As a Realtor, I don’t have a business that has inventory that I own, and my most important business assets are either on the Internet or they have to do with my reputation and even my name.

A friend of mine recently lost a bunch of his business assets, and he will lose business because of it. The real estate franchise that he worked under closed all local offices. He moved to another brand. He sent an e-mail out to everyone he knows announcing his new e-mail address and phone number.

It is bad enough that he had to change his e-mail address, but he went from being "X@realestate-company.com" to "X@different-realestate-company.com." If he decides to move on or start a new business he will have to change his business e-mail address and his phone number again.

My friend will lose business because of his move, and it will be because people will send e-mails to the old address or call the old number or maybe visit the old Web page.

As a Realtor, I don’t have a business that has inventory that I own, and my most important business assets are either on the Internet or they have to do with my reputation and even my name.

A friend of mine recently lost a bunch of his business assets, and he will lose business because of it. The real estate franchise that he worked under closed all local offices. He moved to another brand. He sent an e-mail out to everyone he knows announcing his new e-mail address and phone number.

It is bad enough that he had to change his e-mail address, but he went from being "X@realestate-company.com" to "X@different-realestate-company.com." If he decides to move on or start a new business he will have to change his business e-mail address and his phone number again.

My friend will lose business because of his move, and it will be because people will send e-mails to the old address or call the old number or maybe visit the old Web page.

It would be different if he was an employee of the brokerage — using a company e-mail address is most appropriate for W-2 employees who are conducting business on behalf of their employer, but not for independent contractors who are self-employed.

Most real estate companies provide a free e-mail address, a phone number and a Web page. Branding is important but it can be done with any e-mail address, domain name or phone number.

A company logo can be put on a website or at the bottom of an e-mail, and the name of a company can be left on an outgoing voice-mail message for branding, allowing us to use digital assets that we own while at the same time promoting the brand.

As an independent contractor I need to maintain control over and even protect my business assets — including and especially my e-mail address, Web addresses and business phone number. I use my own domain names for e-mail and for websites and I use my own phone number.

Some agents have an entire Web presence built around addresses that they do not own or control. They either use free services or accounts that belong to a real estate brokerage. If they move to another brokerage or start a new business, they may lose touch with past clients and have to rebuild an Internet presence.

Having a separate website that is a landing page running off a domain name that we own is a valuable business asset for independent contractors. We can take it with us wherever we go and use it for any business or even for a job hunt.

The Web address doesn’t have to be business-related; it can be our own name, if available. The site can have links to social media accounts, contact information and links to our business websites.

What happens to our e-mail and voice mail when we change brokerages? The brokerage will get the calls, e-mails and inquiries through the Web page, and will pass the leads or clients onto another agent. Sometimes e-mail accounts just get deleted, but the messages never gets forwarded to the agent.

An agent may have held an open house months before moving and may have met prospective buyers who are now looking for an agent. The buyers are ready to start house hunting but they can’t find the agent who they met at the open house because he changed real estate brokerages.

Handing out a business card with a phone number on it that belongs to someone else doesn’t make sense from a business point of view. It is fairly easy to hang onto a phone number and move it to a new service provider, if necessary.

I have been able to change real estate companies without ever missing a call, and have had the same number for as long as I have had a real estate license.

It is possible that at some point in my life I may work in a different field or start another business. If I do, I can use the same contact information.

Independent contractors should control their digital identities because they are business assets. Sure, I pay for my e-mail address, domain names and my phone service when I could get it all for free, but it is a small price for maintaining control over my own identity for the rest of my life.

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