Having a separate phone for business may be an added cost you don’t need when you are just getting started in private practice. When you are just starting out, you might want to use your cell phone for business. Learn how having only a land-line can lose you business, how to use your cell phone for your business and as a tax deduction and why having both is the best option.
A Land-line can Mean Business Loss
You can get a land-line for as little as $20 to $40 a month. And you get a listing in the local phone book. But you have to ask yourself if it is worth it to only have a land-line. If you only have a land-line for your business, you could miss out on a lot of calls when you are not in the office.
Therapy can be the kind of business that you have to strike while the iron is hot. People will often start thinking about going to a therapist when they are in a time of crisis. As soon as the crisis passes, they may forget about going to therapy until the next crisis occurs. In the meantime, you could be helping them learn how to cope and avert crisis. But you have to get them to make an appointment for that to happen.
I have often had new clients contact me for an appointment on a Saturday or Sunday when I normally wouldn’t be in my office. If I hadn’t been using my cell phone, I would have missed those calls.
When I do miss a call, only about 50% of the potential clients leave a message. I don’t feel comfortable trying to call someone back who hasn’t left a message because you don’t know if you will reach the person who called. I have no way of knowing how many of those people might have become clients if I had gotten their call. But I think at least some of them might have. I think I have missed out on clients when I wasn’t able to be reached on my cell phone. This makes me think I would be missing even more if I used only a land-line for my business.
Use Your Cell Phone for Business?
Should you use your cell phone for business? I have gotten this question a lot from therapists who are considering private practice. They wonder if it is proper or ethical to use your cell phone for business. I think it is the least expensive method for being available to clients and potential clients most of the time. As therapists, we need 24 hour coverage anyway. And there are ways to use your cell phone so the client doesn’t even have your cell phone number.
If you have a profile on Psychology Today, you get a number to track your calls. You can also use this number as a listing on your business cards or website. Google offers a service called Google Voice. Google Voice can have all your phones forwarded to one phone. You can even get a Google Voice number to use as a business number. If you have a land-line as well as a cell phone, you can have calls forwarded to your cell phone so clients don’t have your number.
Your Phone as a Tax Deduction
Your phone bills are tax-deductible if you use your cell phone for business. Cell phones have become such a big part of how people do business that they are a legitimate business expense. Just be sure to be careful of how much you use your cell phone for business and how much for personal calls. The IRS knows that cell phones are a big part of most people’s personal lives as well. They are likely to scrutinize it as a 100% business expense if you do not have a separate phone for personal calls.
What about personal calls?
You can still take personal calls through your cell phone when you use your cell phone for business. If you are using the phone as a tax deduction, you can deduct a percentage of the bills. If you use the phone 30% for business and 70% for personal calls, you can deduct 30% of your phone bills.
Or you might want to have a separate phone for personal calls and one just for business. I use a land-line in my home for most personal calls and my cell phone is mostly for business. I only use it for personal calls when I’m away from home.
You can track how much you use your cell phone for business by getting an itemized bill. This will show how often you use your phone for business and how much you use it for personal calls. This way you will know how much of your bill can be used as a tax deduction.
The Best Option
Even though I think you need a cell phone for your business, I think the best option is to have both. The land-line can be for your office and you can use call-forwarding to send calls to your cell phone. This way clients don’t have your cell phone number but can still reach you when you aren’t in your office. You will also get a listing in the phone book which may help a few clients find you. You can use both as a tax deduction. If you get personal calls on your cell phone, you can still deduct the percentage of your bill that you use for business.