Although there are lots of free email services like Gmail, Windows Live and Yahoo!, setting up a domain name and customised email address is much easier than it sounds and can be done by anyone who has a moderate level of computer literacy. If you can follow instructions, type and use a mouse – you can set up your own email.
It’s really worth doing this if you’re in business. It makes you look more professional, it’s cheap and it means that you are the master of your domain (pun intended) so that your email address won’t change of you swap your ISP. It also means that you can set up multiple email addresses for different purposes.
If you have any trouble separating your work and personal lives, having separate email addresses for each helps freelancers ensure that the work/family balance is maintained.
It should only take an hour or so to set up the email account but it can take up to 48 hours for the changes to take effect. You’ll be editing something called a DNS record for your domain and it can take a couple of days for the changes to propogate across the entire Internet. However, it’s possible that the email will be active in less than a couple of hours.
This isn’t a comprehensive guide – it’s an overview of the process. Most service providers have comprehensive instructions on their websites. The problem I’ve found in the past is that knowing where to find those instructions is a challenge.
Step 1 – Register a Domain Name
A domain is a unique name that’s used to identify a internet resources. When you look at a web address it will be in the form www.totallyfreelance.com. The domain name is the “totallyfreelance.com” part.
To claim or register a domain name, you need to go through one of the companies that has been authorised to hand out domain names. This company is called a registrar.
There are lots of different registrars to choose from. And although they are all selling similar products, they all offer different extra services and, therefore, charge different prices.
If you’re purchasing a regular “.com” domain name, then it’s pretty much a free-for-all. Sure, you can’t purchase a domain that would obviously misrepresent you and thou can’t cybersquat.
When you’re choosing the registrar you’ll be buying the domain through, make sure that you will have the authority to make modifications to the domain’s DNS record. I know that sounds very complicated and nerdy but it’s actually easy as long as you’re allowed to do it. Most registrars allow this but some charge extra.
I usually purchase my domains from GoDadddy. You’ll need either a credit card or PayPal account to make the purchase. It’s important that you shop around. Although I use GoDaddy – I’m not necessarily recommending them as being a good choice for everyone.
If you do choose GoDaddy, pay attention as you go through the ordering process. The ordering processing has some fairly heavy onselling so make sure you don’t buy anything extra that you don’t need. In particular, don’t pay for the email hosting option as there are free options available.
Domain registration for a “.com” address is about $10AUD per year from GoDaddy.
Step 2 – Set up the email service
Once the domain is registered, you’ll need to create an account with an email provider.
There are several options here. I use Google Apps but a web search for “free email hosting” will reveal lots of options and leads.
If you choose Google Apps, then you can do the domain registration there so that Step 1 and Step 2 are combined.
Once you’ve chosen your preferred provider you’ll need to enter some information. You will need an alternate email address as well as the one you are setting up. Your current, non-business one will suffice.
This process is very straightforward. All you need to do is follow the instructions. There’s nothing tricky or technical to do.
Step 3 – Putting the domain and email service together
Back in Step 1 we said that you needed to ensure that you had control of your domain’s DNS record. The DNS record is the information that tells the world what to do when someone tries to access your domain.
For example, it’s the DNS record that directs the world to your website when the enter “www.yourwebsite.com”. It’s also the DNS record that tells the world where the mailboxes for your domain are so that email is delivered correctly.
In order to make the appropriate changes with your email provider, you’ll need to prove to them that you own the domain you’re registering. To do that, you typically either need to upload a file to your website or make a chnage to the domain’s DNS record. If you haven’t yet set up your website, changing the DNS record is the easiest thing to do.
If you’ve chosen Google Apps for your email, they provide detailed instructions for modifying the DNS record. In summary, the process involves:
- Logging in to your domain registrar’s website.
- Going to the Account Management area of the site
- Opening the DNS record for the domain you’ve registered
- Making the changes as instructed and saving the changes
The process should only take a few minutes to do but may take up to two days to take full effect.
Once your ownership of the domain is confirmed, you can change the DNS record so that your email uses the new domain name. This involves changes the MX (Mail Exchange) records in the DNS.
It’s important to enter the information exactly as directed, including any trailing fullstops and ensuring that there are no extra spaces accidentally typed in or other errors.