Business cards are one of the few old-school holdouts that still meet a multitude of professional needs. They provide you with brand recognition, free advertising, issue a call-to-action, and make networking easy. Well-designed business cards are really billboards that fit in your pocket—and everyone else’s, turning random contacts into customers, collaborators, suppliers, and friends.
But how much should you spend on your business card? The cost of business cards can vary hugely and it’s not always easy to know how to make your cards stand out, especially when you’re on a budget. To get the most bang for your buck, it pays to know which design details matter when you’re looking to distinguish yourself and your brand.
In this post, we’re going to cover each aspect of business card pricing:
- Reasons why prices vary
- How to select a design option
- First design steps
- Design details that will affect your card’s cost
- Advanced design
- Money saving tips
And we’ll wrap up by tying up loose ends. For now, let’s talk about why the cost of business cards can vary so much.
Price varies for a reason
The cost of a great business card design ranges from $0 to thousands of dollars. If you’re like most small businesses or startups, you’re aiming to balance your need for a high-quality design with your need to stay within a budget. In situations like these, a great design should cost between $199 to $999. Remember that getting your business card designed and getting it printed are two separate steps that will affect the overall cost of your business cards.
Here’s a chart to get you started thinking about price ranges and design options.
$0 (plus cost to print)-$50
Business card design options
Freelance designer or design contest
Freelance designer or design contest
Basic and generic business cards that use stock fonts, icons, and colors. Fast turnaround time.
Up and coming designers with smaller portfolios or limited experience.
Experienced, proven designers and professional advice.
High-quality designs created by a full-service team.
Who should use it
Businesses with major time and budget constraints that can work with a generic design.
Businesses that understand the design process and can spend their time more readily than their money.
Businesses that want high quality and need to stick to a mid-range budget.
Businesses with lots of resources that need a complete branding package, including a business card.
Understanding which option is right for you
There’s more than one way to get your business cards done. Here’s a look at each option and why you might choose it—or avoid it.
The lowest cost options include designing a card yourself using tools like Illustrator and online template services you can use to design a basic card and get them printed out. If you have a background in design and you’re great with design tools, the choice is easy; if you’re not, you’re probably going to end up using a template. This option is usually the cheapest way to get a business card design done, but the result will likely be on the generic side. You’ll pay up to $50 for using a template and you’ll need to take into account additional costs for printing your design, which depend on the printing options you choose (more on that later).
Some templates allow you to print the design yourself on a printer—but the results generally look like you did that, so be careful with this option. Other templates allow you to create your design to be printed out by a service. Most templates let you select certain generic icon and font options and upload images or photos, so you can get a useable card with some personalization. Sites like Vistaprint, Moo, and YouPrint offer this kind of option.
Design contests and freelance designers are usually occupying the middle of the cost road when it comes to business cards—between $200 and $1,000. Since both options have different pros and cons we’ll discuss them one by one.
If you’re not sure what design style you’re looking for and want to see lots of ideas from different designers, a contest is probably a good choice for you. Design contests on sites like 99designs allow you to get a batch of custom business card designs from a group of professional designers on the site and choose the one you like most. Prices start at $199 for design concepts from less established designers and range up to $999 for design concepts from top level designers only. Regardless of which contest you decide to run, you can expect flexible design turnaround and print-ready files so you can get the cards done ASAP.
When you know what you want and just need someone to make your vision come to life, your best bet is working directly with a freelance graphic designer. You’ll need to request a quote and negotiate pricing with the freelancer. Costs can vary between $199 and $999 depending on the freelancer you’re working with.
But if you don’t already have connections to freelance designers, finding a freelancer who’s the right fit can be tricky. Sites like 99designs give you the option of browsing designer portfolios to find a great match. You can see which designers really nail your style and request a quote from them on the site. You can also browse sites like Deviant Art or even Instagram to find designers you like—but it’s not as straightforward as it is on a design platform, which curates the work of the designers so you can find just what you’re looking for.
Working with a freelancer whose style you love is often the best option for getting a business card done, because when you know what you need, it’s so straightforward and easy. Contests are ideal for people who don’t know want they want at all, and want to see different ideas presented to them—but if you’ve got the basic idea of how your card should look in mind, a freelancer is a perfect choice.
If you’ve got a strong budget for this project and you need to pull out all the stops, you can bring the job to a design agency. Working with an agency is a great choice if you want to create an entire branding package, with your business card as part of the package. Expect an agency design to cost $2,500 or more—but they’ll take care of everything for you and you’ll get a totally unique and high quality design.
Wherever you find your designer, make sure you’ve got a great fit. Take a close look at their portfolio to ensure they’ve got the right style and experience for your brand. Once you’ve made a choice, be clear about your expectations and needs. Communicate your brand values and the style you’re aiming for, so your designer can translate those values into a visual product.
First design steps
Before you start on your business card design process, there are some preliminary design steps to get squared away.
Perhaps the two most vital aspects of visual branding, logos and color schemes provide you with a starting point. Your brand’s main message is something you need to translate from a verbal mission statement or idea into a visual message.
Your brand’s logo
This is the thing that either attracts customers and pulls them in to find out more about the business, the product or service, and what they want from it. It should instantly identify your business, convey your core message, and appeal to your customer. Learn more about designing a logo here.
Your brand’s color scheme
Brand colors allow you to appeal to your potential customer’s emotions, without them knowing you’re doing it. They can just as easily alienate potential customers, however, so be aware of your color choices. (This is a complex topic, so read more about it here.)
Your brand’s main message
In the end, you have to know the one overarching message you want your brand (and your business card) to send before you design that card. What is it that you and your business do?
“The local pharmacist with heart.”
“Strength training, the old-fashioned way.”
“Killer mustaches, period.”
Each piece of collateral, including your card, should be part of that message. Even if you work with a designer, this bottom line about the brand is something you’ll need to communicate.
Each of these elements will influence how you address style, layout, and other design elements as you design your business card.
Design details that will affect your card’s cost
Expect that printing a batch of 50 simple business cards on basic card stock will cost you approximately $20, although prices can vary depending on your printer. Now that you’ve locked down your first design steps, you’re ready for the design details. Many of these details have the potential to add cost to the project, so be aware of each design decision you’re making.
Business cards aren’t all card stock paper anymore. Today you can get custom business cards on wood, plastic, metal, and other materials, to create a truly unique look and feel.
These materials definitely add to your total price tag. You could end up paying $1.00 or more per card, depending on the materials you choose. However, if the special effect is worth it to your business, consider it an investment.
Your next decision is what size your business card should be. Different countries have different standard sizes, so start with that. Even if you really want to do something unique, you should at least know what the standard is, so you know the tradition you’re bucking.
- North American Standard: 3.5 × 2 in. (88.9 × 50.8 mm)
- European Standard: 3.346 × 2.165 in. (85 × 55 mm)
- Oceania Standard: 3.54 × 2.165 in. (90 × 55 mm)
Non-standard sizes may affect the cost of printing your design; expect to pay more for larger, non-standard designs in particular.
This simply refers to the standard landscape orientation for business cards, or the vertical “portrait” orientation. Neither should impact the price of your design.
Not all business cards are created rectangular. In fact, die-cutting allows printers to cut nearly any shape, and retain the cost advantages of printing in bulk.
If you’d like something fairly conservative but still eye-catching and modern-looking, try rounding the corners of the rectangular card, or cutting out your logo.
If you’d like to really go for it, choose any shape that really stands for your business. It might be the outline of your best selling product, or in the shape of your logo itself.
Think about things like creatively shaped business cards in the context of your industry and your target customer. If creativity typically wins the day (and the customer), a funky shape may be a home run.
If you’re a high-end investment banker, people may be looking for stability and reputation—qualities a special shape can tank.
Die-cutting custom shapes will add cost to the total price of your business cards. How much depends on how you get them printed.
Now it’s time for the most visual element of your business card: the graphics. That includes the logo and it might include a photo and some secondary graphics. Remember that the number of colors you choose will affect pricing, so keep this in mind as you make decisions.
Your logo should always appear somewhere on your business card. Some brands like it to appear more than once; for example, in a smaller format on the front with the contact information, and then in larger format alone on the back of the card. Or, a variation on this idea is to use a watermark version of the logo under the text on the front with a standard version on the back.
There are many ways to place the logo, so use trial and error to get it right. Just make sure that it’s instantly visible and that it’s easy to make out details in the logo.
Some businesses like to add extra graphics to create a certain mood or feel on the card. For example, this brand turned its logo into a kind of pattern for the card:
This business used brightly colored tech graphics to suggest technical products for schools, the nature of the business:
If your business is one that generates adorable or mouth-watering photos, that’s another great source of graphics for your business cards:
Or maybe you’re just in a niche that produces customers or clients who want to see what you look like:
Either way, graphics are an important way to send an instant visual message that sells. This is where it becomes very helpful to work with a professional designer; they can give you an artistic design with hand illustrations, for example, creating a totally unique and beautiful look:
You know what you need to get across. How will you say it? That’s the job of the right typography, to say what you need to say, in the right tone.
Fonts have a major influence on your brand identity, so make sure you select fonts that represent that look and feel you want. You may think that artistry only comes into play with graphics, but that’s not true! If you work with a professional designer, you can get a custom font or hand-drawn lettering for your business card for a totally unique result. It costs more to get custom typography done, but in many cases this unique business card element is worth the money.
As you hone in on your final design, think about special details in the print that can set your design apart. Certain special finishes can help your card make a lasting impression on potential customers. Each one of these special touches adds cost to your cards; how much depends on the exact way you’re using the finish and the printer.
Embossing. Embossing creates “pop ups” in your card, three-dimensional reliefs that can emphasize words, graphics, or design elements. You can emboss a logo, a name, or even your product, to make it stand out.
Foil stamping. Everyone likes shiny things, so use foil stamping to achieve reflective, shiny accents or text on your cards.
Letterpressing. Letterpress printing simultaneously inks and pushes the paper down for an engravement like effect.
Spot UV coating. You’ve seen cards that have a glossy finish all over; spot UV coating gives you this glossy finish, but only in a specific place, like over your logo or photo.
Money saving tips
No one wants to pay more than they need to for business cards—but you’ll still want your card to look awesome. To save money without sacrificing quality, remember these tips.
Focus on design and the features you need
Find a few freelance designers whose work you love, and ask for quotes on your business card project. A professional designer can help you know where to trim and where to stay safe when it comes to your budget. Designers can also help you spend wisely and decide which special finishes, for example, will pay off for your design and brand.
Save money on colors
If something’s gotta give, make it be multiple colors. Don’t cut back on the number of cards or on the materials; instead, pare down to one or two colors. A talented designer can make one or two colors look amazing—and it costs far less to print a card that way.
Know when special details pay off
Sometimes, in some industries, a truly unusual card is a fantastic investment:
A unique design concept that expresses your brand’s personality can have something to do with your industry, or just your brand in particular, but let it help your card stand out.
This is also a great place for unusual materials, extra thick cards, interesting visual effects, and other cool visuals—special details that help your brand stand out from the crowd and stick in customers’ minds. That staying power makes a certain design or finish worth the investment.
Use your designer’s expertise to your advantage. They are going to have an advanced suite of tactics for incorporating creativity into a functional design.
Check everything twice
Yes, that’s advice for both Santa and you, the would-be business card owner, because you really don’t want to pay for 500 business cards with a typo in them. Beyond that, take a long, slow look at the card. Your eyes should see the logo first, then the name, and then the other details; is that happening? If not, can you tweak the design so the elements cascade more effectively?
Get rid of clutter. Include only what you need for maximum impact.
Can you read everything? Does the image look right? Are any elements going to be cut off? Don’t let your cards go to print before you’re 100 percent certain everything looks good.
Up your business card game
Whether you’re just getting started with a miniature budget to match, or you’re an established business whose cards need facelifts, smart design can actually save you money in the end. Designing and printing a business card varies in cost depending on how you choose to get it done. Select the right option for your preferences and budget, and you’re going to get a product you love.