Yesterday, Heather of Freebies 4 Mom asked me whether I was familiar with free voicemail numbers that can be used for businesses (including blogs). The free voicemail landscape was broader last year, but a number of the providers have disappeared or are currently down. I checked on an old voicemail account I’d set up and decided not to use. The whole site is gone.
The only well-known blogger I could remember who uses voicemail is Madame X. She uses Grand Central, which is now owned by Google and in a beta program. I contacted her about it and she said that it’s easy to use and works well.
Grand Central’s premise is that you can use a single number and have it sort callers to the appropriate phone—home, work, cell, etc. More importantly for our purposes, you can forward people to voicemail. Tech Crunch put together a quick guide to using it.
It seems like the optimal solution at this point: free (for now), easy to use, no limit on the number of messages you can receive (though messages can only be 2 min long). The disadvantage is that it’s beta and therefore requires an invitation. You can request one at Grand Central’s reservation page and hope they invite you or get one from a current user. Madame X doesn’t believe she has any to offer. Edit: It appears that Grand Central is not giving users new invites. So you can ask at the site, but cross your fingers and find a backup from below for the interim.
I found two other types of free online voicemail which don’t look nearly as appealing next to Grand Central but which are more accessible. The first only allows you to listen online, the second involves mailbox extensions.
Free Voicemail Numbers
Voicemail4Free and jConnect both offer voicemail “receive-only” phone numbers without extensions. You can only listen to these from the computer, instead of dialing in with another phone. Of course, isn’t really a problem for a bloggers anyway.
Free Voicemail Using Extensions
By signing up with one of these companies, you can get a free voice mailbox which callers reach by dialing a number and then dialing an extension. For example, they might assign you 123-555-1234 x 123. It’s not a good idea for people running formal businesses, but it’s something that fits with the informality of blogs, especially blogs focused on frugality.
These aren’t toll-free numbers (you’d have to pay for those), but it’s the same as calling someone in Florida from DC. Most people have cell phones which offer free calling periods and use up minutes for both local and long distance anyway. You’ll have a special PIN to use when you call the mailbox to check your messages. Both do offer e-mail/RSS/or other notifications that you’ve got a new voicemail, so you know when to check, you just can’t get the messages as .wav files on your computer.
(I tested a couple of these out to get some of the information for the post, since it’s not as easily available on the site. However I don’t plan to use voicemail at this time. If you’d like to contact me, you can use my contact form or e-mail address. Free e-mail accounts are available at Gmail, Yahoo Mail, and many more places.)