Sometimes, it is necessary to change your email address. In today’s world, when so much communicating is done via email, this can seem like a daunting process. Everyone you know sends you an email. You login to websites with your email address. Your email address is almost a part of who you are; it is part of your identity. Making the change is not necessarily easy, but it is not impossible. Done right, it is possible to maintain control and limit lost or misdirected emails, so you do not lose communication with your customers and vendors. It takes a little effort, but it is not hard.
Follow these steps in order, and you will be well on your way to a smooth transitioning of your email address.
Sidebar: Because various tools and service providers differ in their approach to accomplish each step below, I cannot get into the details of how to do each of these. If you need help with the execution, contact me.
Setup Your New Email Address
Buy the domain name you want, get email hosting (does not have to be the same as your website hosting under the same domain name), configure your email address, and setup your preferred email client to connect to the account. If you are doing this at the same time as you buy the domain name, it can take up to 48 hours for the domain name and hosting information to propagate to servers across the Internet. After that is complete, test the email to make sure it is working.
Now you should have two email addresses you are using: the old and the new. At this point, you can use this email address for any new contacts, services, etc. that require an email.
Notify Your Contact of the New Email Address
Pick a date no less than 30 days out that you want to start using the new email address as your sole email (the date you will no longer check your current email). Let us pretend today is July 1 and you want to start using the new email address on August 1.
On July 1, you will send an email to all contacts, that looks something like this:
Please note I am changing my email address to Email@NewDomain.com. This email is currently active. Please update the contact information you have on file for me. I will be terminating my current email address effective August 1.
If you have a lot of contacts, it may be tempting to send one email to your entire address book. If you do, make sure you blind carbon copy (BCC) ALL recipients. This is a privacy and security issue. Be aware, however, that some email systems will reject email if there are no recipients in the TO or CC fields. Your mileage with this method may vary. It may be best to sign up for a mailing service such as Mail Chimp, ConstantContact, etc. This will let you create the email once, upload a contact list, and the service will send the emails for you. What I like most about this is you can see who has opened your email, so you have real-time tracking of your message.
Begin Changing Your Email Address for Service Providers
Oh boy! From July 1 through July 31, log in to your account for any service providers who have your email address, and change it. Update your business cards, newsletters, websites, anything that has your email address on it.
Unfortunately, this is something that must be done for each one, individually.
While you are at it, this is a good time to review your passwords at each service provider. You should be using a different password for each provider, and each password should be long – 26 characters or more, kind of long. If you need to make changes to your password, you may as well do it now.
15 days prior to the cutoff, send a reminder email to anyone who has not yet updated your email address in their address book.
In addition, create a rule on your mail server or email client (not both) that automatically sends a reply message to all incoming mail informing the sender of the new email address and effective date. Make sure the rule runs AFTER the message is cleared to go to your inbox, so you are not replying to SPAM. I prefer to set this rule up on the server, if possible, as it allows the message to be sent immediately without your email client having to be online.
Send another reminder email 5 days out, for anyone who has not yet updated their address book.
Termination Date (Or is it? No. It’s not.)
By August 1, you should have updated your contact information with any service providers who have your email address. In addition, most people will have updated their address books with your new email address.
On the server for your old email address, change the auto-reply rule:
This email address is no longer active. Your email has not been received by the recipient. Please update your address book with the new email address that was provided in prior emails and resend your email.
Now, everyone thinks your old email address is turned off. But they do not know what you and I know – it is not turned off! From now on, for as long as you feel comfortable, leave that old email up and running. You may find a few stragglers who did not update your email address. This gives you a chance to identify them and reach out to them individually. This will hopefully be very, very few people.
If you have any emails from the old address that you need to keep track of, this is the time to back them up. Remember to have at least two copies of the backup, each on different media, in different places. One backup on your local file server, the other in the cloud, is a good starting place.
Be Aware: If you receive email to the old email address after your backup, and you need to keep that email, be sure to make a new backup to include that new email.
Terminate the Old Email Address (for real, this time)
I recommend waiting another 30 days after August 1, but this is up to you. When you are comfortable with terminating the old email address, do so. Login to the hosting provider of your old email address and disable the email address.
Congratulations! You have successfully changed your email address. It takes a little effort to juggle the two simultaneously but doing it this way is best. When it’s time to change your email address, you can still maintain control of the transition, limit the opportunity for lost / misdirected email, and maintain contact with your customers and vendors throughout the process.