We’re all too familiar with the saying “you don’t get a second chance to make a great first impression”. Guess what? This goes for your business cards too. Weighing in at just four grams per serve, this palm-size paper accessory is your silver bullet in business, and one piece of stationary not to be taken lightly. Have you ever stopped to consider that your business card communicates a lot more than just your company, name, title and contact details? Sure, we’re living in a digital world, but no online profile or email sign-off will quite topple the sophistication and statement made by your pocket-sized, “personal brand” asset – the humble business card. The only problem is, some people have got them all wrong.

Business cards have a long and rich history, for hundreds of years people have passed them around. Trade cards in 17th century London helped people to find businesses, in 18th century Europe footmen of aristocrats used cards to introduce the impending arrival of the distinguished guest. Born in the 17th century as visiting cards, or “visite bilettes,” the original business card was used across Europe, where footmen of the aristocracy or royalty would present the card to servants. Fast forward to 2015 and swapping business cards remains an important corporate exchange. Always a vital part of networking – even in the hyper-connected digital world where contacts can be shared in an instant.

We all remember the famous scene from American Psychoabout who had the best business cards. Although amusing, it really does resonate with the real world. With so much packed into such a small space, it’s important to make it count. To that end, we’ve compiled a list of 5 critical business card errors we see time and time again, which, like it or not, are doing their part to damage your personal brand.

1- Using of two or more different fonts on the same card; this is the quickest way to cheapen the look of your business card. The fonts should be clean and professional, the typeface you choose can subconsciously convey qualities people associate with your business.

2- Trying to convey too much information; the clutter will simply detract from your message by being too overwhelming. Less is more, simplicity is confidence.

3- Using a photo of yourself on the card; some might suggest this is a way of ensuring your face is remembered – we say it’s a faux pas. You don’t need to look like a cheesy car salesman to be remembered? Instead, follow-up with your new contact via email or LinkedIn within 48 hours to jog their memory.

4- Not visualising the finished product; all elements of the card – typography, printing and card material – must complement each other. While the some elements may have nice stand-alone style, together they can collide in disarray and become an eye-sore.

5- Using Borders; it’s almost impossible to create a uniform border when final cuts are being performed. Uneven border can create the illusion of wonkiness, and the end result will cheapen the look of your card, and alas, cheapen your professional image.

Business cards are the proof of your business identity, subtly reflecting your personal brand and business ethos. Creating a business card that sets itself apart from its competitors and performs as well as you do, therefore, is key. If you have a winning business formula, don’t let down the side by handing out cards that reflect a muddy version of your professionalism. Take a look at yours? Is it looking tired, sad or unsophisticated? Is it in need of a tune up, a realignment, a reinvigoration? Sleek up your professional appearance and be proud of what you hand over. Because there’s no second chance to make a great first impression.