SpaceX is close to putting humans on Mars – the beginning of a Martian colony.
A huge technological leap for humanity.
And yet I still see businesses using free email addresses on cards, signage, etc.
It drives me absolutely crazy and not just because it’s a pet hate.
There’s a lot more to it than that.
Should you use a free email address for your business?
It’s best practice to never use free email address for your business because it sends the wrong kind of messages to prospective customers and vendors alike i.e. I don’t take my business seriously.
But let’s dig into the exact reasons why a free email address is a terrible idea for your business.
1. You don’t own the address
A free email provider can shut your account down without warning…and you won’t be able to do anything about it.
You could be banned from the service for saying or doing the wrong thing.
They could simply change their mind about offering free email addresses.
Or they might just go out of business – something that usually happens without warning.
Either way, you’ll lose access to your email, your contacts, and other valuable stuff.
You need to own your business assets and your email address is a business asset.
2. It screams “I’m an amateur”
This is the one that I think most businesses completely overlook.
Using a free email address in your business promotional material or signage tells everyone looking at it that you’re:
- Too lazy to get a business email address
- Can’t afford one
- So new to business you don’t think it’s a bad idea
- A combination of the above.
A free email address basically says, “I’m testing the waters here…I haven’t been in business long”.
Even if that’s not actually the case.
A business using a free email address could be in business for years and be the absolute best at what they do.
But the people looking to hire you don’t know that.
If you’re going to cut corners on a tiny investment in your business then what else will you cut corners on if they hire you.
Never give customers a reason to ask questions like the above.
3. You risk domain or brandjacking
Brand-jacking is when somebody else registers your business domain name and then goes around impersonating your business.
They could even use this domain name – and its associated email addresses – to set up multiple accounts on social media.
And then start posting as your business, potentially causing massive amounts of reputational damage.
Or attempt to open accounts/lines of credit with suppliers.
They might even try to extort you for cash i.e. ask you for $10,000 to transfer the domain name to you.
All of which can be avoided by simply not using a free email address for your business.
4. You won’t be able to sign up for services
Here’s a perfect example of something you probably hadn’t even considered.
I recently signed up for Asana to get my freelance client work all organized under one roof.
They ask for a domain-based (@yourdomain.com) email address to register an account with them.
And it’s not just Asana – lots of online services aimed at businesses are doing the same.
Purchasing departments can be a bit odd about businesses that use a free email address.
Probably to keep freeloaders and time wasters out.
Again, it tells them that you’re a rookie..even if you’re not.
5. You’re not building your brand
If you’re using a free Gmail address then you’re building Google’s brand.
The same goes for Yahoo, Outlook, etc. – you’re spreading the good news about those companies.
But not about your business.
Your email address is something about your brand people will remember.
So that’s a wasted opportunity for you to promote your business.
Something you’re not doing multiple times every single day.
6. Your emails could get marked as spam
You are far, far more likely to have your emails go straight into somebody’s spam folder if you’re using a free email address.
Some are worse than others.
One particular service that starts with the letter “Y” has an absolutely abysmal deliverability record.
Deliverability basically means how likely your email is to wind up in the recipient’s inbox instead of their spam folder.
This isn’t a problem 99% of business people have with self-hosted/professional email addresses.
But even outside that, people are simply unlikely to open a “business” email sent from a free address.
They’ll assume it’s a scam, tag it as spam, and again your deliverability suffers.
7. You get zero privacy
Most free email providers mine your data so that they can push ads into your inbox.
Their algorithms literally read the content of your emails without your permission.
But they also read the content of emails you receive from customers or suppliers.
Obviously, this will be covered in the ToS, but then I don’t know anyone who actually reads the ToS before or after signing up for something.
Could your personal data then be sold or traded to third parties and/or as part of some joint venture or merger?
So you’re saving yourself a few bucks per month while simultaneously allowing your data to be sold to the highest bidder.
The only exception to this is companies like ProtonMail – just an FYI.
8. Free means no support
Pray to the old gods and the new that you never run into a serious technical problem with your free email address.
Because you’ll then find out that there’s absolutely no support for free customers in most cases.
Don’t get me wrong, self-hosted email addresses have their own range of technical challenges.
But at least you can get something to answer your questions and potentially even fix the problem for you.
With a free email address, you’ll be left to sort things out on your own…and your business will suffer as a result.
You’ll get hacked?
I’ve seen other blogs saying stuff like, “Using a free email address means you’ll get hacked”.
The likelihood of a big email provider (Gmail, for example) being hacked is pretty much zero.
What does happen though is people use the same password for their email, banking, social media, invoicing software, etc.
One of these companies then suffers a data breach where your email address and password is exposed.
Teenager “hackers” then run automated login attempts on all of the popular free email services – knowing that something like 75% of people use the same password for everything.
That’s how free e-mail accounts get “hacked” – not directly but because the vast majority of people don’t take online security seriously.
Wrapping it up
I understand why any new business might think that using a free email address is fine.
But I hope you now see that it’s pretty much one of the worst ideas you’ve ever had.
It could literally bring your business to a screeching halt if somebody tries to brand jack you.
How can you fix the problem?
Get yourself an account with somebody like SiteGround and you can have as many email addresses as you want.
Or (if you’re a bit more tech-savvy) you can use Google Workspace instead – this used to be known as GSuite.
This allows you to send emails from your own domain name, but with the familiarity of the Gmail interface, and in a far more secure environment.
Long story short, if you want to get treated like a serious business then look and act like one…starting with not using a free email address.