This past week, Judy attended a local conference of interpreters and translators in Vegas (a great one that featured court interpretation guru Holly Mikkelson). During most conferences and linguist get-togethers (even virtual events), we like to raffle off a few copies of our book, because we like raffles, like seeing people win, and like giving away stuff (it's also for sale here).
During the last few months, we have observed a troubling trend among linguists: many don't have cards with them, have run out, or hand us a free Vistaprint business card with the line "Free business cards at Vistaprint!" on the back. The reason we ask for business cards is because we put them in a bag and have an innocent person with no vested interest draw the winners for the raffle. We've already realized that many people won't have business cards on them, so we just tell them to use ours (we always bring hundreds) and put their name on the back. But that brings up the question: why would you leave your house to go anywhere, especially a conference, without cards? How can you promote your businesss if you are out of business cards? And: why would you get the free Vistaprint cards that announce to the whole world you can't even pay for your own business cards? If we were customers, we'd feel uncomfortable -- what else is the provider skimping on?
For the uninitiated, Vistaprint makes a lot of great, affordable promotional items (we shop there, too, and we get no special discounts). We especially like their high-quality business cards. The company also makes a wide array of completely free products, which seems too good to be true. The "catch": Vistaprint woulnd't just give away their products for free and get no return on their investment, would they? After all, they are running a business. Hence, the Vistaprint promotional slogan is on the back of all their free products, which makes sense. As a professional linguist, you should stay away from the free cards. Wait for a sales special on Vistaprint or your favorite online or local printer, and buy some real business cards.
By handing out business cards with "free" on the back, you might be sending the following messages:
- I am not a professional business
- I don't care about my business
- I don't take my customers seriously enough to spend $20 on real business cards
- I am not very business-savvy
- I can't afford business cards (in which case you should reconsider running a business, because computers and software are much pricer than business cards, and you need those, too).
None of the above might be true, but that will be the impression that people get. And to be perfectly honest, when we meet a fellow professional with either no business cards or free business cards, we are taken aback a bit. Having a solid business card is your entry ticket into the business world (and many conversations), and it's just as important as showing up with clean shoes and no cilantro stuck on your teeth.
We are looking forward to meeting you at the ATA conference in Denver this week. And if you don't have business cards, you can have ours for the raffles -- for now.