You may not give much thought to your business email address. You check your email as it comes in, respond when you can, and for many of us, watch the unread count tick ever higher. But little thought goes into the mechanics behind the email account. Many small businesses start out with a very basic email account. Maybe you switch from using your personal email account to creating a free account using your new business name – like mybusiness@yahoo.com or @gmail.com. It’s free, fast, and easy, so why not?

Several reasons. That “free” email account has some big hidden drawbacks.

The biggest is professionalism. Having a what’s called a “domain-based” email account can instantly make your business seem more professional, established, and even larger than it really is. Not having a domain-based email account makes you look much smaller, and less professional. Which looks better – vera_vsquared_itanddesign@gmail.com or Vera@V2ITandDesign.com? Your customers form an opinion of you based on your web presence. Having a professional website and domain based email makes a stronger first impression. It shows that you’ve put time and effort into establishing your company, giving you more credibility. You could lose $1000s of dollars in sales because your company isn’t viewed as trustworthy or professional.

Another big concern is security. Not all free email providers are created equal. I’ve yet to hear of any Gmail-based account breaches, but many other providers have. Yahoo has had multiple large account breaches in the past few years. I recommend moving away from their email service as fast as possible. (click here for more info on email breaches and how to export your email account from Yahoo.). A security breach can lead to the exposure of sensitive business information. Such breaches carry an immense cost in damages.

Performance is another key issue. Many free email accounts lack robust email handling tools and features. They are often hosted on poorly performing servers. Using an email client (a program that manages your email and calendar, such as Outlook) is one solution. Keep in mind, the most top-performing email clients aren’t free, and can have issues syncing fully with Gmail. Wasted time spent trying to manually manage email is wasted money. Not having a solid email managing plan in place can cost $100s of dollars a week, per employee. Not to mention the risk of losing emails that aren’t archived.

So, what can you do, to present a professional appearance and maintain a secure email account? It’s easier than you may think.

Purchase a domain name, if you don’t have one already.
Choose an email hosting solution
Move your address book and calendar data to the new account.
Share your new email address!
Click here to download a printable version of this checklist, with helpful notes for each step!

What email challenges has your company faced? Tell us in the comments below: