The guide to getting your own custom email address

Custom Email

Custom email may seem like a small detail in the larger branding picture, but it’s hugely important. In a single glance, this is what it means to your customers, clients, and/or acquaintances:

  • Custom email address = you’ve created a real business
  • Your old gmail.com or yahoo.com email address = this is your weekend hobby

So let’s patch up your branding right now and set you on the path to legitimacy. It’s an inexpensive (sometimes free) bit of branding that will make a world of difference for your brand.

  1. The basics
  2. Custom email options
  3. Email forwarding?
  4. Can’t you get a free custom address with Google Apps?
  5. Can’t you get a free custom address with Microsoft?
  6. What should go before the @?

The basics

When creating a custom email address, think of it the same way you would when creating a new website. First, pick an email platform to use, then install it to your custom domain. For example, if “The Dude”—fictional owner of theinternet.io—wanted to set up a custom email address, he would search through the email hosts in our Marketplace, then pick the one that suits him best. Each of them will allow him to email from thedude@theinternet.io, but each will also provide a slightly different set of features, a different webmail client, and a wide range of prices.

Custom email options

We have five custom email platform options in our Marketplace, all providing stable service and excellent customer support. Check each platform for updated prices (usually priced per user/mailbox).

  • Zoho Mail: For many users, Zoho Mail is a top choice because it’s free for up to 25 mailboxes. Free! It’s also easy to install, has a clean interface, delivers push mail and two-way sync, and never displays weird ads on your page.
  • Google Apps: Google Apps is likely the most common email host people are using these days—and for good reason. With Google Apps, you get the exact same email interface and benefits you get with a personal Gmail account, but with the added organizational benefits of Google Drive, Google Calendar, Google Sites, and more.
  • Fastmail.fm: Created by Opera Software—the company behind the Opera browser—Fastmail.fm is growing fast because of its dedication to reliability and security.
  • ProtonMail: If you’re looking for maximum security, end-to-end encryption, and a surprisingly nice UI, ProtonMail is where you want to be.
  • Rackspace Email: While Rackspace Email doesn’t provide all the bells and whistles of a platform like Google Apps, it does have one very nice feature—hosted Microsoft Exchange. For non-Exchange users, Rackspace also provides a nice webmail platform, 24x7 support, and multiple layers of spam and virus protection.

Email forwarding?

Unlike providers like Zoho Mail and Fastmail, Pobox specializes in email forwarding. So instead of attaching your email address to a service with a webmail system you’re not used to, Pobox lets you forward your new unique email address to an email platform (and address) you commonly use.

Here’s the basic pitch, from pobox.com:

Email forwarding makes it possible for you to separate where you read your email from your email identity. Forwarding takes mail sent to one address, and redirects it to another, without the sender having to know.

Your email address, your identity, is how you keep in touch, what you use to access many websites… indeed, it’s how you’re known. Email forwarding lets you easily change where you read your mail, without getting a new address.

It breaks the tie between your mailbox and your address.

If your email provider introduces a new policy you dislike, you can move. If your ISP changes its name, your email address is unaffected. If a new service starts up that you’d love to try, you can.

If you’re interested in email forwarding, we thoroughly recommend this guide from Eric Mill (it even goes through the iwantmyname installation process).

Can't you get a free custom address with Google Apps?

Back in the day, Google Apps had a free tier that allowed people to set up free custom email addresses for up to ten users. It was awesome. But near the end of 2012, Google shut their free service down, forcing people to look for paid (gasp!) alternatives.

But there may still be a way to do it (if this workaround doesn’t work anymore, let us know and we’ll take it down). From Ian Macalinao:

It’s pretty much common knowledge that Gmail is awesome. It’s fast, connects seamlessly with the rest of your Google services such as Drive, has a cool app called Inbox, and is overall an extremely powerful email service. However, to use it with a custom domain, you need to purchase Google Apps for either $5 or $10/month, which for casual users is a bit unnecessary. On top of that, you don’t even get all of the features a personal account gets, e.g. Inbox.

However, there’s a free way to use your Gmail account with a custom domain: Mailgun.

It only works for up to 10,000 emails a month (which seems like a lot) and is definitely developer-centric, but… it’s free!

Can't you get a free custom address with Microsoft?

Like the free custom email deal with Google Apps, Microsoft used to offer a service that allowed users to attach their custom domains to free Hotmail and Outlook.com accounts. But in 2014, they shut it down to focus on their paid offerings.

From Ed Bott, ZDNet:

The move is disappointing, but not surprising. The fact that the Windows Live Admin Center continued to use the old Windows Live branding and was never updated with the modern design of Outlook.com was probably the biggest clue. In addition, the service has always been extremely limited, with administrators only able to add or delete addresses. And the relatively recent addition of a prominent Microsoft Office 365 link under the Sign In button was telling as well.

Basically, if you’re looking for free custom email today, your only option is Zoho Mail.

What should go before the @??

Once you get your custom email address set up, your next task is to create individual email addresses (the part before the @). Fortunately (or unfortunately, if you’re bad at making decisions), the possibilities are endless. You can use your first name, your last name, some combination of the two, generic words like “owner” or “support”, nicknames like “bossman” or “lordofemail”, or any other name you can think of.

But before you start, take a minute to think about the future. First, you’ll probably want to make specific email accounts for individual people. Here are two potential landmines:

  • firstname@: You’ve started your brand, now you want your email to be personable, yet professional. So you go with amy@yourbrand.com. When your brand is small, it’s fine, but what happens when you hire another Amy? Does that Amy get an email address using her last name (which would break your naming consistency)? Her initials?
  • lastname@: Same issue as firstname@.

If you want to be safe, go with something like firstnamelastname@, firstname.lastname@, firstnamelastinitial@, or firstinitiallastname@. Sure, there will always be exceptions to the rule (if two people have the exact same name, maybe you can force them into a Hunger Games-type situation), but doing what you can to avoid future duplication will make your life much easier later.

After everyone has an individual account, be sure to create some general accounts for different roles. For example, it’s better to create a press@ account than to just have that email go to a specific person (what happens if that person leaves or takes on a new role within the company?). Don’t go overboard though—having too many email accounts can get confusing for everyone.

Questions? Comments?