The Amateur Amateur: Let Me Give You My Card

By Gary Ross Hoffman, KB0H
February 2020

1st business card
My first business card
2nd business card
My second business card
ARES business card
Front of the St. Louis Metro ARES business card
Skywarn business card
Front of the Skywarn business card
The Amateur Amateur business card
Front of my The Amateur Amateur business card
The Amateur Amateur business card back side
Back of my The Amateur Amateur business card

I knew that Amateur Radio operators exchanged QSL cards long before I became one myself. What I was not aware of was that sometimes they also exchanged business cards. I was first made aware of this practice several years ago, while I was helping to man the St. Louis County Amateur Radio Emergency Service table at a hamfest. (It has since become St. Louis Metro ARES). Our Emergency Coordinator, Steve Wooten, KC0QMU, was chatting with another ham who was also involved in emergency communications. Just before their conversation ended, they both handed each other a business card.

I initially thought that perhaps they were both employed in the same field and were exchanging cards related to their profession. Later, though, I caught a glimpse of Steve's card and realized that I was wrong. He'd had cards made up specifically to hand out in his capacity as an ARES Emergency Coordinator.

I was impressed. It had never occurred to me that it might be a good idea to carry around such cards, especially while attending hamfests. I decided to have some made for myself.

A quick look on the Internet showed me that Amateur Radio business cards were fairly common. There were lots of places that made them, and the styles ran from simple to quite elaborate.

I ordered a box of simple ones.

Well, my cards came, and I wanted to rush out and hand them out to everyone. I managed to restrain myself, though, and only gave them out when appropriate (mostly). After a while, though, I became dissatisfied with my bland, simple card. Looking at some of the others that I'd seen on the Internet, I wanted a new card, one with more pizzazz. One with more style. One with my call sign larger and in color.

And without my phone number.

I can't remember which company I'd ordered my first round of cards from, but for the second ones I switched to a company that would allow me to make my own design and upload it. I was more or less satisfied with the resulting cards that I received, and carried both them and the older cards around with me for a while.

I did, after all, want some people to know my phone number.

Having spent a lot of time behind the St. Louis Metro ARES table at hamfests, I was always on the lookout for eye-catching elements to draw people in our direction. The ARRL, ARES, and Skywarn brochures were okay, but the things that people noticed the most were the “When All Else Fails” buttons I'd had made up. They were simple, easy to pick up, and free. They often got a smile, and some people did linger and start scanning the other things we had on the table.

That got me thinking. Should we put our business cards on the table?

Or better still, could I come up with cards specifically for our organization?

My initial attempts were with postcard size promotional cards, which I not only designed, but printed myself. I was never completely happy with them, and making them was tedious. So, I decided to go back to the idea of business cards, which someone else could print, and would be more convenient for people to pick up and stick in their pockets at hamfests.

I made a card for our ARES/RACES group, which was double sided. It had the organization logos on the front and information on the back. If nothing else, it was colorful. The one I really liked, though, was our Skywarn card. I put a picture of a dark storm cloud on the front and text on the back. I had taken the photo of the storm cloud myself, as it rolled over the condo in Hermann, Missouri, where my wife and I were vacationing. It was pretty much the most threatening, evil-looking thing I had ever seen. The picture doesn't do it justice.

And looking at the card now, I realize that both sides of it need updating.

Phooey.

If you are reading this column, you'll know that I, well, write a column, obviously. But not everyone does. I had a rather significant readership when the ARRL published The Amateur Amateur on its website. I don't claim that everyone liked it, but at least they looked at it. Then the League decided to drop some columns from its site, including mine. So, I set up my own website here so that I could continue writing it. I definitely can't claim that it's a how-to or expert-advice column.

Just call it Gary's personal therapy.

Most of my former readers don't know that I've continued to crank out the column or where to find it. To that end I've used what venues I can to make it visible again. And one of those was to make a business card specifically for The Amateur Amateur itself.

Okay, if I was going to create a business card for the column, it would have to have something special. Perhaps I could commission one of those really snazzy business cards with a glittery face, a tactile surface, sound effects....

No.

Too much. Too gaudy. And way too expensive. And moreover, people would just use it to clean their fingernails.

So, I came up with another double-sided card, as much information as I could pack on the back, and a graphic on the front. For that I fell back to a cartoon character I'd created while back. I call it a Glitch, a beastie that resides inside your radio, waiting for an opportune moment to wreak havoc on it (see Glitches in the System). I'm much more readily associated with disasters than with technical expertise.

I can't say whether or not the business cards I've created have garnered any interest, either in our emergency communications group or with my column. All I can say is that's the best I can do.

Putting the message on the side of a Zeppelin is beyond my means.

(Email = [email protected])



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