Starting your own business is tough. Unless you have a brand new idea, you have to break into an existing market, get known and respected in the industry, keep sales up while keeping existing customers. Oh, and you have to continue to grow your business.

One of the struggles an entrepreneur or small business has to deal with is phone service. Since many startup business owners work out of their homes, they can’t get another landline – that’s too expensive. Using their personal cellphone has its drawbacks since they don’t know what calls are business and which are personal. Imagine trying to make a sale and getting a call from your 15-year-old who wants to practice parallel parking.

A second phone can run $50 to $100. You now have two phones to keep up with. Great. Just count the days until you lose one.

What other options are there for the entrepreneur? Enter the virtual phone system.

The Virtual Phone System explained

Hosted in the cloud, these phone systems give you a virtual number that can follow you anywhere. You can answer the number on your home phone, your cell phone, or at your parents’ house, or have it go directly to voicemail. You dictate how the virtual phone works by configuring the way it works. No hardware is required, and there usually aren’t any setup costs.

Virtual phone systems offer a wealth of features, thanks to the low cost of technology:

  • Voicemail
  • Call forwarding to multiple numbers
  • Multiple extensions (Press 1 for billing, press 2 for sales, etc.)
  • Faxing
  • Texting
  • Voicemail transcription

How much do you have to pay for these systems? It depends on the size of your operation, how many minutes you want to have per month, and how many features you want. But some companies offer the service for as little as $10 a month, with no contract. You just pay month-to-month, like a software as a service pricing model. If you want more numbers, more extensions, unlimited minutes, and a bundle of features, you might pay as much as $100 a month, but it’s comparable to a business line offered by one of the big phone companies, which may not have as many features and requires that you have a physical line into an office.

Reporting is a key feature

Some systems offer reporting, which allows you to view trends in your sales calls and your interactions with customers. When is the busiest hour for you? Are sales calls trending up or down? Where do you get most of your calls? Who are you spending the most amount of time on the phone with? All of these questions can be answered via reports; some systems even offer suggestions on how to improve your communications with future and present customers.

These systems are vital in taking control of your business. The small costs, a wide variety of features, and reporting make them a necessity in growing your business. Maybe when you have a staff of 5,000, you can get fancy PBX phones and several receptionists. But until then, a virtual phone system will serve your purpose just fine. And actually, several large companies are still using these systems. They grow with you, so why get rid of them?