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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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
If you’re going to be at home all day and able to take calls, then this could be a perfect gig. 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.
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 fast internet 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 often 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.
Alternatively, it may be possible to do this work with just your mobile phone. In fact, some businesses prefer this as your dialling code won’t make it obvious you’re not in the same town as the company you represent.
Check your data and minutes allowance to be sure you’ll have the capacity for this work on top of your regular usage. If you do need to upgrade, again, talk to your provider to see what deals they can offer a business account.
You could also look at VoIP providers such as Vonage. They allow you to take calls via the internet, and let you select your own dialing code. So even if you’re based in Liverpool, you can choose to have a London dial code!
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! WHSmith have lots to offer, and there are plenty 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 collection of articles on banking and savings.
You need to be focused and know precisely what services you’re going to offer, as there are lots of answering service companies out there to compete with.
Here’s a list of services you could provide:
Think about which of these services you’re experienced enough to offer – the more the better. If you don’t feel confident enough to provide more than one or two of these then market yourself as specialising in the services you can provide.
After deciding which services you’ll offer, you need to decide on the kinds of businesses to work with. If you have experience in a particular sector, then it’s probably best to remain in that field of work.
If you don’t have any specialist knowledge then think about something you’d enjoy interacting with 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 or email 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 similar phone service providers and see what they 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.
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 the benefits of self-employment here.
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 many ways you can advertise yourself – on sites like Gumtree, on social media, and by contacting companies directly – and some will be more effective than others. A mixture of several kinds of self-marketing will help you get started, and 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.
Calling can seem a little more intimidating than emailing, although picking up the phone often makes people more likely to listen to what you have to offer.
On the other hand, creating a well-written template email and tweaking it slightly for each business you contact can be a good way of spreading the word. Try both methods and see what works for you.
Now you’ve got your business, your office, and your clients, you’re ready to go! Go ahead, make money by answering the phone.
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