What’s in a domain name (corny, I know, but too obvious to pass up…)? A lot, as it turns out. As freelancers who are dependent on e-mail to keep our businesses running, domain names are very, very important. The three basic options when it comes to e-mail are:
- Use a domain name provided by your Internet Service Provider (ISP), for example firstname.lastname@example.org, @earthlink.net, etc.
- Use a domain name provided by a free or fee-based e-mail service, for example email@example.com, @yahoo.com, etc.
- Use your own domain name, for example firstname.lastname@example.org
Having your professional e-mail attached to a domain that you don’t own has a few disadvantages:
- You are at the domain owner’s mercy. When I first started freelancing back in the days of dialup Internet, I learned this the hard way after moving cross country. I kept the ISP I had used in Boston and several months later, they stopped offering dialup access in Colorado *on one day’s notice,* and there went a good bit of the effort I had put into my nascent freelance business. As cable companies merge, similar things can happen if your cable provider changes its name and thus its domain names.
- Your own domain looks more professional. Not to point fingers, but when I receive a professional e-mail from a Hotmail address, I have the same reaction as when I see the “Get your free business cards at…” imprint on the back of someone’s card. It makes me think that this person will not even invest $25-$50 in their business to create a professional image.
- You risk having to change your e-mail address at some point. When you work in a business where probably 90%+ of your contact with clients is by e-mail, having to change your e-mail address is something you want to avoid at all costs, especially if the old address becomes inactive at some point
After doing some unscientific research, I’ve come to the conclusion that many freelance translators just don’t know how easy it is to purchase and use your own domain. So, here’s a short lesson (now you have no excuse to keep using Hotmail!).
- Do your homework *before* you determine whether your desired domain name is available. Do not assume that just because there is no website at a given web address (URL), that means that the domain name is available. First, read this article on Important Precautions to Take When Buying a Domain Name from The Site Wizard. Be a little paranoid and follow the advice there: make a list of domain names before you ever log on to a registrar; pick the registrar you want before you search for your domain name; never run your potential domain name by anyone you don’t trust completely and when you find out that your desired domain name is available, purchase it immediately.
- Buy the domain name from a domain name registrar. Thanks to The Site Wizard for another excellent article on How to Register Your Own Domain Name. This doesn’t mean that I endorse the domain registrars that are listed there, but they’re a good place to start. Your ISP may also provide domain name registration services (just make sure you really trust the ISP!). Domain name registration should cost you about $10 a year; don’t go with a fly-by-night registrar just to save a dollar or two. In my case I register my domain through my ISP because I trust them more than I trust myself, and they will automatically renew my domain name and bill me for it (more on domain name renewals below).
- If necessary, purchase an e-mail hosting package so that you can use your domain name for e-mail. If you want to put a website at your domain, e-mail access will probably come with your web hosting package. If you just want to use your domain name for e-mail, you need an e-mail hosting package. For example (and again, I’m not endorsing them, this just gives a good example), GoDaddy has e-mail hosting packages for as little as $1.19 a month. Even the most expensive package, which gives you 10 e-mail addresses and unlimited storage is $2.50 a month.
- Don’t forget to renew your domain name. Of anything you need to remember about having your own domain, this is the most important. Especially if you purchase your domain for only one year at a time, make sure you’re clear on how the domain name registrar is going to contact you to ask you to renew; a cut-rate registrar may “forget” to remind you to renew, then one day you go to check your e-mail and you’re locked out. You can semi-circumvent this problem by purchasing a multi-year domain name subscription, but you should still make sure you don’t forget to renew it.
- Follow the domain name registrar’s instructions on how to use your e-mail. If you purchase a hosting package with unlimited storage you can probably use your registrar’s web mail if you want to, or you can use an e-mail program on your computer. Your domain name registrar should be able to give you instructions on how to do this.
Now, what are you waiting for? Go to it!