I’m starting a new category here on the blog — business tips. I find I am so often sharing apps, ideas, websites and more with friends and colleagues, so why not blog them?
So here’s my first… GoogleVoice.
I started using GoogleVoice back when it was still under the name of its developers, GrandCentral, before Google bought it up. Let me first tell you what it was intended for back then.
Since most of us have multiple phone numbers — home, cell, work, maybe a work cell as well, GrandCentral provided you with an online telephone number that you could easily program to forward to all or any of your phone numbers. No need for anyone to track you down, dialing each number. No need for mom or hubs to freak out. You could program one unified voicemail, and you could call back using the GC number. For free.
There was also a not terribly attractive widget you could put on your website, and people could call you for free as well (if they dial the number from their phone it is not free. The free part comes from being online.) I choose to publish the actual number instead of using the not terribly attractive widget. In case I am not available to take the call, I can choose that calls go to voicemail, as well as to email with a transcript (which, like many transcripts, is often hilariously funny. “Hi, this is dollar calling from total voids…” “Hi Jean, My name is dark of night. Nada..”)
Now, Google’s own website says: Google Voice isn’t a phone service, but it lets you manage all of your phones. Google Voice works with mobile phones, desk phones, work phones, and VoIP lines. There’s nothing to download, upload, or install, and you don’t have to make or take calls using a computer. (Like with Skype.)
But my point is you can, so why not? GoogleVoice is perfect for free business calls within the US. Here’s what I do: from my browser, I input a telephone number I want to call. GoogleVoice calls me back on the phone of my choice — landline, cell, or both — and when I answer, GV will connect me to the party I’m calling. Nowadays there is a mobile app for GV so you are not limited to your computer browser to make the calls. 🙂
From my GoogleVoice webpage it looks like this:
Now there is a Chrome browser toolbar shortcut which I use more often:
There is also a third party Mac desktop widget but it stopped working for me so that’s when I switched to the browser shortcut.
The “call me free’ widget still exists but I don’t use it to reduce the chance of getting unwanted calls.
And here’s another cool thing: You can set the hours your GoogleVoice number will forward to ring you so that you needn’t get business phone calls from London Calling while you’re sleeping or on weekends, if you choose not to. I once got a call from Turkey at 4 am, and there are sometimes people who think that freelance means available 24/7 and that 10 pm is a perfectly fine time to call (luckily, it’s rare, but still!) Part of the beauty is that only your GV number shows on their Caller ID, and I consider that a plus from a privacy point of view.
Now that Google owns the software, more is happening. You can GV people in GooglePlus Circles and your Google /GMail contacts can be easily accessed from your GV. You can integrate GoogleChat. Here’s a nice little video that makes it clear. 🙂
Start here to set up GoogleVoice.
Just another little thing… if you use Gmail you can also dial a phone number from here. I haven’t quite figured out if this is separate from GV in the technical sense (I think it is, although it probably uses a similar technology) but it’s certainly handy! The main difference is that it does not give you that business phone number you might be wanting, nor any of the nice features that come with it.
Questions I’ve gotten:
1. Why not use Skype?
If I wanted to video I might. But you need a computer for Skype and if you want to call a phone you have to pay. For a phone-to-phone use, GV is perfect. I don’t have to be tethered to a computer with GoogleVoice because it’s connected me on an actual phone.
2. Why don’t you just use your cell phone?
I do use it, but I prefer my landline so long at it’s right here, because the sound quality is clearer, set is easier to hold, it never gets warm, no minutes to be concerned about, and there’s less battery worry. Also, as I stated above, the number the other party sees on their Caller ID is the GoogleVoice number, which has business hours set. Again, no worries about cell calls in the middle of the night, and my privacy is protected as well.
Questions? I don’t fancy myself a super-expert but I’ve been happily using GoogleVoice for a few years now and I will be happy to answer about what works for me!
Start here to set up GoogleVoice.