Five Ways to Make Your Free Gmail Look More Professional
One of the best small business “hacks” I learned really early on in my side hustle was that a little professionalism could go a long way. Using complete sentences and correct grammar was what landed me one of my earliest clients that I still have to this day (four years later!). Something I thought had little reflection of my graphic design skills actually swayed a client to my brand new hobby business over a more established company. What!?
Projecting an air of confidence through quality communication and professionalism through your services benefits your side hustle in two ways:
First, you give your customer an improved client experience by communicating clearly and punctually. Your client will appreciate this and come to trust your communication as fair and accurate. That goes a long way when it comes to winning new customers and booking repeat projects!
Second, communicating professionally with your audience over email, Instagram captions, or blog posts legitimizes your business, and establishes a higher level of perceived value for your products and services. Who doesn’t want that extra attention when they’ve worked so hard to put themselves out there?
Today, I’d like to share some easy ways to improve your level of professionalism specifically on your email account. Most new side hustlers will create a free Gmail account to manage their small business communications. I get it — why spend money on a custom domain email address when you’re just starting out and don’t have a big budget for expenses?
Until you get to that point where you can purchase that custom email, a free Gmail should do just fine. But to further legitimize your business beyond the initial reaction to a free Gmail account (“Maybe they aren’t an official business? Maybe they’re too cheap to buy an email, and might be too cheap with their products?”), here are five ways you can up the ante by establishing a better quality of service and extra professionalism in your email communications:
Ditch the personal email you’ve had since high school.
Customers and other businesses don’t want to interact with sweetcheeks1204_usa. The username for your email should reflect your own name or your business name, as close as you can. My husband is using email@example.com for his new barbeque company, which matches his Instagram handle and Facebook page URL. It looks much more professional than bbq_champ493817249187, or whatever significant number someone feels compelled to use in their email address.
And that leads me to another point: Just like your URL, you want your email address to be memorable. Customers won’t remember the string of numbers, but when your email matches your Insta handle or domain name, it’s much more likely they’ll be able to remember your email off the top of their head.
Upload an appropriate image to your account.
Your very first step when you create your new Gmail account should be to update the name (yours, if you’re the only one using the email, or the brand name if multiple people will be communicating as the business), and to add an appropriate profile picture. If the email truly will be operating as the brand, a logo is a fine addition. If you’re going to be communicating as yourself with this email address, then adding your own photo will go a long way. Your recipient will be able to put a face to the name, which helps with brand recognition on your website and social profiles.
Create an email footer.
Use the Gmail Settings to create a custom footer that has your name, the business name, and some other points of contact, like your website or social profiles, if you don’t want to include your personal phone number. Bonus points: link your website and social profiles to the actual webpage so all it takes is a click to visit!
I created the email footers for my team in Adobe Illustrator so we could all match. I like the credibility it gives any client to know that they’re receiving an email from a member of my team.
respond with punctuality and professionalism.
Commit yourself to checking your side hustle email at least once a day. Responding to emails in an appropriate manner and timeframe goes a long way in communicating the professionalism of your brand or business.
Beyond the punctuality with which you respond to emails, make sure your communications are clear and free from spelling or grammar errors. Use complete sentences, and break up your paragraphs so large blocks of text are easy to read. Try installing Grammarly on your web browser and allow it to check your emails for you for spelling and punctuation mistakes. I’ve only recently installed the app in my Chrome browser, and, as a perfectionist, I’ve been super happy with the additional proofreading help Grammarly has given my email communications.
You know what really stinks? Coming back from a hiatus to a million emails from people checking in or following up or dropping new projects at your feet without realizing your time constraints. Setting expectations with customers and clients will help alleviate stress on both ends.
If you are in a busy season of life, consider placing hours of operation on your email usage and set up an auto-responder that outlines the hours each week you will be checking your email. Even if someone sends an email well outside of that window, they’ll know not to worry or bother you with another follow-up at least until after the window has passed.
From my experience, a client would much rather be aware of my time constraints so they can work within them than send work with no idea of when I’ll be able to get to it or when they’ll hear from me. And I much prefer that freedom to set my own hours, so it’s a win-win situation.
Anyone with a free email account can still adequately run their side hustle with professionalism in their communication. There is no excuse for poor grammar, lack of communication, or unclear intentions from a creative business owner. Emailing with clients and customers while taking the above suggestions into consideration will help improve the user experience and the quality of your business, leading to repeat clients, improved trust, and an increase in brand credibility.
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