Do you have business cards? If you’re a freelance writer, it’s a moral imperative that you have business cards. Remember that you’re a business, and that as a professional businessperson, you must have a means by which people can easily store your contact information. Even if you work from home most of the time (as I do), you’d be surprised at how often you’ll be using your cards:
- Manuscript/Query submissions. When you submit a query letter to an editor or agent via snail mail (and many still only accept it this way), you need to make sure that they have your business card as well as letter. Don’t staple it to the document, and definitely don’t just slip it into the envelope, where it can slip out and get lost or tossed. Use a paper clip to attach it to the document. When you send in your final manuscript, do it again. This ensures that the editor gets a copy in case s/he lost the first one. Note: Don’t send it again, though, if you end up having an ongoing relationship with this editor. The first couple of times should be enough.
- Thank You Notes. These could be to your editor, an interviewee, the librarian who helped you out on your last research trip, or a seatmate on your recent flight whom you got to know. Get your name out there and make sure you’re easy to contact. It’s all about building your network of friends, colleagues and potential future sources.
- Writers’ Conferences and Writing Groups. You’ll be meeting agents, publishers, editors, and fellow writers at these events. Make sure they know how to contact you in the future, especially if they’ve expressed interest in your work. Hasty scribbles on a torn sheet of paper from your notebook (or worse, the back of a handout) isn’t professional and can be lost or forgotten. On the other hand, business cards can be easily slipped into a pocket or purse. Also, other attendees will likely have business cards to hand out as well, so you’ll want to be able to offer yours.
- Business meetings. If you do any copywriting or any other business-related copywriting as part of your business, you’ll most certainly need business cards. You probably belong to your local Chamber of Commerce, perhaps even a professional organization such as the American Business Women’s Association or even Toastmasters. No matter how often you attend their meetings, always bring business cards. New people come and go all the time, so you’ll want to be able to flourish your card easily when you meet them.
- Interviewees and sources. When you interview someone for an article, leave your business card when you’re finished. They may remember something crucial later that’s related to your article, and you’ll want them to be able to contact you if and when they do.
- Everyone else you meet. You’d be surprised at how often you’ll find a business card handy just in day-to-day life. A chance meeting with a fellow writer at a coffee shop or bookstore. A church potluck that attracts hundreds of people. The person sitting next to you at a big wedding reception.
You can get cards made at your local Kinko’s or print shop, but if you can wait a few weeks, VistaPrint and other online services can offer you much better prices, even with shipping charges thrown in. The downside, of course, is that you may have to wait up to 3-4 weeks for delivery (most often, though, it’ll be less time than that unless you have a custom order). VistaPrint has numerous free templates you can use, or you can upload your own design for a small fee.
Make sure that your business cards contain — at minimum! — the following info:
- Title (Freelance Writer, Independent Journalist, Professional Writer, etc.)
- Telephone #
- Fax #
- Email Address
- Web site/Blog URL (if you have one)
You can include your physical address if you have an actual office separate from your home. If you work from home and are uncomfortable publicizing your home address on your card (especially if you’re a woman), by all means, leave it out. As long as you have other means by which people can easily contact you (and email address, tel # and fax # should be plenty!), that shouldn’t be a problem.
If you want, include a short description of your services. On my card, I list my professional title, then a short list of possible assignments: speeches, press releases, copywriting, business documents, magazine/newspaper features, etc. It’s not necessary, of course, but it might be helpful if someone’s interested in finding out if you do ad copy or speeches and not just, say, travel articles.