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Spending $200 on One Thing Has Earned Me $18,000 — So Far!

Brand-boosting business-card tricks can score you connections, gigs, buzz and credibility.

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As a freelance travel writer and video host, I consider business cards an essential marketing tool — but not just because they allow me to introduce my brand, JetSetSarah.

I view my square cards, printed on heavy stock and each featuring one of 50 different photos of me taken in the Caribbean (my area of expertise), as miniature billboards. When I introduce myself, I present a handful for my new contact to choose from. What might have been a forgettable five-second exchange becomes a memorable conversation.

“Business cards should make a lasting impression,” says Joy Duckett Cain, author of Work It! Pursue Your Passion, Live Your Purpose NOW. Mine show off my expertise in a way that is natural and fun. They’ve won me invitations to destinations beyond my wheelhouse (French Polynesia and Australia), helped me score gigs with new outlets and led to a video project on location in Jamaica.

If you’re self-employed or side-hustling like me, those few square inches of real estate can open doors, highlight your website or social media and get you referrals. But even if you use a standard-issue card from your employer, consider adding custom cards that reflect your personal value proposition, says Cain. While your job may change, your brand endures. “It is the special something that separates you from all the accountants, English teachers or geologists out there,” she says. More card tricks:

Shop around. I ordered my cards from Moo because I liked their “printfinity” feature, which allows as many as 50 different images on one set of cards — handy if you’re in a visual field. If you need cards within 24 hours, try Staples or FedEx. On a budget? Check out Vistaprint, Zazzle and Printing for Less. For magnetic cards, put iPrint and MagnetsUSA on your list.

Think outside the rectangle. Standard business cards measure 2 by 3½ inches. But you aren’t standard, so why should your cards be? I ordered square cards. Consider folded cards, which offer more space for your brand message, and larger or irregular-shaped cards. If you prefer a rectangular card, try orienting the type vertically.

Play both sides. I put photos of myself on the backs of my cards so people can put a face to the name and be more likely to remember me the next time we meet. The reverse side of your card could include a tagline or brand promise. Depending on your business, consider including a coupon, a list of services, a calendar, testimonials or a tip related to your business (a list of food and wine pairings if you sell wine, for instance). Adding extra value to your card makes the recipient more likely to hold on to it.

Keep things simple. Beware of overloading your card with graphics, too many fonts or too much bold type. But do look for designs that clearly communicate your business, whether you are a plumber and a travel agent.

Got multiple side gigs? You may be a pet sitter, pastry chef and a notary public, but to be taken seriously, you need a separate card for each of your hustles.

Use high quality paper. Duckett Cain warns, “You’re asking someone to invest their money in you. Your business card shouldn’t look cheap.” She also recommends matte-finish paper instead of glossy, particularly if you’re in a conservative field, such as financial or legal services.

Keep a stash in your car, handbags and jacket pockets. Introduce yourself using your card in professional, as well as personal situations, such as at the dry cleaner or doctor’s office. Your mechanic might be your next client or she may refer you to your next big account. Opportunity can knock sooner when you have — and use — a badass business card.