Business Tips: Making A Digital Business Card

Promote yourself and your business by attaching a digital businees card to your e-mail and other documents. Make it unique and make it speak for you!

If most of your business is done online or if you use e-mail to promote your business, consider creating a digital business card. Like a paper business card, your digital card reminds your customers and prospects of your talents, goods, or services and provides information so they can quickly contact you.

A digital business card can be very simple, consisting of carefully laid-out text. Or, it can be more elaborate with colorful graphics such as your business logo.

You'll want to use the same information you use on your paper business card, but you can add value to the process with live links to your web site or e-mail and you can even animate your logo, if you are skilled with graphic animation software.

If you plan to use your digital business card in e-mail, you'll want to find out what file formats can be inserted into the body of your e-mail. Microsoft Outlook, as well as other e-mail programs, allow you to format the e-mail using features of HTML, the scripting language that is also used to format web pages. If your e-mail allows formatted text only, you'll need to format the information in your digital business card using the text formatting only the options that can be supported by your e-mail.

However, if your e-mail supports HTML features, you can integrate your digital business card as a graphical file, or image file. The two most commonly supported file formats for HTML are .jpg and .gif files. In general, .jpg files are used for natural images, such as photographs; but they may be used for other purposes as well. Usually, .gif files are used for cartoon-like images that have large areas of solid color. One advantage of a .gif file is that the background color may be set to "transparent" so that the image appears to float in an e-mail or on a web page. It is also possible to animate .gif images, if you have both the right skills and the right graphics program.

Both .jpg and .gif files can be used in documents generated by most word processing, page layout, and presentation programs, so you'll want to find a program that generates at least one of these formats for creation of your card image.

If you want a simple and inelegant path to integration of your card image into your documents, you can use your home scanner to scan, save, and modify an image of the card. The software associated with your scanner will probably let you save the image in .jpg format and re-size or crop it if necessary. If you have a good graphics program, you can do further formatting and clean-up of the scanned image.

If you want a more elegant and original card, you may want to experiment with programs like Adobe's PhotoShop or Jasc's Paint Shop Pro, both of which let you create both .gif and .jpg images. PhotoShop is at the high end and Paint Shop Pro is at the low end. However, Paint Shop Pro gives you all of the features you need to make .gif files with transparent backgrounds and to make .gif animations.

If you want more flexibility in your card, consider integrate images into a formatted HTML file you've created in a program like Microsoft's FrontPage or by hand scripting with HTML. Unlike an image file, you can add links to your e-mail address and to your website. The entire HTML file can then be integrated into your e-mail or other documents.

How you integrate your card into e-mail is dependent on the features of your e-mail program. For example, Microsoft Outlook lets you set the format to HTML and then insert images and links at will. You can also set up a stationary option that will let you have a ready-made e-mail format in which you've already integrated your digital card. If you use a web-based e-mail program, like those provided by Yahoo and Hot Mail, you'll find different features. You'll need to check the documentation or help files for other e-mail programs to find out their features and their limitations.

As in most endeavors, you'll want to keep your card simple. If you don't have skill with a graphics program, consider using nicely formatted text and, if desired, some simple geometric elements.

If you are skillful with graphics programs, then use color and eye-catching images to sell your services and your business. Of course, you'll want to make sure that the artwork is compatible with the nature of your business. Clearly, the color palette and images for a birthday clown act are likely to be different from those on a digital business card for a wedding planner.

One of the key advantages of a digital business card is interactivity. If your e-mail allows it, make sure you offer live links to reach you via your web site or your e-mail.

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