When you start out on your own, there are two things you’ll want to get sorted early on: a website and an email address. The former will help people to find out what you do and the latter will help them get in touch with you. Linking them both to your own domain gives you a professional persona for academic consultancy.
Buying a domain, and creating a website and email address may sound scary. I’ve recently done just that for my new freelance business, and in this post I’ll share my experience and some tips to help you along the way.
Buying a domain and creating your website
The first step is to choose a domain name. Here are some things to consider:
- make it meaningful; use your name or your company’s name
- make it memorable; if you’ve got a common name, think about how you can distinguish yourself from others, perhaps include a keyword related to your work
- keep it short; there will be times you want to write it out, or print it on something
As well as choosing a domain name, you also need to pick a domain extension, .com, .co.uk etc. While it’s tempting to go for something totally unique, there are some benefits to the more common extensions. For example if you register a .co.uk address you are able to protect your privacy by opting to have your personal information hidden in the whois database.
Now you’re ready to create a website. There are a couple of approaches to this.
- Website platform with domain registration
With this option you can build a website and register your domain through one service, like Squarespace or wordpress.com (the hosted version of WordPress). You’ll have a professional looking site up and running in no time.
Some platforms offer free domain registration, while others give the option to purchase a domain through them. If you’ve already got a domain registered then it’s also possible to map this to your new site. There may be an additional cost for this though.
There’s a good overview of the different options plus costs involved in Mashable’s post How to choose the best platform for your personal website.
My personal blog is set up in this way, using wordpress.com and a domain purchased through them.
2. Web hosting and domain registration
This option gives you more flexibility and doesn’t require any technical know-how, just a bit of courage and patience. Most web hosts provide 1-click installation of website platforms like wordpress.org (the self-hosted version of WordPress – find out about the differences between wordpress.com and worpress.org), but if you do have the skills, you could code your own website.
There are many, many web hosts around, so do some research before you settle. I use Reclaim Hosting. It’s a cost-effective, no-fuss, customer-focused hosting service for the education community. My professional website is powered by wordpress.org with hosting and domain provided by Reclaim Hosting.
Setting up an email account
Once you’ve got your website sorted, next comes email. Again, there are a couple of options.
- Email forwarding
Most domain registration services offer this option at no extra cost. You can choose a new address attached to your domain, eg firstname.lastname@example.org, and have it forwarded to an existing email account.
When I first started out I had my email forwarding from my new address to my gmail account.
You can change the settings in your email client to allow you to reply from the address your mail gets sent to. So to the outside world it will look like you’re only using the address linked to your domain.
This is considerably easier to set up than option two, but there is a downside. I found with this approach it’s not that easy to separate out work email from personal mail (if you’re connecting it to an existing personal account). And also, not so easy to disconnect outside working hours.
2. Hosted email
A second option is to host your new email using a third party service like GSuite (formerly Google Apps) or Zoho Mail. And I’m sure there are others out there. You can set them up through your web host or domain registrar.
Some email services will have a small monthly cost – GSuite is $5 per user per month. Others, like Zoho, may be free for a basic package but extra apps or storage space could come at a price.
The main benefit of this approach is that you’ll have a separate account for your work email. It helps to keep the line between personal and professional clear since there’s no risk of you accidentally sending an email to a client from your personal address. With these services you’ll also get access to other apps, like online collaboration tools. I’ve found this added feature useful for separating content, like shared documents, into work and personal accounts.