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How to make your business card unique

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SmallBusiness.com How-tos are step-by-step instructions for specific small business tasks. They are created and edited by readers like you. You can help edit this How-to or you can create your own. Find more How-tos at the SmallBusiness.com How-to Hub.

Introduction

Though small, lightweight and often tossed in the trash, business cards are one of the most important tools in your business. And while they provide vital information for both prospective and current customers, that's the easy part. It's one thing to tell people how to contact you with your business card; it's a whole other ballgame when it comes to telling them why to contact you. But in order to be an effective business card, that's what it's got to do.

Three ways you can make yours stand out from the pack

Size: The thing about business cards is that they're all pretty much the same. Same size (3x2.5"), same material (variations of thin paper), same message ("Here's how to contact me."). So if you want to grab someone's attention right off the bat, deviate from the standard size. And if you're OK with making your card a bit smaller, this trick doesn't have to mean shelling out much cash using variations like MOO MiniCards, where for $20 you get 100 cards measuring 28x70mm. You also get to buck tradition by uploading photos to the back of the cards, which can be done easily from online accounts like Flickr, Fotolog or Bebo. If you don't have anything photo-worthy yourself, you can choose from MOO's expansive gallery of images.

Material: Not all business cards have to be rectangular pieces of paper. There are coasters, messages inside fortune cookies, USB flash drives, rubber erasers and more. Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak had his super-thin and sharp metal business card designed to serve another function, too: He uses one to cut his steak when flying first class.

But be careful: Some experts warn about getting too cute with shapes or materials. Ideally you'd like your card to still fit in a standard-size wallet, but if you're in a somewhat creative field, a unique take on an old standard could work quite well.

Message: The obvious point of a business card is to let prospective (and current) clients know how to contact you, but that doesn't mean you have to print your information front and center on your card. If you don't want to mess with size or material but still want a non-traditional feel to your card, try getting creative with colors or font size and placement. A minimalist design can convey you're sharp and efficient in your work, while a flashy, boldly colored card can demonstrate a passion to stand out and have fun. Go with your gut and choose a design that showcases the personality of you and your company. And don't forget to add your logo to your cards. It's the easiest way for many to instantly identify your business.

Summary

No matter how you decide to approach your business cards, experts agree on one thing: Hire a professional. Chances are nothing will get tossed in the trash quicker than a poorly designed, cheap card. In many cases your business card is the only way potential customers will remember you -- if they remember you at all -- and you want the impression you leave behind to be a positive and lasting one.