This article describes how easy it is to obtain an inexpensive telephone number for a therapists’s private practice … and how this same method is ideal for obtaining a temporary or time-limited telephone number (eg 0800 or “freephone”) for, say, marketing a workshop.
A telephone number for your new Private Practice.
Whilst this can seem like an easy solution, the therapist must contend with managing the difficulties associated with mixing up use of a personal telephone for business use:-
- What introduction do you use when answer a potential-business call on your home phone: “Hello?” … or “Hi, this is Joanna”, or “Joanna Smith’s Counselling…”
- How do you manage an incoming mobile-phone call when you’re in a public area? Do you answer the call (it could only be family calling, afterall)? Do you leave it to go to voice mail? Do you make a judgement depending on where you are? How will you protect the caller’s confidentiality?
- Who else in the house needs to know about using the “home” phone? Do they understand not to listen to voice messages (matters of protecting someone’s confidentiality)? Do they understand how – or even if – to answer the phone?
- For mobile phones – does using such numbers lose any value when marketing your practice’s location? Eg does advertising 07989 123456 (mobile / location-less) communicate anything differently to 02392 123456 (Landline / Portsmouth)?
An easier solution would cost you £2.00 a month. For this you get your choice of local a telephone number; one that you would use exclusively for your private therapy practice.
Introducing Voipfone – Voice over IP
Voipfone (https://www.voipfone.co.uk/) is a commercial service that provides (amongst other things) telephone numbers. It’s actually a service that’s been around for a few years now: VOIP standing for “Voice Over IP” (or voice services provided over the Internet).
I’ve been using my telephone number (02392 987 487) on Voipfone since 2009 and it costs me no more than £2.40 (including VAT) a month.
The services I choose to use are:-
- A free telephone number that comes with every new Voipfone account (which I choose not to use because the number begins 05603… which I don’t think many people recognise what 05 numbers are, or how much they cost. 05 numbers are “VOIP” or “Commercial” numbers (see http://www.area-codes.org.uk/05.php)).
- My choice of 023 92 number – which shows I operate in the Portsmouth area.
- Free outgoing messages that I record (“Hello … this is Dean Richardson …”) and can change at any time (“I’m on annual leave…”)
- Free emails of all income voice messages (voice messages are recorded and emailed to my own email account instantly).
- Free software to answer the phone on my computer – “SIP” compatible software that runs on Macs and PCs.
- Free connection to my SIP-compatible phone – in my case I can allow my Android mobile phone to receive calls from my practice telephone number (as well as my personal mobile number).
How I use the service.
When I someone calls any of the Voipfone telephone numbers I have connected to my account, and my computer nor my Smartphone is not accepting calls, the computers at Voipfone answer the call … and my outgoing message is played to the caller. If the caller leaves a message, it is recorded by the Voipfone computers, converted into an audio file and emailed to me.
Within the email will be the caller’s telephone number (if they have not blocked it), and the audio file. The file can be played by PCs, Macs, Smartphones and tablets.
If I am going to return the call, I call use my own phone (withholding my personal number by dialling 141 first). Because I have plenty of pre-paid minutes, this suits me better than calling back using my Voipfone number.
When I’m done, I delete the email and the audio file.
Other payable services.
In addition, there are these services:-
- Attach other numbers to the account – handy to rent an 0800 number for a special promotion, or to add other location numbers (such as adding Southampton 023 80 if I began working there too).
- Re-route incoming calls to a BT telephone.
- Attach a mobile SMS number – so that I could receive SMS text messages.
- Purchase a VOIP Telephone – a physical device that plugs into the internet to receive and dial calls.
- Purchase outgoing telephone calls – so I could call a client back from my business number.
- Call Me Back – a service where a person calling you will be notified that you’re going to call them back at a particular hour of the day.
- Fax services.
Virtual PBX Service.
So, imagine that you’re all set with local telephone number, an 0800 number for special occasions and a voicemail box.
You later decide that you’d like to expand your business by adding a new service, but you want this service to be a separate telephone number, a separate voicemail box, voice messages to be forwarded to a different email account and so on.
- One approach is to create a second account with Voipfone – this will give you everything you want (separate voicemail, separate telephone number etc)
- Another approach is to add a second line to your existing account. Having multiple lines is called a Virtual PBX Service (PBX: “private branch exchange” – a sort of private telephone switchboard that exists virtually within your single Voipfone account).
Onto this additional line you can attach extra telephone services like adding a different telephone number, voicemail, message forwarding and so on.
You can add and delete PBX lines as many times as you like – handy for, say, adding an 0800 number for a month to take bookings for a training workshop you might be running.
Virtual PBX Service works out to be £1 more expensive than opening a separate account, but it may be easier for you to manage multiple lines under the one account.
How to begin a Voipfone Account.
It costs nothing to open a Voipfone account – you get a free 05xxx number … and they even give you a free 20p credit to get going. Click here to get going:- https://www.voipfone.co.uk
Later, when you’re comfortable with the service, you could choose your own number
- Local (023 92)
- Regional (eg you might like a London phone number 0207…)
- Non profit (0330 …)
- Low-call (0845 …)
- Freefone (0800 …)
- Memorable (i.e. a number that’s very easy to remember, such as 08455 44 0000).
… or even expand with a PBX service (“For enquiries about my counselling services, press ’1′; for enquiries about about my coaching business, press ’2′).
Got a Question about Voipfone?
If you have any questions about my experiences with Voipfone, please use the comments section below to put your question – and we can start a discussion.
Otherwise, please see the Voipfone website for details.
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