Independent management consultants can implement a few best practices when it comes to setting up business email for their consulting firm. Having branded email enhances your professional image.
For consultants just starting their firm, the steps are listed below. If you already have an established firm, you may still want to review the best practices to ensure that your professional email is as enhanced as possible.
1. Choose a name for your firm
This is one of the first steps for any consultant as they start their own independent practice. You can consult our resource, “How To Name Your Consulting Firm,” for inspiration from the 200+ consultants who shared the story of how they chose the name for their consulting firm.
If you’re in the beginning phases of opening your independent consulting firm, you may also find the following Umbrex resources helpful:
2. Purchase a domain
We recommend that when someone sets up their independent consulting practice and names their firm, they should register a domain name for it. This enables you to:
- Create your website (see our resource, How to Build a Consulting Website)
- Have a branded email address
Even if you do not plan to have a company website, securing the domain and using it for branded email — for example, YourName@yourdomain.com — is far more professional than a free, generic email account. Think about it: would you hire an attorney or accountant using a gmail.com, yahoo.com, or aol.com email address? Probably not.
Having a domain branded email offers numerous benefits:
- Professional credibility: It shows your clients that you are a professional business.
- Reinforces your brand: It goes along with your firm’s name, logo, business cards, website, and other collateral to build and reinforce your brand.
- Protects your brand: Owning your domain name prevents cyber-squatters from claiming it.
- Standardizes company email: A branded domain email plan allows you to create aliases — in addition to your personal email, perhaps a general “firstname.lastname@example.org” or “email@example.com” would help you track messages and filter spam.
- Grows with your business: As you expand and perhaps hire associates for your firm, any team member can also have a firstname.lastname@example.org email address.
- Higher security: A branded email plan provides higher email and data security than a free account.
- Flexible options: Even if you don’t want to keep track of multiple email addresses, you can set up forwarding options that send your email to the primary account you already use.
Obtaining a domain name is easy and generally costs anywhere from $10-30 per year, depending on the registrar and extension (.com, .net, .biz, etc.).
The most popular domain registrar services are listed below, along with the percentage of nearly 100 members who reported using each one in a survey we conducted on consulting websites. Many of these are website hosts that include a free domain name when you purchase a hosting plan.
You can click on any logo below to go to that registrar’s website:
3. Select your email provider
Once you have a domain name — whether or not you host a website at that URL — the next step is to select an email provider.
While registrars typically try to bundle in an email service when you register your domain, most consultants find that that the capabilities of those email providers are not nearly as robust as Google or Microsoft. We recommend using Google or Microsoft for your email service, not the email provided by a registrar or web hosting provider.
Google Workspace (Gmail)
Approximately two-thirds of independent consultants report using Google Workspace (formerly G-Suite) for their work email.
There are three Google Workspace plans to choose from:
- Business Starter: $6/month per user
- Business Standard: $12/month per user
- Business Plus: $18/month per user
Microsoft 365 (Outlook)
About one-third of consultants have work email plans through Microsoft 365.
There are three plans to choose from:
- Business Basic: $6/month per user
- Business Standard: $12.50/month per user
- Business Premium: $22/month per user
4. Connect your domain to your email service
All the major domain registrars and website hosting companies have the integration built right in. It’s just a matter of logging into your registrar (or hosting company, if you have a website) and setting it up. Most platforms offer easy, step-by-step instructions and provide support to help walk you through it if needed.
Google Workspace (Gmail)
If your email is with Google Workspace and you have purchased your domain through Google Domains, they will already be connected. You can create custom email addresses for your domain, such as email@example.com, add email aliases, and manage all your mail from one inbox. You can add up to 20 domains as domain aliases to your Google Workspace Account.
If you did not register your domain through Google Domains, you can still add it to your Google Workspace account.
- Make sure you’re signed in to an administrator account.
- In the Admin console, go to Menu AccountDomainsManage domains.
- In Manage domains, click Add a domain.
- Enter the name of the domain you’re adding.
- Select a the domain type as User alias domain. (When you sign up for Google Workspace with your-company.com (your primary domain), you own the domain other-company.com from another registrar and add it to Google as a user alias domain).
- Click Add and start verification. Follow the instructions to verify that you own the domain.
- If you want to use Gmail with this domain, return to Manage Domains after your domain is verified. Find the new domain and click Activate Gmail.
Microsoft 365 (Outlook)
To connect your domain to Microsoft 365, including your Outlook email, complete the following steps:
- Sign in to Microsoft 365, and under Apps, choose Admin.
- In the admin center, choose Go to setup.
- On the Connect your domain page, select I’ll manage my own DNS records.
- If you don’t have a website or other DNS records that you want to keep, you can choose Set up my online services for me instead.
- Choose Next.
- On the Choose your online services page, select the check boxes for the online services you want to set up, and then choose Next.
- On the Add DNS Records page, you can see your DNS hosting provider and all the DNS records you will need to update. Click the step-by-step instructions link.
- Click Add an MX record to route email in the article to add the MX records.
- After you have added all of the DNS records, return to Microsoft 365 and choose Verify.
- On the You’ve reached the end of setup page, you can rate your experience or enter feedback.
5. Set your email sender name
Your email sender name is the name that displays in the inboxes of your recipients. Sender names are one of the first things people see when an email hits their inbox, and are an important — but often overlooked — factor that helps your recipient decide whether or not to open your email.
This is not the same thing as the sender address, which is the actual email address. Sender names are generally 20-30 characters, depending on the email client and device.
According to the Litmus/Fluent survey seen above, the sender name is the most important factor in the recipient deciding to open your email.
Having a proper sender name (not just the email address) makes you appear professional. It also makes it easier for the recipient to search for you by first and last name in their inbox.
You want to make sure the sender name reflects your actual, full name (and possibly that of your consulting firm, depending on length), so that the recipient clearly knows who the email is coming from.
Sender name best practices
- DO NOT just use your email address as your sender name.
- Capitalize your first and last names, and company name if you’re using it.
- Keep it around 25 characters or less.
- Make sure your sender name is the same for all emails you send out (e.g. direct email as well as your newsletters, CRM, and any other application or platform you use to send emails).
- Check how your email appears in the inbox of a recipient by sending yourself an email to one of your personal accounts.
For example, your sender name might look like:
Instead, the “from” name you would want the recipient to see in their inbox would be: John Smith.
Take a look at the examples below of emails with weak sender names:
In contrast, below are the same emails with professional sender names:
Setting your sender name in Gmail
You can’t change your name directly in Gmail or the Gmail app — you must change it in your Google account.
- On your computer, open Gmail.
- In the top right, click Settings See all settings.
- Click the Accounts and Import or Accounts tab.
- Under “Send mail as,” click Edit info.
- Enter the name you want to show when you send messages.
- At the bottom, click Save changes.
Google instructions can be found here.
Setting your sender name in Google Workspace
For Google Workspace accounts (formerly known as G Suite), an administrator can set the user (sender) names and email addresses.
You can choose from two name display options:
- First Last, for example Bob Smith
- Last, First, for example Smith, Bob
You can also let your users set up a display name that they choose.
To change name format settings, or to let users set their name format:
- Make sure you’re signed in to an administrator account.
- In the Admin console, go to Menu AppsGoogle WorkspaceGmailUser settings.
- To set how the sender’s name appears to recipients, select one of these options under Name format:
- First, Last
- Last, First
- To apply this name format to all users in your domain, uncheck the Allow users to customize this setting box.
- (Optional) To let users choose their name format, check the Allow users to customize this setting box. Users don’t have the two name format options listed in Step 3. They can enter any name format in the Name field by following the steps above.
- Click Save. Changes can take up to 24 hours but typically happen more quickly.
Google Workspace instructions can be found here.
Setting your sender name in Microsoft 365
- In Outlook, choose File > Account Settings > Account Settings.
- Select the email account that you want to change, and then choose Change.
- You can change your name on the Account Settings screen. To change the name that displays when you send email, update the Your name field. Unless you specifically need to change any of the other fields, you can leave the default values in place. When you’re done, click Next. You can then select Close to return to Outlook.
- Go to Profiles and then choose Manage Profile Settings.
- Next, click the link under your name and contact info, and you’ll be able to edit your display name.
Microsoft 365 instructions can be found here.
Setting your sender name in other applications
If you use a different email provider, you can look for instructions in their knowledge base or support center, or do an internet search for “change sender name on email using _____ platform.”
6. Create your email signature
Finally, now that you have your domain and branded email account set up, creating a standardized email signature helps solidify your firm and its brand.
Your email signature should include:
- Your name
- Your title (optional)
- Name of your firm
- Website (if you have one)
- Phone number
Other things you may want to consider including in your email signature are:
- Company logo
- Your photo
- LinkedIn profile
- Links to other social channels you utilize
- Link to your newsletter or podcast
- Link to your Calendly or other meeting scheduler
- Call to action
Don’t overthink it. Keep text limited to three or four lines maximum, and if you want to include social media channels you could link from their icons.
Here is an example template for a basic email signature:
You can create your signature within Google or Microsoft mail (or whatever email service you are using). You may also consider paying someone to create an html signature for you through a freelance site such as Upwork or Fiverr.
There are also a number of signature generating tools you might use — these typically offer one free signature in a freemium model where you can subscribe to a plan for additional signatures and more options.
Below are some example signatures and templates that you can use for inspiration: