Be Smart About Art

What to do with the business cards you collect?

written by: Susan Mumford May 15, 2016 1) RECOMMENDED-> Susan Mumford + Chris King's Blog 2752 views

What to do with the business cards you collect?

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I have a confession to make: It was many years after being known as a ‘networker’ that I worked out what to do with business cards. I don’t mean how to keyword a database, connect on social media or follow up. I’m talking about the physical cards themselves.

I, like most of you, am a visual person, so filing away the details in a database, neatly keyworded and the like, doesn’t totally work for me. I’m not saying don’t do that, mind, because making a contacts database is important for a growing network*. So how can you make a growing list of contacts discoverable from a visual perspective?

Some people still get away with using desktop card indexes, otherwise known as ‘Rolodexes.’ Yet for many, they’re not large enough and/or don’t suit for other reasons, varying from a dislike of alphabetical ordering to finding them physically cumbersome to use.

Moreover, to be honest, the majority of us have stacks of business cards stashed away in boxes or desk drawers. I recall feeling immensely organised when I had mini-stacks or cards bundled together with rubber bands, each labelled on top with a note that stated the associated event and approximate date. Numerous such bundles lived in an increasingly jam-packed box. They were never to see the light of day again.

The useful life of collected business cards changed the day I started my first business card book, and I’ve never looked back since…

Here’s the method: Take an exercise book (or similar) with blank pages, staple cards into the pages as time goes and jot down notes (ASAP). As a result, you end up with books that go in chronological order. Thus, if you want to find a contact you made at a certain event, you go to the book of business cards that contains contacts from that occasion.

One time when I was looking for a meeting spot in New York City, all I needed do was scan associated pages from the most recent trips to the States. I knew that I’d found an ideal place in SoHo, yet the details had not yet been added to the database. Easy peasy! The card for a luscious meeting location was easy to find, thanks to fancy purple font and my handwritten note.

Better yet, business card books can be digitised and backed up. Simply scan the pages (and back up the scan) as soon as a book is complete. No matter where you are or what you’re doing, providing you have access to the files, you can easily have a visual flick through business card books whenever the need arises.

It’s incredible who comes to mind as a result of business card books. From remembering who to personally invite to special occasions to being reminded of people with whom you should reconnect, the impact of employing this technique is without question.


*In today’s world, it’s common to use #hashtags for keywording, for example associating contacts to an event where you met them, artists / art works of interest, type of contact and so on.  


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Thanks for all the fab comments!

David & Jane: Superb that you've taken action and have immediately had results. Carry on!

Motez: There are still such card scanners available to purchase. Have a look and you'll no doubt find ample options!

Kathryn: For sweeping up the mess, I suggest putting those cards into the order that they are presently. Though it might seem there's no order, it is possible that some cards are still roughly together in the various piles. While you're adding those cards to the business card book, let your mind wander, to see what distant memories will suddenly come into focus, and make notes on the cards and in the book as you go. By doing this as an exercise, it's amazing what can come back to mind.

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Brilliant idea, Susan. I started to use it immediately; I have now made a note to get more notebooks and staples.

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What a great idea. I had a nice blank paged book that had been given as a present, and I had no idea what to do with it. I have now gone through the pile of business cards in my desk drawer, stapling the useful ones into said book and discarding those that are no longer relevant. I have been reminded of people that should be on my mailing list and others that I will now get back on touch with. A useful exercise all round!

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That's a great idea and not just for artist-types. I'm a (relatively) organized, database driven, spreadsheet-loving, non-artist and I have piles of business cards on my desk under my monitor that I pick up and shuffle through every once in a while. The question becomes, what's the best way to go back and sweep up THAT mess? No chronological order option there.


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Posted by : motez 15/05/2016 18:53

there used to be a little gadget that would scan biz cards and upload the contact details to your address book... a friend had one in the late 90s... i haven't been able to find one since (sigh)...