Alright, this week’s tool for managing your business more effectively while saving some bucks in the process is one you may not think immediately relates to making money online or blogging. It’s dealing with phone calls and managing your voice connection to the world. Here’s the thing, we ALL need and use phones, and this plays a HUGE part in anything we do online or offline. Today I have some tips and one thing in particular that you really really need to try.
So, let’s jump into it. Here’s 4 things you can use to either save money on calls or manage your voice communications better:
Any good list on saving money on your phone bill HAS to include Skype. I’ve been a very casual Skype user for several years now, and I love how it has evolved. If you haven’t used Skype before, you should set up an account. It’s free and clearly shows the power of Internet based voice communications. You can start using the Skype chat function out of the box, which alone is worth setting up an account for.
Skype has a number of features and different pricing options. Skype calls to other Skype users are free, which is cool. If you want to make and receive calls to land line or cell phone users, you can buy Skype credits or use one of their plans for calls. It’s very inexpensive and very portable with the ability to use your Skype account on many different devices. Everything from your desktop/laptop to a Nokia Internet Tablet to a USB memory stick can carry your Skype contacts and give you access to your account. There’s even a Skype handset that will connect to wifi and let you make calls via your account as well an iPhone app to make calls without using your minutes. They really play to the Internet “lifestyle”.
Two final things to mention. First, Skype has a TON of users, so chances are good that your business contacts, friends, colleagues, and family members have an account. That’s important. Second, Skype has a great video call feature allowing you to do video conferencing for free. Another very handy thing if you have need for it and the price is right!
Read more here: Skype.
For a true land line replacement, Vonage should be on your shortlist of options. Vonage has been around for a long time and has a great plan allowing you to make unlimited calls for as little as $24.95 a month. This includes calls to more than 60 countries and the U.S. All that’s required is a little device you plug into your Internet connection and you’re set. Your number is assigned to that device (you can even keep your existing number if you have one you don’t want to lose), so it will follow you wherever you and your Vonage box go.
Here’s probably the coolest thing about Vonage. No matter where you go, as long as you have Internet, you can take your phone number with you. A buddy of mine was going to Florida a couple of years ago for a week at a conference. He threw his Vonage box in his suitcase and when he got to the hotel, plugged it in and had his “land line” with him the entire week. His wife called him on his local business number as well as everyone else who was used to contacting him that way. I thought that was pretty dang cool. And it didn’t cost him any extra.
For many of you who have joint venture partners in other countries or even outsource partners overseas, a service like Vonage can give you a level of communication you couldn’t otherwise afford. There really isn’t any reason to pay for a normal line from a traditional telco any longer. Vonage includes all of the features of the typical telco like voicemail, 3-way calling, call waiting, etc., but also includes features only found on cell phones or higher end services such as visual voicemail, ring lists, and simultaneous ring.
Read more here: Vonage.
3. Unlimited Cell Phone Plan
Alright, this one is not revolutionary, but I’m still amazed at how many people don’t know about unlimited calling plans available for their cell phones. On my iPhone, for instance, I have a $100/mo unlimited calling plan from AT&T. I don’t need any other business or home phones. Couple that with a Skype, UReach or Google Voice account (that one is next on my list) and you have an entire phone system without any extra lines or equipment.
If you’re concerned about giving out your cell number, set up a cheap or free account on some online voicemail service and use that for all your applications, signups, etc. that you think might end up getting you on a calling list you don’t want to be on. With most of those services, you can have your voice messages translated to text or the audio file automatically sent to your inbox. Consider dumping your other phones and just going with a cell phone.
4. Google Voice
I’ve saved the best for last…Google Voice. Formerly GrandCentral before Google bought them a number of months ago. I could write an entire post about Google Voice alone, but I’ll just give you the highlights.
For those of you who don’t know what Google Voice is, it’s essentially a one number solution, only on steroids. You sign up, get your phone number assigned to you (you can choose a local number, a number somewhere else in the U.S., or an 800 #), then plug your other contact numbers into the system such as your home and cell numbers, pager number, etc. After all that, you sit back and let the magic happen…
When a call comes in, Google Voice will route the call based on your preferences, ring multiple phones simultaneously, etc. Cool, but been done before. How about letting a call go to voicemail, then having a transcript of the call sent to your email? That’s cool. What’s more, you can have the transcript sent by text message to your phone! Use more than one phone for text messaging? No problem. Google Voice will route your text messages to other phones for you.
Google is constantly improving the technology as well. They recently launched SMS Forwarding. This allows you to get your text messages via email, and when you respond, they go back to the sender as SMS messages!
I’m a huge fan of Google Voice and plan on it becoming my primary number in the near future. It’s just too easy, especially since I currently have 6 phone numbers to keep track of, check messages on, etc. (I know it sounds crazy, but that’s business sometimes). Google Voice will simplify all of that for me. You HAVE to check out Google Voice today. It’s still in limited release, but sign up for an invite.
Oh, and did I mention it was FREE?!
Read more here: Google Voice.