“Communication – the human connection – is the key to personal and career success.”
~ Paul J. Meyer
There are a few different ways to approach having a phone in your private practice – you can either use your personal phone as your business line, purchase a second business-only phone, or use a virtual phone number that routes to your personal phone.
Below are outlined some of the pros and cons to each option.
Personal Phone as Business Phone
- Lower overhead – only one monthly bill
- Only one phone to keep track of
- Percentage can be written off as a business expense
- No way to “turn-off” work
- Even if you screen your calls, you will know the client called, or you may have to listen to the work message in order to get to personal messages
- Higher chance of accidentally answering a client call in an inappropriate setting
- Harder to maintain counselling and business boundaries (for you)
- Anyone on the internet has access to your personal phone number
Separate Business Phone
- Can turn phone off outside of business hours so you can truly not be at work
- Can have business voicemail greeting on business phone and personal one on personal phone
- Helps maintain business and counselling boundaries
- 100% tax write-off
- Higher monthly cost
- Need to keep track of two phones
Virtual Phone Line
- Lower overhead than separate business phone
- No extra phone to deal with – calls can be routed to personal phone
- Always read the fine print – in some cases you don’t own the phone number so if you leave the service, you need to change your number
- Read over the contracts very carefully with these services to determine if they are appropriate for your work
- May not be a secure line (information passes over the internet)
My personal soapbox is I believe that therapists should have a separate phone number for their practice. This is due to a few different factors:
1) Safety Concerns
When you put a phone number on marketing materials such as business cards, websites and directories, you never really know who will be calling. Most times they are clients reaching out for services, however, sometimes it can be people just looking to vent or in some cases, they are people reaching out inappropriately. The more effective your marketing, the greater the chance that your number will be found by people outside of your client group or your timezone. Unless you want to have your personal phone turned off all the time, after the first few 3am phone calls, you will wish you had a buffer.
2) Business Boundaries
If you are using your personal phone as your business line, you never truly get to turn off from work mode. Clients often figure out that they can text you and you will get their msgs, even if you never respond. Even on vacation, you are literally taking your work with you.
See what feels right for you, your comfort level, and your business.
Tips for your voicemail:
1) Let clients know if the voicemail is personal and confidential or if it’s accessible by support staff.
2) State when clients can expect to hear back from you.
3) Give an alternative number if the client is in crisis and in need of immediate assistance.