How you can get a free business phone number

Most businesses have a dedicated phone line, but health practitioners like us often don’t have a pressing need to have a separate phone line that carries with it all the expenses of having a dedicated land line. In an age when fewer and fewer people have dedicated landlines at home, it seems like an unnecessary expense to have someone install a dedicated business line at your office if you can somehow avoid it.  But do you want to share your personal cell phone number with everyone who ever visits your website and with all your clients? Maybe not. Thanks to Google, there’s a free way to handle this conundrum.

It’s called Google Voice.

Google Voice is simple, pretty easy to set up, and costs you no money. It allows you to setup one phone number that will ring whatever phones you do have. If you have a cell phone and a landline, you can setup Google Voice so that any time someone calls your Google Voice number, the call gets immediately forward to both your cell and landline. Whichever one you answer on is up to you.  If you don’t pick up (and your answering machine or cell phone voicemail don’t pick up too quickly), Google Voice will record the voicemail for you.  When it’s time to call them back, you can also use Google Voice on your smart phone to dial out using your business line so your clients only see your business number when you call them.  From a landline, it’s also possible, but a little bit more of a process.

One work around for this is that Google Voice can also be integrated into your web browser so that you can make calls from your computer. Just type in the number, hit call, and Google Voice will call your number. Once you answer, it will call the number you want to reach and connect you both.  For those who use Google Contacts to manage your client list, the process of making followup phone calls becomes a speedy, pain free process.

There are a host of other very useful features in Google Voice (e.g. transcribed voicemails, the ability to send text messages from the Google Voice number, and the ability to block calls from specific numbers like, say, telemarketers), but suffice it to say that if you want a second number dedicated to your business life and you don’t want to buy another cell phone or have a landline installed, Google Voice is the best option out there that I’m aware of. If you know of another option, please do leave it in the comments below!

You learn more about all of Google Voice’s features here or to sign up simply go to the Google Voice page and sign up for a phone number. You can pick a lucky sequence of numbers for your number if it’s available! If you manage to get (xxx) xxx – ROLF in your area code, post about it below!

Task management made easy

There are a ton of things to get done when you’re running your own practice, from managing appointments, to following up with people, to buying supplies, and making sure you pack a lunch. It’s a crazy number of tasks you complete in any given day, and it can be very, very challenging to keep track of all your tasks in one day let alone one year.  So that’s where a good task management system comes into play. One system that I personally use and love is Remember the Milk. Rather than write a long blog post about it, I decided to do a quick video tour so you can see what it looks like and how it runs.  Give it a gander!

Bookkeeping made easy

BookkeepingNo, it’s not Seeing Made Easy (a class for structural integrators I co-teach) , but it is bookkeeping made easy — or at least easier. For those of you who use a pen and paper to keep track of money that comes in and money that goes out, you might want to check out this handy tool online. It’s called Outright, and it’s available at Outright.com.  It’s a free, intuitive, easy-to-use online bookkeeping service that lets you do one of two things:

  1. Use them as a digital replacement for your pen and paper with the added bonus of getting automated reports, year to date estimated tax liability, and a year-end summary suitable for your accountant OR
  2. Use them as an automated aggregator that pulls your business banking information for you (plus all the things I mentioned in 1).

When I was using Outright (I don’t use it anymore as I have a full featured booking and bookkeeping solution as mentioned in this post) I used it as in method 1 — the manual way — and it worked out quite well.  As long as I stayed on top of receipts and entered everything in, it was fantastic. Of course, if I forgot to enter things in, that was another story, but I had checklists and systems in place to manage it, so it all worked out quite well.

Now, anyone who knows me knows I’m an automation freak and will try to make machines do my bidding whenever and wherever possible. So why did I do things manually with outright?

I chose method 1 because I am also a control freak. Manual method 1 allowed me to use outright as a kind of business monitor over who my VIP clients were (spending wise).

See, by going with method 1, I was able to enter in every financial transaction related to my business. If Carl S. paid me $150 for a session, I could enter in the transaction under Carl S.  If my pal Dudley D. paid me a discounted rate of $75 for a session, I could enter that in.  If, a few months down the line, I wanted to see what Carl S. and Dudley D. had paid me over the course of several months I could just pull up the info for each specific person and see a breakdown of all their transactions.

In going with the automated method 2, you can’t do that (well, you could go and try to manually do it, but it’d be a nightmare of splitting transactions). Instead, outright will pull transactions from the bank accounts you enter in. So let’s say on one day Carl S. pays me $150 and Dudley D. pays me $75 and both pay with check. I deposit both those checks at the bank, and the next day, Outright has an entry for $225.  It’s not $225 from Dudley D. and Carl S. It’s $225. If you don’t immediately go in and split that transaction and note who each payment was from and for how much, three months down the line, you’re going to have NO CLUE what that $225 was from.

Now, everyone has their own goals. Maybe you don’t want to know who the top clients are or you have another method of tracking that. If either is the case, give method 2 a shot and you’ll be riding the automated train to easy city!

Do you have another bookkeeping system that you use? What do you like about it? Share in the comments below!

 

Online booking breakdown

So things have changed since I last talked about online booking way back when.  I wanted to give you a quick breakdown of what I’ve found using all the different online booking sites.

First of all, I know a lot of Rolfers don’t even want to have a fixed expense every month, but let me tell you that it’s worth it. It’s WELL worth it to look professional and to have an easy to manage system of handling your appointments. It just is.  These solutions will run you between $18 and $30 a month. It’s worth it. Seriously.

Now that that’s out of the way, Read more…

Are you paying too much for hosting?

I’m in the processing of building a website for a practitioner of the Egoscue Method based in Texas, and we were looking at the webhost that she’s been using for the last couple years. She’s using a very well-known host.  It’s a host I looked at back in 2007 when I set up my first bodywork related website.  While this webhost is quite well known, I had never used them because their prices for some basic services had seemed high. Once I got to see the nitty gritty of her hosting plan, I realized that their prices are REALLY high.

If you’re looking for hosting plans, you really shouldn’t be paying more than around $10/month if you’re on a yearly plan and it should come with a lot of technical sounding goodies. And it should cover an unlimited number of sites. This host was charging extra for every single site and charging for lots of extras that come standard on other hosts.

Now I know you may not want to have a bunch of websites right now, and that’s fine.  But the trick is this. The cost of hosting one website on this webhost versus any of a number of other good webhosts is the same or HIGHER than the others.  Plus, even with just one website on this webhost who shall remain nameless, you kick yourself in the wallet if you want to look at all professional.  They are charging extra for having a professional email address with your domain on it (e.g. steve@yourwebsitename.com or joe@therolfer.com) — something you can get for free with plenty of other hosts.  So just with one website, you’re paying too much. Period.  But then all it takes is your desire to make ONE more website, and you’re kicking yourself really hard in the wallet with every single site.

Check out your hosting plan. Are you paying more than $10/month? Do you pay extra for your professional looking email? If you are, you’re overpaying. Period.