Do you attend conferences and networking events to promote AOL, Comcast or Earthlink? No--so why dish out business cards flashing an e-mail address provided by your ISP? You don't give clients the AOL phone number, so why should your e-mail address be any different?
You're likely always looking for ways to present a professional image, and a personalized e-mail address is an easy and inexpensive way to do just that. An address like email@example.com just feels right, doesn't it?
When I founded the teen career show Streaming Futures three years ago, the first thing I did was make sure my e-mail address was firstname.lastname@example.org. That way every time I spoke to educators and students, I was able to give them my contact information and promote my Web address. (Those of you with tight budgets will be glad to know that I had virtually no money at the time and couldn't afford to pay high fees to a hosting company to host the e-mail account, so I figured out a way to make it work for free. Read on!)
There are a few ways you can customize your e-mail. First, if you already have a Web site up and running, contact your webhost and find out whether they support POP3 e-mail accounts. Some hosts supply e-mail accounts as part of the webhosting contract. Others may charge a few dollars extra each month. If your host can provide you with a personalized POP3 account, seize the opportunity and set up your e-mail in a client such as Microsoft Outlook or Outlook Express.
If your webhost doesn't support POP3 accounts, request that they forward all e-mails that hit your domain name (email@example.com) to the e-mail address provided by your ISP. All webhosts can do this and shouldn't charge you anything to do it.
Once e-mails are being forwarded to your actual e-mail address, you have to set up your e-mail client to make it appear that you are responding from your company address although it doesn't actually exist as a solidified POP3 account. To do this, you must modify your e-mail account settings. In Outlook Express, go to Tools > Accounts > Mail > Properties, and change your return address from your ISP address (in my case firstname.lastname@example.org) to your company address, email@example.com. Now when you send e-mails, they will be sent over your ISP mail server but will appear to come from firstname.lastname@example.org.
Finally, if your webhost refuses to forward your e-mail or you run your own webserver and don't want to purchase and maintain a mail server program, you can outsource the e-mail to a third-party company by modifying the MX Records (mail exchange records). Everyone.net will host your outsourced e-mail on their servers for free, allowing you to log in over the Internet similar to Hotmail--except it's email@example.com. Full instructions on modifying the MX Records are provided when you register at everyone.net.
So take your company up a rung on the ladder to professionalism, and set up a personalized e-mail address today.
Joel Holland, age 18, has been starting and running businesses since he was 12 and is currently the chief marketing officer for Nortel Networks Kidz Online, a digital studio that creates educational content about technology for schools nationwide and in Canada. Holland is ranked in the top 10 nationwide for his marketing skills through DECA, a national organization with more than 300,000 teen members, and was named Business Student of the Year by the McLean, Virginia, Chamber of Commerce. To contact Holland, write to firstname.lastname@example.org