Get a Free Business Phone Number with Google Voice
Small business owners wear multiple hats and perform various roles, especially solopreneurs, where all the work is on their shoulders. Woodshop owners especially, not only have to develop their woodworking skills to create their product, but they must also develop the business skills to build their brand.
Brand is the image you portray to your customer, and impacts every connection you have with that customer. We could go on about your email address (maybe email@example.com isn’t going to cut it), professional website, business logo (which we have already), and social media presence (which we also have already). But what about your phone number? Having a dedicated business line is something customers take for granted, but the process of getting and paying for a new phone and service seems downright silly for small shops.
On the other hand, do you really want to put your personal or home phone number on your business cards or website for anyone to call? You may already be experiencing late-night or weekend work calls, spam calls, and random text messages from strangers... it sucks. And what happens in the future when your successful shop is getting orders hand-over-foot? Whose phone number are clients and vendors using? Whose number has been all over your website, invoices, emails, and promotional material?
A simple tool to solve this problem is Google Voice.
WHAT IS GOOGLE VOICE?
Google Voice is a free service (though they do have paid plans with more features for businesses) that provides customers with a local phone number from which calls can be forwarded to a number of other phones, including your cell phone. You can also send text messages, screen calls, and set up voicemail (including having all voicemails transcribed and emailed to you!).
The benefit is that you get a dedicated business number for your customers to call and they come straight to your cell phone, home phone, office phone, or all three simultaneously, if you want. And the customer never knows your personal phone number.
The benefit of Google Voice is keeping your personal number private and having a professional business number with which to communicate to your customers!
Without a tool like Google Voice, your number ends up being your business number, which can get confusing for you and your customers pretty quickly.
FEATURES OF GOOGLE VOICE
- The key feature is allowing you to take and screen calls through a different phone number without having to invest in a new phone. Calls to numbers in the US and Canada are free, and anywhere else only cost $0.01 per minute.
- Customers can leave voicemails on your Google Voice account, so you can record a professional greeting for clients. Which is better than a message that just says “Hi, this is Hank, leave me a message.”
- Google Voice also lets you place calls from your Google Voice number, by calling that number first, and then calling whomever you want from there. That way your customers don’t get calls back from a number they didn’t call in the first place. This also means you can list your business as the caller ID on your Google Voice number!
- If you download the Google Voice app on your phone, you can also make outgoing calls from there, or even send text messages. That can be much more convenient for updates and quick questions with clients than even email.
- NOTE: You can only text through Google Voice to US- and Canada-based numbers, though you can receive texts from anywhere.
- If you use Gmail, you can also have your voicemail messages transcribed automatically and sent to your email! This option might be perfect for those who may forget to check their Google Voice app or voicemail often, but get push notifications of new emails on their phone.
- Those who regularly use other Google apps, like Gmail, Google Meet, or Google Calendar will prefer Google Voice because they easily sync together.
- For $20/month, Google Voice does have an auto-attendant which answers incoming calls to direct calls and provide important information.
SETTING UP GOOGLE VOICE
If you’re willing to try out Google Voice, here’s how you can set it up for your business!
- Step 1. You need a Google Account and an existing US-based phone number. To use Google Voice, you have to tie it to a phone number you already have (meaning you can’t use Google Voice as your primary phone provider).
- Step 2. Navigate to the Google Voice website (voice.google.com) and sign in to your Google Account.
- Step 3. In the box on the sign-up page, type in either a nearby city or an area code you want your number to have. A list of numbers will appear to choose from! Pick the one that you like best by clicking “Select”.
- NOTE: You can later change the number you select, but you will have to pay a fee.
- Step 4. Once you have claimed a number, you will have to link it to your existing phone number and verify that number. Type your existing number into the box that appears and then click “Send code”.
- Step 5. When you receive the code, type it into the box on the screen, then click “Verify,” then “Claim,” and then “Finish.” Now you have your own business number!
- (Optional) Step 6. You can link other numbers to your Google Voice number by going to the Google Voice dashboard (on a computer) and clicking “+ New linked number”, entering the number you want to link, and then verifying that number the same way you did with your original number.
OTHER OPTIONS THAN GOOGLE VOICE
We use Google Voice for our business, which is why we know more about its features! But it is not the only VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) service through which you can make and take calls from a new phone number. So for full disclosure, here are some drawbacks with Google Voice:
- You have to have a US-based number to sign up -- sorry to those abroad!
- You cannot record calls.
- Good call quality is not guaranteed.
- There is not a dedicated helpline or customer support line for Google Voice (though there is an online Help Center FAQ page for Google Voice).
There are many alternatives to Google Voice, though the good ones are not free. While most are only $10-30 a month, the advantage of Google Voice is that it can cost nothing. Still, if you are willing to pay a little each month, there are some great features you can get that aren’t available on Google Voice:
- Record messages to welcome callers (Grasshopper)
- Create a toll-free number and set up call queues for incoming calls (Telzio)
- Create an auto-attendant (IVR) to answer calls and set business hours so you don’t get calls when you’re not working (OpenPhone)
- A click-to-call widget for your email or website, which customers can use to call from their web browsers (RingBlaze)
- Unlimited calling in more international areas (Ooma)
- Great integration with Microsoft tools like Outlook (Skype and Microsoft Teams)
Having a separate business phone number gives you a separation between your personal and professional calls. It gives your business more credibility and creates a strong local (or national!) presence. A professional phone number is a subtle and taken-for-granted, but powerful, tool for giving your business legitimacy and trust.
VoIP services are more realistic than buying a new phone and service for your business, but which is best? All in all, we don’t think woodworking shops need half the features and tools offered by the more expensive services, or even those in the paid Google Voice plans. The free version of Google Voice will do just fine.
Sharing your personal cell number with your clients may work well when you are just doing small-scale and local business. Nothing wrong with that! We love supporting local craftsmen and craftswomen. But if you’re looking to expand and do business with clients possibly from around the country, sharing your personal number with just anyone doesn’t seem like a great idea.
A service like Google Voice lets you set up a free phone number as an intermediary between your customers and your phone, so that your business has its own professional contact line that customers can use to reach you without using your personal number. It signals to your clientele that you are a professional shop and it gives you some privacy and peace-of-mind. That’s a win-win.
Have other questions about building your maker brand and business? Subscribe to the Business for Makers Blog and Business for Makers Podcast for insights and tips. Tune to Sawdust Talk on IGTV Live on Wednesdays at 10 pm CST to hear from makers about their projects and business and meet some great members of the maker community.
By the way, once you get your business name, you’ll need T-shirts to show it off! Check out georgesupplyco.com to get your maker business’s name and logo on a shirt, hoodie, or hat.
ABOUT THE AUTHORS
Scott Chervitz is the owner of George Supply Company, dedicated to helping woodshops build their brand. See more at GeorgeSupplyCo.com. You can reach him at Scott@GeorgeSupplyCo.com or on Instagram at @GeorgeSupplyCompany.
Brian Chervitz, M.S., is an Associate Instructional Designer at the University of Wisconsin Extended Campus.