Marketing 101 for Freelance Writers #6: What You Need Up Your Sleeve

Carol Tice

Marketing for freelance writers: Why you need business cards. Makealivingwriting.comToday, I only want to talk about one tiny thing. It’s usually less than three inches long.

But it can have an outsized impact on your freelance writing income.

Have you guessed? I’m talking business cards here, people.

That’s right, the marketing tool that’s older than dirt.

There’s a reason business cards are still around. It’s because they’re useful.

Even if you have no plans to do in-person networking, I want you to get some. (There’s really no excuse since you can get free ones from places like VistaPrint.)

Why do you need business cards in today’s digital world?

Because you never know.

You never know when a casual conversation at your kid’s school will turn up the news that Joey’s dad heads marketing at a medium-sized company in an industry you know.

And then you start fumbling around and scribbling your number down on a napkin? That’s not very pro. And that scribble will be easily lost or mislaid.

And then you open your purse and take out a business card and hand it to his wife? Now you’re talking.

Next, Joey gets that card and sticks it on his desk, where it hangs around for a few months until he suddenly realizes he’s swamped.

He needs a freelance writer. And he doesn’t really have time to look through 300 resumes off a Craigslist ad.

Then he says, “Didn’t I get a card from a writer recently?” He looks around his desk, and there you are.

Most businesspeople keep cardfiles of business cards, so the card allows your info to hang around their office until a prospect is ready to use you.

How to make your business card better

Here’s the thing about most business cards: They’re boring.

When you’re a freelance writer, you can’t let that happen to your business card. That little square of paper is an opportunity to show you are a word stylist.

Mine shows my title as “CEO and Janitor,” which almost never fails to get a reaction.

Linda Formichelli’s says “My clients think I’m swell.”

You want something on there that starts a conversation, and gives a sense of your personality. Otherwise, you haven’t made the sale that you’re a creative writer.

You can also use that often-blank other side of the business card to make your card one that’s never thrown away.

How? Put an offer on it — 15% off your first project, or a free half-hour consult. Whatever makes sense for your business.

Now that card is never hitting the trash — that’d be like throwing away money.

21st Century business cards

Beyond the writing, what can you do to make your business card special?

I use one of the most obvious ways — instead of paper cards, make business-card magnets. Those get tossed onto the front of the filing cabinet and then stay there forever.

The minute you hand it over, people feel the weight and start looking it over. You’ve made an impression.

Magnets cost more than business cards, so I’m saying, “I take this seriously. And I’m not cheap.”

Also, when’s the last time you threw out a refrigerator magnet? They’re so useful!

If you’re really slick, you could put a QR code on your business card that leads savvy recipients to more information about you — maybe a special offer page on your writer website, or a free report they can read.

There are loads of eye-catching new twists on the business card you could try. For inspiration, here’s a great post that’s got 22 different examples of ways to use QR codes on business cards.

Whatever strikes your fancy in business-card style, get business cards. They’re as much for you as they are for prospects.

When you hold those little rectangles in your hand, you can’t deny it — you’re a freelance writer. You have a business. You’re looking for clients.

Now, you’re ready to go out and promote it.

Do you have a business card? If so, share what makes your card stand out.

Need more marketing help? Here’s a place where you can get a bunch…

Join my freelance writer community


  1. Victoria

    I ordered a batch of free business cards from Vistaprint because I knew that I was going to a networking event and needed something.

    I decided to choose a plain themen because if I waited to find the perfect design or the perfect strapline, I would never have got round to it. As a procrastinator, I forced myself to just get something basic and I can always create a better card later down the line.

    • Carol Tice

      Exactly! They’re…FREE. I personally ordered up a new batch just to go to one conference.

  2. Tania Dakka

    HA! My cards are on the way! I wish I’d have seen this post first…I would have put something on the back! Augh…The cards are beautiful (in my opinion, but I’m lacking a snappy line, I chose “I write the right words for your project.” Can’t wait to order a new batch!

    • Carol Tice

      That’s OK, the first batch I ordered didn’t have my blog URL on them! There’s always something wrong. Even when I was a staff writer, the running joke was the week after they issued us new business cards, they were always obsolete — they’d redo the phone extensions, or change the paper’s URL or something.

      Probably now, everyone on earth needs a new card so it can add their Google+ contact info, right? It’s always something.

      And I went through at least 3 rounds of cards before I got something on the back. Believe I got that tip about making an offer on the back from Rabbi Issamar Ginzberg, by the way, to give credit.

      • Rabbi Issamar Ginzberg

        Carol- Thanks for the mention! great post!


        Another powerful tip is to put your picture on your business cards. Helps them recall who you are, put a face to the name… and people always have an extra aversion to throwing out pictures.

  3. Ruth Ekblom

    Another great thing to put on the back is a prompt with your name in it, such as, ‘I met Ruth at …… on …… so the person you give the card to can recall where they met you and when.

    I know an a chap who puts a company logo into QR codes for clients – very neat and unusual.

    • Carol Tice

      Love that prompt idea!

  4. cynthiahartwig

    Great post. Two Pens has our logo with the double nibbed pen and our tagline “Writing from both sides of the brain” on the front. On the back, we have a variety of writing tips. We had our cards printed by and they allow you to customize up to 50 cards with either photographs or text. Wish I could show you how they look because they never fail to get looked at hard on both back and front. Someone asked me for ten of them because they wanted the tips.Happy to send a pdf if you want to see them.

    • Carol Tice

      Love your slogan, and approach to using both sides of the card. I haven’t looked at moo – thanks for adding a resource.

    • Kat

      I’d love to see a PDF of your cards, Cynthia!

  5. Amelia Ramstead

    Interesting ideas! Bummer that I just ordered new cards — mine seem so boring now! They do look pretty, though. They are pretty basic: name, company, number, email, website.

  6. Clara Mathews

    I ordered my business cards from Zazzle. The front has my contact information, including my Twitter name, on the back I list my services.

    I also have a box of mini business cards that I received for free as a Klout perk. They are great for networking events, Because they are so small, you can fit a stack of them in your pocket.

    • Carol Tice

      Thanks for bringing up the size/shape issue — yet another great way to stand out. I got Chris Brogan’s card at SOBCon and it was not the standard size. That makes it easy to find in your pile, yes?

  7. Jina Chan

    I’ve only given out a couple of mine so far, but they list the kinds of projects I’d like to land: white papers, case studies, API/SDK documentation. My regret, though, is that they’re kind of hard to read. Next time, I’m going with bright colors and a big font.

  8. Peri

    Thanks for this timely marketing series, Carol. I am a freelance food writer, just launched my blog last week and soaking up all the advice. Now to get those business card:)

  9. Suzanne Wesley

    I am a professional graphic artist as well – so designing cards that matched my web-site and therefore my brand was a snap. I also assist other writers if anyone ever needs something that goes beyond the free templates on Vista print. I’ve also found really great prices and the ability to order in smaller quantities on a site called I’ve learned to use a UV coating on the front only for a slick finish, but to always leave the back of the card a matte uncoated finish – even if there is a design on it – so that you can write notes on it more easily.

    • Carol Tice

      Thanks for adding another good resource, Suzanne!

  10. Pinar Tarhan

    I went for the basic one first, but now I’m working on a fun design on vistaprint that reflects me and my work better.

    P.S. I loved your and Linda’s card slogans. It also made me think of Mark Zuckerberg’s “I’m the CEO, bitch!” 🙂

  11. Mellissa Thomas

    Thanks for the great article, Carol! The Meet-Meme design was new to me. Thanks for sharing!

    As for my cards, I have the basic info on the front, but in a unique font to catch the eye; and the back has my blog URLs and the logos (buttons) of all my social network accounts, as seen on any website: the Facebook “F”, the Twitter “T”, the blue “In”, the yellow “IMDb”, and the “g+”.

    Having those on the back add an extra boost of color to the card, since it has no background art on either side.

  12. Marlo Morrison

    Yes, so true. Business cards should be simple and bears business information about your company or individual with brief and relevant description. We should take this seriously for B-cards are the most effective way to market your business offline, yes, through this print ads there’s a way that people would recognize you and your services.

  13. Emilia

    Haha, after reading the first line, I started to wonder… 🙂 Well, businness cards, a very good topic to talk about actually. I get your point, but I still hate them :). QR codes rock nowadays.

  14. Thomas

    I read a book by a car salesman who has the world record for car sales. His advice for business cards was simple: EVERYBODY GETS ONE.

    Everyone I meet in any fashion gets one of mine. Even when I send a bill payment, a card is in the envelope.

    Y’all get the picture.

    Great post!

    • Carol Tice

      Thanks — fixed! That company apparently changed hands, but it still making the cool baseball card-type business cards with social media icons and QR codes.

  15. Susan B. Bentley

    Cheers for the advice, Carol. I loved Ruth’s suggestion of adding ‘I met Ruth at…on…’ and I hope other people start using that as I’m forever trying to write little reminders of who people are all over their business cards! As for me, I went with simplifying my contact details and adding a business photo, with the hope that people will remember ‘that girl with 60s glasses and red hair’! You never know.

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