How to Set Up a Dedicated VoIP Number for Your Business
Keep in mind: This article is intended primarily for a U.S. audience. Service availability in other countries is not guaranteed.
Email is a wonderful invention, but sometimes you need the instantaneous feedback of a conversation. This is where having a business phone line comes in handy. With VoIP services, even freelancers can have call handling that mirrors corporations.
The main goal of this article is to show you how to have multiple points of access via phone lines, while keeping it separate from your personal accounts. Unless you enjoy interruptions, your existing cell phone is not a primary business line. I’ve outlined my preferences below, but feel free to tweak it to suit your own needs. I’m not everybody.
Open a Google Voice Account
There’s a reason people love Google. Google Voice (formerly Grand Central) is one of those products that further cements this idea. In short, i allows you to register a number (of your choosing) for free, and then forward to whichever phones you’d like. This will help us put a filter in between business and personal.
One of the other useful features of Google Voice is the ability to sort through incoming calls by contact. I could, for example, set it so when Brendan (our Officeal editor) calls the number, he is forwarded to a personalized voicemail. These filters can be applied by a number of criteria, including people or time of day.
It’s also nice to have a log of all calls, including the ability to record and add notes to specific ones.
It’s Not a Free Phone
Don’t get overly-excited just yet, because this is not a calling plan. While you can send and receive SMS for free, it’s essentially just a way to organize and forward calls to a single number. As Google explains, it’s “…a phone number that is tied to you, not to a device or a location.” Especially for traveling web entrepreneur types, this is incredibly useful in and of itself.
Buy a Calling Plan with Skype
If Google Voice is the face of this arrangement, Skype is the backbone. If you’re unfamiliar with the company, Skype is a VoIP phone service that allows you to make calls directly from your computer.
It makes discussing a design on your screen easy, because the window is already there. Going over revisions is much easier when you don’t have to balance a phone on one shoulder.
Why is this worth the money?
I’m all for saving money when it comes to business expenses. But as Seth Godin pointed out in a recent blog post, spending money is not always a bad thing. In this next section I’ll outline how to take a Google Voice number and link it to a Skype account.
There are plenty of utilities out there that can do this in one way or another, but this route will save you a lot of headache by keeping things simple. I recommend that you buy a second number through Skype. Doing so will enable you to directly forward Google Voice calls to your Skype account without involving any third parties.
What am I buying?
The funding for the basic Skype set up break down into two parts:
- Unlimited US & Canada Calls 12 months – $30
- Online number, 12 month subscription – $30
At a rate of $60 yearly for the full package, it’s not going to be a huge dent in your business’ wallet. If you’re like me, you find yourself on the phone with clients fairly regularly. Most of these conversations occur during daytime hours, which can cause overages on cell phone minutes or long distance fees. Having a VoIP line solves both of those problems.
As an added bonus, since this Skype number would be considered a business line, it is also entirely tax deductible.
Mixing Services Together
At this point, some of you might be wondering why Google Voice is needed at all. Here’s five reasons why it pays to have Google act as middleman:
- Free phone number
- Transferable number
- Free SMS messaging
- Call filtering and scheduling
- Recordings and text translations of voicemail
Splitting the Roles
With both services up and running, you’ll now have two separate numbers at your disposal. The public number should be from Google Voice, while your “behind the scenes” number was purchased from Skype. Linking up Skype is as easy as adding an additional phone to the Google Voice forwarding system.
You can set up additional phone lines once logged in through the Settings>Phones screen.
Google Voice will be responsible for the voicemail, SMS, and overall number. Skype will be responsible for the phone and unlimited domestic calling plan. Playing together as a team, how about that?
Phones in Action
We’ve recently made the switch to this set up for One Mighty Roar. Since establishing a single centralized number, Sam and I have been able to manage our communications much better. Because both Google Voice and Skype are integrated through the computer, we find ourselves using them much more out of convenience.
I’ve put together a rough outline of our current set up below:
For those of you feeling particularly social, go ahead and leave us a voicemail. It can be a comment, suggestion, or even a simple hello. Give it a go!