What your email address says about you
Are you still rockin' an AOL, Yahoo, or Hotmail email address? How about an email address that your ISP gave you, like comcast.net or bellsouth.net?
Your email address is one of those tells that some people are keen to notice. Just like the rare bluebird perched on a tree limb, not everyone will notice. But for those that do, it'll be like a flashing light.
Your email address says something about you and it's not always pretty, especially if you have it printed on a business card or other marketing materials.
Look at the email address on your business card. Is it based on your ISP such as Comcast or Bellsouth? Or is it a free, public email address such as AOL, Yahoo, Hotmail, MSN, etc?
Gmail and Outlook are also free, but these email services are more advanced, modern, and don't carry the same negative connotation. Use these for your personal correspondence. My favorite is Gmail for lots reasons beyond the scope of this particular article.
AOL is probably the worst although Yahoo, Hotmail, MSN, and a few others are pretty bad as well. In the eyes of some, having one of these email addresses, especially AOL, paints the owner as being a clueless tech dinosaur. If you're looking for a job or (especially!) if you're a small business owner using an AOL email address, you may be hurting yourself.
Why does AOL, particularly, earn such disadoration? AOL was the first online experience for many people. If you were adult in the 90s, I'm sure you can recall receiving quite a few of the more than half billion free installation CDs that AOL mailed out. Most of those users went on to become tech literate and abandoned AOL long ago. But many of those that remained, like AOL itself, stayed stuck in the 90s having not changed much in 20+ years.
Gmail, on the other hand, is clean, modern, fast, supports many useful plugins, has excellent spam filtering, and is available on every major computing platform. Behind search itself, Gmail is Google's biggest product -- they throw a lot of resources to Gmail so it works well. I've watched Gmail evolve since its introduction years ago -- it's a continually improving product.
If you own a business, you should have a custom domain (your own dot-com) for your email based on the name of your business! Conducting business using a free, public email address gives an amateurish, part-time appearance to your business. Even Gmail, plenty cool and useful for a personal email, is not indicated for business purposes. (But Gmail for business is -- more on that here)
If you have your own domain then adding a web site later on becomes easier. The domain is already in place!
Say you want to remodel your kitchen and a friend gave you a couple of business cards. Which email address inspires more confidence? firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com? The difference is clear! These are just made-up examples.
Reassuring the Recipient
A custom domain lends legitimacy to your correspondence in the mind of your (potential) client. With so much email fraud these days, people will feel better and more secure seeing an email address based on your business name and not some random public email address that anyone can get for free.
Mindshare -- Brand and Identity
You want your potential clients to focus on your brand and identity. You do not want them seeing AOL or Comcast, etc. when they are reading your card or typing your email address into their computer, right? By having a custom dot-com based on your business name, they will see only your brand and identity and not some random public email service. You want your marketing materials to keep the focus on you. And make no mistake, your business card is an important marketing tool.
Similarly, if you have employees that communicate with existing or potential clients, you want their email addresses associated with your company by using your custom dot-com. Again, reinforcing your brand and identity -- and also reassuring your clients that the employee is associated with you.
A custom dot-com is cheap and easy to setup. There's simply no reason to skimp on this.