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Best virtual phone number set-up for a one-person shop?

Community Guru
Phyllis G Member Since: Sep 8, 2016
1 of 9

I'm an independent researcher/writer working from a home office, no landline. I like to encourage the general public to use my "office number" instead of my mobile number. I also have periodic need to conduct in-depth interviews by phone, so need outbound calling that doesn't link to my cell phone.

 

For a few years, Skype worked great. But after Microsoft acquired it, they discontinued e-mail notification for new voice messages, and eliminated the ability to customize your voice mail greeting. That makes it useless.

 

Am currently using Phone.com which works great for the inbound calls but requires subscribing to additional functionality in order to use it for outbound calling. That makes it more expensive (and a little irritating).

 

Anybody familiar with alternative solutions that deliver this specific (and pretty basic) package of functions?

Community Guru
Pandora H Member Since: May 11, 2010
2 of 9

This is a great question, not only because I love knowing what other people are using, I'm in the same "Skype" situation as the OP.

 

I've done some research, and it's a great cost-effective alternative (inbound and outbound anywhere in the US, for around $8 a month?) Awesome! But like the OP said, without the voicemail greeting and email notifications, it's just not enough.

 

I don't need inbound ALL the time, and for that matter, don't use outbound A LOT. Depends on what my clients need (Customer Service centric jobs, which are not my bread and butter service).

 

I can't give up Skype because I also use it to hook up with my clients, and their team members, so I'm already resigned to having to pay for 2 different tools. I'd prolly drop the inbound service though, if I can find something with more oomph.

 

Community Guru
Pandora H Member Since: May 11, 2010
3 of 9

Hmm, no CS professionals even?

Community Guru
Steven E. L Member Since: May 5, 2015
4 of 9

I use premium Skype in place of a traditional landline. This costs approximately $60 per year: ~$30 for the phone number with area code plus an additional ~$30 for unlimited outbound long distance to North America.

 

Using the Skype number as the root inbound number, one simply needs to find an online internet telephony SIP/VoIP providers. I have been satisfied with CallRail, OomaOnebox, and OnSIP. All of these services have an online web portal or control panel to configure inbound phone numbers, 1-800 numbers, internal call routing, caller ID masking, voicemail, voicemail transcription, text messaging, and most importantly, virtual extensions.

 

Using a virtual extension number, a customer or "co-worker" can reach me by calling the Client company's regular business number and entering my extension when prompted. The VoIP service forwards the call to my Skype number, at which point I answer the call as if I was sitting in the client's brick and mortar office using a regular PBX switchboard.

 

Saving caller ID numbers into the Skype contacts list allows me to identify whether the incoming call belongs to Client A, Client B, direct mail campaign D, email campaign E, a response to outbound cold calls made by other Freelancers, etc., etc., as needed to segregate calls for different clients or what have you.

 

I have somewhere in the neighborhood of 30 phone numbers forwarding to my Skype number. It's not uncommon for me to field back-to-back-to-back calls in a row with each call being for different Client. I simply switch the time tracker to the appropriate contract, answer the phone and get to work. The entire operation is completely transparent to the customer.

 

Any decent SIP/VoIP will have a feature to set the time delay before the voicemail answers. To circumvent the lousy generic Skype recording, one simply needs to adjust the delay through the SIP/VoIP control panel to pick up before Skype. Without checking, I believe Skype voicemail answers at 30 seconds and we set the customized voicemail greeting to answer at 24 seconds.

 

This type of a setup may be overkill for most Freelancers. Excepting the ~$60 I personally pay for Skype, I can't comment on the monthly cost. In most cases, I'm piggybacking off the client's SIP/VoIP which was already in place. The Client bears the cost for any extra extensions on their system in a manner similar to their having to pay for extra email addresses or other logins if they want their Freelancer to appear to be "inside" the company..

Active Member
Melmie L Member Since: Sep 24, 2017
5 of 9

I'm using google voice and grasshopper. GV is free, and GH is about 12/mo with no minutes I believe it's 2 cents a minute if I use it., currently GH has unlimited minutes at 24/mo. 

Active Member
Mario J Member Since: Aug 26, 2019
6 of 9

Today, more and more Internet services require a mobile phone number when registering. From a security point of view, this is reasonable: confirmation by SMS many times reduces the risk of account hacking. But there are situations when a phone request only interferes. For example, when creating another profile on the same resource.

If you use Skype, some difficulties may arise, therefore I will advise you CallGear, CallRail.

Active Member
Samuel S Member Since: Sep 29, 2019
7 of 9

I was recently looking for this too. Do you have the virtual number in your settings > contact info or do you just hand it out when people want to talk? I use Google Voice for my business (not UW), which has come with some drawbacks as some banks refuse to text 2FA codes to virtual numbers (SMS codes are bad for other reasons but that's another topic). They also refuse to use an app so I have to buy an RSA key and feel like I went back in time. So, for gig jobs I decided to use Skype. It isnt free but it's cheap and should be around for a while. I have the Skype number, calls can go both directions, there is voicemail (not customizable anymore which is stupid) and it seems to be pretty easy. The other alternatives would either be sketchy or expensive. I dont like installing sketchy apps on my devices so we will see how long it takes Skype ($52.26/year + outbound to phones) to annoy me enough to switch to Grasshopper ($26/month billed annually). 

Community Guru
Phyllis G Member Since: Sep 8, 2016
8 of 9

Samuel S wrote:

I was recently looking for this too. Do you have the virtual number in your settings > contact info or do you just hand it out when people want to talk? I use Google Voice for my business (not UW), which has come with some drawbacks as some banks refuse to text 2FA codes to virtual numbers (SMS codes are bad for other reasons but that's another topic). They also refuse to use an app so I have to buy an RSA key and feel like I went back in time. So, for gig jobs I decided to use Skype. It isnt free but it's cheap and should be around for a while. I have the Skype number, calls can go both directions, there is voicemail (not customizable anymore which is stupid) and it seems to be pretty easy. The other alternatives would either be sketchy or expensive. I dont like installing sketchy apps on my devices so we will see how long it takes Skype ($52.26/year + outbound to phones) to annoy me enough to switch to Grasshopper ($26/month billed annually). 


As far as I'm concerned, MS broke Skype. I only use it for chat/call with one long-time client who still uses it.

I settled on phone.com for my virtual number, which is the one listed on my website. I can't answer inbound calls but it has customizable v-mail and I receive immediate notification of new messages. It's about $15/mo I think. I have an add-on to enable outbound calls which I pay another $10/mo (I think). It's meant for when I need it for project interviews, but I've been leaving it turned on all the time because occasionally it's convenient to have a second phone. (Rural area, no land line, mobile service occasionally wobbles.)

 

Active Member
Samuel S Member Since: Sep 29, 2019
9 of 9

Yeah, if all you want is a custom mailbox and the ability to respond then Skype is not a good option. It was a dumb move for Microsoft to remove voicemail features. I would have liked for them to have added an autoattendant to help filter spam calls (bots dont usually "press 2 to speak with a representative"). Like I mentioned my other business uses Google Voice and has a custom mailbox and can make inbound/outbound calls for free. Technically it's a personal # and maybe that isnt right but whatever. Most inbound calls are spam but those who leave a message are easy to filter through and I have setup rules to allow certain tags in my contacts (clients and business contacts) to bypass the mailbox and ring the phone. But I can only have one Google Voice number unless I pay. So Skype fits my needs for gigs at the moment. No need to drop a bunch of money on services unless I have to. Always helpful to see what others are doing though. 

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