Owning Your Own Email Name (for free)

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If your name is still available as an Internet “domain name”, buy it now. Ditto your children’s names. Here’s a recent article where I explain why.

As I say there, it costs peanuts to take ownership of your web-name: GaryMatthews.com, PeterFlipsen.com, or whatever yours would be. And I stress — again — that you should do this even if you’re never going to have a website.

A key reason being email.

Once you’ve bought your Internet name, it costs nothing extra to use it for email: You@YourName.com. So even if the domain name isn’t (quite) free, the email address is.

EmailDomainAnd this remains true — or at least, it can be true — even if you don’t have a website.

Better yet, if you grab your domain name now, the associated email address should remain free, forever. If you wait, it may cost you.

Looking for Free

Even after you buy your own name, it’s getting harder to use it for email as a no-extra-charge add-on. If, for example, you register your web domain at GoDaddy.com, GoDaddy will then try to sell you all sorts of extra services, including email. The latter is currently around $3 a month. (Ignore their pitches.)

Google — via Google Apps — used to let you to connect your domain for free to a Gmail account. That is, you’d have a Gmail account labeled “You@YourName.com” rather than “YourName@Gmail.com”. This didn’t cost anything extra.

But recently, Google has started charging for this service. Using a custom-domain email address with Gmail now costs $5 per month. (My impression is that the service remains free if you have an older account that was set up before the price hike.)

UPDATE: This post originally reported that Microsoft, through its Outlook email service, allowed free use of a custom domain. That was true when written. But Microsoft has since joined Google in charging for email unless you use the “outlook.com” brand (or “hotmail.com”, as it used to be called).

Google, GoDaddy, Microsoft, and lots of other companies can charge you because a custom address is immensely valuable. And their prices for this add-on seem reasonable enough. Just not free!

Who’s left in the free corner? Zoho, for one!

Yes, Zoho.com still lets you use a custom domain for free. That is, register YourName.com at GoDaddy or NameCheap or any other registrar — and then Zoho, at no charge, lets you send and receive mail using You@YourName.com.

(Don’t take this literally, by the way. It’s only an example. I just checked and discovered that “YourName.com” already is registered as a domain name. The point is to get and use your own.)

You’ll find simple instructions on the Zoho.com website. The process is fairly simple: You will need to edit the DNS file at your domain registrar to point to Zoho’s mail-exchange servers. Zoho gives easy, illustrated step-by-step instructions for all the major registrars.

An even easier approach would be simply to purchase the domain using Zoho itself as your registrar. (Or transfer it to Zoho from the original registrar.) Then, Zoho itself automatically does the setup, and you can start using your Zoho email without editing any settings.

If you do a web-search for “free email on custom domain”, or something similar, you should find options. But as long as Zoho stays free, you’re covered.

Already have web-mail you love? Gmail? Yahoo? Hotmail? No problem. Once you set up a functioning, free email account under your custom domain, simply forward incoming mail to your “regular” account. (And with most of the bigger web-mail providers, you can configure them to show your custom domain as the “reply-to” address for outgoing messages. It’s called an alias.)

Why Have Your Own Email Domain?

Why go to this trouble? Isn’t it simpler just to go with Gmail or some other free service?

Well, let’s say I’m a tax attorney, and you’re shopping for one. I hand you a business card that includes my email address. Which would you trust more: GaryMatthews(at)Yahoo.com? Or Gary(at)GaryMatthews.com?

The first address says, “Probably I’m not all that successful, since I rely on free services owned by somebody else. Not only could I be anyone — I could disappear at any time.”

The second address says, “I have my own space on the Internet — a domain where I’m in charge. I have a reputation to uphold. I know what I’m doing, and I’m in it for the long haul. You’ll always know where to find me.”

It isn’t just self-employed professionals who need a custom email address at their own web-domain. You need this if you’re a student (even in elementary school). You need it if you’re a blue-collar worker at a factory. You need it if you’re an office temporary. You need it if you’re a stay-at-home mom running a household.

Unless you’re one of those rare souls who doesn’t have, and would never need, email, I can’t think of anyone who wouldn’t benefit from a custom email address.

As I pointed out in my previous article, once you own your domain, you aren’t limited to one email address. You can create as many as you like. With forwarding, you can route them all through your “main” email account, even if that’s simply a Gmail account. (That’s what I do.)

As I also noted, it’s possible your name is no longer available. If it’s a common name, this isn’t just possible — it’s probable. Lots of the good ones already are taken. But yours may not be.

You can check with a search box at any domain registrar. The oldest, and still one of the best-known, is NetworkSolutions. They aren’t my registrar, being too expensive for my taste. But I like their search interface for domains, and often check names here.

If you can’t get your first choice, it still makes sense to get the closest version you can. Maybe with a hyphen or a title or other tweak. Maybe with a lesser extension — dot-ORG or dot-NET instead of dot-com. (But get the dot-com version if you can; it’s still by far the preferred choice.)

And please remember: There are thousands of Internet entrepreneurs buying up common web-names by the truckload. They’re planning to sell you your name at a steep price, after you discover how important this is. If your name still is available as a domain, grab it now, before someone else does.

As I stated in the previous article, I can help you — at no charge — if you find the process daunting. Contact me through this site’s contact page, and we’ll discuss your options.

Do you own your own web domain? What was your experience? What frustrations can you help other readers avoid? Please leave your thoughts in the comment box at the end of this article.


Owning Your Own Email Name (for free) — 20 Comments

    • Good point! I’ve felt the same, and that’s one reason I’ve never used Outlook. My choices were Eudora and later Thunderbird for desktop mail, and Gmail for web mail.

      But there are several things to consider here:

      First, Outlook.COM is different from “Outlook”. Plain-vanilla Outlook was a desktop email program for downloading mail onto your computer. The dot-COM email service is a website. It’s web-mail, rather like Gmail or Yahoo, and thus should work differently from the old familiar program. I’d say, give it a chance!

      Second, even if they turn out to be too similar, you don’t need to use Outlook to get the benefit of free “branded” mail. You just need to set it up, then forward everything that comes in back to whatever email account you already are using. This way you get the best of both wolds.

      Third, although Outlook.com provides a free way of using custom domains for email, I never claimed that that’s the best way. Only that it’s a free way. That, plus having ownership of your web-name, is a terrific value. But in my opinion, a far greater value is using that domain name to put up a website. This can be an ultra-simple website, with a welcome page, an “about” page (basically your resume and a photo or two), and a contact page. You can create this yourself — there are lots of free tools, and the learning curve isn’t bad. It just sounds daunting, which is why more people don’t do it.

      And with a website “hosting” account, you get email at no extra charge. The hosting itself may cost anywhere from $3 to $8, depending on your options. There are lots more benefits than just email. At some point I plan to write about that whole process. But for the time being, I just wanted to pitch the case that your own web-name is worth owning, even if you don’t plan a website.

  1. I wanted to know if it is possible to have email for my business without hosting.
    Basically I own my domain name and dont plan to use it for anything other than email.
    Would it be possible to just have email access without having to pay for hosting.

    Thanks and Regards,

    • Hussain, it’s still true — as the article says — that you can have email access under your custom domain, without paying anything (other than the token annual price of the domain itself).

      When I first wrote the article, the best-known provider of free hosting was Microsoft, via its Outlook service. But Microsoft has begun charging for that, leaving free email hosting to Zoho (and perhaps other companies).

      Just to make sure this is still true, I just set up a new email address for myself (on a domain for which I don’t have web hosting) at Zoho. It was easy as pie, and it works just fine. Set up a free Zoho account, then register your domain with them. (You’ll have to verify it, unless you purchase it from Zoho or transfer it there. They give easy illustrated instructions for the process.) Then you’ll have your free, branded, custom-domain email!

      Please let us know how it works for you. And if you run into any hitch — please contact me through this website, and I’ll gladly help you at no charge. You can do this! ≧◔◡◔≦

  2. Is there any other way to register domain, not only Zoho mail.com? Which other site is free of charge for domain?

    • At the moment, Johnson, I don’t know of any site other than Zoho that offers free email hosting under a custom domain. There may be others — but Zoho is the only one I know about and have used.

      Please note that what is free, in this case, is not strictly the domain registration. To own a custom domain, you must register it and keep it registered. This costs money, if only because the registrar must pay to keep you registered. What’s free (using Zoho, at any rate) is hosted email using that domain (like “yourname@yourname.com”). Once you’re paying for the domain, Zoho adds the email hosting at no extra charge. (Even if it isn’t registered through Zoho.)

      If you learn of another host that does something similar, please return here to let us know.

        • Judy, thanks for asking. When I first saw your comment, my thought was “Darn! Zoho must have killed the free plan.”

          But it appears they haven’t — at least, not for now. On the Zoho website, I did find a screen describing their “enterprise” plans that appeared to show $10 as the minimum price, just as you said. But weirdly, I can’t find it again.

          What I do see is this link: https://www.zoho.com/mail/zohomail-pricing.html. It shows the various “standard” and “premium” plans, along with the Lite plan, which is free ($0) and provides up to 5 gigabytes of storage, with no ads. The Free/$0 option is listed in the far-right column on that pricing page.

          Please see also the Zoho help page at https://www.zoho.com/mail/help/email-hosting-with-zoho.html. Among other things, it says:

          “Small Businesses can benefit from our ‘Lite’ plan which is free for custom domain based email. The administrator can make use of the 10 accounts for a single domain, with POP/ IMAP, Active Sync and extensive control options, which are free and more importantly ad-free.”

          This information is current as of today (22 September 2016). Of course, Zoho could change it at any time, but the company has stated in the past that it will not take away this free option. Of course, it’s limited — 5 gigs of email storage, 5 gigs for documents, one domain, 10 accounts, etc. (if I’m understanding everything).

          Be that as it may, I have a custom domain (i.e., not a Zoho domain) and am using it in conjunction with Zoho’s free hosting. Just sign up for the free/lite account, and when asked for your email address, specify the one at the domain you own. If it is one you’ve registered at Zoho, there should be no hitch. If it’s registered at GoDaddy or some other registrar, you’ll have to “verify” that you do own it: Their setup prompts will guide you through this process.

          Even companies with free offerings sometimes de-emphasize these, making it appear that the paid services are the only ones. That goes for free antivirus, free cloud storage, and now (I guess) free custom-domain email. But for now, it’s there for the digging! ≧◔◡◔≦

  3. Hi Gary,

    First, let me congratulate you for such a kind heart and willingess to help others. I am rather unhappy with Godaddy. I have had several domains with them. Currently I have 7. Out of those 7 I have 5 email accounts. In one of the domains I have 3 email accounts, and then 2 others in 2 separate accounts.

    When I signed up for these domains years ago they offered me “free e-mail” in other words I read that as included in the price because I learned a long time ago whenever you are paying someone for something they are not giving anything else free.

    I am more active on these e-mails as of lately and noticed I would read or read and reply to an email in one device, say my iphone, and then see the same email appear as unread on my imac or macbook or ipad – you get my point one of Job’s creations. These e-mails are like the ex that never goes away. I thought I may have done something wrong and came to find out the so called “FREE emails” don’t synchronize. I guess they had another term for that in Job’s world and yours too I suppose :-).

    When I asked how to solve the issue they offered me a plan to pay over 50 bucks a year to have them in synch. Not happy because I consider the email was part of the deal when I signed up and never in a million years had I entertained they would not synch, neither I was told nor did I know to ask. I feel cheated.

    I do realize other companies charge for their e-mails but if this is what they have to give they should not even give anything or tell people in big bold letters that’s the crappy system you are getting. I read what you said above about Zoho.com; however I think that would only solve the issue for 3 of my emails in one server for free unless of course I open 3 different accounts with them but that would probably not be welcomed.

    What do you suggest? I do need to have my devices in synch so I don’t have to delete the same e-mail 4 times. I do read the e-mails in 4 different devices depending of where I am. Thank you for all your help!

    • Great question, Jennifer. Here’s what I’d suggest trying:

      First, you need a central webmail account at a flexible service like Gmail or Outlook. I see you’re currently using Yahoo; that probably would work fine. By “flexible” I mean it gives you plenty of options for how to handle incoming and outgoing mail.

      Second, go into the settings for each of your GoDaddy email accounts. Set each one to forward incoming emails automatically to your central webmail account. That is, people will email you using your custom domain address, never knowing it’s ending up in Gmail (or Outlook or Yahoo or whatever).

      Third, tweak the settings for your webmail account (Gmail or whatever) so that when you “reply” to mail forwarded from one of your custom addresses, that custom address will be used as your outgoing “from” address. Gmail lets you “register” any email address you own for this very purpose. It’s been my impression Outlook does also, and I can only guess that Yahoo might. If neither Outlook nor Yahoo can do this, then I’d create a special Gmail account for the purpose.

      Then, of course, for reading and replying to emails, use your webmail account. Gmail has no problem synching to four or more devices. Depending on your storage limits (if any) at GoDaddy, you may need to program these hosting accounts to delete any email once it has been duly forwarded to Gmail (or wherever). If you have unlimited mail hosting, then I’d leave it all there as a backup. Either way, you’d be using one central webmail account as a mail switchboard — a kind of Grand Central Station postbox.

      This is exactly what I’ve been doing for years. My own custom-domain email comes first to an in-box at HostGator. From there it’s forwarded to my private Gmail account. When I reply, it shows the incoming custom domain address as the outgoing “from” address. The same is true of my single free address with Zoho hosting. I get all the benefits of Gmail spam filtering, massive storage, and the rest, plus use of my custom domain. Works like a charm!

  4. Just a correction: I meant to say “I think that would only solve the issue for 3 of my emails in one DOMAIN for free …”

    • Jennifer, one additional thought: There are a number of “email forwarding” services, some of which are free. NameCheap has one (though I suspect it works only for domains registered through NameCheap.com). There’s one called EasyDNS, which lets you forward any email address you own to Gmail or Outlook or wherever.

      Without having yet tried these, I can’t say for certain whether these work the same way with Gmail as I described in my reply above. However, if they do, then that provides yet another way (besides Zoho) to get free custom-domain email, using Gmail or another webmail service for actual storage.

      Time permitting, I’ll experiment with these options and update my article accordingly.

      EDIT (22 September 2016): I’ve just reread the EasyDNS explanation on its website. It now appears to me that the email forwarding option applies only to domains registered at EasyDNS itself. But the forwarding option, if I’m reading correctly, still is free. You just have to register the domain at EasyDNS or have it transferred there. And of course (this bears repeating) the domain registration is not free. It’s just that the forwarding is free, once you’ve paid for the domain. Szme for Zoho email hosting, as explained in the article.

  5. Great work fleshing this out here! I already used Zoho, and now a client also gains the benefit of some very affordable vanity email service. Thanks for taking the time to make this information public, and easy to follow!

    • Thank you, Adam. Hmm. I like the expression “vanity email” (which I hadn’t heard before). It’s at least easier to say or write than “custom-branded personal-domain email”! Perhaps “professional email” would also work, though it’s perhaps not as descriptive.

      The email-domain landscape is still evolving. I use and like Zoho — but there are some free alternatives that may be even better. I’m currently experimenting with these and plan to update the post soon, with a report. So please stay tuned. And of course, please also feel free to share any new tweaks or wrinkles you learn about.

  6. Hello Gary,
    Thanks for such an informative article. I currently use bluehost to create my business emails using my domain name and they are sent over to my Gmail. It was no additional cost probably because I use their hosting services. My concern is the delay I experience with receiving the email into my Gmail account. Is there a way to prevent the delay and is there a delay with the Zoho method as well?

    • I’m not familiar with BlueHost. Currently I’m using HostGator, and forwarding business emails from my web domain to Gmail, just as you do. For me there is no delay. Or perhaps at most perhaps a few seconds. They are owned by the same parent company (EIG — Endurance International Group), but I suppose the details differ.

      As you indicate, there typically is no extra charge for email if you already pay for web hosting. My article was geared to situations where a user owns a domain, but does not pay for web hosting. My point is that even without the hosting, you *still* can get no-extra-cost email. Zoho is just one method. But if you already have paid hosting, I’d hesitate to switch to that. Zoho works, but there are limitations you wouldn’t encounter with a BlueHost account.

      The only thing I can suggest is to call your technical support service at BlueHost. Possibly they can suggest a way to trigger the forwarding so that it’s more or less instant. Failing that, the only thing I’d know to do is to switch hosts. Only you can determine whether or not the benefits there would outweigh the costs.

  7. Hi Gary. I recently read your article on owning your own domain name. I wonder if most of what you listed still rings true today. Also, would you still recommend using a service like Zoho to registrar your domain name? Thank you in advance.

    • Dear Robert,

      Thanks for visiting and commenting. Yes, most or perhaps all of what I wrote then still is valid.

      So far as I’m aware, there is nothing wrong with using Zoho as a domain registrar. And it’s clearly an advantage that once you’ve registered with them, the Zoho utilities — especially including email — are set up for you automatically. Though they still make it easy to set up if you’ve registered elsewhere.

      If you then prefer to use Gmail to actually manage your email, you can easily forward all your Zoho email to your Gmail account, and (having established your custom Zoho address as a Gmail “alias”) reply from Zoho as well. Your correspondents will only ever see the custom domain you have registered here. For example, Rob@RobHaywood.com (or whatever custom address you are using).

      I’m planning to update this post in the near future. Generally, what I’ve written above is still valid. But there also are some new options that may be preferable for many users. Subscribers to my newsletter will receive updates on this as soon as I’m able to post them. Please stay tuned!

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