Jamie Cohen, Web and digital media director at Hofstra University's School of Communication, has to decide which of his 10 different business cards to hand over when he makes a new contact.
One card is for his full-time job. One is for his side research-and-Web-design gig. And for connecting with him on social media, he has eight cards with the same contact information but a different image on each, ranging from a Woodbury bike trail to Mick Jagger in action.
Though cards might seem to be fossils from the pre-digital era, Cohen, 32, says, "the most valuable asset to networking, at least until we can wirelessly transmit all our contact info, is the business card .?.?. the more memorable the better."
The humble business card is not staring at imminent extinction, agree area professionals. Indeed, as digital design and production allow for shorter print runs, lower costs and quicker turnaround, people are finding creative new uses for them.
Five years ago, the price for printing 1,000 full-color business cards was more than $500 and took one to two weeks, said Evan Bloom, owner of Sir Speedy Printing and Marketing Services, in Westbury. Today that order could cost about $100 and be done within 24 hours.
Moreover, cards are now a link between the physical and digital worlds, says Emily Miethner, a 2010 Hofstra graduate, social media coach and founder of NY Creative Interns, a career organization in Manhattan. "It's still helpful to have something to touch," something to remember a person by, at least until you establish an email or LinkedIn connection, she says.
Cards will continue to exist to point people to websites or LinkedIn profiles, says Cohen.
Still, in this digital age, how cards are used is changing.
More than one
Cohen's stash of cards is a reflection of what's called today's gig economy, where, through financial need or entrepreneurial design, many professionals are piecing together varying work interests in a patchwork of full- and/or part-time specialties.
People are making productive use of leisure time with "side hustles" like making furniture or selling organic vegetables on weekends, says John DiMarco, a professor of communications at St. John's University. Low-cost business cards are just one element allowing them to "run a side business as if it were a big company," he says.
Whereas "old school" business cards were printed in large, pricey runs, today one size no longer fits all, says Paul Lewis, director of marketing in the United Kingdom for MOO .com, an online printing company based in London. As few as 50 cards can be ordered at affordable prices and tailored to any number of uses, he says, such as new product launches and sales promotions.
Miethner says about 100 attendees signed up for a MOO.com offer of 50 free cards — costing only a $1 processing charge — to be picked up the morning of her April career conference. Among those who ordered: unemployed students and professionals, as well as the socially savvy who are working for employers that don't include individual Linked In or Twitter information on corporate cards.
Online printer Vistaprint is seeing an uptick in personal business cards, with sales up 140 percent since mid-2012, says spokeswoman Kaitlin Ambrogio. That category includes cards "used as a mini-snap shot of a resume or key accomplishments" to share at job fairs and networking events, she said, and "mommy" cards on which parents can share contact, allergy or emergency details with baby sitters and playdate supervisors.
"Take time to have consistency between your online presence and offline presence," says Miethner. That means opting across the board — in blogs, on Twitter, Linked In and business cards — to choose the same colors, image and tagline.
What's more, rebranding is so much easier for those testing out new career paths, she says. Some simple initial steps: Change your LinkedIn headline and order new cards.
No design skills? DiMarco, also author of "Career Power Skills," (Pearson Learning Solutions, $33.35), says to check out templates on the likes of MOO and Vistaprint. Other such sites include BigDotPrint.com, GotPrint.net and Zazzle.com.
Cards printed on both sides are also on the rise, says Bloom, though he warns that not everyone will know to flip the card over.
That's one reason DiMarco advises using one side as a "billboard" featuring an image or something nonessential, with the other reserved for core detail, such as name, phone, email, website.
A further option: Earmark the flip side for note-taking, with spaces designated for "where we met" and "what we talked about," Miethner says.
Trouble settling on just one image? MOO customers can opt at no extra cost for a different image on each card in a pack, says Lewis. That allows, say, wedding photographers, real estate agents and designers to fan out their cards and invite new contacts to select their own, making the meeting especially memorable, he says.
What with social media and email systems, "people aren't holding onto cards like they used to," says Bloom.
In a global survey of 7,278 professionals by LinkedIn, 58 percent said the Rolodex is on the office endangered species list. On the other hand, only 15 percent said the business card is on its way out.
Professionals are turning to smartphones for contact storage — but here, too, cards can have a place.
CardMunch, an app owned by LinkedIn, allows you to snap a photo of a newly received card and upload the information, which is downloaded again to your phone, often within an hour.
And — you guessed it — the new contact's LinkedIn profile shows up as well. Think twice about:
Going for glitz over functionality. Plastic cards may be cool, but are hard to write on, says Beth Granger, a social media consultant in Port Washington, who likes to make notes after a new meeting.
Including Quick Response codes — those bar-code-like squares — as not everyone has compatible code readers. Also, you'll leave a bad impression if your website opened by a scanned code isn't optimized for mobile viewers, says Evan Bloom, owner of Sir Speedy Printing and Marketing Services, in Westbury, who creates mobile-friendly mini sites.
Including unnecessary information, which hogs space and shows you as behind the times. Better to include your LinkedIn data than a fax number. Also, no need to include "https://" or "www" in web addresses, Emily Miethner, founder of NY Creative Interns.