Business Cards and How to Use Them

Why Business Cards Are Important

There are two reasons business cards are critical for any business. First, business cards tell others that your studio is a serious business, not just some little old lady teaching for spare change to dabble in goldfish farming.

Second, business cards help generate students.

Carry cards with you at all times; never leave without them, even if you think you might not need them. Yes, carry them to the gym, to church, to a concert.

Permit me, please, to give you two examples from my past. I met one student at an exercise class at a gym I was considering joining (and ultimately did not); we began chatting about careers as we waited for class. Guess what? She was looking for a piano teacher. Another time, I was standing in line at the bank, the teller asked me how piano teaching was going, and a man behind me in line overheard; his family was new in town and looking for a piano teacher. I never would have seen these people again. If I had not had my business cards, I would never had gained two students.

Of course, not everyone to whom you give a card will call, but you never know which seeds will bear fruit. Try not to miss a chance to plant. I have had students materialize from a friend of the mother-in-law of the person to whom I gave the card! Things like this will happen to you, too.

Keep your cards clean. If they don't come from the printer with a little carrying case, buy one at an office supply store. A dirty or dog-eared business card does not say positive things about you or your ability.

How to Present a Business Card

Now you are saying, "Oh, sure. I just walk up to people on the street and, with a sweeping bow, say, 'My card, madame!'"

Of course not!

Nonetheless, some people feel uncomfortable about offering a business card. They think it tells others that they are pushy or that they are desperate for students. This is not so. It is giving the other party, which has already expressed at least a passing interest in your profession, an opportunity to get in touch with you.

Yes, you will be a little uneasy presenting your card at first (I was!), so here's what I learned through trial and error about how to present a business card. These two methods work, even when you're nervous.

Suppose you're new in town and are chatting with someone after church about something quite unrelated to music. At the close of the conversation, you say, "I'm new in town and building my piano studio. May I give you my card? I'd appreciate it so much if you'd give my name to anyone you know who might be interested in lessons."

Now suppose you're sitting in the bleachers with a woman whose son is splashing through the same swim team workout as your daughter. You have chatted, and she knows you're a piano teacher. She seems somewhat interested but does not ask for specifics, such as your phone number or how much you charge. At the end of the workout, you say, "It's been fun talking to you. If you'd like information on lessons, give me a call. Here's my card."

Use It for Display Advertising Purposes

If you have it done in black ink on white paper, your business card is ready-made for display advertising (camera-ready copy).

You will be approached with regularity by the Boy Scouts, Ladies Indiana Caboose Society Auxiliary, and many others to purchase advertising in their musicale program or to buy an ad for their annual directory. Carefully selecting where you place the ad - - where it will be seen by people you think are the type of people who would become your students - - this kind of promotion is money well spent.

If you have camera-ready copy, the auxiliary can paste your card into the program layout without further expense to you; and you know it will come out legible. Black and white cards also scan well; many organizations do their directories and programs with scanned art rather than a hand paste-up, which saves you a bundle. (You don't have to go to a printer and pay for a velox, which is an ultra-crisp photographic reproduction of your card in very, very black ink on very, very white paper, done with an eye toward absolutely pristine edges and maximum clarity for reprint purposes.)

Another use for your card is on bulletin boards. (1)A time-honored method of making ones services known for zero cost is to make a "comb." On a piece of paper, paste your business card. Along the bottom edge of the paper, divide the bottom margin into little "teeth." Write your phone number and "piano lessons" on each tooth and cut between them. Those interested tear off a tooth. (2) Another way to use business cards on a bulletin board is to make a little pocket (how about using two cards for this?) and filling the pocket with more cards. Mount this on the bulletin board. (I got a harpsichord student this way once; he was going into the market to buy a head of lettuce.)

Sources, Costs, and Content

Cards are easy to come by these days. In covered wagon days (when I was a pup), cards had to be done by a printer; if you wanted inexpensive ones with thermographing (raised lettering), those had to be mail-ordered.

Now you can get business cards from most any photocopy store. Count on about $15 for 200 cards (there is not much of a price break between 100 and 200, I found, though it might be different in your town). If you set up your card on a computer and take laser-printed camera-ready copy, your cost is only for the photocopying and cutting the cards apart (that is, the $15). If you need your card set up by the photocopy store, estimate $15 for that; add $5 if you want clip art (more on art below).

Besides photocopy shops, investigate office supply stores and printers.

A card should contain these four things at a minimum:

You may wish to place your highest earned degree after your name, any special certification you have, or if you teach a particular pedagogy program.

Already your card is full!

Which is to say, leave off the alphabet soup acronyms of the professional organizations to which you belong or any honoraries. These things mean -nothing- to the general public and serve only to clutter your card. The whole idea is to make your name, your business, and how to get in touch with you prominent. If you go on an ego trip and add a lot of other stuff, your primary message and its purpose are lost in the shuffle. In fact, all of this extra information is a negative - - it reads as though you are trying to justify your expertise. Leave it off!

If you feel strongly about putting your affiliations, etc. on your card, make a separate one to give to colleagues. These people will derive benefit from the information.

I also advise leaving art off your card. I know you are protesting already. Here's why I advise no art. First, it's clutter and distracts from the primary purpose: giving people information so they can contact you to begin study. Second, as a calling which is consistently under-recognized and under-compensated because it is not thought to be of great value, we need to do all we can to present a professional demeanor. Do you see little stethoscopes on doctors' cards? Blind Justice and her scale on lawyers'? No, you do not. Why should we put little notes floating from a piano? We shouldn't. It makes us look like amateurs and incompetents.

Now let me offer three exceptions:

I don't recommend slogans or Scripture, either. Extra verbiage distracts from the main *message*: here's how to call me. Don't get your business card confused with an ego trip or things not related to teaching music.

If you do not agree, feel free to ignore my advice.

Layout, Paper Stock, Font

I already mentioned black ink on white stock. Color stock or colored ink marks you as an amateur. Or a teacher who is trying to get the attention of the buying public by gimmicks rather than by the quality of the teaching.

I also mentioned using the cards of other professionals as a model. Look at theirs. What do you see? Color? Pictures? Slogans ("Half off on your second appendectomy!")? How are these cards laid out? What fonts were chosen?


A font is a set of letters and numbers all one size and style.

When preparing your card, you want a -readable- font. "Times Roman" and "Helvetica" are good standbys. Fonts with curlicues, such as used on wedding invitations, also are hard to read. Olde Englishe-type fonts share the same characteristic. Avoid these for maximum readability.

Unusual fonts, such as calligraphic or novelty fonts, are also a bad idea. Remember your aim: you want people to see how to reach you! You don't want them to be waylaid by the beauty or arty-ness of the font used on your card. The whole point is the message, not the messenger! These kinds of fonts also present an unprofessional image (who who was serious about her profession would use a novelty font?). Ask the printer what fonts are most often used by other professionals.

Use only one font in your card. Again, distraction is a problem. The eye doesn't know where to look!

Set the text in upper- and lower-case letters. All upper-case is -so- difficult to read. (What is your aim here?)

Paper Stock

Many paper companies offer "specialty" card stock with pre-printed backgrounds (swirls, geometrics, landscapes, faux marble, etc.). Often they are part of a line of related products, which also include pre-prepared brochure stock, letterhead stationery, folders, etc. While some of these are attractive, everyone has seen them! Using them is, again, the mark on an amateur. Stick to black ink on white stock.

Now suppose you have a side business, such as playing for bar mitzvahs. You might want a separate business card to use for people who might want to hire you for these events. You might put the Star of David on this card; it might be light blue with darker blue ink or even silver lettering on blue stock. A party pianist might have a card with even more pizzazz. In this capacity, the pianist is an entertainer, so the card must convey a different set of skills.

As a teacher, however, you want to give your potential students a feeling of confidence in your solid knowledge and your ability to convey that well. A "staid" business card says this.

Carry both cards all the time, of course.


Generally, the person's name (followed by a comma and then the degree) is centered on the card. Below this might be wording such as "Private Piano Instruction" or "Nationally Certified Teacher of Music." Contact information can be material flush with a margin or centered.

Try several layouts. Ask the printer for advice.

If you decide to use one of the colored stocks from the matched set, the placement of the graphic elements may dictate the layout. Many of these paper sets come with software which will automatically place your text in the proper place; I urge you to use this software, as these layouts have been produced by a graphics professional for maximum impact.

If you don't have cards, please get them right away! Then dive into an advertising program.

copyright 1998, Martha Beth Lewis, Ph.D.
Contact me about reprint permission.

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