A member of our community recently asked us about using a personal phone for a massage business. As you might expected, we have opinions about this.
Resources referenced in this episode:
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Allissa Haines Hello, everyone. Welcome to the Massage Business Blueprint podcast, where we discuss the business side of massage therapy. I am Allissa Haines.
Michael Reynolds And I’m Michael Reynolds.
AH And we’re going to chat with you today about some business-y stuff.
MR (Laughter) Off the rails already. Stay on the script, Allissa, on script.
AH Okay. What you guys won’t know because Michael’s going to edit it out is that there was a big, long pause as we started recording because I, for half a second, forgot that I was the one doing the introduction.
AH And I’m like, why isn’t Michael doing the introduction? And then I’m like reading the label on my ice coffee because the bagel shop I go to changed their logo, and I’m just like, la, la, la, why isn’t Michael saying — oh, I’m supposed to say something.
MR We talked about it literally three seconds ago.
AH Literally before he hit the record button, and I still spaced.
MR (Laughter) That’s what kind of morning we’re having. How about you?
AH Yeah, yeah, so that’s where we’re at. And I’m going to drink a little coffee. And I have some very important weather news to share with you, everyone.
MR Oh, boy.
AH The crocuses are coming up.
AH Like, the little —
MR That’s a good sign.
AH Yeah — the little shoots, like, little green shoots are poking through the layer of leaves that we did not rake out of the garden last fall. And we had to clear out a little bit of snow to see them, but the crocuses are, indeed, popping up, and that’s the weather news from here. But Michael, do you have any kind of garden situation happening at your new house?
MR No, no. We have a yard, which is great, but no garden situation as of yet. We might do some light gardening because we’re not really gardeners and we’ll probably kill everything we try to grow —
AH Light landscaping, light landscaping.
MR Light landscaping, yeah. So but yeah, I’m excited to actually have a yard now. It’s really nice.
AH Yeah. And you know, I’m a huge fan of perennials —
AH — like, plants that come up every year with little to no effort, especially bulbs. We have — so you could really look into what kinds of bulbs you might want. And you could — you plant them at the end of the summer into the fall and then they just magically come up every year, and all you got to do is shove the leaves off of them. And it’s delightful. Bulbs are my favorite thing.
MR That sounds right up my alley.
AH Because even though you know they’re there, in your head, they surprise you every year when they pop through.
MR (Laughter) Aw.
AH It’s really nice.
MR (Laughter) Nice.
AH It’s really nice. I planted some at my office, it must have been a year and a half ago, and last summer was like the first year that they popped up and I was like, oh, that’s right, we planted these like six months ago. Oh, my goodness. And it’s delightful and I’m excited about them popping through again this year. Although, I’ll forget about it until the morning that I walk by and see little green shoots and I’m like, oh, day lilies, yay.
MR Because apparently you can’t remember things from three seconds ago, like you’re hosting the podcast.
AH This is — this is exactly it. So with that gardening update, let’s launch right in and, Michael, you are handling it today. Tell me what you got.
MR I am. Today’s topic is should I use my personal phone for my massage business? And this was inspired by a question we got, actually, just yesterday from — well, yesterday at the time of our recording– from someone on our Massage Business Blueprint Facebook page, the public page, and he asked, “Does anyone know of a post or episode that explains about phones for your business? I am just starting a private massage practice and don’t know if I should use my personal phone I already have or something else.” So I thought it was a great question, especially for those just starting out or those who are maybe growing and are kind of wondering what they should do about their phone situation as they grow their practice or open a practice. So I thought it was a great topic.
AH It’s a really good topic, and I realize that it’s something we have discussed in the premium member group, but I don’t know that we have covered it in a post or an episode. So I am really excited about you doing that today.
MR Yeah, so should be pretty straightforward, but I think it’s good to first talk about kind of the, you know, philosophies, best practices, like “what if” scenarios of your phone system. And then after halftime, we’ll talk about some of the resources for business phone systems for a small solo business.
So first off, so using your phone for business. I know you and I both have opinions, Allissa, they might be similar opinions. Well, we’ll find out because we like to just be spontaneous here on the podcast. So a lot of people use their personal cell phone as their business phone for their massage practice. I know you do this, Allissa, right? You use your cell phone?
AH I do. And it’s because when I started doing this 14-plus years ago, there weren’t a lot of other options.
AH And I was in another office, I didn’t want to add a second landline to the office, nor did I — and cell phones were like — I had — I only got a cell phone like 16 years ago. Everybody else already had them, but I didn’t get one until I was going to be commuting back and forth to massage school and felt like it was going to be necessary on my hour drive — I was a little nervous about that.
AH So I was kind of a very late adopter. And then it just made sense to use that phone number. And 14 years later, there’s a lot of other options now, and every so often I toy with exploring them and making my current number my straight up business number only and then giving personal contacts a new phone number. But I — it’s a thing where the learning — I have not taken the step to do it. So yeah, I have everything happening on one phone and one phone line, which I am sometimes regretful of and sometimes it works really well for me. But I like — I really want to hear about these other options.
MR Yeah, yeah, so my opinion is that if you’re a solo practitioner with no staff members or no other team members and it’s just you, I don’t see anything terrible about using your cell phone as your business line. I mean, I know a lot of times, businesses will try to look bigger than they really are, they’ll try to kind of get fancy and have all these things looking like they’re a big business, but I say just own it. And if you’re a solo practitioner, just own it. Say hey, it’s just me, it’s my business, here’s my phone number, it’s my cell, it goes directly to me. I don’t think that’s terrible. I’m not sure it’s always ideal, but I don’t think it’s terrible.
AH No, and it’s — I’m totally going to jump in because it can work really well if you’re good at boundaries. If you’re good at ignoring a client voice mail until you’re back into business hours, that can work really well. If you’re someone who has a hard time with those boundaries, it can be a bad idea.
AH So know that going in. And that’s all I have to interrupt you about again. Sorry.
MR No, keep going because I want to hear — you’re actually doing this, so. (Laughter) So yeah, I think it’s not the worst thing in the world. The — like Allissa said, the issues can be boundaries, having your personal cell phone out there, you can’t really — I mean, if your personal phone is on and available, you’re going to get calls unless you use the do not disturb function and certain favorites are let in through, and it kind of gets complicated.
So anyway, I say it’s not always ideal because there are — there are so many systems that we’ll talk about after halftime that you can use to overcome that. You can have two phone numbers: one for personal, one for business and they can both be assigned to the device you carry around with you. You don’t have to carry two things around with you. So I know a lot of times, even now, I hear about massage practices installing a landline in their office and, I mean, it’s not 1997. Do not get a landline in your office; there’s no point. (Laughter) Do not do that. All you have to do is look at some of the tools we’re going to talk about here.
So if it were me, my opinion is while it’s not terrible for a solo practitioner to use your cell phone, I would prefer a separate number for business for a lot of the reasons we already kind of alluded to. One reason is you’re just separating it. I mean, you’re able to kind of have that boundary already set there that is kind of in place by the logistics of having a separate number. Another thing: if you want to turn off your business number and stop, you know, rings coming in or stop calls coming in while your personal phone is still active, you can do that with technology that allows you to kind of turn off your business number or send it straight to voice mail or have texting autoreplies or something. So there’s a lot of ways you can kind of have that separation. So the separation can be nice if you want to kind of turn off the business at any given time.
Now, if you are a practice that has more than one team member — let’s say you’ve got a staff person, like an assistant, helping you schedule or you have other massage therapists in your practice, this can be a good reason to get a business phone number as well because, of course, you don’t want everything running to your personal phone. So that’s a good reason to get a separate business number that can route to those people on your team or maybe have extensions that can go to different people on your team. And to me, that becomes kind of a must have at that point. When you have more than just you in the business, then a business phone number, I think, is a must have. Would you agree?
MR Cool. So that’s kind of my general philosophy on business phone numbers. There’s so much technology out there that allows you to do this pretty easily, so I kind of don’t see a reason not to do it. And when we get into some of the tools and apps you can use to do this, you’ll, I think, see some of the reasons and some of the things you can do that are really cool and some of the features that let you set boundaries really easily, and that’ll also become more clear. So let’s jump to that after our halftime, but before that, let’s actually talk about our halftime sponsor. So who is it today?
AH Our sponsor is Acuity, our software —
MR We love Acuity.
AH Yay, our software of choice.
Sponsor message Acuity scheduling is your online assistant working 24/7 to fill your schedule. No more phone tag. Clients can see your schedule, book it with real-time availability and handle it so they don’t have to call you. So, hey, maybe we can eliminate this business phone thing altogether. I would love that. You can handle forms before the appointment so you know what’s walking in the door. You can look and act professional by offering convenient scheduling to your clients that matches your brand and your voice. You can customize the heck out of this. Get a special 45-day free offer when you sign up. You can go to massagebusinessblueprint.com/acuity.
And I actually have a little story to tell about Acuity. They have updated their mobile app to allow clients to — you can integrate your Square into the mobile app and it actually gets you a better rate for Square processing than if you were do to it in the external Square app —
MR Ooh, fancy.
AH — and but I had — there was a little bit of a glitch — yeah, they rolled it out, I don’t know, a couple days ago or last week. And I just started to try to use it and there was a little bit of a glitch. And I reported it to them, which was really easy because if you take a screen shot when you’re in the mobile app, it automatically brings up that picture and says, do you want to send this to support? What’s going on? And I had the most delightful interaction with support where they had — I was experiencing a glitch that a few other people had just experienced and they literally had it all fixed with like — just got right back to me and then — it was super — it was a really nice interaction and they had it fixed like six hours later. And it was great because they rolled the thing out, it was working for a lot of people, there was a glitch for a few of us, and they were a delight to deal with and they fixed it. And it was really nice. I really love their customer support. It is always been a great experience. And again, you can learn more and get your 45 days free at massagebusinessblueprint.com/acuity.
All right, take us back to telephone stuff. Take us back to 1993, Michael.
MR (Laughter) Where people use the phone. In the 90s.
AH Yeah, right, uh-huh.
MR So one thing I forgot to mention before halftime and that is another nice reason to use a separate phone number for business is on your cell phone voice mail, you have to decide am I just going to have my name and not mention my massage practice, or am I going to mention my massage practice knowing that all personal calls will also get my professional massage practice voice mail? And I don’t really like that. I like having separate voice mail messages to be extra professional. Because if it’s just you and your name, someone’s calling for massage or asking questions, they may feel like it’s kind of weird, like, oh, is this really a massage practice or just someone’s phone? Like — and vice versa. If someone’s calling you personally, they don’t really want to sit through like, hey, it’s blah, blah, blah massage. And anyway, I like that feature as well for having a separate number.
So all that being said, let’s talk about what you do to get a separate number if you want one. So there’s a lot of stuff you can do, a lot of resources out there, a lot of tools. And some are free, some are cheap, some are not cheap. I’m going to talk about the free up to not free kind of spectrum here. So there’s a couple of different categories — there’s two different categories I’m going to separate these into. One is basically just adding a numbers as a solo practitioner to your phone. And the second category is going to be if you want to grow into team members.
So first category, there’s really two main contenders for adding a second number to your existing phone, basically, and that is Google Voice and Sideline. So I think a lot of people have heard of Google Voice. Google Voice has actually come a long way. It is free, and it actually works pretty darn well. It’s not bad and it actually does a lot of cool things. So Google Voice — yeah, go ahead. You had a comment.
AH I am. I’m just going to throw in, there’s a third one called Line2.
MR Oh, yeah.
AH Yeah, that a lot of our — a handful, I’m not going to say a lot — some of our premium members are using and have also mentioned. So we’ll put a link to them — and actually, I know you’re going to make reference to this, but Sideline has some great comparison articles about like what we’ve got versus them, and they’re not overly like [funny voice] Sideline is the best.
AH They’re very like yeah, here’s what this is, here’s what that is. And you can find that similar information with the Google Voice information and also the Line2 websites. But we’ll get the websites for all three of them up in the show notes.
MR Yeah, yeah. So I didn’t research Line2 as much. I researched Google Voice and Sideline, so I’ll kind of go with those and I’ll glace at Line2 and make sure we didn’t miss anything.
But with Google Voice, you get a separate phone number that you can give out as your business number. It will forward to your phone because they have an app. So it’ll basically ring your cell phone that you carry around just like your main number. You can decide when you want it to be active and not active. You can — people can text, you can text back and forth, you can do voice mails, it’ll transcribe voice mails for you. So basically it’s a really nice, simple, all-in-one, second number. And if you want free and the idea of just tacking a second number onto your phone that you can give out as your business number and calling it a day appeals to you, Google Voice is a really good bet. It’s not bad. And I say “it’s not bad” because — I’ll talk about the quality issues and the couple things in a minute here. But not bad to me means good enough quality to be used in business.
Now, the other contender in this space that I’m going to talk about, in addition to the Line2 that — service that Allissa mentioned, is Sideline. So I like Sideline a lot because they seem to have a really good, elegant interface. It seems to be really well designed from a user interface standpoint, from the app, from the website, and they also give you a few more features than Google Voice does. Sideline is $10 a month, so it’s not free, but it’s also not very expensive. 10 bucks a month is, I think, a small price to pay for this functionality. So just like Google Voice, they give you a second number. Unlike Google Voice, they allow you to customize your second number. So you can actually kind of choose what number you want and try to kind of get a word in your phone number if you want to or make it a customized number. So you get to kind of choose that. They also say their carrier quality is better than Google’s. They actually use the cell phone network as opposed to Voice over IP network. Voiceover IP means it goes over the internet for the most part. And so Google Voice is internet based, where Sideline is actually going over the cell phone network, which typically is going to give you higher quality in some cases. So the technology is pretty mature in all cases. So it’s not like Google Voice is going to be a disaster. But if call quality is something you’re picky about, Sideline is going to be worth a look for you.
I’m pretty picky about call quality. I hate it when call quality suffers. I like calls to be crystal clear. I think that’s professional. So I would probably lean toward Sideline if that’s something that’s at issue. Sideline lets you auto reply. So if people call your business number and you’re busy, it can auto reply with a text message. This is probably my favorite feature about Sideline because if someone is calling and you’re in a session, you can have a text auto reply back to them saying, hey, I’m sorry, I’m probably in a session right now. Please click here to schedule online. So that kind of prompts them to go to your website and schedule online, which is nice.
AH I love the texting because, you know, I have a lot of clients who text me, and that’s fine except that if I’m somewhere where I don’t have cell service or I just turn my phone off for a week to go away, there is no — like on my regular iPhone, there is no option to auto reply to texts. So like if they were to call my voice mail, they’d get my outgoing message that says I’m out of the office until, you know, this date; I’ll call you back then. But there’s no option for me to text replies. I’ve had it happen where I went on vacation out of range, shut my phone off, and a couple clients texted me and never heard back and kind of thought I flaked versus not thinking to call my voice mail and see if there was an away message. And it’s a think I learned pretty quick to just — when a client becomes a client who texts me, I make sure they know, hey, if I ever don’t get back to you within a couple hours, you should call and just check my voice mail because it could just be that I’m out of town. But to have the option to auto reply to a text that says I’m out of town until xyz, that would be really, really helpful. And that’s the thing that struck me most as I was looking into all of these options.
MR Yeah, yeah. That’s a great feature. Sideline also give you a team number, which is nice because if you start to expand and maybe hire a second therapist or a team member that does administrative duties or something, then you can assign one number to everyone. Basically that same number can apply to everyone so they can kind of share responsibility. So if you’re in a session, someone else can pick up calls from that same number or your assistant can pick up calls from that same number, so that’s a nice feature as well that Google Voice doesn’t seem to have.
You can do multiple voice mails with Sideline. So if you want to have different voice mail greetings for different situations or times of day or whatever, you can do that, which is kind of cool. It gives you a custom ringtone as well, and group text messaging as well, which, actually Google Voice does have. Saw them at the bottom of the list saying they both have checkmarks so scratch that. So I like that.
Sideline has some features that I think are pretty useful that we’ve talked about there, so that might be worth the 10 bucks a month if you want to kind of upgrade to some of these fancier features.
So now, again, I haven’t researched Line2. I forgot about it until Allissa mentioned it. So I’m looking at Line2, they seem to have similar features to Sideline.
AH Similar. It’s 8-something a month. It’s very similar. I think it’d be worth exploring both, testing both —
AH — if you’re really into this and you like to get real granular about it.
MR Yeah. It’s 10 bucks a month paid monthly. The software — there’s a trend among software companies — side note here; it’s a rant — among software companies nowadays that they default to the annual pricing and you have to click the monthly pricing, and then you see it goes up. So it’s really, kind of — I think it’s annoying because most people want to do monthly. So that’s my little rant about —
AH I actually do annually.
MR Oh, you do? Oh, okay.
AH Yeah, I do. If it’s going to save me a couple of bucks and I don’t have to think about the bill again for a year, I’m on board.
MR Well, apparently that’s just my little rant that’s just me, so there you go. Anyway, so I think that is a good overview of kind of the solo, “slap a number on your phone” kind of solution.
Now, let’s talk about kind of the larger solutions, where if you are anticipating growing or you already have maybe one or two team members and you might hire a couple more, maybe you have an assistant; all those scenarios mean you might want something a little fancier. And the good news is there’s a number of services that are fancier that can do really cool things like, you know, extensions, or, you know, press 1 for scheduling, press 2 for billing or whatever, and you can get really fancy.
So there is four of them that I’m going to mention. There’s more than this, but the four that I have experience with, or have researched, are Grasshopper, Jive, RingCentral, and Zoom. So the one I use personally for another business is called Grasshopper, and I really love Grasshopper. Grasshopper is nice because it is — first of all, the user interface is great. It’s a really well-designed app, it’s a really well-designed website, it’s got nice, cool features. So Grasshopper literally lets you have the same type of phone system that a big corporate office would have where you, like, you know, you can call in, auto attendance, extensions, multiple voice mail boxes, all sorts of things like that. It’s really fancy. So if you have multiple team members, this could be a good option because you’ll get a business phone number, people can call the number, you can have multiple extensions. You can say press 1 for Allissa, press 2 for Mary, press 3 for Bob. And if someone’s looking for a specific therapist, maybe they can leave a message for that person. Or press 4 if you have questions about, you know, your first session, or press 5 if you have a billing question or whatever. This is really kind of getting into big, fancy stuff, and most of us don’t need all that. But it’s nice to know the option is there. So you can assign extensions to different departments or people.
You’ve got an app where you can ring your computer, so if you want to — you know, if you’re working on your computer or something and you want to answer calls on your computer and just kind of, you know, talk at your computer, you can do that. I do that a lot. Maybe I’m just a weirdo, but I like talking at my computer more than I like picking up a phone. (Laughter) So I just do that, which is really nice. So Grasshopper is $30 a month. All these services are basically $30 a month, all the same price. And that’s the one I have experience with and the call quality is really good. It works really well.
Jive and RingCentral are very similar; they do kind of of the same things. Also $30 a month. Zoom is the one that I’m really curious about. Zoom will not tell me their pricing. I like Zoom because we are using Zoom right now to record our podcast. We use Zoom for meetings all the time. Zoom is really good for virtual meetings and video conferences and their quality is really good. It’s really the best meeting software I’ve ever used. And so I’m really intrigued by Zoom’s calling system because I’m getting it’s going to be just as good. And I keep filling out their pricing form and I never get a response back, but they advertise on their website as available. So if anyone can get pricing from Zoom, tell us. (Laughter) I’m hoping it’s cheaper because I would probably try it out in a heartbeat because Zoom has impressed me so far with their other products.
So those are kind of the four I’ve been looking at for a bigger, fancier phone system. And, you know, it could be as simple as you’ve got two people: you’ve got you as a therapist and you’ve got an assistant. Maybe you want to have two extensions: one extension is hey, press 1 to reach so-and-so, who’s the therapist; press 2 if you’d like to schedule an appointment, which that goes to your assistant who can then kind of field the calls to do the scheduling. So that would be a really good scenario where having two extensions could be useful and really user-friendly to callers. So the first one is if they want to ask you a question about, you know, the session or a wellness question or whatever. And two would be for scheduling.
So that’s kind of what I’ve got in terms of advice for looking at phone systems and how to use them. So what have I missed or what would you add, Allissa?
AH I’d like to note that with all of these, with Google Voice and Sideline and Line2, you can port your current phone number in.
MR Yes, thank you.
AH So — and that’s important to know. So like, for me, I’ve had this phone number that I’ve used for my business for 14-plus years, and I don’t really want to change my business’s phone number. I would like to port it into one of these systems so it really — essentially change the provider to, let’s say, Sideline and then get a new phone number through my regular phone provider, AT&T, that will become my personal line. So know that that is potential. So I mean, it’s always great — I — in my fantasy world, I love the idea of starting a completely fresh business and doing all of these things right and specifically from the beginning and starting with a new phone number. But at this point, it’s been a long time; I got 14 years’ worth of clients that have my current phone number, so I wouldn’t want to change it. It would just be a hassle. I would just end up getting their texts and phone numbers to my personal line anyway as they transition for the next five years —
AH — so for me it would make more sense to use my current phone number, port it to one of these options for a business line, and then get a new phone number for personal. So know that porting is an option. You can do that with all of these systems.
MR Yeah, good point. Thank you. I forgot to mention one thing. When you’re — when you use a system like Grasshopper or Jive or something where it’s a little more expensive but you have all those features, when someone calls, they will get a greeting. It’ll basically say, hey, thank you for calling Haines Massage; press 1 to reach Allissa, press 2 to schedule an appointment. It’s very professional sounding. And when you use a professional service for your business phone number, one thing I really like is it’s one more professional touchpoint that enhances your brand. So your brand is made up of all these little details about your business from how great your website looks to how easy your online scheduling is to how your phone is answered to how you communicate via email to what your logo looks like to what people say about you to what your Google reviews are. All — all these things add up to give an impression to the outside world of how professional and trustworthy your business is. And if someone calls your cell phone directly and that’s your business number and you haven’t set up your voice mail and it just says, you’ve reached blah-blah-blah, number-number-number, please leave a message, and it’s very generic, it sounds really unprofessional. And if you have a business line like this and someone calls and it says hey, thank you for calling Haines Massage; if you need this, press this, it sounds like a real company. And so I like that aspect of using a service like we’ve discussed today.
AH I can only agree.
MR There you go. That’s what I got. Unless you have anything to add, I think I’m good for today.
AH That is is. Thank you, Michael, for diving into that for us.
AH And that you reader/listener for the question. And we like it. If you have a question you would like us to answer or problem or whatever you want us to dive into, we adore that. You can send us such questions and situations at email@example.com. And when you do that, you actually get to me and/or Michael — actually it comes to both of us — and one of us really will get back to you to say, hey, we got this, we’re going to cover it, or hey, we got this and we’re not going to cover it and here’s why. Although that’s pretty rare. So feel free to send us your questions, your thoughts, your reviews, your hate mail, whatever you got. Send it along; we love to hear it.
Thank you again to our sponsor, Acuity, and, you know, hey, have a great business-y day — I forgot, Michael, I don’t have the closing script.
MR (Laughter) I think you nailed it. Nailed it.
AH All right, thank you again, Michael. Thank you, everyone, for listening, and have a wonderful, productive, business-y day.
MR Thanks everyone.