New freelancers make a few mistakes that no one will tell you are mistakes, because they don’t want to offend you, or they may have already disregarded you because of this stupid mistake and don’t wish to become mired in the soup of your (sure to be squalid) company.
Now, I know your company is neither squalid nor soup-like, and I have no fear of offending you. I am, in fact, sure that I will offend you, but I embrace this honor with open arms and live not in dread.
Come now! We shall discuss the ineptitudes of others! (For I am sure that you do not do any of these things, and if you do, I am sure you will not admit to them until you have safely remedied them quietly behind the scenes.)
So. You need a professional email address.
This may seem obvious to some of you, but trust me, it continues to be a problem for many a freelancer out there. People that I have taken semi-seriously on the phone instantly lose my respect if I find out their email is something silly, or if they have a free account from one of the more commonplace (read: non-business-oriented) providers out there.
And I am a pretty easygoing person. I am down with it if you want to cuss on your promotional materials or show a picture of yourself on your website throttling a giraffe because it stole your Diet Coke. (In fact, if you do both of those things, we should definitely have coffee sometime.)
However, a bad email address is like that robot that was always freaking out on Lost in Space. “Danger!” it goes. “Danger, Will Robinson!” And even though my name is not Will Robinson, I KNOW DANGER WHEN I HEAR IT.
I am going to tell you a story about a woman who wanted to be my client some years ago. In her email address, she not only had a silly made-up email name from AOL. (I won’t tell you what it is, but the made-up equivalent is a lot like babybatshereyelashes2001.)
You know how, when you receive an email from someone, their name appears right next to the subject line? Okay. Her name began with “Jedi”, and it ended with a name that is a made-up name on the level of schoolgirls who like to pretend they are Sailor Moon’s companions or whatever it is kids are into these days.
This woman was trying very hard to convince me that I should give her discounted copywriting because she was so good at what she did in the web world that I would recoup my losses very shortly and she would only ever use me as her copywriter in the future.
A few points I would like to make here:
I was a friend of the Jedi. I am a strong supporter of Yoda and his kith and kin. I despise and fear the Dark Side of the Force, and I think that the Death Star was startlingly creepy for essentially being a gray ball with a bite taken out of it. I am ALL FOR THE JEDI. If this woman had a tiny sentence at the end of her bio about how she was a Star Wars nerd, we would likely be swooning over Han Solo together to this very day.
But it was in her EMAIL. DUDE.
Now, I’m sure that most of you are not actually doing this. I am sure you do not refer to yourself as Jedi Stronginthearm or whatever in your email account, and I am sure that the email account itself is not dirtygirlswoohoo@hotmail.
Even if it is not such a glaringly terrible violation of email protocol as that example, is your email professional? And how do you know?
Here is your priority list for email addresses, people. Listen up:
First and best: Get an email address that is your web URL and your name or a common business-y type summary for the whole company. For example, you can email us here at email@example.com. Looks very nice. Very professional. If you want to put your first name or last name in there instead of the “info” that works great too.
Second and still pretty good: Get an email address that is a well-known business email provider, and your full name. Since you are obviously not going to get firstname.lastname@example.org (no, seriously, you’re not going to get it. Or any other first name. And you don’t want to.), get your full name. Your full name is much better anyway because it adds an extra measure of professionalism to your address.
Do not use email addresses from the following providers as your official business email. I know they’re perfectly good providers in general, but they simply do not have the business credibility: AOL, Yahoo, and especially Hotmail.
To give yourself an idea of when the name thing is appropriate, think about business cards. If you met a guy who didn’t have an official company but who freelanced under his own name, you’d be cool with that, right? So you no longer think of that guy as James over at Men with Pens (I’m picking on James today, just because I like to). You think of that guy as James Chartrand, Freelance Copywriter.
(He wanted me to add Extraordinaire. I wouldn’t let him.)
However, if that guy handed you a business card that just said James – Freelance Copywriter, it’d be a little weird. If you’re going to trade on your name alone with no business name to go with it, use your full name when choosing an email address. I suggest putting a little period between the two, because otherwise it looks all mashed-up. email@example.com works great.
Alright, people, confession time: How does your email measure up? Is it as professional as it can be?