a consultant. (Actually there are only two bona fide civil servants in our office; everyone else is a contractor). This is not atypical of a new agency that must rush to get its procedures, budgets and mandates in line before formal, permanent hires can take place.

I really enjoy contracting for the federal government… at this senior level, I mean. People are surprisingly committed to the work; and, if your agency is wealthy enough, sufficient resources can be thrown at a given issue to address it wholly and satisfyingly.

Being surrounded by so many other consultants, most of whom are former senior bureaucrats themselves, has afforded me a very unique opportunity… to compare business cards. Yes, literally, I’ve been examining the business cards of my colleagues (and perhaps future competitors) to see how our aesthetic and communicative tastes overlap and diverge.

Most are quite basic: black printing on white, with name, title, address written along the long axis of the card. A couple have a logo. One even has a motto italicized at the bottom. One thing they all have is a mention of their consulting services, for example:

Joe Blow, MPA
President, Blow Policy, Inc.

Health Policy Analysis and Corporate Communications
joe@joeblow.biz

You get the idea. Then I took a long, hard look at my own card. It’s various shades of blue, with a giant, multicoloured human eye taking up most of the room. In one indiscreet corner is my name and email address.

That’s it.

It’s eye-catching and pretty, and useful for giving to tipsy women at cocktail parties, but otherwise not exactly a great advertising boon for my business. After all, anyone finding such a card might incorrectly conclude that I’m an optometrist or graphic artist.

So now the debate rages in my little monkey brain: do I go with boring and corporate, or do I embrace artistic and fun? And this is where I conclude that while I will probably always be comfortable, I will likely never be stinking rich; because, in this subtle, small way, for me, being interesting is more important than being businesslike.