Options for home office phone service

Lately I’ve been thinking about phone service for the home office. I’ve had a custom ring number (an extra phone number that runs over my home phone line but rings differently) ever since I started freelancing. At the time, Internet telephony was not a well-developed option and I didn’t want to switch exclusively to a cell phone for work. Here’s a look at the various home office phone options I’ve found, along with a few pros and cons for each.

  • A plain old land line is the most straightforward option. If you live alone or don’t have small children, you can probably get away with one line for work and personal use. However, if you need to have a second land line installed, the process can be expensive especially if you have to have additional phone jacks put in.
  • The aforementioned custom ring number is great in that it’s inexpensive ($5 per month through our local phone company), doesn’t require an additional physical phone line and gives you a way to distinguish between business and personal calls. But there are a few downsides, which are becoming more of an issue for me now that I work for more direct clients. The custom ring number and the main number have to share an outgoing voice mail message, so either my clients get to listen to the “you’ve reached the home of…and the home office of…” message, or I have to put an office-only message on the home line. Also, only the main number is displayed on the caller ID when I phone someone, so my clients have occasionally redialed that number. Then when I answer, I think it’s a personal call when it’s actually a work call (awkward if one happens to be cooking dinner with a group of friends when a client calls!). In addition, it is not possible to forward the custom ring number to another phone without forwarding the main number at the same time.
  • A business cell phone is another option, and not a bad option if you need or want a smartphone for work. Keeping the cell phone for business use should allow you to tax-deduct the bill, and you don’t have to worry about how to handle your phone calls when you’re out of the office. Two issues keep me from switching to a business cell phone: I would need one with an international calling plan (expensive) and as much as I try to be adaptable, I just hate talking on cell phones for long periods of time. I do have a cell phone that I use to check my work messages when I’m not home, but I wouldn’t want to use it as my exclusive work phone.
  • Because of these issues (largely the separation of voice mail and forwardability), I’m thinking of switching to Internet phone service. Due to issues with emergency calling, I wouldn’t switch my main phone to an Internet-based system, but it’s not an issue for my work phone. In addition, most of the main Internet phone services do enable call forwarding, so if I want to answer work calls when I’m not in the office, I can forward the work line to my cell phone. I’ve been looking at a few plans such as Vonage Lite, some of which are around $10 per month.

Any other thoughts on the pros and cons of the various home office phone options?

16 Responses to “Options for home office phone service”
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