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What makes Google Voice Perfect for Traveling Entertainers

The Meat and Potatoes

Google Voice is a free VOIP system that has a ton of features that make it a perfect tool for entertainers. Skip to the end to get all the details about how you can use this great new application. The following is the story of how I came to make the switch, and why I won’t be going back.

The Story

Here’s the deal. As an entertainer you need to be available to clients all the time, wether at home or on the road. You are in constant and fierce competition with everyone else in your industry whether you know it or not. Usually a client is calling around for entertainment and the first performer to pick up will get it.

It was because of this sad fact that I took my cell phone with me on the road this summer for my 3 months tour across Canada and the States. As a result of my efforts to be constantly available I racked my phone bill up to 1557.43 in only 2 months. The phone itself, a year old iPhone 3GS, was on it’s last legs and after a week back in Canada the thing simply curled up and died.

With a small debt under my belt and my phone out of commission it seemed like a good time to start looking for an new innovative solution that would help me remain available to my clients while staying out of the poor house.

Before doing anything else i figured it was about timed to re-read Tim Ferris’ book “The 4-Hour Workweek” (if you haven’t read this I highly recommend it). I used this re-read to get into the right mind set and refocus on what things about the entertainer lifestyle I loved.

Step one: Who’s Calling?

Part of why my bill was in the quadruple digits was because I get a lot of international calls. So as a result I wasn’t only paying rooming fees but also for the long distance charges. I took an emotionally painful, but highly important look at my call logs and determined that almost 60% of my calls were coming in from the United States, 35% from Canada and the rest from over seas.

Step Two: What do They Need?

The next step was to figure out the subject and purpose of the majority of these calls.
I went through all my saved voicemail and wrote down the nature of the call and what action I had to take to get the caller’s issues resolved. In descending order the most common calls were about the following, checking my availability or prices for a potential gig, wholesale inquiry or order request for my product (How To Eat Fire), personal calls (mostly people looking to catch up) and calls about bills, accounts or loan payments.

Step Three: What do I Need?

Lastly I decided to take a long hard look in the mirror and admit something about myself and my feelings towards phone calls in general. It was time to admit that I was pathologically afraid to answer my phone. Out of every 10 calls I seemed to let 9 go to voicemail. Why? Only a very expensive phycologist will ever really know but i suspect it has something to go with my fear of being unprepared. What if it’s a question I don’t have the answer too? or bad news that will unleash an epic freak out on the unsuspecting caller. I much prefer to check my messages and call someone back. But the pathology goes even deeper, to be honest I experience anxiety even when checking my messages. I have no explanation for this outside of being simply crazy, but crazy or not, it was still a point of unwanted and unneeded stress.

Going Without

During the weeks of having no phone at all, I noticed that I was really enjoying using other methods to stay in contact with the world. Locating the customer service numbers for my loans or bills online, call out from my laptop using Skype and a very comfortable headset and then surfing the web while on hold made this task nearly painless. Using facebook to set dinner plans and business email to book gigs, answer order questions and manage my wholesalers. I never felt the anxiety I had when doing these things on the phone, I think in part because I had all the information at my fingers and felt more in control because I was the one deciding when to deal with each issue.

There is also a phycological shifting of gears in and out of a particular task each time you are interrupted by a phone call. With out the texts and frequent ringing I was found myself able to do more focused work and finish tasks more quickly.

After this in-depth analysis we have the information need to start navigating through the sea of options the internet provides.

Option 1: Skype Number

The Skype account I had was basic but had served me very well over the years. Upgrading my account and getting a Skype phone number seemed at first the obvious choice. For $18 I could get a number for 3 months that would forward to my online account or a cell phone. Then pay as little at $0.02 a minute for calls to your computer. This would combat the long distance and rooming charges, and I could still answer calls from my computer with my headset, perfect.

But was it really? As cheep as the $18/3 month price was, it would still mean another monthly bill to keep track out while traveling, not ideal. Also I’d still have the problem of listening to voicemail which was still something I wanted to avoid if possible.

I set aside the Skype idea in the maybe pile and continued to dig through the options.

Option 2: VOIP

VOIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) and Vonage had all the same issues of the Skype phone and was more expensive, between $10 – $20 a month. The only advantage is that you could attach it to a landline, which for a traveling entertainer is no advantage at all.

Option 3: No Phone

I had survived will out any issues will no phone for a week now. Maybe the answer was to opt out of having a number all together.

The issue here is two fold. Firstly I have a reputation for good customer service. Denying my clients the comfort of being able to call me would likely cause frustrations. Secondly the world really wants me to have a phone, the lady at the post office would’t ship my package overseas with out one and when I tried to have my number removed from accounts such as my credit card or library card, I would end up in a marxs brothers skit. They sent me from supervisor to supervisor baffled by the idea of having no phone at all. I wish I were kidding. The thought of giving everyone a fake number crossed my mind but I figured there was a better solution.

Option 4: Google Voice

Awhile back I got an invite to Google Voice. Still jaded from the disappointment from my go no where experience with the much anticipated Google Wave, I set up my account and proceeded to do precisely nothing with it. Now I was revisiting the application with fresh eyes.

First of all, its free. You can pay for minutes to call out, just like with Skype, but incoming calls cost you nothing. You can record a voicemail greeting and pick your number, I got 718.FIRE. Kick Ass.

Now this is the best part. When you get a message the audio file is sent to your email along with a transcription of the voicemail. What does this mean? Well it means you now have one single inbox for all incoming messages whether email or voice, and your voicemail is just as easy to search for as any other message in your inbox. This also meant I had a way to avoid listening to the messages, I could just scan the transcription and respond via email or Skype at my connivence. Ideal.

You can also forward your Google Voice number to a cell phone if needed, and even pre-set it to forward calls only during specific hours or only specific callers. You can block number, screen callers and even conference call. It’s everything I needed in a user friendly little package.

Only downside is that it’s technically not available in Canada. However, I has able to set us a US number (which is perfect from me since the states make up for the majority of my calls) while in America and have had no issues using the account now that I’m back in Canada.

I have been running at full speed with Google Voice as my main (and only) phone for 2 weeks now and I have no complaints what so ever.

If your in Canada and are interested in setting up a number, message me and I will send you an email with how to set up Google Voice even though it’s not available in this country and while supplies last I will send you an invite to the application as well.

Special thx to Ryan Pillings for first introducing me to Google Voice.

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Categories: Entertainment Tips

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