A question I get asked all the time from my coaching and consulting clients is whether or not they should use their mobile phone number and home address on their new website. In order to look like an established business, you have to provide an address and phone number, right? But are you willing to give out your personal information? If not, what are your alternatives?
Back in 1997 when I started designing websites, and my “office” was a corner of my bedroom, I put my home phone on my business card and as a result I never knew who was calling — my volleyball coach or a new client.
Fast forward to a few years ago when I moved into a real office at the Mighty Little Web Shop, I bounced back and forth between whether to use a traditional business phone line or my mobile phone number. As much as I love talking to my clients, I also value uninterrupted family time and I knew that using my mobile phone as my business number would make it really hard to separate my personal and professional lives. But landlines are expensive!
In the end, I chose a traditional business phone line and I’m glad to have my mobile phone back to being personal. And even though this new phone line is expensive, it’s trustworthy and reliable. Comcast was a pretty clear choice, because as a web designer, I need super-fast internet. But for my coaching and consulting clients who work from home or a shared office space, there are a few other options worth considering.
Virtual phone systems
Virtual phone systems provide a dedicated business line (or several), that forward to a land line or mobile phone. It’s easy to tell which calls are for your business, and you can return these calls from that very same, professional phone number. These services give you access to powerful tools, like unlimited extensions, call conferencing, professional voice for automated recordings, toll free phone numbers with texting, and voicemail transcription and reading. The risks, as I see them, are that some of these companies could go out of business.
Here are a few popular choices:
Google Voice: Choose your own, unique telephone number linked to your Google account. Then route this number to any phone you own. The service is free and pretty intuitive. Free usually means that there isn’t any real support. And while Google might decide to sunset this service, I’m guessing that they won’t be going out of business anytime soon.
Grasshopper: Similarly, Grasshopper is an easy to use service that provides a local or 800 number, including “vanity” numbers (like 1-800-websites), and the option to add unlimited extensions for each of your employees. Monthly fees start at $12, and include services like custom greetings, call holding and transferring, hold music, name directories, conference calling, voicemail to fax and email, and call routing extensions, among others. The price is per minute with the lower monthly cost options, but depending on how much you use your phone, all the extras could make this worth it.
Line2: A contract-free option, Line2 allows you to add fax lines and multiple extensions, and can even provide professionally recorded greetings to make your small business sound big. For a monthly fee of about $15, Line2 provides unlimited calling and texting with solid support in case you have trouble. Texting and inbound calls are unlimited, but many of the extras come with an additional cost.
AnswerConnect: If you’d rather have someone else handle your incoming phone or web traffic for you, AnswerConnect provides 24-hour a day support by answering phone calls, handling web chats and responding to emails regardless of your own personal availability. There’s a one-time set up fee for this month-to-month service, then they bill by the minute. Similarly, check out CallRuby.com if you want a real person to answer your phone.
Here is another question I get a lot: what address should I put on my business card and website? I don’t know about you, but for me it’s reassuring to see a local address, or at least a real address for a business I might hire. Many of my clients hesitate to share their home address, and a PO Box always looks a little suspect, at least to me. And if you get distracted with dishes and laundry, an office outside of your home might be the cure. If you are in Maryland (like we are) consider using shared space.
UPS: While this isn’t an office, your local UPS store can offer you a real street address with a suite number — not a PO Box — starting at around $30.
Earth Class Mail: Allows you to choose an address from a network of addresses across the country. The cool thing about this is they scan your physical mail so you can read or download it from anywhere for about $99 a month.
Shared office space: Sometimes a shared office space is the right solution (even if you never actually lease space!) Places like Carr Workplaces and WeWork provide small business owners with a swanky mailing address. They also offer phone answering services and conference room rentals. A mailing address will cost you anywhere from $79-$149 per month; and phone services begin at $75 per month.
Shared office space with services: Companies like Intelligent Office provide professional phone answering services, administrative support, and appointment scheduling along with other services that support businesses through rapid growth. This is a great office + phone answering + scheduling solution with a local presence that is popular with health care providers.
Creative Colony: This shared space started by the talented Shala Graham offers flexible membership terms and day passes for $25 in Silver Spring. With a month-to-month membership, you’ll get a business address with a personalized mailbox. Their most popular membership is monthly, which gives you 10 working days and four hours of conference room use, as well as a storage locker.
Hera HUB: If you prefer a female-only workspace, Hera Hub in Friendship Heights has a spa-inspired collaborative workspace run by the lovely Julia Westfall. Hera Hub members have access to a big beautiful conference room, offices and shared worktables and access to all kinds of experts. Best of all, they can collaborate with like-minded business owners and feel less isolated.
These days my office is in Rockville at the Washington Art Works, and my mobile phone is strictly my family phone (typically with an 11 year old on the other end). And with more options than ever before available for coaches and consultants regarding mailing addresses and phones numbers, which one are you considering? Send me a note and let me know!