Sunday, February 4, 2007

Voicemail - be a pro

When you're not home, your voicemail is the only - and initial - interaction that your prospective client will have with you. Making sure that it is a professional and positive experience can easily mean the difference between a prospective client leaving a message and their hanging up. To that end, make sure your voicemail on the landline and on your cell phone are complimentary, written down, and practiced, and sound professional. When recording it, do so in a quiet room.

If your home line is also your business line, your spouse will have to understand that the message will say "John Smith photography" rather than "you've reached the Smith family...". With the costs of a second line fairly low these days, it's economical to have that second line be the family line.

Consider hiring someone. For a small business such as most photographers operate, the fee to do the work is minimal, and the benefit you'll receive from being percieved as a professional business will be well worth the expense. Doing a search for "voice over talent" (without the quotes) and then adding in your city or state will give you great results, or you can try the Voice123 where they will bid for your work, and you can hear samples of the people you might hire.

Here's the script for my voicemail:

Regular Message:

  • Thanks for calling John Harrington Photography. We apologize that we are not able to take your call right now. You may also try contacting John on his cellular phone. 202-255-4500. To leave a message here, please begin speaking after the tone. Thank you.

Message callers receive when you are on the line:
  • Thanks for calling John Harrington Photography. We are currently on another line, and can’t take your call. Please leave a message including your telephone number and what your call is regarding, and John will return your call as soon as possible. To leave a message here, please begin speaking after the tone. Thank you.

Cellular Phone Message:
  • Hi, you’ve reached the offices of John Harrington Photography. We apologize that john is not currently available to take your call. Please leave a detailed message and John will return your call as soon as possible. Please begin speaking after the tone. Thank you.

If your fax line has voicemail by default, set the fax to answer by 2 rings, and if for some reason it does not answer, have the voicemail pick up after six rings, with the following message:
  • You’ve dialed the fax line of John Harrington Photography, at 202-544-4579. At this time, the fax machine is not functioning. Please call the office at 202-544-4578 so we may reset the fax machine and receive your fax.

By having your cellular phone sound the same as your landline, a call made to your landline which you've forwarded to your cell phone because you are out of the office will sound similar to your landline and clients will not know that the call's been forwarded.

And one more thing, don't have a soundtrack! You're a photographer, not a DJ.


Dennis Murray said...

With the cost to get a line via Skype, there is no reason to share a business and home phone number. Skype (or other VOIP options) really give you the flexibility as well to be able to take your calls and get your messages whereever you have a computer and an Internet connection.

Anonymous said...

I second the voip solution-- I've currently got a toll free number via a voip provider for $60/year + $0.02/minute, and they e-mail me the voicemails.

Clients I work with a lot have my cell phone, but the public front is just a toll free numer.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for posting this -- I'd been meaning to update my voicemail message for a while, and your post provided the necessary inspiration.

I also use VOIP -- and it is very convenient. Mobility is important to me, so I appreciate the ability to receive my voicemail messages in my inbox (as wav files), and I can even program different messages for different times of the day. This allows me to keep in touch with my clients and give them the most up-to-date information possible.

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