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The Freelance Teacher : The Business of Doing Business with Business Cards

The business of doing business with business cards

An electrician told me how one of his elderly customers keeps a cork notice board hanging above her telephone, filled with neat rows of business cards (her doctor, her dentist, the plumber, and several other business cards) — including his own. All of her most important telephone numbers were easily available when she needed them.

Aha! Business cards pinned to a notice board in neat rows. These cards did not share the same fate most business cards do — that of being discarded and thrown away once the information has been stored into an electronic data bank. However, it does raise a question. Are business cards really necessary? People in business know that a company’s life and blood lies in its data and its customer list. But what about freelance teachers?

Do freelance teachers need business cards? Most information found in a customer list comes from the contact with students and customers; either written down during the first lesson or telephone contact, or through a business card. These days, the information is immediately transferred to an electronic data bank.

What’s in (or rather on ) a business card?

The transfer proves the contact information on the card is important. But can there be another reason for having and using business cards?

Yes, but first it’s necessary to ask ourselves a simple question: What is the purpose of a business card? Let’s find out!

What is the purpose of a business card?

The most obvious purpose is to give correctly written details of how students and customers can contact you (or vice versa). Yet you can lose potential business if your business card does nothing else. Make your business card work for you!

Referrals: Your business card is an easy tool to use for referrals. Why make it more difficult for happy students to recommend you? It is much easier to pass on an extra card (or two) to family members, friends or business colleagues because if it causes extra work (find a pen and paper) to pass on your contact details, then the odds are — they won’t.

An often overlooked reason is professionalism. It is your first public signal that states your freelance teaching business is serious. Watch a potential business customer’s face when you say you don’t own a business card and see how your creditability sinks and confusion begins. A business card in business circles is not just a status quo, it’s the ‘norm’. Nevertheless, are they worth the expense?

Are business cards a necessary expense?

Why have business cards when they are expensive to self-produce and even more expensive to have them professionally printed? Why have business cards knowing they will be thrown away? Can you change the usual fate of business cards and justify their cost?

Can you save your business card from its fate?

Yet another often-overlooked potential is to scrutinise how you can use it to further your freelance teaching services. If you are going to invest money in business cards, make the money work twice and take the opportunity to use them as another tool to market and sell your services.

Your business card (with the right information) can work for you when you are no longer there. For example, take a closer look at any business card (preferably your own). What do you see on it?

In all probability, it has details about:

your name, address and different methods to contact you
(telephone, e-mail, website, possibly a facsimile)

Once the ‘contact’ information has been stored into a database, your business card will probably suffer the fate most cards go through — File 13, the waste-paper basket, name it what you will, its fate is the same — it is discarded and thrown away. How can you prolong the life of your business card and get more value for the money invested in them?

Prolonging the life of a business card

It’s not difficult but needs ‘thinking time’ as you may need different cards targeting different students (private students or company businesses).

Why have you kept those obsolete business cards in your desk drawer? What was on the card that triggered a ‘must keep it’ thought in your head? Scrutinise them and see what aspect (visual or in information) about the card made you keep it instead of throwing it away.

As you prepare to design new business cards, try to incorporate your answers into your new design as you reply to these questions:

  1. What do you teach?

This may sound a strange question but does your business card state what you do? Unless you are the Pope, Obama, Queen Elizabeth II, Asterix or Obelix, Mr Bean or Robbie Williams, it’s unlikely people will know who you are or what you do a year or two later…

  1. Who should receive your business card?

Address and contact details aside — who is your targeted student or business customer? What information will they find useful enough to keep the card to hand?

In marketing terminology: the WIIFM reason (What’s In It For Me?)

What information can you write on your card that you know your customers will be glad to have? As you know, every business card has two sides. If the information is useful enough, the customer will keep it and you save your business card from its fate.

The Business of doing Business with Business cards
These four American Presidents ARE chiselled in stone!

One of the best-kept secrets about business cards (and CVs or Résumés) is that nothing is chiseled forever in stone. It’s easy to change the information to fit those students or business customers you want to attract to your freelancer teaching service. Today’s technology gives us the freedom to do this, leading us to the next danger, namely trying to cram too much information onto one small piece of card. Don’t.

Don’t try to cram everything onto one business card.

It will work against you.

Why will it work against you? Because the purpose of your business card is to attract.

It should attract the kind of customers you want. The WIIFM (What’s In It For Me) text on a business card aimed at private students has information to attract private students. The WIIFM information aimed at business companies is going to be different because their needs are not the same. Designing a general business card to meet the needs of both private students and business customers cannot be as successful as a card designed to meet the targeted needs aimed to interest the reader.

  1. Do you have a tagline?

One way to help you focus on your WIIFM is your tagline. But what is a tagline?

This is the small piece (often fragmented, incomplete sentences) text that qualifies, supports, and possibly gives a twist, to the title. A subtitle if you prefer. If you don’t have a tagline yet then now is as good a time to think of one. And again, do remember taglines are also not chiseled in stone.

Tip: A good tagline must incorporate both a problem and its solution. ‘Helping you get more students than you can handle’ is a tagline. A fragmented version could be: ‘Finding and attracting students’. Both taglines point to the problem and a solution.


Business cards are necessary and useful. They are necessary because they give creditability to your status as a freelance teacher. They are useful because you can let them work as a marketing and sales tool — to attract new students and customers. When you want to keep your business card pinned on a cork notice board rather than being dumped into File 13 remember the three ideals in designing your next business card:


  1. The purpose of your business card is to attract the customers you want. What is the purpose of your business card?
  2. To keep information short and to the point. Be selective and keep in mind the interest of the person reading the back of your business card. Who is going to receive the business card?
  3. That nothing is chiseled in stone. You can change the information to fit your targeted students and customers. What WIIFM information are you going to use for each targeted student or business customers?

What About You?

What’s your opinion? How can the information (or lack of it) on your business card impact your business?


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4 Responses

  • Ahmad

    Really good tips. I like the idea of having more than one card, with a tag line for the targeted students. Thank you.


  • Locksmith Caerphilly

    Thank you, Ahmad. Your comment has given me the next article idea. :) How do you create taglines? Keep a look out out for it!


  • Kurt

    Hi Janine. I was designing my business card when I came across this and found some very useful tips. Thanks! I do have a question: would I be overstepping if I include the University of Cambridge shield on the card? (the same one we get on our CELTA certificate) Thanks again and great blog!!


  • Janine

    Hi Kurt, I'm afraid if you want an impressive CELTA shield you are going to have to create one yourself unless, of course, you write to the University of Cambridge authorities and ask their permission to use the shield on your business card. :) Yes, it would be 'overstepping' to include the official Cambridge shield because prospective students may be misled into thinking you are working for the Cambridge University examinations body or the university itself. In addition, you could also make yourself liable if you did not request their permission to use their logo (the shield) beforehand. Without the University's express permission (in writing) to use their shield logo, you can only include the information you are CELTA qualified. Janine