I felt like an idiot the first time I showed up to a new city without business cards. Later, I felt like an idiot for the week we had spent designing business cards at my first company. Yet another mutated non-concern successfully invading our headspace.
Arriving empty-handed, I panicked my way into a print shop to ask how quickly they could press out some business cards. Not fast enough, I was told. After flipping impotently through their product catalog, I gave up and asked to buy a pack of blank cards. I was told they couldn’t do that, as they were printed on large boards and then cut. Blanks simply didn’t exist, they said.
Without putting too fine a point on it, I asked if they might run a blank board through the cutting machine and sell me the result. Eventually we decided that yes, they could, but I would have to pay full business card price. Fine.
That was over a year ago. I’m still using them. Though now I buy in bulk.
In a pleasant twist, this turns out to be a far better solution than the traditional business card. You can add a call-to-action. The act of creating a card gives you a chance to have a moment with them. You can give the appropriate amount of information. If you have multiple email addresses or websites, you can choose the right one. Nobody forgets which card is yours. And if they run out of cards, you can hand them a pen and have them make you one. It’s great.
And yet, I was deeply embarrassed the first time. I was mistaking a norm for a constraint.
One of Neil Gaiman’s rules for writing is that if you do it with enough confidence, you can get away with anything. He suspects it might be true as a general rule for life, but won’t guarantee that bit. I’d cast my vote in support. The rules aren’t. I gave a workshop today to an audience who was 100% clad in suits. They spent five minutes slightly horrified that I had shown up in shorts and then we had a great time.
I remember one of my cofounders showing up to a board meeting at our investor’s office and being told by the front desk that he couldn’t come in since bike couriers had to use the back entrance. You know your company is solid when you can close a funding round in jean shorts. It’s like pg’s recent essay on substance over pitch.
So, in short, sometimes the default choice is hiding a better (albeit weird) one. Like print-on-demand business cards. And if you nail the core, the rest can slide.