If you’re just starting a small business, you’re probably trying to keep your expenses to an absolute minimum. Since I just started a business within the past couple of months, I know I am. My specific problem was I didn’t want to plaster my personal cell phone number all over the Internet, but I didn’t want to pay for a land line for business purposes either, especially since I won’t get many phone calls early on.
How do you get a phone number for your business without spending any more money? Google Voice.
Google Voice (GV) is a service that gives you a free local phone number and allows you to forward calls to that number to one (or more) existing phones. It doesn’t matter if it’s a cell phone, or a land line; all you do is input your area or zip code and see if GV has numbers available in your area. If so, the sign-up process is incredibly easy, and you can have your new number up and running in minutes.
It’s not JUST a free local phone number
So, you’ve got your free local number, now what can you do with it? GV is not just a free local phone number. It also gives you a separate voicemail box specifically for your business. You can customize your name and voicemail greeting in the web interface.
That’s not all. GV will transcribe your voicemail for you and then send you a copy of the transcription via email. It comes with a built-in spam filter, so you aren’t bothered with calls from known spam numbers. Finally, GV also comes with a call recording function, a Do Not Disturb mode, and allows you to send/receive texts as well. Apps are available for iPhone (available in the App Store), Android and Blackberry (available from m.google.com/voice), and a web-based version.
A widget for your website
As if the above listed features weren’t enough, Google Voice also allows you to create a custom flash widget for your website. Just decide which phones you want it to ring or send it directly to voicemail, and copy/paste the code to your website.
The caller clicks on the button, enters their name and number. They’re get the option to keep their number private, then when they click the call button, they’ll receive a call from GV. From there, it will either ring your phone or send them to your voicemail, depending on your settings. This also keeps your number a secret from the caller, should you not want to post the number online. You can see an example of the Google Voice widget in the sidebar.
The only down side I’ve seen to this point, is that it took me almost a month to find a number available in my area. If there are no numbers in your area, just keep checking back, because numbers can become available any time. You probably won’t have any problems with that if you’re in a larger city, but in the rural area I live in, it was a problem.
Overall, I found Google Voice is a powerful tool that Small Business owners can use without spending any money up front. I just got signed up for the service this morning, but so far, I’m extremely impressed with the features it provides. How are you making use of Google’s Voice service? Let us know in the comments!