Yes. I am president of one small company in which I own 27% and a partner in another, where I own 50% I used to own and operate another.
I don't wish to break my relative anonymity here so no specifics on names etc, but I can address your other questions with some of my thinking on the subjects.
First company was a Sub-S corporation and the company had a DBA for the public side. This DBA was logically derived, named for the city where it was located and a descriptive word for what we did. The parent corporation was a name of my choosing that had nothing to do with the principal business.
The second company I conceded to partners on the name of the business and I never liked the company name. It was six syllables long, including one coined word. It was extremely difficult to answer the phone with that name. That, in my opinion is very important. The way your phone is answered, if you deal with the general public should be short and simple.
Current company meets that test. Very simple and direct.
At the first company I used a font resident in WordPerfect as a company logo/wordmark. It was pretty distinctive, easy enough to read and looked very good on a backlit white plexiglas sign in a mall. That was important. So company name on the sign and a very brief list of main services offered was all there was on the sign. No pictures or anything like that. Business cards had the same font. Easy for the printer. Company stationery including manuals we published etc. were all easily done with WordPerfect. Saved us much aggravation at the printers etc.
Second company we did pretty much the same thing, only now working with MS
Word. Resident font, plus a graphic from the public domain which represented what we did. This graphic was turned into a watermark (I think I did that in Photoshop) and was used on the business cards.
Present company we built the logo/company ident in Adobe Illustrator with special fonts we had to download, and even they had to be tweaked. This used up two consecutive Sunday afternoons. These were vector-based graphics and when we had all the effects (really simple-looking result - little complexity) we also converted it to a .jpeg and emailed it to the office and to our homes. This .jpg will get embedded as letterhead and used on our business cards and our sign.
On the previous two companies I followed the conservative rule and designed a white
card where you can lay a US quarter somewhere on the card without touching any ink
. Each was two-color only. In each case we were dealing with traditional corporate and governmental entities and the look was solid and conservative by choice. The present business is more 'artsy' for want of a better word and we may not do that. We are likely to select a colored cardstock and be somewhat edgy
in the design. It will still be printed one side only so that potential clients can write something on the back. They will not be foil, but low-gloss cardstock.
Also I've always avoided common 'clip art' as being kind of low-rent cheesy. If I was starting a photography business, for example I would not just import clip art of a camera. What I might do is find a picture of a 35mm (because everyone would recognize that as a camera) take it into photoshop and halftone it, or run the contrast off the top of the scale or trace edges or some such process to render it a really simple graphic, then use that as a watermark under my business name and address on a card. That is just one suggestion.
We will again make up our own company stationery, letterhead, invoices, work orders and the like. Our checks will just have the LLC name and address without the logo.
Your photography business can be a little less formal than, say a mortgage broker, but you do want the thing to be readable. You do want to be taken seriously. Personally I've never cared much for the business cards that had an actual photograph on them. I also firmly believe that they should be STANDARD size with no foldover. Those get tossed!
One more suggestion: Go to some restaurant or bar in town where local people eat their weekday lunches and leave their business cards on a bulletin board. There is no place I can think of where you can see more examples, good and bad, at one time. See what you like. See what is hard to figure out, hard to read.
The choices are very personal in a small business because that business is a piece of you
. Your portfolio will sell your work, it is just the job of your business card not to get in the way of that process.
Good luck with your business.
Happiness is not seeing another trite Ste. Maarten photo all week long.