Get your communications set-up right if you’re working from home
Depending on what you do for a living, that dream of working from home and being your own boss could become a reality. If you end up working in your pyjamas within arm’s reach of the fridge, it’s important to still look professional if you want to be taken seriously.
It’s easy enough to secure your own domain name for setting up a business website and email address. But if you want to come across as professional it’s important to also consider your telephone number, especially if you don’t live alone.
However, giving out your home number as your business number doesn’t look very professional if others are going to answer the phone with a casual “yeeeeellow?”
Using your mobile number for work might be more convenient, although you’re still blurring that line between your professional and personal life – especially if you don’t want to be fending off work calls after hours.
Consider your options in terms of a separate phone number for work. One option is to pay for a second physical line running into your home, but the initial installation and monthly rental can be an expensive overhead. If you move house you’ll probably need to pay another installation fee for a second copper phone line.
A cheaper option is to use VoIP (voice over internet protocol) for your second number; although you’ll want to be sure it’s reliable before you start using it for work. Look for a VoIP service which lets you use the G.711 codec, which can match the voice quality of a traditional phone call.
Some consumer-grade services only let you use G.729 which can leave you sounding like you’re on a bad mobile call. Take extra care if you’re using a cordless phone with VoIP, as cordless phones can cause echo on the line. You’ll want to trial VoIP for a while and tweak the settings before you’re ready to trust it for work calls. If your ISP offers VoIP, you might find it more reliable than a third-party service.
The inclusion of untimed long distance calls might make VoIP a no-brainer for your home business, but VoIP is also about flexibility. Many VoIP services will send you your voicemail as an email attachment, which you can forward to your smartphone and use like a Visual Voicemail service.
VoIP also makes it easy to retain your number if you move house. Some VoIP services also let you make and receive calls from anywhere using VoIP software on your phone or computer. Once again, test your VoIP software thoroughly before you start using it for important work calls.
If you don’t want the hassle of separate home and work phones on your kitchen bench, you might be able to run your home and VoIP calls through your broadband modem so you can answer calls to either number from the same handset. You can use different ring tones to distinguish between them.
Another alternative is to use a dual-line handset with Line 1 for home and Line 2 for work, again using distinctive ring tones. Obviously you need to train others in the house to only pick up the phone when the ring sounds like a home call.