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updated 3/7/2013 11:47:02 AM ET 2013-03-07T16:47:02

A good business card should convey the overall image of your business -- not easy, considering the card measures only 2 inches by 3.5 inches.

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How can you possibly get a message across in such a small amount of space?

You can't expect your business card to tell the whole story about your company. What you should expect it to do is present a professional image people will remember.

The color, wording and texture of our business card have a lot to do with its appeal and its ability to convey your company image.

Use common sense when you are designing your business card.

If your business markets children's toys and games, you might try using bright, primary colors and words written in child's script. On the other hand, if you run a financial consulting service, then you want your business card to convey professionalism and reliability, so stick to traditional looks such as black printing on a gray, beige or white background.

Of course, professional designers claim entrepreneurs should not try to attempt designing a business card on their own, but many cash-strapped business owners have no other choice.

The best course of action: Look at all the business cards you receive, and emulate the cards that you like. You may have more leeway if you are in a creative business, such as party planning or retailing, but in general, keep the following tips in mind:

  1. Use your logo as the basis. Make it the largest element on the card.
  2. Keep it simple. Do not cram too much information on the card.
  3. Do include the essentials -- your name, title, company name, address, phone and fax numbers, and email and website addresses.
  4. Make sure the typeface is easily readable.
  5. Stick to one or two colors.

Once you've got business cards, make the most of them:

  1. Always give people more than one card (so they can give it to others).
  2. Include your card in all correspondence.
  3. Carry cards with you at all times, in a card case so they're clean and neat.

Business cards don't have to be boring. If your industry allows for a little creative flair, here are some ideas to try:

  1. Use 4-inch-by-7-inch cards that fold over (like a mini brochure), cards made of plastic or cards with photos on them.
  2. Although they are more standard than standard business cards, cards in nontraditional shapes get attention. Try a teddy bear shape for a day-care service, for example, or a birthday cake for a party planner.
  3. Textured paper can add to a card's interest, as can colored paper. In general, stay with lighter shades that enhance readability.
  4. Thermography, a process that creates raised, shiny print, adds interest to a card. Embossing and foil stamping are two other printing processes that can give your card visual appeal.

Corrections & Amplifications: An earlier version misstated the size of a typical business card. It is 2 x 3.5 inches.

Copyright © 2013 Entrepreneur.com, Inc.

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