First let me apologize – if you do work for Google, then obviously this doesn’t apply to you. For the other 99.99% of people, who don’t work for Google (or any of the other ISP’s) keep reading.
If you’re at a networking event and you meet a new person, when you get their card and they work in corporate America, their email will look like this: email@example.com. But when you get one from a small business owner it will often look something like: firstname.lastname@example.org, or Yahoo! or Hotmail (the Big Three). And there’s just no good reason for that.
If you have a website, your hosting account should also provide email addresses. If for some reason you don’t get email addresses with your hosting, ask why not. If you don’t like the answer or if they want to charge you extra, change hosting providers. Compared to the expense of creating the infrastructure for hosting websites, providing email support is inconsequential and charging for it is just gouging the customer.
In much the same way that your website is the face of your company, your email address is your face. Because so much communication is done electronically, people will see your email address every time they correspond with you. At the very least they will see it with your name, often they will see it in place of your name. Since your contacts and customers see the address so much, you want them to associate it with your company, not your ISP or one of the Big Three. I want to think of you as John, from John’s Consulting. Not John at Gmail.
Leaving your email address at one of the Big Three implies that possibly you aren’t taking this job quite as seriously as you could. Not as seriously as I want you to as a potential customer. I want to know that you are fully committed. Non-company email addresses say that this is just a side-line for you, something to work at evenings and weekends, like a hobby or an MLM.
I can hear some of you saying, “But I like using Gmail, it’s convenient and I can access my mail from practically anywhere!” Very true. I also use Gmail for those reasons. I use the Gmail interface to aggregate all of my various accounts, to bringing emails from four different servers where I can read it in one place. But I only use my actual Gmail account for personal emails with friends and such. All of my business correspondence goes out with my kickituniversity.com email address, even though I use the Gmail interface to send it.
So I’m not saying don’t use Gmail (or the other two), just don’t use the free address that they give you for you business. Reserve that address for personal use or for registering on those sites that want your email address before they will let you do anything. All of the Big Three allow you to use their interface to poll mail from other servers, so no matter who your preferred provider is you can use them. Just go into settings and add an account, use the login information provided by your hosting company and you can start reading your emails wherever you are, while presenting and maintaining a professional aspect.