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After buying a domain name for a business or organization, one of the first things most people do next is set up a custom domain email address. This allows them to email their contacts from a professional-looking email address that contains their domain name. For people like me that love the familiar Gmail interface and want to use it with their custom domain emails, there are 2 options:
Option 1: Enable Gmail to Work with Your Custom Email Address
This option allows you to enjoy all the great features that come with a regular Gmail account while sending emails from your custom domain email address for free. Before you can do this, you’ll need to first have email hosting from a provider that allows email forwarding (you may already have this, just check with your domain registrar and web host). Once you’ve done that, you’ll sign up with Gmail, forward the emails to that account, and enable Gmail to send as your custom domain email address.
You can then immediately start using your new, professional email address for your startup, blog, business website or nonprofit. Without a doubt, this is your best option for setting up a custom domain email address for free. This process may sound complicated, but it’s really not, and I will walk you through it below, step-by-step.
What if you don’t have an email hosting plan? Basically, you have these options:
- Purchase an email hosting package from your current domain registrar and continue with the steps below (not recommended as it’s really not worth the money in most cases).
- Transfer your domain to a web hosting provider that offers free email hosting and lets you forward your emails. I personally prefer using Bluehost since they’re inexpensive and make it really easy to transfer your domain to them from another provider. Once you’ve done this, you can move on to setting up your custom domain with Gmail.
Option 2: Sign up for Google Workspace (formerly G Suite)
While the first option will save you money, I do recommend just signing up for Google Workspace (formerly known as G suite) instead. It’s much simpler and more reliable than the hack described in this post. In addition to a custom domain email address that matches your website’s name, you’ll have tons of extra features that make it easier to collaborate, store documents, share files, and even add or remove user accounts for other people on your team that use your domain name in their email addresses:
- For example, I have multiple @thedigitalnonprofit.com emails that I can use depending on the situation, like firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, etc.
- And when I hired a contractor, it took 2 seconds to give them a firstname.lastname@example.org email so we presented a consistent brand.
- During the contract, I could make files & events shareable with all TDN employees to easily collaborate
- Finally, when the contract ended, I could freeze their accounts with 1 click so my business’ info is safe!
All of those benefits were possible because I had Google Workspace. Sign up below to get a 14-day free trial and 10% to 15% OFF your first year!
This promotion is only available for the Business Starter and Business Standard packages. There are a few differences between these 2 plans. The main differences are that the standard plan comes with much more storage space (2 TB as opposed to 30 GB) and lets you record video meetings. If you want to see a more detailed comparison of the different plans and pricing, see our guide to Google Workspace promo codes. But in general, the standard plan is only worth the extra money if you have a lot of files that you need to store or if you work as part of a team that does a lot of collaborative work remotely, otherwise I’d go with the basic package.
Get 10% to 15% OFF your 1st year of Google Workspace+ 14 Day Trial
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Business Starter Package (10% Off):
Business Standard Package (15% Off):
One last note–if you’re a registered nonprofit, you can get Google Workspace at a discounted rate, or even for free through Google for Nonprofits. Regardless of whether you’re a nonprofit or for-profit, it’s best to take the long-term view and sign up to get all of Google’s business productivity tools. If you want to switch later, it will be a pain in the butt to transfer all your emails to Google Workspace. But if you still want a quick fix for the time being, here’s a quick workaround to use Gmail with your own, custom domain for free.
Basically, you’ll just forward all the mail from email@example.com to a Gmail account, and change a setting so outgoing mail says firstname.lastname@example.org too. That’s it! So let’s jump right in.
1) Create a Gmail Account
You probably already have a personal Gmail account, and you could use it for your custom email, but just like finances, it’s best to keep business and personal separate. It will make things a lot easier down the road if you upgrade to Google Workspace or Google for Nonprofits.
Here’s how to make the account:
- Create a Gmail account here and pick a new email address. email@example.com usually works well.
- Follow the rest of the steps to verify you phone number, create your account, and sign in.
2) Create Your Professional Email Account Domain
Next, you’ll need to register your custom domain with a registrar that offers email forwarding.
If you haven’t registered your domain already, you can sign up with Bluehost to get a domain name, email hosting and web hosting all for just a couple bucks a month. You can even use this tool to see if your domain idea is available:
(You may need to disable adblock to use the tool)
Why do we recommend Bluehost?
Well if you’re looking for a professional email, you’ll probably want a website to go with it. Bluehost includes a domain name free if you sign up for web hosting, and they’re pretty much the gold standard when it comes to web hosts.
Even better, we have an exclusive Bluehost discount for you! Use the tool above or link below to get 1) a domain name, 2) website hosting, 3) an SSL certificate, and 4) email hosting for just $2.95 a month.
If nothing else, they have a 30 day money-back guarantee and pretty stellar support, so you can easily change your mind later.
3) Forward Emails from Your Custom Domain
Now that you’ve got a domain name, you’re going to route emails from your professional address to your Gmail address, so that you can continue to use the Gmail interface.
Below are the instructions for several different web hosts.
If your host isn’t listed: Look at the HostGator instructions–chances are you have the same cPanel admin interface.
If that doesn’t work: Your provider might not include email forwarding. You can transfer it to Bluehost to for a web hosting package that includes email forwarding. Just click “Get Started” on this link, and on the 3rd step or so put in your existing domain name rather than searching for a new one. They’ll guide you through the rest.
- Login to your Bluehost account
- Under the hosting section click the email link
- Click the forwarding link
- Click the add email button
- Enter the address you would like to be forwarded. (firstname.lastname@example.org)
- Choose your new Gmail as the destination for the forwarded email
- Click submit
Hostgator / Any cPanel Host
- Log into cPanel
- In the Mail section, click Forwarders
- Under the Email Account Forwarders section, Click Add Forwarder
- Type in the Address to Forward (email@example.com)
- Select “Forward to email address” (firstname.lastname@example.org)
- Click Add Forwarder
*Please note that as of December 31, 2020, GoDaddy no longer offers email forwarding credits. If you have an account that was created before this date you can follow the instructions below. If not, you will need to purchase Office 365 Email Essentials for $23.88/year and then go into the GoDaddy settings for email forwarding.
- Login to your account and click your name in the top-right.
- Select My Products from the drop-down
- Scroll down to the section called Additional Products
- Click the arrow to reveal the Email Forwarding section
- Click the Redeem button
- Select your domain name (Email Forwarding 100 Pack) and click Redeem Credit
- Wait for the page to refresh
- Scroll down to the Workspace Email section
- Click the arrow to reveal your remaining credits for Email Forwarding
- Click Manage All
- You’ll be redirected to the Workspace Control Center (you may be asked for your login details)
- Click Create Forward
- Under Forward this email address, type the address you want to forward (email@example.com)
- Under To these email addresses, add your Gmail address
- Click Create
- Log in to your 1&1 Control Panel and select the relevant package
- Click the Manage E-mail Addresses link from the Mail panel
- Click the Set up forwards link located in the right corner of the page
- Choose a name and domain for the forwarding address (firstname.lastname@example.org)
- Type your Gmail into the Forward Target(s) box
- Click Save
3) Enable Gmail to Send from Your Custom Email Addresses
Now that we have emails coming in to Gmail, this step will allow you to send email as email@example.com for free with Gmail’s SMTP servers.
- Go to this link. If you can enable “Less secure apps,” do so.
- If you get an error, it’s probably because you have 2-Step Verification enabled, like me. Go here to create an app-specific password instead.
- Return to Gmail, click the gear icon, then Settings
- Click Accounts and Import, then Add another email address in the Send mail as section
- Enter your name and firstname.lastname@example.org, allow Treat as an alias and then Next Step
- Enter the following credentials:
- SMTP Server: smtp.gmail.com
- Username: The part of your Gmail address that comes before “@gmail.com”
- Password: Your Gmail or App-specific password
- Port: 587 or 465
- Secure connection using: TLS for 587, SSL for 465
4) Final Configuration
- You’ll be sent an email with a verification link. Make sure to click it to enable your new address.
- Once you are returned to the Settings page, click Make default next to your new, custom email.
- Send a friend an email to test outgoing messages
- Have them send you a message to confirm incoming messages
And that’s it! You now have Gmail with your own domain for free!
If you have any issues, comment below and I’ll do my best to fix them with you.