The digital empire is taking over.

But chances are, a small memento is still the best way to help people remember you when you shake their hand. With so much emphasis on creativity these days, simply having a business card won’t cut it. Here’s 12 tips on how to make sure your business cards create the conversation you want to have.

1. White space is your best friend

That’s right- you may want to cram all of your information and designs on your card- but business cards are like tiny billboards. You want a bold, easy-to-read card that stands out as the person you hand it to scans it over for less than 10 seconds.  Whether you have a color card or white background, use the space to your benefit. I received this card just a few days ago at the Houston Young Professionals Society Networking event and like the use of space. The branding is bold and interesting, but simple.

2. Fill in the space with easy-to-read text.

Kate’s card is super easy to read. Not only do you want to include a font that is easy on the eyes, but you want to make sure the font is big enough. My suggestion: 10 or 12 point font at the smallest. If the person you just met is holding the card close to their face or reaching for their spectacles, you might want to rethink the size.

3. Sell yourself
This card may not be the easiest to see (due to my lack of photography skills), but it’s simple and you know by reading the tagline that the owner is looking to help people coordinate their look. It already opens up a dialogue because everyone likes to think they have their own style, whether fashionable or not. Insert your new friend, and you can be super-chic. I bumped into Antonio at a campus Starbucks, we exchanged cards, and have been friends ever since.

4. Draw people to your active websites

Rich DeMatteo, founder of Corn on the Job and Bad Rhino, Inc. says “we use mini cards for Bad Rhino and then this other card is a couple years old but I use that for Corn on the Job and #jobhuntchat.” The smaller card is a quick, easy way to have people contact you and the bigger one allows new acquaintances to learn about the person behind the card while creating interest in their business. Side note: Twitter chats are a great way to practically speed network through social media and the #jobhuntchat is great for students. I made quite a few contacts through my first one.

5. Get creative
At first, I didn’t like the font on this card too much. Then, on a second glance, I realized it was like staring into a classic arcade game- Galaga. It immediately jumped up several spots in my book. I realized how creative Morgan was by bringing retro back to modern. Again the card is simple, easy to read and bold. The old font works and creates a talking point.

6. Be just confident enough
This has to be one of my favorite business cards. Great use of white space and  the pink emphases throughout the card really say a lot about the creativity. Check out that title though, “Internet Marketing Rockstar“. Now that is bold. But Mila’s confident in her skills and this + the cool design will have new acquaintances looking at her card after they’ve met.


7. Black and White is OK
Granted the one in the middle has a touch of red, but the first two have colored backs which is an interesting eye-catcher. Black and white is timeless. It’s OK to have a card without color. In fact, unless you’re a designer, any type of two-tone card is most likely the way to go. Your purpose is for focus, not distraction. So yes while you want to be creative, don’t forget that simplicity is elegant. It all depends on how you want to come across.
Owners: Stacey Nardozzi, Jessica Vasquez, Arnea Williams & Angel Watkins.

8. Invest in your cards
Andrew Douglass, a web developer and designer here in Houston, TX says that “one thing that always catches people’s attention is how solid they feel and how simple they are from a design standpoint. I buy the Luxe cards from a website called, and they’re about 3 times as thick as a normal business card. They’re expensive, but they always get lots of positive attention.  In my experience, the best way to customize your card really is through the quality of the paper and by putting more personal things (like your twitter handle) on the card.”
Even if you’re a student and your title may be changing in the future, spend your money on quality, not quantity. The benefit will outweigh the cost.

9. Mix and Match

Your font does not have to be the same all over the card. Jenn Goethel of Indiana Weslayan University and Reganie Smith-Love sent me these along with an Event Planning Company in Houston and I like the contrast between cursive and D’Nealian. It’s alright to mix and match fonts.


10. Think outside the template
business cardsI can only say positive things about this card! Regina has a simple color scheme, easy to read and to the point, and best of all: Check out the back! You can write down anything else you desire to know or jot down a note about where you met them. If that’s not the handiest tool someone has added to their card, I challenge you to come up with a better one.

11. Hold Back
exchange business cards 
You spent money on these cards, so don’t toss them at strangers as if they are nothing. Hold back and really connect with the person before deciding if you want to hand them a business card. It turns out you may not want that person contacting you, or even worse:
You hand your business card to stranger. Stranger sounds really great and you see the opportunity for a lifelong connection; however, you have already handed out your business card. One of two undesirable things could happen. A) The person is looking down and reading your card instead of paying attention to you. B) The person has no obligation to stay since they have your contact info and leaves before the connection is established. Think about how you want to be approached and mirror this when handing out business cards.

12. Take the conversation further
I use the box from my first set of business cards to keep mine in a safe place. Yes, I connect with the people I meet over LinkedIn, Twitter or Facebook, but I keep the physical card for backup and to make sure I never lose that connection. Send your new acquaintances a quick message or “hello” and make sure to mention where you met them. If you networked successfully, this should be easy to do and is a common courtesy gesture. If they provided you their card, they are looking for the connection, too. Be the proactive one and seek them out if they haven’t sought you out first.

I want to thank everyone who sent me cards for this post, and here is a slideshow of all the cards sent in and some I collected at events:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

What attracts your eye to business cards? Do you know of more etiquette tips that should be followed or avoided?

5 Comments on “12 Business Card Secrets Every Student Should Know

  1. These are great tips for how to make an attractive, yet marketable business card. (My card is up there!) I really think business cards are important and often overlooked–especially what is appropriate and what isn’t. We need to market ourselves through our cards, but we should do it tastefully.

  2. I love this post Lauren! I think it is important to express yourself through your business cards, however, making sure you are marketable and professional as well. We are trying to impress companies! (PS. I love that you used my card in the slideshow)

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