What’s Better Than a Business Card? A T-Shirt

By Colleen Eakins, October 20, 2014

Networking can be a great way to meet new professional contacts. Typically, you attend an event like a mixer, chamber meeting, or conference and hand out business cards to the people you meet. At the end of it all, you’re left with a pile of business cards with no memory of the faces that went with them.

What’s better than a business card? A t-shirt!

Not long ago, I read “This Client Getting Tactic Worked So Well…I Actually Had To Stop Using It” by David Tendrich. In the article, he talked about wearing a t-shirt that said “copywriter” on the front at conferences he attended.

Why It Worked

People knew what he did without the formalities of a handshake, small talk, and the exchange of a business card. Those that needed a copywriter saw the t-shirt and approached him about their needs. The conversation he wanted (potential new business) was instantly initiated by the potential client.

Steal the Idea

David bought a t-shirt online from a custom screen printing vendor and used their on-screen editor to customize it.

The key was the simplicity of the design. He stuck with using just the title “copywriter” and printed it front and center in a simple, clean sans serif font.

He waited until the last minute to get this done and ended up paying for a rush job that drove up his cost. If you plan ahead, you can get a shirt printed for around $12, plus shipping from an online vendor like VistaPrint.

You can save on shipping by searching online for a “Direct to Garment,” or DTG, printer in your local area.

DTG printing is a fast and low-cost solution, but the printing may not last as long as a traditional screenprint shirt. But because of the low cost to printers, you can order a single shirt instead of a dozen or more for a minimum order.

You can also go the DIY route:

  1. Head to your local discount store or craft store and buy a plain t-shirt.
  2. Add an iron-on t-shirt transfer kit online or at an office supply or craft store. They’re usually found in the paper section with mailing labels, inkjet printer paper, envelopes, etc.
  3. Create a word doc where you’ll type the info going on your shirt. Use black for the ink color and a sans serif font like Arial, Helvetica or Open Sans.
  4. Print it out on a regular sheet of paper first. Place it on your t-shirt to see if you need to adjust the font size or move the placement. You can also stand in front of a mirror with the t-shirt on to check your sizing.
  5. Once you’re happy with the font size and placement, print the text on the transfer paper.
  6. Following the instructions, iron-on your text.

Some might wonder that wearing a t-shirt might be too casual for some networking events. Depending on your profession, the event, and how you “style” the t-shirt, it might be. Technical and creative professionals are either used to a more casual dress code or are expected to wear more casual attire.

For me, as a creative professional (designer), I find that I can “get away” with more if I style my outfit right. If your profession tends to adhere to a casual dress code, just wear the t-shirt as is. If not, here are some styling ideas that you can try to dress your shirt up a bit:

Dress It Up


For Women

  • When you have your t-shirt made, select a fitted or contoured shirt. Fitted shirts will be more form-hugging, and contoured shirts will exhibit a less boxy shape.
  • Pair the shirt with a nice pair of slacks. A pair of pinstripes, tweed or hound’s-tooth and a nice belt, will dress up a seemingly plain t-shirt.
  • Skip the sneakers and opt for your favorite pair of heels, fall boots, or cute flats. Wear shoes that will dress up your outfit, but that are also comfortable enough to stay on your feet all day.
  • Top it off with a blazer. I recommend printing your title on both the front and the back of your t-shirt if you can. This way, your blazer doesn’t cover the print (the point of the shirt) if you opted to put it on the back.

For Men

  • Groom yourself. Get a haircut, clean shave, or groom your beard and mustache. Proper grooming goes a long way in terms of appearance.
  • Wear a blazer. A blazer always dresses an outfit up.
  • Just like the ladies, skip the sneakers. Opt instead for a pair of dress or casual shoes like loafers and boots. Make sure they’re cleaned and/or polished.
  • Wear dark denim or slacks. You can wear jeans, but limit your selection to dark denim and the ones that do not contain any holes or stains.

Accessorize

For both sexes, I recommend accessories. They can really help to take an outfit up a notch. They play a role in going from just “wearing clothes” to being “styled.”

However you decide to style yourself, be mindful of the reason you are wearing the t-shirt. To proclaim what you do and get new business/opportunities. If your accessories hide, cover or distract from the message on your t-shirt, it will all be for naught.

Colleen Eakins

Colleen Eakins

Colleen Eakins is a freelance graphic designer that approaches design from a marketing perspective. According to her, "anyone can make a pretty picture, but is it effective?" Colleen's designs answer that question with a yes. When she is not busy saving the world from bad kerning, she enjoys going for a run (trot), playing with her dog and staying active. You can see all that she is up to on Twitter (@ceakinsdesign) and Instagram (@ceakinsdesign). More Articles by Colleen Eakins