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Sometimes A New Design For A Writer Is Premature

writers card for platformBy Helen Kaiao Chang

I love the new business card my designer created for me. It’s warm, beautiful and a wonderful expression of who I am.

But I may never use it. It focuses on me, rather than my clients. It builds my platform before I even have one. And I’m very uncomfortable with that.

As a ghostwriter, I enjoy making my clients look good. I am happy to stay in the background, crafting their words, so they can have books and products that share their voice and message. The limelight is on them. As a journalist, I pride myself in remaining objective – or at least fair and balanced – in my coverage. The focus in on the story.


But this new business card design focuses on me. It’s all about me and my platform. “Platform” is one of those publishing-industry buzzwords I have come to hate; it means spreading your name through various channels, such as blogs, Facebook, Twitter, Squidoo, etc. Even though I participate in a lot of social media, I don’t like deliberately trying to promote my “brand,” gain a “following,” or build my “platform.” In my mind, it often means serving yourself, rather than others. So when my designer convinced me to create a new business card, I hit this roadblock.

My existing card focuses on the client. It’s from Vistaprint with a generic pattern. But the headline emphasizes benefits to the client: “Got story? Turn your knowledge into money.”

The new card is all about me. My designer had asked many questions about my professional identity, goals and dreams. The truth is that my biggest dream is to write a memoir about my childhood in Hawaii, share about dancing hula, and be an author in my own right. This, of course, would entail building a platform around a Hawaiian theme – even though I’m totally unprepared to do so right now. So my designer created a card with warm, friendly colors, my Hawaiian name in a lovely font and a beautiful tropical flower in the middle.

I loved it! It’s so me!

But it’s completely opposite of what my clients want from a ghostwriter or journalist.

I asked myself, “If I got these cards printed, who would I give them to?” Even if I just give them to people interested in my Hawaiian “platform,” what would they do with them? I haven’t even written the book!


If I were a successful author – like Elizabeth Gilbert of the mega-bestselling  Eat, Pray, Love or Mitch Albom of the gargantuan  The Five People You Meet in Heaven – maybe I could pull off a business card with tropical flowers on it. But by then, people would know me by my book title, and I wouldn’t need a business card.

You see my dilemma?

On a deeper level, the issue isn’t really about the card design. It’s about who I am willing to be – or become. Am I willing to step from behind the stage as a ghostwriter and journalist – into the limelight as an author in my own right? I’m not really sure. For now, I’m sticking to my existing business card design. The new one will have to wait.

Are you ready to step into the limelight with your freelance writing?

Helen Kaiao Chang is a freelance writer, editor and ghostwriter, at ghostwriter-needed.com.

Two newsletters: Abundant Freelance Writing – a resource for freelance writers including 3x a week job postings. Writing With Vision – for those who want to get a book written. Image from http://www.sxc.hu

{ 8 comments… add one }
  • Oh Jorge, what I meant by “It builds my platform before I even have one” is that it starts to create a reputation for me based on something that I have not even created or produced (in terms of writing about Hawaiian culture). Sorry about the vagueness, but I hope this clarifies it. Again, thank you for sharing about your 3 cards!
    Helen Chang recently posted..Jun 27- Ghostwriter NeededMy Profile

  • Wow, I’m really surprised by all the responses here. Thank you Carol, Paula and Jorge for your thoughtful feedback. I wasn’t expecting all three to say to use the new one! I will see if I can show images of the cards in another post. Thank you!

  • jorgekafkazar

    Interesting thread. I’d sure like to see Helen’s new and old cards, to fully understand what’s they’re like, what kind of impact they have. “It builds my platform before I even have one” is completely impenetrable; I have zero idea what that means.

    I, agree with Carol. I currently have three business cards. One for writing & editing, one as a playwright, and another for general use. There are other options to consider, such as two-sided cards (why let half the space on your card go to waste?), cards on special stock, cards with photographic backgrounds, and so on. It’s so easy to design your own cards with Printmaster or Word, you can custom make whatever you want.

    • I use both sides… fun to watch people turn it over.

  • Helen, I agree with Carol, if you LOVE this new card, something there is calling to your heart . . . it pays to listen 🙂 You don’t need to give up serving your clients to step into your own brilliance!
    @Anne, as someone who has spent most of her working life in multiple spheres, I can say that having two business cards is easy — just get a simple two- sided foldover card holder (even the cheap ones they sell for bus passes work) put one set of cards on one side and one on the other– voila, no juggling necessary 🙂
    Paula Swenson recently posted..Whats black and white and absolutely uniqueMy Profile

  • I say print a few up, in case you find a situation where you want to hand them out. You love this card…maybe it signals a new direction for your writing. Keep the old ones for ghostwriting clients.

    Reading this reminds me that I really need to get new cards — I probably need a second set to promote my writing blog and ebooks, separate from the freelance-writer cards I hand out now. As we branch out, sometimes more than one card is needed. My husband has two URLs for his Web video business that mention two different cities, and has a card for each. Makes sense to me — he wants a different one to hand out, depending on where he’s networking.

    Interesting post!
    Carol Tice recently posted..Audition for a Guest Post on Make a Living Writing — Live!My Profile

    • I’ve never figured out how to keep track of two sets of cards… but if you’re better at juggling than I am, it makes sense.

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