Virtual phone numbers are ideal for small businesses, choose from local geographic, or national non-geographic virtual phone numbers with low running costs

A lot of my clients are new small businesses and it is common for them to publish their mobile or home fixed line as their main business phone number.

Using a mobile as your business number

Using a current mobile phone or fixed line number is the cheapest way to publish a phone number for your business, but it has it’s drawbacks. A mobile phone number always looks slightly unprofessional. I think it’s fine alongside a fixed line number as an alternative contact point especially if you run a ‘mobile’ business or are on the road a lot, but on it’s own it makes a new business look ‘temporary’.

You have also got the scenario of business calls getting mixed up with personal calls – you don’t really want to be at home answering your home fixed line “Welcome to Widgets Ltd, how may I help” – it might be your mum on the other end of the phone.

Virtual phone number for your business

VoIP technologies have been around for a good number of years now and they offer the ability to route calls over the internet, effectively bypassing the more traditional telephone network. That’s not strictly true, as at some point a call will end up going through some copper wire but what this does mean for you as a newly started small business is that you don’t have to pay line rental in order to get a virtual phone number for your business.

There are many companies offering virtual phone numbers to businesses. I have used for around 4 years now and both their technical support and service have been rock solid and stable.

They offer geographic virtual phone numbers, e.g. 01 and 02 which show your potential customers that your business perhaps serves a distinct geographic area or you can get non-geographic virtual phone numbers to give the appearance of a nationwide business such as 03 and 08 numbers. You don’t own the numbers as such, you are only renting them which means as soon as you stop paying for the number, it goes back into the pool of available numbers for other customers.

Virtual phone number features

Virtual answering machine service

Phone numbers come with many features bundled in for free with a virtual number service. The ability to record your own business greeting for an answerphone service creates a professional image and any messages recorded on an answerphone service can be emailed to you as a wav audio file, meaning you don’t have to be physically next to the phone to hear the message, simply play it from your smartphone.

Virtual number Call forwarding

An even more useful feature is the ability to forward any incoming calls to another number (or numbers). You could have your virtual phone number automatically forwarded to your mobile and home fixed line if you wished.

Virtual number service hours

Some virtual phone number providers allow you to set specific times of the day you can accept calls on the virtual phone number allowing you to have “Sorry, our offices are closed” messages. You can also set up routing to another number outside of office hours.

Even more virtual number services

Music whilst ringing
Music On-Hold (MOH)
Message while routing
Call recording
Call Director (IVR) – e.g. “press 1 for sales, 2 for accounts”

Cheap virtual phone numbers

So what are the costs of renting a virtual phone number? Soho66 have various packages available, but if you’re a new small business looking for a virtual phone number, then for £2.99+VAT per month an 01, 02, 03 or 08 number can be yours.

There are other costs as well, but this is dependent on how you utilise the phone number. As mentioned above, at some point a call has to travel over the traditional copper wire phone network or through one of the mobile networks. Take the two following examples;

  • Business owner needs a number to route through to either a mobile or home fixed line. As the VoIP platform is essentially forwarding incoming calls to another number(s) you then have to pay for that forwarding connection. The cost varies whether the incoming call is answered on a mobile or fixed line.
  • Business owner is always seeing clients during the day, so physically has no time to answer an incoming call. The virtual phone number is routed immediately to an answer service to take a message. In this scenario the only cost of the virtual number is the monthly rental cost and absolutely no line rental to pay.

Luckily though, many virtual phone number providers charge per second rather than per minute, so if you are receiving a lot of calls during the day you will essentially save money over a traditional fixed line by avoiding any rounding up billing scenarios.

Virtual phone numbers

In conclusion, virtual phone numbers are an excellent way for your business to present a more professional image, whether you buy a geographic or non-geographic number. You’ll also save on your operating costs from per-second billing.