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I was at Google Developer Day yesterday and I was approached by several companies looking for hire and for freelance work. As I am interested in doing some freelance work I chatted a little with the representatives of these companies and they all gave me their business cards. I was a little taken aback by this since I didn't have a business card for myself and the fact that I find business card to be quite simply outdated.

So, lacking a business card, I gave them my website address where I have a portfolio, links to my GitHub and LinkedIn accounts and a blog. Should I order some business cards and carry them around in these events? I can't shake the feeling that business card are outdated, am I just plain wrong?

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closed as off topic by Walter, William Shakespeare, back2dos, Jon Hopkins, ChrisF Sep 19 '11 at 12:07

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Developers don't use business cards much, but not everyone you meet is a developer. If you want to quickly exchange details accurately, a business card is still the way to go. –  Peter Lawrey Sep 18 '11 at 6:53
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A more digital up-to-date alternative is to send a Contact Card between mobiles using Bluetooth; but, you'll have to enable Bluetooth first and it's not widely used by people... ^^ –  Tom Wijsman Sep 18 '11 at 8:48
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It would be cool if they could just take a picture of your face with their phone and all your details come up, that you've made publicly accessible. (Yes, I'm just being funny, but then again, we do have recognition software, so why not). –  b01 Sep 18 '11 at 19:25
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@b01 Cool? It'd be scary ;-) –  quant_dev Sep 18 '11 at 19:54
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@Anonymous Type: Nobody said anything about "open access to peoples personal information". b01 said that the information you've made publicly accessible should come up. If you've chosen to open it to the public, then what's the problem with the public having open access to it? –  Dave Sherohman Sep 19 '11 at 9:30

10 Answers 10

up vote 53 down vote accepted

There's no technological replacement for business cards, yet. Any and all contact information is difficult to remember, and spell correctly, especially if it's the 15th one you hear about, after the third drink of the night... Never-mind that well designed cards contain white space for you to take notes in so you can remember what you talked about.

Put together a business card, containing:

  • One link to your portfolio. Not more. Include a version that's scannable into phones (QR code).
  • One point of contact (preferably email). Include all the rest of your contact information by default in your email signature.
  • Scan your business card. Have the QR code available on your phone for others to scan.

Offer to email your card to people as well as handing them a copy of it. If you're emailing them, include an intro blurb which reminds them where they met you, and possibly a note about what you've talked about when meeting

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13  
QR code is genius. I'm definitely using this advice. –  OghmaOsiris Sep 18 '11 at 4:41
    
Yes, there is. USB sticks talking to each other exchanging contact details. We had them as a possible gimmick on some conference, but decided against it as their practical use is limited by the adoption rate, which we couldn't see getting high enough soon enough. –  Marjan Venema Sep 18 '11 at 7:53
    
Instead of scanning the card's QR code and having it on your phone, if you have an Android phone you could just provide your whole card as a QR code (share > barcode scanner), including your email address and website link(s). –  fluffy Sep 18 '11 at 17:39
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@Marjan: Perhaps one of the reasons the adoption rate was poor at your conference was people wondering whether they could trust the USB stick and all of the devices it had been inserted into. (Some of us are old enough to remember the days of viruses spreading like wildfire because of people sharing floppy disks. The same is possible with USB sticks, thanks to "autorun".) –  Dave Sherohman Sep 19 '11 at 9:33
    
@Dave: yeah, I am one of those old enough people :-)) –  Marjan Venema Sep 19 '11 at 9:57

I can't shake the feeling that business card are outdated, am I just plain wrong?

Yes, in this instance you are. That's not to say that you need to order a million business cards. It's easy enough to design (or have designed for you) something nice that can be printed in small batches - quick print shops and color laser printers/copiers are great for this. Keep about 20 on-hand (in your car, backpack, etc.) for random encounters, and run off a larger batch for conferences, etc.

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Yes, they are outdated, but for those that hire for freelance work (small business owners) most still use them. –  Todd Moses Sep 18 '11 at 3:21
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If "most" of the people that you interact with in a given context use them, how does that make them outdated? Now, if OP had asked about carving hieroglyphics on stone tablets, or painting his info on cave walls, or peeling the bark off of birch trees, or asking them to splice into his telegraph line, then perhaps outdated would be the correct word. –  Joe Internet Sep 18 '11 at 3:30
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Office Depot, Office Max, Staples, just about any big office supply place can do business cards. They have BUNCHES of standard layouts that you can customize just about any way you want for your particular purpose. –  John R. Strohm Sep 18 '11 at 6:10
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or get 'em free from VistaPrint. We all love technology, but handing someone a card with your name, email address and URL is still going to be quicker and easier than just about anything else - and 100% compatible –  StevenV Sep 18 '11 at 17:25
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43 upvotes? seriously? –  Anonymous Type Sep 18 '11 at 23:09

If you're going to meet people in person and you want them to be able to contact you later, nothing beats handing them a piece of paper with your contact information on it. You can either scrawl an URL on a piece of paper and hope they remember why they were interested or present yourself as professionally and strongly as possible on something that clearly reminds them why they were interested. It's your choice.

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A place to get good-looking business cards at a reasonable price: http://www.vistaprint.com (I have no connection with them, just a satisfied customer). –  tcrosley Sep 18 '11 at 6:08
    
Ditto, vistaprint rocks –  Mike Mooney Sep 18 '11 at 16:41

So, lacking a business card, I gave them my website address where I have a portfolio, links to my guthub and linkedin accounts and a blog.

How did you give them these addresses? Did you write it on cocktail napkins, or directly on their hands? This is exactly what cards are for.

Should I order some business cards and carry them around in these events?

Depends. Do you want to present a professional image?

Business cards are such a standard, reliable, and inexpensive way to help people remember you that it seems silly not to have some.

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Companies do not issue business cards to non-customer-facing software developers because of this exact reason. Business cards are issued to certain employees so that they can attract more customers to their employer, not to solicit outside employment opportunities.

If you are looking for freelance work, make sure you print your own business card, paid by yourself. You can mention the name of your current employer, but you may be barred from using the company name and/or logo on your self-styled business card. (Edited based on @John R. Strohm's comment.)

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Cards are cheap as dirt. I have not faced clients for 2 years and I've had two sets of different business cards printed for me since then. I guess that is what large companies do ... –  Job Sep 18 '11 at 3:43
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I suppose there might be a few companies out there that won't print cards for a software developer, but that's definitely not the norm. –  William Shakespeare Sep 18 '11 at 3:45
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It's not the cost, it's the antithesis of a company doing something to help its own developers move to greener pastures. –  rwong Sep 18 '11 at 6:07
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On your personal card, do NOT list your current employer, your current phone number at your employer, or ANYTHING that might indicate that you are acting in their name when you give out the card. (Unless you ARE acting in their name, in which you should hand out the business card THEY printed for you.) Hand out your own card, with your PERSONAL contact information. If you want to separate your personal and professional lives, so your business contacts use one address/phone and your girlfriends another, get a second cellphone (or voicemail account) and a second email address. –  John R. Strohm Sep 18 '11 at 6:14
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Most of the companies I've worked at DO issue business cards to non-customer-facing developers, because they never know when a developer might actually become customer-facing. Also, some companies are large enough that most business card exchanges are between employees in disparate parts of the company. Sometimes it's cultural, too; I work for a Japanese corporation so having a business card is vitally important for the meishi exchange. On that note, if you ever work with Japanese people you will NEED a business card. –  fluffy Sep 18 '11 at 17:43

I bit the bullet and got my own business cards about a year ago for the same reason. I have worked for employers who have given me business cards and those that haven't, and I was at that time working for a company in the no-card camp. But I would have gotten my own cards even if I had cards from my company because what I wanted was to be able to give someone a card that reminded them of me, not who I was working for at that moment. I've seen other developers who also do this, and there's a variety of things that I've seen people put on their cards. Mine has my:

  • personal web site
  • personal email
  • phone number
  • LinkedIn profile address

I've seen others put links to their blogs, twitter handles, or list their preferred title (e.g. developer, architect, entrepreneur, etc.)

You can be simple (I was), or be creative. There are lots of sites out there with inspirational design examples. If you can, it's worth while putting a little effort into making a card that shows a little creativity and is a bit more memorable than the average corporate card.

There are lots of places you can get high quality cards at a reasonable price, and in reasonable amounts. I highly recommend MOO, and especially their mini-card, which I think is the perfect size for a card that's a reminder of a person.

You probably won't need very many cards. I got 100 cards and haven't gone through more than half in the course of a year. Mostly that's because I don't just hand them out to anyone, I give them to someone who I've spoken to for a bit and who I want to keep in touch with because they were an interesting person or work for a company I think I might be interested in.

And of course, I use it for dropping into those "free drink/meal" raffle bowls you see at some bars and restaurants. I'm a sucker for a free lunch, even if it means getting stuck on yet another mailing list.

One more point (I'm adding this during an edit) to emphasize what some of the other folks have pointed out. You need some way of handing off a physical reminder to people you meet face to face. But more importantly, you need to be meeting people face to face. Every developer (or other IT professional) needs to get offline and interact with others in the industry, and business cards are invaluable in those situations.

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I second the Moo recommendation. –  Eric King Sep 18 '11 at 16:27
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I third Moo. At Stack Exchange we use Moo for all of our employee business cards, also for the SE sites moderator cards we're making. Their paper stock is high quality. Also their pre-made templates are very well designed too. Their customer service is superb too. –  Jin Sep 18 '11 at 18:24

As I am interested in doing some freelance work I chatted a little with the representatives of these companies and they all gave me their business cards. I was a little taken aback by this since I didn't have a business card for myself and the fact that I find business card to be quite simply outdated.

The fact that you think they're outdated is irrelevant; your (potential) clients don't, and if you want to be successful, you'll make it easy for them to do business with you. This starts with giving them contact information in a form they want, which is a business card.

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This answer won't be for everyone, but depending upon your field of expertise you might want to go all out and create an augmented reality business card -- no one will will be able to call this business card outdated. Some of the examples at this link are extremely impressive.

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No they are not outdated. I don't go through many, maybe 50-60 a year but they are invaluable when needed. If you want to make them more modern, put a qr code on the back.

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Inkjet printers allow you to produce business cards at a reasonable quality. The main advantage is that you do not need to commit to a large amount of cards and you can modify them according to your ever changing experience, needs, emphasis, etc.

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Last time I looked, business cards at Office Max, Staples, or Office Depot ran US$20/1000, for one of their standard layouts. You'd be surprised how much variety you can get with just a standard layout card. –  John R. Strohm Feb 8 '12 at 17:40

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