Getting a business phone number is one of the most important marketing and operational decisions that any business owner can make. A separate business line makes it easy to keep in touch with customers and suppliers, adds features to your phone system not available on consumer lines, and improves the professionalism of your business.
But when starting a new business, many entrepreneurs and start-ups elect to begin by just using their personal number on their cell phone, often to save money. That is a mistake, and in this article, we’re going to talk about why. So just why is having a business phone number so important?
Differences Between a Personal and Business Number
Ten or twenty years ago, everyone didn’t have a powerful smartphone in their pocket like we all do today. Most people and companies still did business over landline phones. Having a separate business phone number was a given since your home phone and business phone were connected to devices that were physically located in different places.
Now, everyone uses their personal phone numbers for just about everything. Managing bank accounts, ordering food with apps, talking to friends, family members, and work colleagues, even verifying our identity with online services. And when we put a cell phone in every pocket, we created the expectation that everyone could be reached at their own number, any time, anywhere.
For start-ups and entrepreneurs, it seems like a no-brainer to just keep using that same personal number, at least in the beginning. You might rationalize it by thinking, “I’m not making any money yet, so why should I spend money on an expensive business line when I don’t know if the company will even succeed?” You already have a fully capable smartphone with its own number, so why not just use that, at least until you need better service?
The answers to that question might surprise you.
Top 10 Reasons Why You Don’t Want to Use Your Personal Number for Business
There are lots of reasons NOT to use your personal number for business, some of them less obvious than others. Let’s take a look at some of the top reasons why getting a separate business number is so important:
1. Online threats, thieves, and scammers
These days, we use our personal numbers to identify ourselves for all kinds of things, so we shouldn’t give it out lightly. Business numbers get distributed in a wide variety of ways, from business cards to promotional materials, to your website, suppliers, business licenses, tax records, and much more. Putting your personal number on business materials increases the likelihood that you will be targeted not just by annoying telemarketers, but by hackers, identity thieves, and scammers.
2. Telemarketers, spammers, and robocalls
Robocalls and telemarketing are becoming more of a problem in this hyper-connected era, and with the ease and availability of Voice Over IP (VOIP) technology, spammers and telemarketers can autodial thousands of numbers in minutes or even seconds. According to the FCC, U.S. consumers received nearly 4 billion robocalls per month in 2020. Keeping your personal and business phone numbers separate means you won’t have to suffer through the endless telemarketing calls that would surely come from publishing your personal number for business.
3. Linking your business to your personal number
Listing your personal number for your business makes it so there is no way to separate personal from work calls, messages, contacts, and notes. It’s already complicated enough to keep track of all the calls and texts from friends and family, now imagine all your business communications layered in on top of that, especially as your business grows. Besides that, if you change your number, anything you printed it on like marketing materials or business cards would be useless. And if a customer calls your number and it’s disconnected, they probably won’t call back.
4. No professional calling features
Business phone systems and virtual phone numbers come with a wide variety of professional features that are unavailable on consumer lines. Call menus, auto attendants, and individual extensions with voice mailboxes are features that individuals don’t need, but businesses sure do. Automated features help customers get what they need or reach specific people quickly, and keep you from having to waste extra time fielding every call yourself.
5. Lack of control over other lines
Saving money is important for every start-up, and you may work with colleagues who all just use your personal phones in the beginning. However, as the business scales, you and your co-founders will be stuck with those same personal numbers tied to clients and service providers, making it difficult to switch to a new number. Also, you as the company owner will have no control over how co-workers and employees use their own personal lines to conduct business.
6. Compromised personal privacy
Giving your personal number to suppliers and clients opens you up to all kinds of extracurricular communication you might not want. This might include anything from business calls outside work hours to unwelcome personal advances. Don’t open yourself up to fielding work issues when you are supposed to be taking time off.
7. No distinguishing personal vs. business calls
Most customer calls to your business are likely to come from unknown numbers, so if you don’t know which calls are work-related and which are personal, you will never know how to answer. Don’t risk losing customers because you answered a business call with “Hello?”, or if the caller was directed to your personal voicemail.
8. Lack of control over personal vs. work time
You’re never really off work when you use your personal number for business. Being able to manage work-life balance is essential to maintaining a healthy and safe lifestyle, and if people can call you for business at any time on your personal number, that balance will be terribly off. Using a virtual business number on your smartphone, or a completely separate phone, helps you control when and how you answer work calls.
9. Unable to pass control to a workmate
If you’re at work with others and you need to go to a meeting, take a break, or concentrate on a project, a business phone system lets you set your line to go straight to voicemail or redirect calls to another line. As the business owner, you can ask someone else in your office to answer your line instead, and pass control of the line to them temporarily. It’s far trickier to just hand your personal phone to a colleague and ask them to answer it for you.
10. Using your personal number looks unprofessional
Your phone number is part of your brand identity, as well as a primary point of contact for customers and service providers. Don’t risk someone not taking you seriously if they realize they’re calling your personal number instead of a business line. Virtual business numbers can be customized to any set of local or toll-free digits that’s easy for customers to remember and will provide a measure of professionalism and respectability that a personal number will not, in addition to a great set of professional calling features.
Virtual Business Numbers Add Value and Professionalism
We’ve seen all the reasons why not to use your personal number for business, but what about all the advantages that a separate business number brings? Here are a few:
- Improve customer experience and increase customer satisfaction
- Mobility, portability, reliability, and scalability
- Keep business and personal communications separate
- Get a local or toll-free number from any area code
- Control how others use your business line
- Keep a healthy work-life balance
There are a number of different ways you could add a business number as a solo entrepreneur or small business start-up. You could expand your plan with your current cell service provider to add a business number or buy a whole other cell phone to run your business. You can choose to install a traditional landline or IP office phone system at your work location.
Or, you can go the easy route, and sign up for an inexpensive virtual phone number with an online platform that will work with all your current phones and digital devices. Signup is fast and simple, and in most cases, you can be up and running with your new business number in minutes. Just pay for the tiered plan you need, download the app, and choose a local or toll-free number from area codes across the U.S. and Canada. Or, you can sign up for a free trial of the service before you decide to buy, to make sure the platform and available features are right for you.
Emma Lakna is a business analyst and digital marketing professional on a mission to change the online advertising industry by making it easy for businesses to sell their products in front of interested potential customers.