Beware the gmail: Why your business deserves more than “free and easy”

This is more than a pet peeve.

Seeing entrepreneurs and newly minted business owners hand over their cards with an  address (or yahoo, or hotmail, or comcast, or, gasp! aol) makes us cringe more than almost any other rookie mistake. Not because we’re snobs, but because the otherwise earnest, passionate, and ambitious business owners using them are doing themselves a huge, long-term disservice.


We completely understand the impulse. It’s free! It’s instant! Establishing a whole branded domain is neither of those things! Who has time to mess around with IT when you’re achieving your dream?!

But wait. Let’s examine the signals using a gmail address for your business sends to the world.

1)      My email was free!  =  I don’t have a budget and I cut corners! Probably I will repeat this behavior in other areas, too. . .

2)      Anyone can get one!   =  I’m no different than a 10-year-old with access to a library desktop! But you should still take me seriously. . .

3)      I set it up in mere minutes!    =     I’m not thorough, thoughtful, or intentional in my decision making. Instant gratification is my strategic plan. . . .

4)      I don’t care that it says!   =    I love to advertise other businesses even more than I do my own. Obviously, I have it all figured out. . .

Let’s face it: using a non-branded domain makes your business look cheap, unsophisticated, and unprofessional.


And hey, it’s not just us. Visual Logic, a design firm based out of Portland, ME, wrote a thoughtful white paper on the subject, which you can see here.

Some pertinent takeaways that quantify our own qualitative observations:

       70% of survey respondents stated a non-domain-level email address looked “unprofessional.”

       90% of respondents stated is the most professional formula.

       Gmail is considered the best of the non-branded addresses, and they received a “professional” rating of less than 3%.

Look at it this way: The majority of your business communication takes place via email. Sure you talk to contacts on the phone, meet people in person, shake hands and make eye contact. . . on occasion. But you follow up all of these interactions with an email, which you use all day, every day.

Email—and your email address—makes your first impression with prospects. The instant somebody perceives that you are not thoughtful and intentional, but rather cheap and lacking discernment, they’re going to take their business elsewhere.


At Treebird, we encounter a fair amount of gmail or yahoo accounts when we’re meeting new clients, because they’re still in the process of figuring out a monumental undertaking. Therefore, it’s one of the first things that we change for our clients.

Don’t get us wrong. We use gmail every day for our personal correspondences. It really is a fantastic platform.

But did you know you can have an email address with an address and still use the gmail platform? So you don’t even need to learn a new system if you don’t want to.

Your small business is a living, breathing idea, with an identity, a personality, and a public presence. You have to present that precious entity in the most professional way possible. You can spend thousands trying to get your idea off the ground, and still kill your golden opportunity because you didn’t spend $10 on a professional email address.

So please. Don’t let that happen. 

Patrick Kelly