a guest post by Rachel Kaufman
If I told you that one program could save you time and money, keep you in touch with clients, and even earn you more business, you’d probably think I was selling a scam and laugh me off. But it’s true: There’s one piece of free software that does all this and more, and it’s one you probably already have installed: Skype.
1. Cut Your Phone Bills
Are you still using a land line to contact clients? In most parts of the United States, phone service costs a minimum of $15, plus taxes and fees–you’ll be looking at almost $30 a month just to make and receive calls. Skype, on the other hand, is free if you call other Skype users and cheap to dial regular numbers. Should you ask your clients to install Skype? If you write Web copy for tech-savvy clients, they might appreciate being able to call you for free. But if you write for more conservative companies, it’s best to avoid the headache of helping your clients with tech support.
What you’ll need:
- A subscription. Skype’s recently done away with Skype Pro and unrolled “subscriptions.” Most features are the same, but now it costs only $3 a month for unlimited calling within the US and Canada. The company offers worldwide plans, too.
- A SkypeIn number, which lets non-Skype users call you from a cell phone or land line. That costs an extra $2.50/month.
- Voicemail, call waiting, and call forwarding. These services are included with your subscription–at most phone companies you’ll pay extra for these services.
- A Skype-capable phone or a headset to make calls.
Total cost: $5.50 a month for what would otherwise cost $30 or more!
One caveat: Skype’s caller ID does not work within the United States.
2. Be Reached Anywhere
If you don’t want to shell out for a wi-fi mobile phone (more than $100), you can still go mobile with Skype’s call forwarding. It’s just a click or two, and then your clients can reach you whether you’re on the road or in a coffee shop. Of course, if you don’t want to be reached, there’s always voicemail.
3. Save Time and Stay Organized
A little-known feature of Skype for Windows is its ability to add your Outlook contacts as Skype contacts. Skype for Mac will import your Address Book contacts, too. Follow the links for each for more information.
If you’ve ever had a client insist she told you blue when you know she said red, or if you have trouble taking notes while paying attention during a conference call, you know it’s important to have records of what was said when. Download an add-on like Call Recorder (Mac, $14.95) or Pamela Recorder (Windows, free up to 15 minutes, $19.95 to unlock)and record your calls easily with Skype. Make sure to check the laws where you live; in many states it is illegal to record a call without the consent of both parties.
Bonus tip 3.5: Promote your brand with a podcast
You know stuff about your field–you wouldn’t be making money otherwise. Using Skype and a call recorder, you can make a podcast of you and your buddies talking shop; this could establish you as an expert and send more clients your way.
4. Charge For Your Time
Maybe you’re a writer who provides tutoring, too, or coaches people through edits over the phone. With Skype Prime, you can charge anyone who Skypes you a per-minute fee, which is deducted from your client’s Skype Credit and transferred to your Paypal account. Even Skype itself says you won’t “become a millionaire,” and the system still has a few kinks, but imagine how quickly you could get that chatty client off the phone! “Yes, your trip to Mount Rushmore sounds fascinating–that’s another $2. Now, what were you saying about that project?”
5. Get More Clients
If a potential client knows he can reach you easily, you’ve just eliminated an obstacle in the way of your sale. Put a Skype Button on your blog or portfolio that shows your status, so clients will know you’re there and ready to take their calls. Got a lot of work in another state or even another country? You can purchase unlimited SkypeIn numbers, so why not consider buying one where your clients are? They’ll save money calling you and you’ll gain, by appearing to be local, that oh-so-important presence that helps build rapport and trust. Just be honest about where you’re really located or that trust will fly out the window.
Rachel Kaufman is a Washington, DC-based freelance writer whose byline has appeared in the Washington Post, online in National Geographic News, and on CNNMoney.com. She also blogs about careers in the media at http://mediajobsdaily.com. Find her at http://readwriterachel.com.
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