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Affordable, Secure Email: Using Google Apps for Your Business

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It’s easy to make a misstep when launching your freelance career, but there’s one mistake I consistently see freelance writers and small business owners make: using a free email service for their business correspondence.

In the grand scheme of things, perhaps using a free webmail client isn’t the absolute worst mistake you could possibly make, but you’re certainly not winning any brownie points if you’re still counting on your old Yahoo address to get the job done. Of course, this mistake isn’t exclusive to freelancers. For example, I saw the post below on Facebook a few weeks ago:

FacebookscreenshotgappsTrust me, you don’t want people saying “eww” in response to your email. Even worse yet, the original poster pointed out that her first impression had proven correct. Don’t give would-be clients the opportunity to build a negative impression before they’ve even seen your work! Plus, think of the free advertising you’re missing out on. Every time you give your professional email out to someone, you’re giving them your URL where they can learn about your services. Why would you want to miss that opportunity?

Some freelancers have taken the first step and no longer use a free mail service, but instead choose to set up a free email account with their web host. This isn’t the best option for a number of reasons:

1. If your server goes down, both your domain name AND your email account become unavailable.

Most freelancers use shared server space, which is a-okay if you don’t have tons of traffic. But how many of us have experienced a period of downtime where your website was inaccessible? Yep, I’m in that boat, too! Downtime is a fact of life, and even really great hosts (like BlueHost, my provider) experience bouts of downtime. Having your site down for a few hours really stinks, but it probably won’t throw a wrench in your work. Losing email service, on the other hand—that’s a BIG problem.

2. Think your email is secure? Think again.

Does your web host offer virus protection, advanced spam filters, and automated backups for your data? No? That’s all you need to know.

3. If you change web hosts, you’re in trouble.

I’ve been using Bluehost since 2007, but a lot of freelancers change hosts at some point along the way. What happens when all of your archived mail is stored on the same server where you’ve placed your web files? Suddenly migration just became a lot more troublesome. Have fun moving all of those emails or downloading them to your hard drive for safe keeping. Ick!

Google Apps LogoIntroducing Google Apps

Okay, so hopefully I’ve convinced you to give your old Hotmail, AOL, and Yahoo accounts the boot, but what can you use if free webmail services are out and your host’s shared email services are off the table? Introducing Google Apps, a full-featured platform that makes it easy for you to send and receive mail using your own domain name. ([email protected]) If you’re already familiar with Google’s free products, you’ll take to Google Apps immediately—you’re getting the exact same services, but you benefit from extra storage (a whopping 30 GB) and a range of extra collaboration features. Your clients will never know you’re accessing your account through Google, and you’ll be able to check your messages via Gmail.com or through your preferred email client (think Outlook and Mail (Mac), in addition to the mail client on your smartphone.)

Fortunately, Google Apps is really easy to set up—and you’ll only spend $5/month for your account. For reference, I tried a vanilla latte with coconut milk at Starbucks this past weekend, and I paid $4.79. Isn’t a professional email account worth a cup of coffee you’ll down in 15 minutes?

Have you sent me a message and received a response from an address @writingfromatoz.com? Now you know my secret—I’m not a wizard, I just use Google Apps.

What email service do you use for freelancing? Have you tried Google Apps and had a good experience?