Do you own your own domain name?

“Do you own your own domain name?” is a question I always ask small business owners when I begin working with them – and quite often I find the answer is “no.”

When you’re setting up a business, or juggling a million hats at once from accounts to sales to actually doing some work, it’s easy to let your web design agency or designer take care of the small things. But what people often fail to realise is, you’re essentially giving the company you’re working with the keys to your business.

What do I mean? I’ll explain.

Your domain name is the address people type into their browser to bring up your website. It is also used for all your email addresses, if you run email on the same address as most people do.

When your web designer registers your domain name for you under their own account, they legally are in charge of that domain. They could stop paying their bill to the hosts and your website will go down. There is a road you can go down to prove the business you run legally has the right to the domain, but it is not a simple procedure.

If you have problems with your emails, you may not be able to go straight to the hosts and instead go through the design agency – you’re at their mercy to help you whether the relationship is good, bad, or totally down the pan.

When it comes to working with a new designer a few years later if you’re looking for a new relationship, to wrestle that domain from the original owners can sometimes be easy… but sometimes hard. Especially if they’re off the radar and stopped offering services.

One client of mine recently had this very problem, and the original owners of the domain just were uncontactable. They’d registered the domain in my client’s name and address – but used their own account and email address to register it. We were powerless to get it back! In the end we took drastic actions by registering a new domain and setting up the site there. A few months later the domain actually expired, so we were able to re-register it again.

So, how do I work with my clients?

I always advise clients to register directly. I can hand-hold throughout the process, and of course work with an approved host I know will be good for us to work with now and down the line.

But the difference is – should there be a problem with your website, you know who to go to directly to solve it, if I am not immediately available. If in years to come you move hosts, you know exactly where your domain and web hosts are, and you are in full control.