By Carolyn Howard-Johnson – Guest Blogger

I devote much of my time giving people tips on how to do things frugally. Business cards are perhaps one of the most frugal ways to promote your business and Reno’s website and book “Turn Your Business Card Into Business” are full of great low cost business networking ideas. Let me share a few of my own frugal marketing ideas for business cards directly from my book The Frugal Book Promoter ( part of my HowToDoItFrugally series for retailers and writers.


I love business cards. the plain old, business-size cards that fit easily into wallets. The ones those little tech gadgets that attach to your computer will scan and add to any Outlook file in a flash, the ones that fit into either frugal or designer card carriers.


It’s not just that I love them because they’re frugal. It’s also because unlike the kind that fold, or the big ones, or the bookmarks or postcards that some people are using these days, the old-fashioned sort of business card tends to be kept. My husband keeps a stack of business cards for resources in an elastic band; he stows them in the drawer where he keeps all his pens and pencils and he never loses them. For him to keep them though, they must fit into his stack and contribute to the nice, dense little brick he is making of them. If they are too big or fat, they don’t make it into his unique little file system.


 I collect the business cards I’m given and enter them into Outlook when I get home. But if they’re odd-size, they may never get home with me. They’ll get lost in the bottom of my purse and stay there for a year. Because I’m a writer, I often get bookmarks in lieu of business cards. They’re nice. They’re useful. But they aren’t sure-fire marketers like cards. Those too clever for their own good bookmarks tend to get lost in the innards of books, never to be seen again.

Cards can also be used as mini advertisements if folks don’t get too tied up with what is acceptable in terms of design. But beautiful or just informational they 

  • They mail flat.
  • They’re keepable. Many people collect them.
  • They’re inexpensive, (though I’ve never seen them truly free as VistaPrint often claims. They usually make up for their generosity with shipping costs.)
  • They’re inexpensive enough that you can use several, each targeting the audience you want to reach. I have one for my HowToDoItFrugally books for retailers, one for the HowToDoItFrugally books for writers, one for my poetry and one for my fiction. I use them for other things, too, but more about that later. 

I believe in using business cards in unconventional ways. Here are some of the ways I’ve used them to promote:

  • I make invitations for:
  • My seminars.
  • Each class I give at UCLA.
  • My book launches.
  • My radio and TV appearances.

Yep. I just hand them out and people have the dates, links—everything they need—to put on their calendars when they get home.

 This is how I use them:

  • I pop them into the envelopes of bills (I still pay using USPS).
  • I slide them into the books I mail to reviewers or as gifts
  • I put them into the boxes of anything I ship.
  • Occasionally I’ll even leave one or two in a ladies room. You never know who might be interested in what you are doing.
  • I take them to writers’ conferences with me, tons of them. Writers in my audiences get one with handouts. One gets into every book that’s sold from the back of the room or from the bookstore the conferences set up.

 Conference and Tradeshow Idea: Let business cards help you organize tradeshows or conferences. Bring a seven-subject notebook, one section for each day or for each seminar you attend, etc. On each separator page tape a #10 envelope in which you can slip business cards, bookmarks, mini-notes to yourself, and small brochures. When you arrive home, part of your filing and sorting will be done. An envelope taped to the inside of your notebook cover should carry a batch of your own cards for easy access.

Here are some things I like to do with business cards:

  • Use endorsements or blurbs liberally. They sell instead of merely informing.
  • I use both sides. My preferred use for the back side is an offer for something free. People tend not to lose something that will get them something at no cost.
  • When I am lucky enough to win an important prize, I sure enough mention it on my business card. Sometimes the organization that awards the prize provides logos that can be used on cards.
  • I use them liberally in media kits, the kind with tiny diagonal slits in the fold-up pockets on the inside to accommodate a business card. If you’ve printed on both sides of your business card , show one side up in the slits on the left pocket, the other in the slits on the right.

 So, how do you use your business cards? Reno and I would like to know. That’s what the comment box on this blog is for, so, c’mon! Share!

Send an e-mail to with “subscribe Reno in the subject line to receive Carolyn’s complimentary newsletter Sharing with Writers, full of promotion tips, craft, and publishing news.


Blog contributor Carolyn Howard-Johnson,award winning author of The Frugal Book Promoter: How to Do What Your Publisher Won’t, and The Frugal Editor: Put Your Best Book Forward to Avoid Humiliation and Ensure Success. Her new booklet of word trippers is Great Little Last-Minute Editing Tips for Writers: The Ultimate Frugal Booklet for Avoiding Word Trippers and Crafting Gatekeeper-Perfect Copy. Learn about them all at:

Frugal Teamwork: You and Your Business Cards
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2 thoughts on “Frugal Teamwork: You and Your Business Cards

  • June 3, 2010 at 10:42 pm

    Reno, loved being here today! I tweeted about it, of course. Speaking of tweeting, many of your clients and visitors might want to know about my new Frugal and Focused Tweeting for Retailers (

    Tweets are a little like business cards. Highly effective results that come from small packages. (-:
    Carolyn Howard-Johnson

  • June 4, 2010 at 12:38 am

    Hi Carolyn ~ great tips for these business cards! I use and hand out a lot of them as well. One with our dinner bill when we eat out, ladies rooms, counters at stores we frequent, but the one that seemed to get everyone’s attention at my book signings are little business card notebooks. Here’s the link to the tutorial:
    I know this won’t work in your hubby’s stash, but I’ve found there’s quite a few women out there that need another little notebook in their purse! 😉

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