If you’re looking for a new way to make money, perhaps as a way to combat unemployment or as a change of scenery from your current job, one option is to set up a call-handling service and make money from answering the phone. This would suit just about anyone with space for a desk and a pleasant telephone manner, and means that you can earn cash just by answering the phone.
- Why make money answering the phone?
- Things to consider
- Step-by-step guide to making money by answering the phone
The shift in working patterns has encouraged more people to set up small businesses, and to register themselves as self employed. This means there are a lot of prospective clients who would benefit from a call-handling service as smaller businesses often don’t have the resources to fully employ someone to manage their calls. Often small businesses won’t have an office, let alone a secretary.
Self-employed skilled workers are particularly worth targeting, as they will be out all day and unable to answer the phone.
This is where you come in, by:
- arranging for their unanswered calls to be diverted to your home
- answering in a professional manner
- taking a message and passing it on to your client.
You can sell your service by assuring businesses that their callers will receive a much better, more personal service from you than if they were left to talk to an answering machine.
Do you have any experience of working over the telephone? It’s preferable that you do. Your telephone manner should be impeccable and you need to have good grammar and clear diction. You also need to be very organised, responsible and pay attention to detail. If you lose messages, omit key details or forget to pass information on, you’ll soon find yourself with no customers.
Do you have space? Although you’re working from home, you’ll still need an office to set up your equipment and organise your documents properly. A small, unused room should be adequate if you’re working alone.
How much money are you looking to make? You can’t make any real money from this until you have an established client base, and if you’re working alone from home you’re restricted in how many customers you can take on. However, if you build a solid group of clients, there’s no reason why you can’t expand to rent an office and take on extra staff to help.
When first starting out, you should be offering your services at a cheaper rate than the bigger, more established companies so that you have an edge on your competitors. Once people trust you, they’ll be willing to pay more.
Do you have time? If you’re going to be at home all day and able to take calls, then you’re well suited, but if you have to be out and about a lot, it’s not going to work for you. You need to be there to answer the calls your clients can’t.
There’s also an issue if you have small children or a dog, as you’ll need absolute silence when answering all calls or you’ll seem unprofessional.
Having said that, you may still have more flexibility than you would in most full-time receptionist jobs. When the phone isn’t ringing, you’ll have time to get on with household chores or other projects.
1. Set up your office
Once you’ve decided to take the plunge and start your own answering service, you need to start thinking about setting up your office. You’ll need a computer with a broadband connection so you can forward messages via email. Check our comparison tool to find the best broadband deals.
You’ll only need one phone line at first, but if you’re planning on making an income from this business venture then you’ll need to install an extra two or three phone lines to ensure you can answer every call. The best idea is to speak to your current phone supplier and explain to them what your plan is – you might be offered special business rates for calls or deals on getting extra lines installed.
You’ll also need a good stock of office supplies to keep you organised – you don’t want to be caught without a pen while you’re taking down a message! Staples have lots to offer, and there are lots of ideas in our article about buying office stationery.
At this point it would also be worth setting up a business bank account to keep your personal finances separate. See our article on how to get the best business bank accounts.
2. Decide on your services
You need to be focused and know precisely what services you are going to offer, as there are a lot of answering service companies out there providing a whole range.
Here’s a list of services you could provide:
- An incoming message service for both during business hours, and out of business hours
- A complete answering service where customers believe they are calling the client’s office
- Taking customer orders
- A call forwarding service, where the business forwards calls to you only when their staff are unavailable
- Beeper/pager service – forwarding calls to business pagers
- A call-logging service, to allow clients to see who rang them three months ago, for example
- A message delivery service where you not only take messages, but also call people for your client
- A voice mailbox service
- Setting appointments.
Think about which of these services you’re experienced enough to offer – the more the better. If you don’t feel you’re confident enough to provide more than one or two of these then market yourself as specialising in the services you can provide.
3. Research the market
After deciding which services your company is going to offer, you need to decide on the kind of businesses to work with. If you have experience in a particular sector, then it’s probably best to remain in that area of work.
If you don’t have any specialist knowledge then think about something you’d enjoy listening about day after day, otherwise the job could become tedious.
Compile a list of companies that might need an answering service, and give them a call to ask if they’d consider using one, or if they already do. As mentioned above, small businesses are the best ones to target.
Find out what other companies doing the same thing charge for their services. The more competitive your rates are, the more likely people are to choose your company. Consider phone bills, stationery and equipment costs, increased utility bills etc and work out how much you’ll have to earn per hour to make a reasonable profit before setting your rates.
4. Insurance, tax and registering the business
As far as insurance is concerned, if you don’t have employees you’re pretty safe; although it may be worth checking with your broker to see if your home’s still insured while you’re working from it. If you do need to upgrade your insurance then use our price comparison table to get the best deal.
You must register your company within three months of starting it, otherwise you’ll be fined. It’s simple and free to register; simply complete a form on the HMRC website.
You’ll be required to fill in a self-assessment tax form every year, but until you start earning over £77,000 a year you won’t have to pay VAT. Once you’ve registered your business with HMRC they’ll keep you updated on any legal information you need.
See our dedicated article on paying tax on extra income for more information.
5. Find clients
First, decide what to call your business. Will you be known as a virtual administrative assistant, a virtual office or a business call answering service? Make sure it’s clear what you do.
Now you need to make your name known. There are hundreds of ways you can advertise yourself – in local papers, on community notice boards or perhaps online – and some will be more effective than others. There’s no proven method of developing your client base, but once you’ve got going then word of mouth will probably carry you along.
Initially, you could try calling up a list of businesses to see if they require your service. Have your sales pitch ready with your rates, be sure to tell them why they should choose your service over anyone else, and let them know of all the benefits relating to having an answering service.
Now you’ve got your business, your office, and your clients, you’re ready to go! Go ahead, make money by answering the phone.
- Buying office stationery
- Home insurance comparison
- How to get the best business bank account
- How to get the best broadband deal
Do you pick up extra by answering the phone? Got any other money making tips? Why not tell us about them on our Facebook page?