PrimeTime: What Kind of Business Cards Should Writers Have?

Today’s question comes from Monessa, who writes:

Page 329 of your book, Small Screen, Big Picture: A Writer’s Guide to the TV Business, has a quote about business cards for networking, but only mentions it should have my email address and phone number on it. Do you have any suggestions of what an aspiring TV writer/screenwriter’s business card should contain beyond that?  Is it supposed to be colorful?

Interesting question, Moneesa!  (FYI — the quote Moneesa’s referring to is from E! associate editor Jennifer Godwin: “Get business cards. Actual business cards with an actual corporate logo are obviously sexier than ones you make on your laser printer, but if it has your email address on it, it serves the purpose.”)

This idiot will never get hired.

Jennifer’s quote is referring mostly to business cards used by people in corporate positions: executives, agents, etc. (After all, she works at E!.)  But writers need a slightly different approach.

Los Angeles is full of thousands upon thousands upon thousands of aspiring screenwriters desperate to prove they’re talented, creative, and interesting. And many of these screenwriters are looking to prove they’re talented, creative, and interesting any way they can … including their business cards. Anything that can catch someone’s eye, they figure, is a valuable tool. They’re wrong.

The way to prove you’re talented, interesting, and creative is NOT through your business card … but through your writing skills and personality.

In face-to-face interactions, most writers don’t even use business cards — they simply write down their info when they need to — and and they’re not expected to have business cards. I’ve never heard an agent, executive, or producer ask a writer for his/her card … and I’ve never heard a professional writer offer it.  But if you’d like a card, at least have a “respectable” one. Here’s what I mean by “respectable” …

If people want your business card — and most people won’t — they want it for one reason … and they are NOT trying to see if you’re creative or interesting.

They simply want your most basic contact information, and they want it quickly.

So I don’t advise people to come up with the quirkiest, funniest, most unique, or interesting card possible.

For me, the best business card for a screenwriter is pure and simple:

Now THIS guy... I bet Spielberg's calling him RIGHT NOW.

  • Name
  • Phone number
  • Email address

Optional:

  • Website
  • Facebook page
  • Twitter handle

I can’t tell you how many business cards I see from aspiring screenwriters that have one or more of the following:

  • A quote from their favorite movie, book, or song
  • A picture of a quill, film reel, or typewriter
  • Some clever business title, like “Film Geek” or “Self-proclaimed Nerd” or “Literary Genius”
  • A short resume or list of scripts they’ve written, projects they’ve worked on, etc.
  • Some filmic “gimmick,” like printing the card in Final Draft Courier font so it looks like a screenplay

I know people who are doing these things are trying to be clever, to stand out and look funny, cute, or creative … but it actually only makes them look silly and desperate; it simply proves how hard they’re trying too hard.

Your talent and creativity should not be shining through in your business card …

It should be shining through in your writing, and in the sparkling personality you bring with you to a general meeting, a pitch, or any kind of networking situation.

So my advice is plain and simple: the facts and just the facts.

Thanks so much for the question, Moneesa!  If you, or anyone else, has other questions, please don’t hesitate to email me at chad@chadgervich.com, tweet me @chadgervich, or post them in the comments section below!

Lastly — if you’re interested in TV-writing, I’ll be speaking at a great event this February 11-12, 2012 … The TV Writers Summit, a two-day event here in Los Angeles featuring some of the best TV writer/producers, execs, consultants, and teachers out there: Jen Grisanti (former VP at CBS/Paramount and Spelling Televsion), Ellen Sandler (Everybody Loves Raymond, Coach), and Troy DeVolld (Basketball Wives, The Bachelor, The Surreal Life). We’ll be covering pilot-writing, breaking stories, the basics of reality TV, and how to break into the industry and launch a career.  If you’re interested in registering, or just learning more, click HERE … or like the Facebook page!

13 thoughts on “PrimeTime: What Kind of Business Cards Should Writers Have?

  1. V

    Hi Chad.

    Great article! I don’t know if I believe you or not, even though I want to. I’m a freelance writer & I am friends with many designers. They’re always telling me how important it is for your business card to stand out. So my question is: Is this just your opinion, or is it an opinion shared by many others?

    Also, you said “simplicity.” I’ve seen so many cards for freelances that only have a name and an email address, or a name and a number. Mine has my Twitter handle, my blog URL, my number, and my email address. Too much?

    Finally, @Suzanne: I disagree. It has nothing to do with modesty; if you’re just going to have your name on it, what’s the point of a social card? Might as well carry around Post-its. I think some sort of contact information, social card or not, is absolutely a must. And if you don’t feel like giving your number out, don’t give your card out. The reason that I (as a freelancer) decided to get cards made in the first place is so that I’d be able to deliver all of my contact information quickly & efficiently, without having to fumble around for a pen.

  2. PAUL TAEGEL

    Chad — the funny thing is I came across this article after googling “screenwriter, business card” becauseI was asked for a card the other day and wondered what kind of card to get. I guess the answer is: save your money! Paul

  3. Chad GervichChad Gervich Post author

    @Carlito–

    What’s so funny about that is: I remember that moment… and I also remember being surprised that you had those cards!

    Fortunately, I liked you, so I forgave you.

    But you should still get new cards.

  4. carlito rodriguez

    Hey…!

    When we met at the Expo, I (think I) gave you my biz card, which not only has a “clever business title,” but also a pic of a typewriter (I was told writers once threw those against cave walls in an ancient ritual to invoke the Inspiration God)!

    Next time you cite my (ahem!) intellectual property, I expect a licensing fee!

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  6. Michael O'Daniel

    Oh, darn. And here I was looking forward to a new category for “Best Business Card” at the Academy Awards. I’d like to thank the designer, the typesetter, the paper house, the printer, the laminator, the trimmer… Arnold Schwarznegger as “The Laminator!” The colors were brilliant… but it was only a thin veneer…

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  8. Iseult Healy

    Do you know, that is a very valuable article. When you are a writer, as I am, and you mix and mingle with other writers (none of whom have made it) you hear about their schemes to stand out from the crowd and while they are innovative they are also inappropriate. But – and this is the pain – you start to listen to them because your own script hasn’t sold and you wonder if maybe they are right?

    Thanks to your article – I have been recovered to the Professional Way!

  9. Enrique Curiel

    Mr. Gervich, what kind of “television producer, bestselling author, and award-winning playwright” are you? I mean, I’m looking at you right this minute sitting next to me, and you are wearing the same sweatshirt you have on that picture!! come on!!

  10. Suzanne Lucero

    Rather than business cards, why not simply carry social cards? These cards simply have a name on one side and can be used for many purposes. If somebody wants to know something, you may write it under your name without divulging any other personal information, certainly a plus in this day and age. Conversely, if you wish to give someone your phone number, say, you can write it discretely on the back without worrying that the strange little man you gave your card to a few minutes ago will begin calling you at 2:00 in the morning. Besides, why would an author want to present him/herself like a corporation with everything anyone might ever want to ask you already prepared on a card? Be modest, it’s more attractive.

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