Just the other day, a newbie writer asked me if I thought business cards were a necessity. I thought it was a good topic, and decided to blog on it.
Business cards are part of the way you "package" yourself as a professional. Your packaging is what differentiates you from other writers. It tells clients and publishers that writing is your career, rather than a hobby.
For a freelance writer who works mostly online, I don't think business cards are an absolute necessity. There are other methods of packaging that are more crucial for a professional online presences. For instance, I think a beginning Internet-based writer needs to focus primarily on these aspects:
* Cover letter
* Professionally formatted submissions
* All other email correspondence
You get the idea. Basically, anything your clients or potential publishers might see need to have a unique, professional appearance. For instance, until you get to the point in your relationship with a client that you both are sending one-liner emails back and forth, stick with a business letter-like layout for your emails. I for one drop the "Dear..." line quite quickly, but I always end my emails with a professional signature and a link to my site.
Back to the business cards, though.
Does all of this mean that business cards are completely unnecessary? No, of course not. Like anything else that establishes your professionalism, business cards can be quite useful. You can keep a few on hand in case you meet a potential client in your daily travels. You can paperclip a couple to your snail mail submissions. You can include a few with snail mail invoices, too. (You should always give them out in twos or more, so that your clients or potential clients have one to give away if they decide to recommend you.) Business cards are great, because they are a hardcopy symbol of your professionalism that can be filed away and referred to again at a later date.
With more and more of the writing industry taking place online, there is less purpose than there used to be for little niceties such as business cards. So, no, they aren't really necessary -- and I actually would argue that a professional website has replaced business cards in many ways. However, business cards still have their purposes -- not to mention they can be a lot of fun. I still get a shiver of delight every time I look at mine!