Like so many other small business owners who are just starting out, I decided to use my personal phone as my business phone before I embarked on a frantic search for a free business phone number. I had my personal phone number printed on my business cards, posted it on my website, and listed it in the local business directory.
By using my personal mobile phone for business calls, I either had to send every unknown number to voicemail or allow the business to cross into our personal lives. I never could decide what to use as my voicemail greeting. Did I use my business greeting and confuse my family, or use a personal greeting and risk my professional credibility?
What finally drove me to search for a free business phone number? The day I answered a client call with “hi, honey” (expecting a call from my daughter).
What to look for in a free business phone number
Knowing I had to make an educated choice, I went to the ever-faithful internet and searched for “free business phone number providers.” Free anything sounds amazing when you’re working for yourself. Free email, free business phone, free lunch, especially free time!
While some free business phone number providers offer at least a few of the features below, consider investing in an affordable business phone service if you want a better shot at total satisfaction.
1. Customer service
Don’t make the same mistake I did when I first chose a popular free business phone number provider: no product support. And what did my second choice teach me? Bad customer service is almost worse than no customer service.
When searching for a free business phone number, make sure you can receive customer support just as easily as you could sign onto the service in the first place.
Read reviews from other users. If strong customer support is not available, look for another business phone service provider — even if you need to pay a little for the service.
2. Easy-to-use user interface
Having an easy-to-use website and mobile app is key. You don’t want to spend valuable time hunting around a convoluted website. A mobile app is great — as long as it’s user-friendly! One free business phone number product I tried to use made me crazy with the lack of features in its mobile app.
3. Auto attendant
As a business small business owner, you’ll appreciate a voice menu that allows callers to be transferred to a specific extension. This is also known as a digital receptionist.
When you just start out, and it’s just you, the auto attendant feature will help you make a more professional impression.
When you expand to adding employees, this feature will enable your business phone service to grow with you. When you can create extra extensions for different aspects of your business, you can assign those extensions to other people as they come on board.
4. Hold music
While this feature might be more of a perk than a must-have for a free business phone number, it never occurred to me how much I’d value hold music. When you’re at that point of success when you have more than one call coming in at time (but not at the point when you have more than one phone line), your waiting customers will appreciate listening to hold music instead of getting a busy signal. The ability to customize the music? Even better.
5. Voice to text
I don’t know how many times I didn’t have a something handy to write on while listening to my messages. Having a transcription changed the game for me — especially when I could have messages emailed and/or texted to me. This feature made it easy to prioritize my messages and return the calls accordingly.
What I learned from using a free business phone number
There’s nothing wrong with trying a free business phone number. New business owners need to keep costs in check, and a free phone service might work for you. I discovered, however, just like with email, that a free business phone number didn’t necessarily mean better phone service. I needed to find a product I could afford, with the features I found critical, and with room to grow as my business grew.
GoDaddy’s SmartLine is the hassle-free way to separate your business life from your personal life.
You can start for free. Sign up online, pick a business number, link your mobile phone, and download the SmartLine app to make your first call. That’s it!
Although I have yet to discover the meaning of free time, I have been able to convince family members to buy me lunch once in awhile! I consider it my reward for cutting the cord on those business calls to the house.
Also published on Medium.