At some point you're going to want to add a phone number to your contact page. And for those who want to give their contact page a more professional touch, a phone number helps you to look like a real business.
I've found a few services that will allow you to grow your phone system as your business grows.
I started using Kall8 long ago because it's so cheap. For only $2 a month you get a toll-free number (888, 877, or 866) and you can choose your number. An 800 number is $5/month. You additionally pay for call time on the number, currently 6.9 cents per minute. What I do is send all calls to voicemail. When I get a voicemail message, Kall8 sends me an e-mail with the link to the audio of that voicemail, and I'll call customers later or respond via e-mail. What I've found is that people rarely call, and tend to use e-mail or the contact form.
Anecdote: On a business retreat last year where the cellular coverage was spotty and wi-fi was unreliable, I was able to get online just long enough to set up a Kall8 number for home so I could call home toll-free whenever I wanted, without incurring phone charges to the property owner.*
See all Kall8 features.
I first found out about Grasshopper from a tweet by Jason Fried of 37Signals. Grasshopper is the next stepping stone once you have employees (either remote or in your office). Starting at $29/month, you choose a toll-free (888, 877, or 866) number (or 800 number for a one-time $30 activation).
Grasshopper offers a complete phone directory system, giving Sales, Support, and anyone you want their own extensions. So the support person who works from home in Florida can handle support calls while you hustle sales calls and business meetings on your trip to New York. You also have on-hold music and can optionally have professionally recorded custom voicemail greetings and directory prompts.
See all Grasshopper features.
Asterisk, an open-source telephony project, is a free software implementation of a telephone private branch exchange (PBX).
It's powerful. So powerful you could go into business developing phone systems for large companies with this thing. From Wikipedia:
The Asterisk software includes many features available in proprietary PBX systems: voice mail, conference calling, interactive voice response (phone menus), and automatic call distribution. Users can create new functionality by writing dial plan scripts in several of Asterisk's own extensions languages, by adding custom loadable modules written in C, or by implementing Asterisk Gateway Interface (AGI) programs using any programming language capable of communicating via the standard streams system (stdin and stdout) or by network TCP sockets.
For the technically hardcore who wish to get their hands dirty, it's an amazing piece of software.
Download and read the Asterisk book from O'Reilly for free here.
- If you're wanting to unplug from the world, and enjoy nature and a relaxed life with an awesome host family, I highly recommend Buckhorn Springs in Ashland, Oregon.
Next post:* a better voice for your business than yours