Small Business Tips: Advice For Choosing A Long Distance Plan

Good long distance plans make the difference between your business' phone as an asset or a liability.

Your own small business can be rewarding with the freedom of setting your own hours and being your own boss. Whether working from a home office or renting office space telephone service is required. A lot of business is done over the phone, from cold calling to closing the deal. Therefore investing in a good long distance plan can make the difference between your phone being an asset or a liability.

To begin the selection of a long distance plan, one must decide what their long distance needs will be. Are the majority of your clients local? And if so, how often do you communicate with the long distance customers - occasionally, weekly or daily? If less than twenty-five percent of your clients are out of your local area and you speak with them less than weekly, a "per minute" plan may work for your business. Per minute plans range from 2.9 cent to twenty-five cent a minute. If choosing a "per minute" plan, choose one with low billing increments. There are companies that charge in six-second increments instead of one-minute increments. This saves money substantially in the long run.

Most phone companies offer combined local and long distance packages. This allows unlimited calling within the continental United States and sometimes Canada and Puerto Rico. For one fixed monthly price, calling is unlimited. This is advantageous because you can budget in your phone expense as the same every month. This is recommended for businesses with fifty percent or more of their clientele out of state.

When choosing a package, smaller companies have the advantage over the bigger companies such as AT&T, Bell Atlantic and MCI. Unlimited local and long distance with the big companies typically start at sixty dollars a month, sans a promotional special. The smaller companies give competition with their packages starting at thirty dollars a month. This does not mean one should automatically choose a smaller carrier. The bigger company may offer additional customer advantages, such as cell phone and Internet discounts. The smaller companies don't have as large of a product selection. Weigh out any additional needs that you may need before deciding.

If you have clients overseas, then you may want to choose a package that incorporates international calls. There aren't any companies that offer unlimited international calls, but there are competitive per minute rates.

The new kid on the block in term of telecommunications is VOIP. VOIP stands for voice over Internet protocol. VOIP is offered through the major carriers, smaller companies and cable companies alike. VOIP allows one to make telephone calls using a broadband Internet connection instead of a regular phone line. You will need broadband Internet service (such as cable or DSL service) and a phone adaptor. The advantage of VOIP is that package deals offered are competitive with landline providers. Some VOIP providers allow free local calls and/or in network phone calls. Some VOIP providers even allow you to choose your own area code. If a New Jersey small business wants to expand into Nevada, they can choose a Nevada area code and number. If the VOIP provider provides free local calls, the business has virtually expanded for free.

The disadvantage of VOIP is the loss of service during power outages and difficult connections to emergency services such as 911.Locating a customer who uses VOIP may prove difficult for a 911 operator.

As with any partnership there are a few factors to consider when signing on with a long distance carrier. Monthly minimums are required with some companies to get their lowest rates. Only select this type of package if you are confident that you will meet that minimum monthly. Otherwise your company will take a loss, as you will still have to pay that minimum amount even if you didn't use it, or you may pay a high per minute rate.

Factor in an additional ten to twenty dollars to the monthly bill, due to a federally mandated Pre-subscribed Inter-exchange Carrier Charge (all businesses must pay) and the Universal Service fund that may be up to ten percent of the bill.

Before choosing a small business long distance plan, consider your client base and any additional telecommunication needs. Getting the most cost efficient plan allows the savings to be reinvested back into your business.

© High Speed Ventures 2011