A few weeks ago I wrote about the braided career. The idea is that in order to create stability in a world where career change is frequent and job security is non-existent, you need to be managing three things at all times: your personal life, what you are doing for work now, and what you might want to do next. These things are intertwined, and make for an interesting, stable, but complicated life. If you consciously braid then you keep things in order.
But how do you translate that to a business card? What do you call yourself?
The answer is that your business card should directly reflect the story you are telling about yourself in the moment. And in fact, the issue of what to put on your business card is actually a very fundamental question.
The best way to get a clear sense of who you are is not to philosophize with your head in the clouds, but rather, to describe yourself in sentences. Sometimes this means writing a lot, sometimes this means talking a lot. This is why keeping a diary keeps some people feeling centered and talk therapy keeps other people centered. It’s also why when you are working on your elevator pitch about yourself, you get better and better with practice, because you understand yourself better each time you talk about yourself.
When you meet someone new, and they ask you “what do you do?” Blogger Pam Slim gives a great answer: She says to answer what you want to be doing. That is, you are under no obligation to tell people your day job. And you don’t need to confess that you want to be a designer but the only thing you’ve designed is the web page that says you’re a designer. Everyone starts somewhere. Bill Gates sold his first computer before he had manufactured one. He did that by saying that he does it and then someone hired him to do it. This is fair play – even expected play – in business.
So you need a business card that says what you want to be doing, if you are ready to start doing it. If you are doing two things and they are related, like designer and illustrator, you can put a slash on the card. If you are doing things that are unrelated, like designer and travel agent, then have two separate cards. This way, when someone is going on a trip, you can give them the travel agent card. If designer is also on the card then it looks like you are less focused on travel, whether or not it’s true, so leave it off. In this sense the card is like a resume – it’s not your life story; just put on the card what you want to get hired to do.
You can do fine with a very basic business card, and there are plenty of places to order these online. But here is a site with really incredible business cards, that I spent way too much time looking at. (Thanks, Marina.) But before you go there, a word of caution: The wrong font can ruin your image in one second. So don’t get fancy unless you know how.
And hey, if you still have a corporate day job as well, don’t forget to carry around cards for that, too – until you can quit.