Everybody new to personal branding efforts – and plenty of old-timers as well – hesitate to give out phone numbers. Personally, I hate getting phone calls, and I’m unreliable about answering them. I answer every email, but you’re at risk if you call me.
A while back, Google bought GrandCentral, which has now been rechristened as Google Voice. It’s free, although you have to ask for invitation and there is a bit of a delay in getting invited. Click on this link to go to the signup form.
Here’s why you might want to consider it:
- You can get a phone number from Google, and then assign that to other phones. Using this feature, if you call me on my Google phone number, it will ring both my cell phone and my office phone. You could consider this a permanent number, and then it doesn’t matter if your home or cell phone numbers change.
- Google will take messages for you – and even transcribe them and email you the transcription (and the original voice recording). So you can now check messages from home on a web browser at the airport.
- You can screen your calls – Google offers several options that range from putting the call through directly, to making the caller state their name, which Google will repeat to you, to listening in on people as they are recording messages for you.
- And perhaps most important, Google offers you a Widget you can put on your blog or website that will let people call you without them knowing your phone number. They click on the contact button, and Google calls both the caller and you, and then puts you together. If you want to see what it looks like, check out my contact me page.
These are pretty nifty features. I tried to do some of these with a PBX I installed at my last company, and never succeeded. True to form, these are elegant features that are really easy to use, and free. It’s really a mystery to me how Google is going to make money on this one, especially since there are real out-of-pocket costs this time – not only the servers and software (not to mention the acquisition cost of GrandCentral) – but also the phone numbers they had to buy.
So if you’re concerned about giving out your phone number, or if you want a separate business number for your job search or for your fledgling business, this is a great chance to pick one up free. Once again, Google has brought the benefits of large company infrastructure to everyone. It’s not that anything they’ve done is rocket science, it’s just that they did it. For you, and for me. Thanks Google.