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The Professional Edge - Business Cards and Other Marketing Materials

One of the unfortunate realities of being a work-at-home mom  (WAHM) can be the perception that WAHMs are just  “mommies playing at work.” Despite the fact that WAHM numbers are increasing, the shift in thinking that WAHMs are legitimate business women hasn’t fully been embraced outside of the WAHM community. Business cards and marketing materials are among your key pieces of essential equipment, and since they often the first encounter that someone will have with your business, or you as a professional, it's important that they have a professional edge.  Assuming that your work-at-home career isn't working as a telecommuter or as a sales rep, both positions where a the company you work for may provide business cards for you, you will have to get them yourself. There are four ways to do it. From least to most expensive, they are: partner/trade with another work-at-home professional, do it Yourself (DIY), outsource online, and outsource to a professional printer/stationer. The route you choose, will depend upon your budget, ability to design and amount of time you want to spend making them.  Your marketing materials are part of your graphic identity, or corporate identity if you're WAHM career is working as a small business owner.

Partner/Trade with Another WAHM
This method is pretty straight forward. If you know of another WAHM who specializes in design, she might be interested in partnering or trading services with you. Be clear from the onset about the terms of the arrangement, and remember that design work can take a lot of time, so make sure that what you're giving in exchange for the design of your marketing materials compensates for it.

By far the most time-consuming method of creating your marketing materials, the DIY method does allow you complete creative control over them. It may be a good way to start until you have a bigger budget to work with and can have your marketing materials done by a professional graphic designer. Make sure that when printing, you choose good papers (available at most big-box office supply stores), and print on the highest quality. For business cards, choose paper that has clean edges along the perforations, to reduce the home-made appearance. With the DIY method, you can also create your templates and have your materials printed by a store such as Staples or Kinkos as well.

Outsource Online
Several companies such as VistPrint, iPrint and moo.com offer pre-designed templates for business cards, letterhead, brochures and other marketing materials. Their prices range, but most usually have introductory rates or periodic specials. If you already have a logo designed, you can also use the custom feature and create your cards and marketing materials from scratch using their online tools. This method is cost effective and still gives your materials a professional look and feel.

Outsource to Professional Printer/Stationer
If you prefer to work with a local business, you can have your materials printed by a dedicated printer or stationer. The advantage to this method is that you can see and feel the weights of the various papers that you will need, and look through their vast catalogs of styles. The disadvantage is that they can be expensive, which anyone who worked with a traditional stationer for their wedding invitations might remember.  

Overall, your marketing materials should be clear, concise, well-designed and clean. Business cards do not need to be complicated. In fact, less is more. They should include your logo, name, title, basic contact information and URL. If you use brochures, they should match your business cards with the logo and fonts that you use as part of your graphic identity. They should also visually represent your business and tell potential customers about your products/services. When developing your business identity, think about who your customers are or will be—cute designs might not deliver the right message if you are trying to work with business-to-business customers, but they might be appropriate if you run an in-home daycare center and want to attract parents. Don't forget letterhead and matching standard envelopes (No. 9 or No. 10) and the appropriately sized envelopes for any brochures or catalogs that may be part of your marketing materials. For some of your larger materials, you can also have them ready electronically either as PDFs or on CD to distribute as well.

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