Software

Tips for choosing your professional email address

Your professional email address is like a handshake to clients. Chip Camden advises what to do and what not to do when creating that email address.

Andréa Coutu wrote recently about 7 terrible secrets revealed by your email address (and how to fix them). Her advice is good, and I recommend reviewing each of her points before you decide on your "official" email address.

If you're in business as an IT consultant, you have no excuse for not having your own domain name. If domain registration and hosting breaks your bank, then you shouldn't be in this business. Even if your niche has nothing to do with the Internet (as unlikely as that's becoming), nothing says "I'm not really serious" like an account on hotmail.com, yahoo.com, especially aol.com, and even gmail.com (unless you're a Google employee). Not that you can't also have one of those addresses (except aol.com, what were you thinking?!), but don't use it professionally.

When choosing your domain name, you should use the name of your business. If your business doesn't have a name, get one. Even if it's just "your name here Consulting," you should present yourself as a commercial entity. If you feel that your business name is too long for a domain name, you should make sure your abbreviation seems natural and obvious. For example, my business name is "Camden Software Consulting," and my domain name is "camdensoftware.com". If I had chosen something like "camdenswcnsltng.com," then my contacts would always have to look it up to remember how I abbreviated it. Also watch out for unintended words that arise from combining abbreviations. You wouldn't want to abbreviate "Megara Associates, Inc." as "megastinc.com" for example.

I've seen some independents who treat their domain name like an 800 number: they make it into an ad. Domains like "peoriacomputerwiz.com" may be cute, but unless it's also the name of your business, your client will have one more thing to remember when they want to contact you. "Was it peoriacomputerguy.com, or peoriapcguy.com? Or wait, isn't their office in Pekin?"

For the top-level domain (TLD), I think ".com" is preferable. It means "commercial" (you're in business here, aren't you?) and despite being US in origin, it has international applicability. It's also what flies off people's fingers automatically when they're typing a domain. If you limit your business to one country or region, then a nation-specific commercial TLD could also be appropriate. The ".org" TLD says "I'm a non-profit!" even though you don't have to use it for that. The ".net" TLD is a little better, but people tend to infer some sort of online community instead of a business. You should avoid ".biz" and ".info" -- the spammers polluted that space years ago, and your emails will get filtered for that reason alone.

There's nothing wrong with registering the same domain in several TLDs and redirecting them all to the same address, though. In fact, it's a good way to keep other people from using your business name.

For the local part of your email address (the part preceding the "@"), I suggest just using your name. I don't care if it's your first name, your last name, or first.last name -- as long as it's your name. An Internet pseudonym comes across as unprofessional here. On the other end of the spectrum, "sales@" or "info@" seem too impersonal. Sure, you can establish those addresses to catch the wayward or the cold contacts, but when you give a customer your email address, it's a good idea to make it like a handshake.

So, how does your email address compare with these criteria?

About

Chip Camden has been programming since 1978, and he's still not done. An independent consultant since 1991, Chip specializes in software development tools, languages, and migration to new technology. Besides writing for TechRepublic's IT Consultant b...

18 comments
Ziesha0056
Ziesha0056

You should look out for features along with the domain name. Choose your domain name according to your profession like I've noticed Email.biz is a website which provides domain for emails according to you desire.

alcoutu
alcoutu

It's been a while since you graciously posted this link and since I posted my article, but I'm surprised how many people email me to say they are offended by the idea that people shouldn't share email addresses with their life partners! I have no care at all for how people manage their personal affairs, but, really, if it's your business, you want to look as professional as possible.

andmark
andmark

Your impression about .com is valid in that it specifies commercial business, and not necessarily US based. Unfortunately, it is becoming very difficult to find available .com names and .net is the only alternative despite your bias against it. As a new Aussie company, we were unable to find MyDomainName.com because a German company had already taken your advise and registered 15 domain names that were similar and pointed them to their site. "There???s nothing wrong with registering the same domain in several TLDs and redirecting them all to the same address, though. In fact, it???s a good way to keep other people from using your business name." Thanks for crowding us out by advocating a form of cyberquatting which is both illegal and unethical. .

apotheon
apotheon

> So, how does your email address compare with these criteria? Your description of criteria perfectly matches my own take on the matter. Unfortunately, the .com for my domain is already taken (but not actually used, evidently), so I went with singularit.us for Singular IT, LLC. I got as close to the ideal as I reasonably could. Maybe the .com domain name will open up in the nearish future. edit: By the way, Andr??a Coutu (who wrote 7 terrible secrets revealed by your email address) evidently doesn't know that one should Use RFC 2606 Example Domains For Example Emails.

Brad Egeland
Brad Egeland

Chip- NIce article with great advice. It seems logically and that everyone should know this, but we all make bad choices and I've seen consultants and small businesses do every one of the don'ts that you listed. Thanks! Brad Egeland

Jay Purple
Jay Purple

try CompuServe. Can't get any more retro than logging in every day to check your mail at 56K. XD the awkward moment when it seems that website is STILL being maintained!

Ekendra Lamsal
Ekendra Lamsal

Every start ups and those who are in business but don't know the professionalism in web would find this information very useful!

DittoHeadStL
DittoHeadStL

When you hire into a company, they usually tell you what e-mail address you will get. That's fine for most uses, but what I have found is that as employees come & go, their registrations at different vendors & customers still have the old address. Of course, when someone leaves, you would simply forward the incoming mail to a supervisor or other active individual, but you still have the task of correcting all of those john.doe@... entries out there. So for any situation where you want your company's relationship with another to continue, it'd be best to set up John Doe with his individual address, but also as a member of a group like Purchasing@... DevelopmentManager@ or some other functional description. Then after John leaves, you simply switch another individual into John's old slot and you don't need to go out and do all those corrections.

Sterling chip Camden
Sterling chip Camden

Chip at Camden Software. Or you can use my formal name, Sterling. They both work.

Sterling chip Camden
Sterling chip Camden

I don't mind people having a joint email address for a couple (OK, I do, but I can let that be) -- but using that address for a professional consultancy just seems like mixing the messages too freely. I guess people view their email identity as part of their psyche these days. I even received an email from someone defending the professionalism of using an aol.com address. After we exchanged a couple of messages, he turned out to be a great guy, but the imputation that his e-front-door looked kindergartenish kind of stung him at first.

apotheon
apotheon

> Thanks for crowding us out by advocating a form of cyberquatting which is both illegal and unethical. Illegal . . . where? Laws are not universal. Unethical . . . maybe. I guess it depends on how you target your domain name acquisitions and why. If that German company doesn't operate in Australia at all, and grabbed the .au domain, I'd say that might well be unethical. If it just grabbed the .de and .com domains, however, I don't really see a problem. 15? Seriously . . . ? I can't even figure out what fifteen top-level domains it would have gotten. That's a helluva lotta domains.

Sterling chip Camden
Sterling chip Camden

"sterling" or "chip" at camdensoftware dot com/net/org will all reach me.

andmark
andmark

Cybersquatting was made illegal by the passage of a US federal law in 1999 known as the Anti-Cybersquatting Consumer Protection Act. The law became necessary because numerous large companies were forced to pay large sums to buy their domain names from third parties. "Cybersquatting, the practice of buying up a domain in order to profit from a trademarked name, is prohibited under the 1999 Anticybersquatting Consumer Protection Act as well as a set of international guidelines called the Uniform Domain-Name Dispute-Resolution Policy. Disputes are usually mediated by the National Arbitration Forum or the U.N.'s World Intellectual Property Organization." The German company involved is called Endmark (not even same name) and has registered 15 domain names, yes seriously, that are similar to theirs, (including Andmark). They CANT register the .au name Endmark, or Andmark because of the Australian requirement for an office located here. My point being that advocating the registration of multiple domain names by the author is only encouraging this counter productive business practice.

Sterling chip Camden
Sterling chip Camden

Making use of your own trademark isn't illegal or unethical. Cybersquatting is when you obtain the domain for someone else's trademark in order to hold it hostage for a big fee. I also disagree with the wisdom of that law that allows a corporation to swipe that domain from someone who already bought it, though.

apotheon
apotheon

The "cybersquatting" that is illegal in the US is not the same as the practice Sterling described. late edit: Actually, a company with a trademarked name that buys half a dozen domains related to that name and runs across one other guy who has a similar domain he isn't really using is then more likely to be able to sue that one guy for "cybersquatting" under the US law than someone just getting into the market is to be able to sue the big company with the trademarked name that is buying up all the domain names. It's a ridiculous law and, ultimately, achieves an effect roughly opposite to what you seem to think it does.

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