In the scheme of things, a ‘proper’ email address is inexpensive (Microsoft Hosted Exchange is $5.60 per month – August 2015), however for some of our organisations and small businesses this is an extra expense that just can’t be met in the start-up phase. If you’re just starting out there are things you can do until you’re able to afford an email set up that is more professional (and secure and appropriate).
Don’t use ISP email accounts
We recommend that you use a Gmail account. Gmail is owned by Google (or now Alphabet) and in our experience is one of the most reliable free email systems available. We’ve found that Yahoo is too unstable – way too much SPAM, and account security seems to be too easily compromised. Yahoo have also been know to close down accounts that aren’t used regularly. We don’t recommend using your Internet Service Provider email accounts (eg. Optus or Bigpond). If you end up changing providers at some time in the future, you will no longer have access to your account. Gmail is an account that for the forseeable future will last you a lifetime. It’s free to create, and easy to set up.
Are you ‘you’ or your ‘position’?
One of the main decisions you need to make is if you’re you (eg. Leesa Watego), or if you’re ‘Secretary’ or ‘Communications’. In the past, I’ve created emails for specific positions eg. email@example.com. What this means is that I can hand over the email (username and password) to the person who has taken over my job. For one organisation that I manage communications work for (updating their blog and sending our their monthly newsletter), I set up a Gmail account where I am ‘comms’ or communications.
As a business owner, I thoroughly recommend being you. In the past we would have been info@ or admin@, but more often than not today, our personal and professional lives are so intertwined it’s our personal emails and personal mobile phone numbers that are out there for the world to communication with.
Gmail doesn’t always look ‘professional’
When you sign up with Gmail, it’s of course assuming you’re just you, an ordinary Jo. But you can make your Gmail account look a little more professional, and a little less like a personal account. Go into Settings (see the ‘gear’ icon on the top right) and add in a profile image (Step 3). You can then add in a simple text based email signature (Step 4) with relevant hyperlinks.
If you’re creating an account for an organisation you can change the name that Gmail will default to during the sign up phase. Again go to the Settings link (via the Gear icon), but this time go to Accounts, and then Send Email at, click on edit info (Step 6).
A pop-up will appear, click on Name and you can change the name (Step 7). You might change it to ‘Communications’ or ‘Chairperson’, depending on what your organisation has decided to do.
As resource-scarce organisations and businesses, we sometimes have to make do with whatever we have. Using your free Gmail account is a good place to start out.
Note: One of the pitfalls of Google Accounts is that they can be closed if you fall victim to malicious reporting. For example, someone can report you for inappropriate usage. This is something that can happen to any free online service. It can happen to your Facebook account. It’s one of the risks of using free services.