What is a virtual landline? A simple guide for small businesses

Business owner taking phone call from customer

Although it’s usually a positive sign, handling a high volume of calls can be stressful for small business owners.

A virtual landline could be a useful solution to the problem as it allows businesses to reduce costs, increase flexibility, and handle calls effectively.

Read our guide to virtual landlines for information on how they work, the benefits for small businesses, and some of the best providers.

What is a virtual landline for business?

A virtual landline is a cloud-based service that allows people to reach your business no matter where you are.

This means customers can contact your business without the need for you to have a traditional landline or give out your personal mobile number.

Virtual landlines have become increasingly popular due to a rise in flexible working in recent years, which sped up during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Using a virtual landline means you can have any type of number you want for your business, without having to link it to a premises.

For example, if you’re a mobile hairdresser working across Greater Manchester, you may want a business number with a Manchester area code (0161). A virtual landline allows you to do this without using your home address or having to rent or buy a salon.

How can small businesses benefit from a virtual landline?

Using a virtual landline has lots of benefits. Here are five advantages that could have a positive impact on your business:

  • take calls at any time in any location – there’s no need to be in the office to take calls, giving you much greater flexibility
  • reduce phone system costs – you can divert all calls to your virtual landline through to your mobile, saving you money on line rental and an expensive phone system
  • make your brand more professional – a location-specific or national virtual landline number is likely to be more appealing to customers than a personal mobile number
  • separate business and personal calls – you can see which calls are business calls, meaning you can reject or divert them if it’s not a suitable time
  • handle more calls – you can divert a virtual landline to several numbers, increasing the chances of the call being picked up by a colleague if you’re busy

Can you divert a virtual landline number to mobile?

Yes, this is the most common use of a virtual landline by business owners. Not only can it help a small business appear more professional and established, it also means business owners can split personal and business calls more easily.

Most providers will allow you to divert calls to several mobiles, which can speed up response times and spread the workload among a team.

What’s more, some virtual landline services also provide features like welcome messages and switchboards to mirror the experience of calling a traditional business landline.

Diverting a virtual landline to a mobile allows businesses to operate on the go with increased flexibility, no matter where they’re based.

How does virtual landline voicemail work?

Most virtual landline providers will give you access to a free voicemail service that should be simple to set up.

Some providers automatically send your voicemail messages to you via email, which can be an easier way of tracking customer communications.

As with most voicemail services, the one that comes with your virtual landline is likely to have a standard greeting message. It’s worth thinking about updating yours so it’s tailored to your business.

How you do this depends on your provider, but it’s likely you’ll need to get access to your voicemail account by calling the relevant number on your phone and then choosing the option to record a new message.

It’s important to note that sometimes virtual landline voicemails can accidentally go through to a user’s personal voicemail.

To stop this happening, you need to make sure that the number of rings before going to voicemail is different for your personal mobile number and your virtual landline number.

When you set up your virtual landline, you’ll be asked how many seconds you want it to ring for before the call is diverted to voicemail (some providers may have a standard number of seconds).

You can check how long your personal mobile rings for, and change its duration, by calling your voicemail service and accessing the settings.

Business owner on virtual landline


How to get a virtual landline number

When you sign up with a virtual landline provider, you should be able to choose a number that suits the needs of your business.

There are different types of numbers available, such as freephone numbers starting with 0800 or area numbers starting with 0207 in central London.

As its name suggests, a freephone number will be free for your customers to use. On the other hand, a regional number with a dialling code like 0207 will cost you but is likely to be more appealing to people based in London.

What is the difference between a virtual landline and a VOIP system?

It’s important not to confuse a virtual landline with a VOIP system, which stands for Voice over Internet Protocol.

In most cases, a virtual landline offers a simple and affordable professional business number that can be diverted to your mobile.

A VOIP system is similar in that it uses an internet connection to handle calls, but it usually has extra features and could be more suited to businesses with more employees.

Three of the best virtual landline services

There are lots of virtual landline services for you to choose from and you’ll need to weigh up which one best suits the needs of your business.

Some providers will be more suitable if you want to focus on managing a higher number of calls while others will be better if there’s a specific dialling code or number you want to use.

Here’s an overview of three of the best-known virtual landline services:

Virtual Landline

Users of this service can choose from a wide range of UK local numbers from £5.95 a month.

Here are some of its benefits:

  • a free app that allows users to manage calls from anywhere
  • no roaming charges when using the service internationally
  • ability to forward incoming calls to up to five different numbers at the same time
  • access to call records to look up numbers and monitor call activity

One Net Anywhere (Vodafone)

This virtual landline aims to help small businesses with up to nine employees “appear reassuringly established”, with costs starting from £10 a month.

Its benefits include:

  • a virtual switchboard to make sure customers are always connected to the right person
  • the option to choose any area code for your virtual landline number
  • no call divert charges if you’re already on Vodafone’s network
  • the ability to set your virtual landline number as your caller ID when you make a call

Number People

This provider gives customers a free UK phone number, with charges starting from £1 per user per month.

Its other benefits include:

  • flat rate outbound call charges of 7p a minute to UK mobiles and 1.5p to UK landlines
  • a wide choice of geographic, national rate, local rate, and freephone landline numbers
  • no charges for receiving or forwarding calls
  • unlimited users and free calls between users

Do you have any unanswered questions about virtual landlines? Let us know in the comments below.

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Вадим Пастух/stock.adobe.com

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Conor Shilling

Conor Shilling is a professional writer with over 10 years’ experience across the property, small business, and insurance sectors. A trained journalist, Conor’s previous experience includes writing for several leading online property trade publications. Conor has worked at Simply Business as a Copywriter for three years, specialising in the buy-to-let market, landlords, and small business finance.

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