Many students use free email services such as Gmail to send and receive email. However this often results in email addresses that look unprofessional (I’ve had emails from students with some, shall we say, highly inappropriate addresses). This can create a problem when contacting people in industry or individuals you want to involve in your research. Additionally, an odd email address could get your messages consigned to people’s spam filters. If you’re close to graduation and don’t have a proper email address, you need to fix it now. If you’re a long way off, well do it anyway. Never print a business card with a generic email address such as gmail.com or yahoo.com – it says “I’m not special” or “I can’t be bothered”. I have a gmail address simply for logging in to Google sites, which is “dundeecakes” (I made it up on the spot!) It’s not one I’d use professionally…
Getting your own domain name is easy and, when you get a little more advanced, you may want to set up your own hosted mail service along with a professional website. But for now, this tutorial shows you how to set up a simple and cheap personal domain name, and set up Gmail so that your future messages look much more professional.
The tutorial is based on Gmail but other services may have similar facilities.
Buy your own domain name
At the moment if you’re using Gmail, your email address is probably something like firstname.lastname@example.org. Buying your own domain name allows you to have an email address like “email@example.com” or “sara@sara_interiors.co.uk”
Buying a domain name on its own is relatively inexpensive. There are many companies who can register a domainname for you: two you may want to look at are easily.co.uk and lcn.biz (which is the one I use). The bit after the “@” sign is the domain. There are various types of domain such as .com, .co.uk, .biz and .me. (The bits at the end are known as the “top level” domain).
Decide on a domain name
Chances are you will find your first choice of domain name has already gone. But you may be able to get a variation on it, for example “sarasmith.com” may be gone, but “sarasmith.co.uk” may not be. However, it’s a good idea to brainstorm a few alternatives before you go shopping for a domain because if you do it while you’re on the site, you may make a choice you later decide you don’t like.
So sit down with a pad and pen, or ideally get some friends to join in, and spend a few minutes brainstorming various alternatives. It doesn’t have to be your name, it could be a name you want to trade under, like “omega-jewellery” or “pink-avacado”. But choices like that should be thought about carefully – remember the reason you’re doing this is to send a message, not just an email. The name you choose will tell recipients a great deal about you. Are you quirky or serious? Are you fun to work with or business-like? You can always change your domain later (but you won’t get your money back) but at some point you need to pick a “brand name” and stick to it.
Try to avoid difficult to spell names, or ones that can be read the wrong way (there are many examples of companies that have chosen innocent domain names that have later been identified as “odd” – ferrethandjobs.com for example!)
Visit a domain name registration site
Now visit a domain name seller. In this tutorial we’ll use LCN.biz but you should shop around. For some top level domains such as .co.uk there may not be much variation in price but for “.com” or “.biz” you may find good deals. When I searched for http://www.pink-pineapple.co.uk I found LCN.biz to be quite a bit cheaper than easily.co.uk, but you also need to look at the other services they may offer. You’ll notice that some sites offer “hosting” – that is, they’ll store your website on their server and give you email accounts. For the purposes of this tutorial we’ll assume you’re using Gmail, but you may well want to consider going for a proper hosted package, or at least bear it in mind for the future.
Check if your domain is available
LCN.biz searches all possible top level domains if you don’t add one (for example, here I searched for http://www.pink-pinapple, with no “.co.uk”). The site tells me my chosen name is availalbe (well, it would be, wouldn’t it!). I can choose from various top-level domains, but which to choose?
.co is a new domain and so it is most expensive because a lot of names that have already been taken elsewhere will now be available. So if your preferred name is already taken at .co.uk, you may be able to get it as a .co. The only trouble is, for me, that it is too similar to .com and .co.uk and I’m not convinced people won’t type the wrong URL in to their browser. But it’s up to you.
.com is supposed to mean “company” though it is used by all sorts of site. It’s more expensive than .co.uk.
.co.uk scores over .com in two ways: firstly it’s often cheaper than .com, and secondly it tells people where you are. So if you’re really only doing business in the UK, or don’t want people to think you’re in the USA, then .co.uk may be your best choice.
.me is intended for personal sites and email addresses. The .org domains are intended for non-profit organisations. .biz is for businesses but to me it shouts “spam email”. .info is supposedly for non-profit, non-business sites (I don’t think I’ve ever visited a .info site) and .mobi is for mobile sites, but it’s really a hangover from the old days of surfing the web on mobile phones so it probably best avoided.
Once you’ve chosen your domain, or searched again, go through the necessary process to buy it, selecting whether it’s for one year or two. As you can see, I can get pink-pineapple.co.uk for two years for just £6.00 – what a bargain! (At the end of two years you will get first refusal to renew the domain. After a few reminders the domain name will become publicly available again.)
For the purposes of this tutorial all you need is the domain name and email forwarding. Unless you know what you’re doing, don’t buy any hosting packages.
Start the email forwarding process
For the next few steps I’m going to use my own domain name as the example. Log in to your account (1) and select the domain you want to add email forwarding to (2).
(If you prefer, LCN provide a video to walk you through the next few steps)
Select “Email Forwarding”
Click on the option for Email Forwarding under the domain management tools (highlighted above)
Select “Add Email Forward”
Click the “Add Email Forward” button.
Pick an email address
Now decide what you want your new email address to be. As you’ll see later you can create as many email addresses as you want so if you have a business partner you can add them. You could also create a family domain name and create individual email addresses for everyone in your family.
For this example I’ve added “hello” as my email address because my domain is actually fairly complicated already so I want to keep it simple. But I may add others later.
You can then choose which email address your mail should be forwarded to. In this example it would be your Gmail account, but it also works for any other email service (mobileMe, Yahoo, MSN etc).
Click “Create” when you’re happy (you can come back and change things later).
Add others if you want
LCN then shows you all the email addresses that are forwarded for this domain, so may add others if you want. If you’re setting up a business you might want to add “sales@” and “customer-services@” to give the impression you’re a big firm! But you could also add “guess” addresses, by which I mean, if someone forgets your email address what might they guess it to be? Your first name, your full name, some common misspellings etc. As they all go to the same address it doesn’t matter.Note too that you can filter email to different addresses. For example I have three email addresses, one I use online for purchases and forum registrations – that gets all the spam. A second email address is a personal one I only give to people I know but never use online. And my third is my work email address. So it may be a good idea to have a “work” email address and one for friends and family. You can use your email service or application to colour or file emails depending on which address they were sent to.
Set up mail forwarding in Gmail
Now comes the final step in making you look professional! We need to tell Gmail to make sure that all email you send from it in the future appears to come from your new domain.
Go to Gmail and log in, then click on “Settings”
Go to “Accounts and Import”
In settings, click on “Accounts and Import” and then “send mail from another address”
Tell Gmail to send via itself
This screen may appear confusing but for now, just select “Google Mail” then click “Next Step”
An email will be sent to your Gmail account so check your inbox, get the verification number, and come back and paste it in here.
(This may appear a bit odd that Gmail is sending a verification email to itself but there is a very good reason for it. Just not one worth spending time bothering with!)
Click the “Verify” button.
Change your default address
Now you have a choice to make. You have two email addresses you can send email from – your original Gmail address and your new more professional address. One of them will be your default: any email sent from Gmail will use that address unless you specify otherwise. For most of you, your old Gmail address is now a thing of the past but some of you may want to keep it for email some people. Note that your email address still exists, so you’ll still get messages sent to it, and you can still use it to log in to forums etc (and in fact I would recommend keeping it just for that, so you can keep your new email address spam free).
But for most of you you will want to make your professional address the default so that you don’t accidentally send people an email from the wrong account. Click “make default” next to the address you want to be your main one (1). Make sure, by the way, that your full name appears in front of your email address (figure 2 above). If it does not, click on “edit info” and correct it. This is what appears in people’s email programs when you send them messages so it should be professional, and not your nickname or blank.
(By the way – an annoying habit I notice many students have is sending emails with no subject line! Never, never, never do that. Always give your email an appropriate subject line. Apart from anything else, sending a blank email can get it flagged as spam).
Test it out
Now send yourself an email and you should see that it appears to be sent from your new domain name! Your first steps towards a professional internet presence are complete…