Well, in general, why does anyone need a business card?
I use them as a logical, manageable way to communicate my contact information to another person. It's a physical object that someone can refer to at a later time to either get in touch with me, or pass my contact information to another.
By distributing them wildly, I hope that, paired with my stunning good looks, and engaging, humorous conversation, my card will leave an unforgettable impression on people and they will reach out to me to further their end game of giving me their money. Or maybe even just follow up on something we talked about.
A business card expands your network and ups your professionalism by making it really easy to get a hold of you, and represents that you are serious about what you represent. Anyone can say that they are a snake oil salesman, but if you don't have a business card to prove it, I'm getting my snake oil from the next guy (disclaimer: the next guy who has a card as awesome as the guy in the video below).
You may not be affiliated with any specific commercial venture right now, but having a generic card with your contact info is critical! In fact, "in between" times may be the most important times to have a card. I pretty much never remember the people that "don't have one on [them]." But if I make a real connection with a person and they hand me their card, I'll be more likely to follow up and see how we can help one another.
It doesn't matter who it is, or what their lifestyle, people who take themselves seriously do so with their words, their appearance, their mannerisms, and all of their actions (Tweet this).
Now, here is something practical. Simple, but hopefully helpful.
Pick something boring. Seriously.
You don't need a logo, and you don't need personal colors or shapes. Remember that you generally give this card after you have engaged someone. Any distraction on your card takes peoples' eyes and brains away from the text.
Why do you think legal documents are so boring? Focus on the words, esquire.
The card I used when I was "in between."
(1) Name: Use the name you put on your resume. If you have earned letters after your name, use them. I lean towards giving more information. (But I also talk a lot.)
(2) Tagline: Optional. I chose something relatively vague that sort of represents somewhat of a world view for the world I'm seeking to attract. In some instances, people wanted to follow up with me on intrigue alone.
(3) Professional email address: This is the most common method people will use to reach out to you. If you're still holding onto "firstname.lastname@example.org"* it's time to decide to never use that again. Ebay, maybe? Regardless, you can't wear that here. Try "email@example.com" or a similar combination if you have a common name.
(4) Phone: I used my cell phone number before I figured out Google Voice. But you need a phone number people can call and text. Remember, the best thing about the "generic card" is its versatility.
(5) Linkedin profile URL or personal website: I like Linkedin because it's basically an online resume. Someone can take your card and look you up to confirm for themselves that you are who you said you are. Also, when it's printed on this card you're handing out everywhere, it's motivation to keep your Linkedin profile updated.
(6) Twitter handle: Optional. I like twitter, and have it set so that if someone mentions me or DM's me, I get an email. Does anyone think putting a Twitter handle on here is more harmful than helpful to your cause? (reply in the comments, please)
(7) Geographic location: Optional. I love Maine and I'm proud to live here, so ... you're damn right I'm in Portland, ME.
Go buy 250 business cards. It's pretty cheap to make substantial steps toward steering your future.
Chelsea and Zeke Callanan are the founders of Happy Go Legal, a multi-media resource for new and aspiring legal professionals. Mrs. Callanan is a 2008 graduate of the University of Maine School of Law, and currently practices at Murray, Plumb & Murray in Portland, Maine, focusing on corporate and intellectual property needs of business of all sizes. Mr. Callanan is an attorney and founder of Opticliff ESQ, http://www.opticliff.com/.