I have chosen to start my writing on the topic of Email addresses. Not because they are the #1 priority, but because 1) they are a pet peeve of mine and 2) they can tarnish your first impressions which will impact your bottom line. It is such an easy thing to properly set up that it deserves to go first in my book.
Alright, so, all too often I see a startup or small business with an email address that ends with @Gmail.com or @Yahoo.com or some other free email service. While these email addresses are free (and I can appreciate how enticing a free service is when it fills a need and it is a quality service) they cause you and your business to look less than professional. You are willing to spend money on an advertisement knowing that people will see your “business email” and think, “hmm, that’s sketchy. I wonder if they know what they are doing?” I tend to equate that with a guy who gets dressed into a nice suit, a good handshake, and gives a good presentation but has one of his pant legs tucked into one of this socks by accident. What are you going to think about that individual when you see the nice suit, he presents well, and then you look down to see the “bottom of the ad” and his pant leg is tucked into his sock because he put his socks on after his pants and missed a detail that adds to the presentation that speaks to the level of professionalism of that individual (exceptions given to the elderly). Just think about it for a moment.
While Google may want to shut me down for what I am about to say, I’ll take the risk. You can get a Gmail account being used for business (properly) without actually paying for Google Apps for Business (if you don’t know what that is, you might want to consider hiring a consultant to get your business into shape- not that you need to use Google Apps, but if you are in business you should at least know what it is by now). It used to be that Google Apps for Business was free for up to 50 users (they may have offered more at one point, but when I started using them that is what was being offered), then it went down to 10 users, and now there are no free users and you need to pay $50/year/user (also referred to as an “inbox”).
Now to add to that, if you have a website, even more so you should have a professional email account. In order to have a professional business email account, you do need to own a domain name (aka URL)*. If you have a website (a professional website, not one from a free service where they give you a subdomain^ or the like), you already have a domain name so you are well on your way. By the way, when I say a professional email address, I am referring to an Email address that ends in "[email protected]".
Most hosting providers will give you AT LEAST one free email address with your hosting. Many give you an unlimited number of Email addresses with an unmetered amount of storage. One of the more popular hosting providers charges for email accounts on a monthly basis after an initial single free Email address that comes with a limit on storage capacity. This, however, is the not what most businesses do. So I am going to assume that you are hosting your website with someone that offers free Email addresses and you are just choosing to not use their email because you don't know if you can trust that you will always have your emails if you switch hosting providers.
I have come up with a simple solution for those who don't wish to pay for a service like Google Apps. Before I spill the beans, I would like to say that there are added benefits of using Google Apps over using my solution, but based on the fact that you are interested in using my work around, I will assume that you are not interested in those added benefits because, again, you will need to pay the $50/year/user.
Okay, here we go. What you can do is set up your professional email address with the company you don't fully trust to keep them and allow you to take them with you when you change hosting providers (I believe most businesses do it at least once. I've done it at least 5 times - not fun to do, but it is hard to find realiable hosting providers) and forward those emails to a regular gmail account. Then you set up the not-professional gmail account to send messages from the business email address. Vwalah, you have a gmail account sending and receiving professional emails without paying for google apps for business.
Need step by step instructions? See the "How To" page for more details.
*The domain name or URL is what it is that you type into your internet browser when you want to access a website (“http://www.Sephoco.com/” for example).
^A subdomain would be “yourbusinessname.
theirbusinessname.com”, this also speaks to a level of professinalism, or lack there of.