What does your email address say about you?

Something that I’ve seen quite frequently lately is people using the wrong type of email addresses when promoting their businesses. You don’t want people drawing conclusions on your professionalism and business acumen just because of your choice of email address. You’ve worked hard to build your business reputation, so here are some pitfalls you’ll want to avoid.

Avoid ISP email addresses
Whether it be an @rogers.com, @sympatico.ca or some other smaller internet service provider, this just sends the wrong kind of message to prospective clients. Email addresses like this work as beacon to the rest of the world telling them you probably aren’t very well versed with the online world. If your address is from an ISP people could draw the conclusion that you’re just a part timer or that you may only access your email when they get home at the end of the day.

The biggest issue I find with these emails is what if you decide to change ISPs? Sometimes these changes are inevitable, be it for poor service or maybe you find a better deal with another provider and want to make the leap. Swapping hosts also means abandoning your email address. To make this change you need to tell everyone in your address book to update their contact info for you. This can be a huge task, as you can’t always count on people taking action. I have an old email address that I abandoned 5 years ago and still have a few stragglers that send the odd email to me there. If you’re using your ISP email address for business communication, you could even suffer from the added hassle of having to reprint business cards and other professional materials to reflect this change. Ideally you don’t want to be losing business leads because you decided to save a few bucks on your internet bill.

Avoid free online email accounts
Odds are pretty much everyone on the planet has a free email address from either Hotmail, Yahoo or Gmail. I signed up for my first Hotmail account way back in 1996, before Microsoft bought them. These addresses are quite handy, but don’t give off the greatest signals when used for business purposes. As soon as I see a free email service used as someone’s point of contact, how I view them as a professional goes down a notch or two. Even worse is if the actual account is something silly like billybob3892@yahoo.com, it just shows you have little regard for how you present yourself online. If you have to go with a free provider for your email, the best bet these days for salvaging a shred of professionalism is Gmail.

I find the worst lapses in judgment for people is when they actually own their own web domain, yet haven’t made the effort to get email address aliases created and instead use a Hotmail.com email address. It’s like they’ve already run a marathon, then forgot to cross finish line.

Buy yourself a domain name
The cost of registering a domain for a year can be less then what you paid for yesterday’s lunch. Prices can typically range from $6 to $12 dollars, depending on what type of domain you’re registering. So really the barrier of entry is pretty low. If you don’t intend on creating a website right away, many registrars offer the ability to host email for you for a monthly fee. While this typically isn’t cost effective when compared to a hosting package, $3 a month for your own personal, professional email address is money well spent. If you are looking to create a website along with email addresses, I’m sure SlideawayMedia could help you out. If you’re looking for a good Canadian registrar, I use NamesPro.ca and host my sites with Canadian Web Hosting.

Services like Gmail actually allow you to combine multiple email addresses into one inbox as well. Here’s a tutorial on how to combine multiple accounts into Gmail I wrote awhile back. This is handy on so many levels as it keeps all your mail in one spot and allows you to seamlessly use emails from your web domain, while still having the handiness of using Gmail to access your mail from virtually anywhere.

Projecting a professional image online requires the total package, including the use of professional email addresses. If you’ve worked really hard at crafting your image and reputation, don’t sabotage that by using a bad email address.

  • Oh, man – one of my biggest pet peeves!

    I once saw a sympatico.ca address on the label of a beer I was drinking and immediately reconsidered taking another gulp. If they were to cheap and/or lazy to spend a little time and/or money on a proper email address, did that translate into the brewing process as well?

    Google Apps is another good option that gives you full email capabilities plus Docs, calendar, etc. To me, this is a better option than paying your host for email services – though it is a little trickier to set up.

  • wedge

    I agree with the alternative to hosted email services. I just think that is the easiest means to go about it without any internet know how per say.

  • Hey James, Thanks for this reminder. I had been using gmail for pro correspondence knowing full well that it looked bad. I did not know exactly how easy it was to add email to my professional domain and easily redirect it or do whatever else I want to do with it.

  • I recently setup my domains to use google apps, as Colin mentioned. Definitely a great way to tame your inbox.