Relevant to: Freelancers, Entrepreneurs, Productivity Freaks, One Man Businesses.

Read Time: 9 minutes.

Recent reader Zachary came to me looking for help and advice on how he could better adapt Google Voice for his business. Let’s look over how to use Google Voice, the pro’s and con’s for business and how to assess if it will work for you.

Google Voice (which is free, US only) attempts to make voicemail and your phone a Google like experience, meaning as integrated with your online experience and as feature rich as possible. The benefits are numerous but beware, if your looking to integrate with a current phone number, there are a few things you’ll have to work around.

LYNCHPIN (CON 1): The most prominent issue to tackle is the “one number for everything” question. Although you can have the Google number (and only the Google number) ring several phones, Google Voice will not quench the thirst for a one number for multiple businesses and your personal life UNLESS you can deal with a general “Hi this is Rob, leave a message” type voicemail for first time callers. Why? In order to use all of Google Voice’s features, callers MUST call your Google number and if the caller is a new caller WILL be sent to a general voicemail (without any type of extension or press this button type options).

The above specific point gets glossed over in the myriad of cool features. If you require people to hit a “branded” voicemail message where you mention your company name to some extent, this service will most likely not serve you for a one phone to rule them all solution (but it might for just business). If you think you can live with a general voicemail greeting (or are willing to set up another service, like Grasshopper, or Ring Central, that customers or whoever can call first and then by choice be routed to your Google number) look below for the numerous benefits you’ll gain and how to use them. Benefits which save me time in my day and make life much easier.

If you want more advice on how to know if you’re right for this service, check out this Lifehacker post.

Okay now that we’re through that.

Google allows you a layered approach to the GVoice service. You can integrate your existing phone number, or use the Google number exclusively online.

In this post we’ll assume you’ll want to blend your current cell number and a Google number. Your callers (clients, mom, or best friend) can all hear a general voicemail if they are a first time caller.

INTEGRATION ALERT (CON 2): If you want to take the biggest advantage of Google Voice, you need to use it for all correspondence. It has to be the number people are calling you on if you want to do anything special with the call. Let’s be clear, unless they are calling your Google number, the Google Voice service can only route voicemails (that come to your existing number) to an online interface and transcribe it or route pre-determined-in-your-address-book callers to a customized voicemail greeting and transcribe it. Requiring a number switch is a big caveat with the service, but in order to gain all the perks, you need to use the free number that you can choose from Google.

Transition Tip: I’ve had the service for over a year, but choose to gradually introduce it to existing contacts (mostly through text messages) while using it as my only number for new contacts.

Basics

Google gives you a number for free.

You can send txts from the online service and receive them back to an online interface for free. In addition, you can choose to forward them to a cell phone with the ability to respond from the cell phone (showing the Google Voice number in the text response).

Cheap outbound calls which work by calling you first, then connecting the call, like you had an automatic operator OR direct-using-the-computer calling from within Google Mail. If you choose to have Google connect the call to your cell phone, you have the choice for the number to appear like your own number or your Google number.

Integrates with Google Mail, multiple widgets for the computer and smart phone apps.

When a caller calls your Google number, what you can do with the number is astounding. Listen in on a voicemail, route the call to any number, play specialized voicemail greetings for specific callers, record the call, etc.

Click Here to See Googles Feature List With Short Applicable Videos

Productivity for Business

Central Data Location

I love having my voicemails and txts in the same place. Like Google’s Gmail, you can search, save, make calls, and send txts to anyone in your Google address book from the Google Voice website and now from within Google Mail. If you’re doing business online, you most likely coordinate a lot of action from your Google Account, and if you’re not, you should be and these added features are gold.

You can have both voicemails and txts forward to Gmail, which if your handy with the filters in Gmail means you can manage e-mail, voicemail, and txts from one website. Worried about duplicate data all over the place? Make the the Google Mail integration more passive by marking all new voicemail “e-mails” and txt message “e-mails” as read and archiving them to a specific label/folder automatically with a filter. Then everything is accessible and archived, but not yelling at you to manage. You’ll still receive txts on your mobile, and you can receive a txt when someone leaves a voicemail on your Google number and then call in to retrieve it. (Note: this is a downgrade compared to the increasingly common visual voicemail that smartphones now offer) Again, if your doing business online you’re most likely going to be able to check the voicemail on your smartphone, or will already be sitting at a computer.

Online Calling

Clicking a number to dial it is brilliant. The restaurant menu’s, e-mails, and online websites that contain numbers you need to dial are all too numerous. An easy cut and paste, or web browser add-on (Firefox Addon https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/11167/) will allow you to click on a number to have it dial you and connect you with the number without cost (except your normal cell minutes if calling from your cell) in the US and Canada.

NEW! Google just added integration with Google Mail on an entirely new level. You can now dial numbers in your contact list and route the call THROUGH the online Google Mail interface, meaning no phone involved. If you’re comfortable with the headset, this is really convenient.

Cheap International Rates

Calls will only cost you cell phone minutes (or landline minutes if you still use that thing) plus whatever the cost listed at Google is. In general, very cheap. Rates listed here https://www.google.com/voice/rates.

Group Filtered Voicemail (requires caller to call Google number or have your current voicemail “activated” or switched to Google Voice) ((Settings > Phones > Show advanced settings))

If the caller is in your Google address book, you can create a group specifically for that person and do whatever you like with the call: Block it, send it right to voicemail, send it to a customized voicemail, etc. It’s not convenient to filter one specific caller, but several in a group you already have organized such as “college buds” or “tenants” could be very helpful.

Voicemail Transcription

Turn this on in the Google Voice settings and it’s attached to every voicemail you get in the online interface. Works fairly well and saves a lot of time.

Caller/Voicemail Screening (requires caller to call Google number)

Remember how you could listen to people leaving a message on the old answering machines? This is the same thing except you need to press buttons on your phone to pick up the call. Click here to see a demonstration.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eF-7UTvwAXs&feature=player_embedded

Call Recording (requires caller to call Google number)

(Note: at this time you can only record calls you receive on your Google Voice number. You can’t record calls you initiate.)

Press 4 during the call, and it’s recorded and added to the Google Voice website.

Benefits I’ve Used the Most

  • Online Dialing – The quick lunch menu call or check in is really convenient.
  • Call Recording – Consulting calls and interview calls.
  • Text Messages – Clients, friends, and my Mom even txt, it’s great to manage them all from one screen.


Reader Questions

1) How do I listen to an incoming voicemail and decide whether or not to take it?

If they’ve called your Google Voice number, you need to turn on screening (Settings > Calls), you’ll receive the call like normal, at which a google voice will tell you who is calling, at which you can send to voicemail and then listen to it. You can press * to “pick up” or join the call. Click here to see a demonstration.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eF-7UTvwAXs&feature=player_embedded

2) What is the best way to “jump all in” with out bothering people with a new phone number?

There’s not really a way to “jump all in” without giving out the new number, the best you can do is have people who are calling your old number sent to voicemail and check that online.

3) I am in property management. My number is on For Lease signs, business cards etc as well as for personal use. How do I make my life more comfortable juggling all the different uses I use my number for?

Here’s the lynchpin rearing it’s ugly head. If you already have your non-Google Voice number up, you can’t gain all the features of Google Voice, only voicemail “juggling” which is still a benefit if you’re a heavy e-mail user.

4) How can I check my messages without having to play them through my iPhones speaker, what if I’m in a public place?

I’m guessing your checking your voicemail through the online interface on a smartphone. It makes sense to do that because you’re used to visual voicemail, unfortunately you have to go backwards to check your voicemail on Google’s platform with a phone and not a computer. Once you change the settings on the Google Voice website (Settings > Phones > Show advanced settings), you can call your Google Voice number FROM your phone and be sent straight to your voicemail inbox.

Notes: to CON 1 and CON2

One number to rule them all: Set up a pre-Google Voice service (maybe a secondary Google Voice number?) or service that users call to get that specific service, and get forwarded if they press an extension. See Grasshopper for a great service that handles many “branches” or extensions for calls.

New Number: Nothing right now, but Google still claims they will offer a “port” of some sort in the future.

Conclusion

If you’re a one man show, such as a personal fitness coach, freelancer, web designer, etc, you can adapt Google Voice to really benefit you, but if you want to appear larger than you are and brand your voicemail experience, Google Voice will only tease you.

Some of Google Voice’s “features” are annoying and untraditional such as requiring users to say their name when they call you and requiring you to press a button to connect an incoming call, but the core features, such as txt messaging and voicemails online or integrated into your e-mail are enough to merit a trial in your life. I inform my most common “txt” contacts of the number so they aren’t thrown off when it shows up, and route all my voicemails to e-mail. Hope you find your perfect service Zachary.

Do you want a blog breakdown on a topic you’ve been struggling with or wondering about? Drop me a line!

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