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Going Mobile: Wireless Phone Service for Your Home Business
(Part 1 of 3)
by Donna Schwartz Mills
< http://ld.net/?americanglo >
There is no more important tool for your at-home business
than your telephone. You need it to sell your services,
negotiate prices, keep in touch with vendors, market and
more. Posting your phone number on your website and listing
it on your business card gives potential clients peace of
mind that you are a real person that they can reach at will.
It's a simple way to give yourself credibility, even as
you are just starting out.
However, it doesn't take the new home worker long to
discover that there's no quicker way to lose that credibility
than letting the kids answer the phone when clients call.
That's why the experts advise that you:
* Get a second phone line, dedicated to your business;
* Let your family know that you are the only one to answer
* Have a good voicemail system in place for those times
when you can't answer it.
But this can be quite an investment when you're just
starting out, especially if your home is not already wired
for two telephone lines.
The solution: Go wireless.
As mobile phone use in the United States has exploded, the
cost of wireless service has gone down -- so much that a
growing market segment is foregoing traditional "landlines"
In fact, after comparing the cost of installing another line
to my home with the cost of a mobile phone, I discovered
that the latter actually cost *less*. That's because
today's wireless networks allow carriers to bundle features
like voice-mail, three-way calling, call waiting and caller
ID into their basic services -- at no extra charge. Throw in
free nationwide long distance on some plans and you could
end up *saving* money while gaining the convenience of
carrying your office phone with you while you're ferrying
your kids to their after-school activities.
HOW TO FIND THE WIRELESS PLAN THAT'S RIGHT FOR YOU
Start by asking yourself the following questions:
1. How much time do I typically spend on the phone each
month for business? How much time do I think I will use
for personal needs? When will I be using the phone the
most? (M-F 9-5? Weekends? Evenings?)
2. Are my clients local or will I also need long distance?
3. How often do I leave my local calling area - either for
business or personal reasons, and where do I go most
4. What extra features will I need? (These can include
wireless Internet access, text messaging, free mobile to
mobile calls, emergency roadside assistance, transmission
of digital photos, etc. I highly recommend buying some
kind of protection plan in case you lose or break your
new phone - these can be lifesavers!)
Write down your answers and then visit the following
website, which is a clearinghouse for all things mobile:
< http://www.WirelessAdvisor.com >
Enter your zip code to access a list of each wireless
company currently operating in your area.
At this point, you could spend hours visiting the websites
of these companies and comparing rate plans (trust me,
I did that while researching this article). What I discovered
is that -- at least in large metropolitan areas --
competition is working. Here in Los Angeles, there are six
different companies to choose from, with plans that meet my
needs ranging in cost from $510 to $614 per year, with most
of the difference due to the price of the telephone handset.
Once you factor out the cost of the phone, the price
differential was much less - only about $20 per year between
all six companies.
IT'S NOT THE MONEY, IT'S THE COVERAGE
So your choice of wireless carrier should be based upon
something tougher to quantify and of way more importance
than rates: service and coverage areas.
Unfortunately, no wireless carrier is able to give you
perfect coverage 100% of the time. They all have some dead
zones where they are prone to dropping calls. But if you
choose a company with excellent coverage in the areas you
are in MOST of the time, you may never experience these
So DO visit the carriers' websites and DO select the plan
that best suits your service needs - but not before you
study the map each company posts showing their coverage
areas. If you will be using your phone at home most of the
time and your neighborhood is in an area with poor coverage,
you can cross that carrier off your list.
Narrow your search farther by returning to
WirelessAdvisor.com and checking out their message board
focusing on providers in your area. There are two kinds of
posts here -- the first from people who are asking what the
others think of X-company or Y... and what their customers
think of their service. Most of the posts are complaints and
many are quite specific about the parts of town where they
have experienced problems. These are extremely busy boards -
if you do not see your target neighborhoods already
discussed here, post your own question -- you will soon get
plenty of opinions from those who have been there!
Then, if any of your friends or family uses the provider you
are considering, invite them over and ask if you can try out
their phones in the areas you are likely to use them.
Nothing beats first-hand experience when making a decision
you may have to live with for one or two years.
Finally, most providers offer a no-penalty 14-day trial
period allowing you to return the phone and cancel service
without paying the exorbitant termination fees (which range
from $150 to $200). Make sure you ask about this and make a
note of it on your contract in case you and your new
provider don't work out.
A wireless phone could be the answer to your business
communication needs, and may even save you money. But before
you go that route, it is imperative that you carefully
figure out what those needs are and match them to what's
available in your area. New products and rate innovations
are coming online all the time. We'll look at some of those
in Part 2 of this series.
About the Author
Donna Schwartz Mills writes about the specific needs of work
at home parents at her website, The ParentPreneur Club,
"For Parents Who Want Choices, Not Office Politics." Tools,
tips and advice you need to help grow your home based
business while raising a family.
< http://www.parentpreneurclub.com >