How to Use Your Personal Gmail Account for Professional Emails
Google’s Gmail has really set the bar when it comes to personal email services and features. In fact, today Gmail is the most popular email service in the United States (source). Based on the stats published by Google and others, it’s very likely that you, the very person reading this, are also a Gmailer.
Branded Email Addresses
As an entrepreneur, freelancer, business owner, or whatever else you classify yourself as, using your personal Gmail address for professional reasons is a huge branding no-no. It makes your brand look sloppy and unprofessional to those interested in doing business with you.
Don’t agree with me? Think about this scenario…
You’re in the market to hire a photographer. Two professional photographers approach you at the same time and, without saying a word, just hand you their business card and walk away. Each card contains nothing but an email address on it. Photographer #1 has a card that says “firstname.lastname@example.org”, while photographer #2 has a card that says, “email@example.com”.
Who do you email first? Most will favor photographer #2 because that individual is perceived as being more professional in nature. The assumption is that photographer #2 has invested both time and money into developing their brand, meanwhile photographer #1 took the lazy way out. Would you want to hire a lazy professional that doesn’t invest in their own brand? Hell no.
The downside to having a branded email address is that it’s just another email account for you to have to check.
Let’s face it, you really don’t want to have to keep multiple tabs in your browser open to see the emails from your various accounts. You could opt to use an email client such as Mozilla’s Thunderbird or Apple’s Mail, but these solutions are not cloud-based. This means that if you lose or break your computer, you’ll have to reconfigure all your accounts on a new machine
Using a cloud-based solution means that no matter where you are or what device you’re using, you can still check your messages.
Thankfully, Google allows Gmail users to not only check email from other services, but they also allow you to send email as your professional persona.
Let’s go through the steps to make this happen…
Step 1: Create a Branded Email Address
Before you can check messages from a custom branded email address, you first need a branded email to begin with.
Having a branded email address requires you to register your brand’s domain. This isn’t free, but it’s very inexpensive. On average, I pay about $14 per year to have a domain. If you don’t have one, take your pick from the hundreds of domain registrars out there and grab a domain.
Once you’ve got a domain, you’ll need to create an email account for that domain. This usually costs a minimal amount of money as well. Now, I won’t go into the details of how to do this because each company has a different method. You’ll just need to look for the navigation option that alludes to creating an email account or inbox, then follow the instructions they give you. If they try to sell you antivirus, additional storage or some other bells-and-whistles before checkout, ignore it. You probably won’t be needing any of that and, should you decide you want it down the road, you can always add it at that point.
Step 2: Find Your Server Settings
Once you have a branded email address, you should be given “server settings”. This may be provided on-screen after you check out, it might be sent to you in an email or you might have to search through the company’s website to locate them.
When you find them, be sure to jot them down or grab a screenshot so you can reference later. Here are the settings you’re going to need:
- IMAP/POP3 Address – This is used for getting new emails. You’ll only need one of these, so pick what you prefer. If you’re unsure what the differences are between IMAP and POP3, look over this article (it’s a quick read).
- SMTP Address – This is used for sending out emails.
- Port Numbers – This is used for stuff that you don’t care about, but you’ll need them in a second. Google it if you really want to know; otherwise just write them down.
- Username – This is typically your custom email address.
- Password – This is the password you entered when creating the email account.
Step 3: Setup Incoming Emails
Now is when you’re going to want to open your personal Gmail. In the top right portion of your screen is a gear button. Click that, then select “Settings” from the options that appear.
In the settings area, select the tab that says “Accounts and Import”, then scroll down to where it says “Check mail from other accounts” and click on “Add a mail account you own”.
Now is when you’ll need to pull out those server settings we talked about in the previous step. Gmail is going to first ask you for the new email address. After that, you’ll need to put in your server settings then toggle a few options on or off. Here’s a screenshot of one of my email settings and the boxes I checked…
As you can see, I’ve chosen to leave a copy of all messages on the server, use a secure connection and label incoming messages. You don’t need to use the same options that I’ve selected, but I do recommend using a secure connection and labeling the messages.
Step 4: Setup Outgoing Emails
Now that your messages are coming into your Gmail, we need to make sure you can send messages using this same address. To do this, start by going to the same “Accounts and Import” tab, then scroll down to the area that says “Send mail as”. Like before, you’re going to want to click on the link at the bottom of that area.
Just like the incoming messages, you’ll now be presented with a screen to put in your server settings. Go ahead and do that. After you’ve saved your “Send mail as” settings, you need to do one more thing on the “Accounts and Import” tab. In the same “Send mail as” area, there’s an option for “When replying to a message”. I would advise that you select “Reply from the same address the message was sent to”.
Step 5: Setup a Signature (Optional)
If you’ve completed all the steps above, you’re pretty much finished, but you may want to add a professional signature to your new email address. To do this, head back over to the Settings area and click on the “General” tab. Scroll down to the area that says “Signature”. Select the option with the drop down bar, then choose your professional email address. Now, create your signature.
At a minimum, you’ll probably want to include your name and job title in the signature. Note that you can add links, format the signature text and add images, so you might also want to add links to your social media profiles, your website, etc. I don’t generally recommend adding an image to your signature though.
Step 6: Organize with Filters and Labels (Optional)
Depending on how many emails you get and how much you value organization, you may choose to apply filters and labels in Gmail. How you go about doing this should be based on how you work and what makes the most sense for your unique situation. Here’s a quick video that covers how to do that…
Congratulations! You can now check both your personal and professional email accounts from the same cloud-based interface. If you’ve got any questions, leave a comment below!
About the Author
My professional experience with the web reaches back more than 8 years. During this time, I've been developing sites for individuals and businesses, working on a team of digital experience analysts as well as providing qualitative and quantitative research surrounding web and mobile technology.Jonathan