Everything is connected to the internet these days — cars, household appliances, watches, TVs. Being on the web throughout the day is the norm, so there’s no reason your phone shouldn’t be on the web with you. Instead of using old-school phones, your business can upgrade to a virtual phone system. All you need is a virtual phone number to get started.
So what is a virtual phone number? We’ll explain what virtual numbers are, how they work, and why they’re beneficial. Then, we’ll provide a step-by-step guide on how to get a virtual number of your own (the process is simple!).
What is a virtual phone number?
A virtual phone number, also known as a Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) number, is a telephone number that’s tied to an online account instead of a specific device or location.
While traditional phone numbers depend on phone lines (if you have a landline) or cell towers (if you have a cell phone), virtual numbers are completely cloud-based. You simply need an internet connection to make and receive phone calls or text messages from your number. This means you can chat with clients or team members from anywhere, with any device.
How virtual phone numbers work
You don’t need to purchase a brand-new desk phone or cell phone to use a virtual phone number. You can access your virtual number just by logging on to your VoIP provider’s app using any compatible device, whether that’s a computer, tablet, or mobile phone.
When you’re ready to make a call or send a text, the process is simple: Open your VoIP phone app and dial the number you want to reach, or tap on one of your saved contacts.
Your virtual phone number provider will then send voice data or text messages between you and your contact in real time, purely using the power of the internet. The experience is a lot like using your personal smartphone. 📱
Receiving a call is just as simple. When you get an incoming call to your virtual phone number, your VoIP app will display a call screen on whichever devices you’re logged onto, so you can easily and intuitively answer.
Still in the searching phase for the right phone solution? Check out our guide to the best virtual phone number providers.
Virtual vs. traditional phone numbers
Virtual phone numbers don’t look any different from traditional phone numbers. You’ll still have an area code and seven digits. But since your number won’t be tied to a physical location, you can choose from numbers beyond those within your local area code. For example, with OpenPhone as your VoIP phone service, you can choose from any available US number, Canadian number, or toll-free number.
In this way, virtual business phone numbers make it easier for you to build remote teams, work with international clients, or expand to new markets.
Virtual numbers can also help you run your business more efficiently and effectively. While traditional business phone systems don’t offer much beyond basic calling features like voicemail, virtual phone systems can help you gather insights about calls to specific numbers, automate text messaging, access call recording, and much more.
Virtual phone number benefits
Still unsure if a virtual phone number is right for you? No problem. Let’s go over more of the perks to choosing a virtual number over a traditional landline phone number or cell phone number. Here are three of the key benefits to choosing a virtual phone number provider.
1. Customize your number to your business needs
A virtual phone number can help you get exactly what you need from your business phone system — even if you need something different from each number. For example, on OpenPhone, you can:
- Assign a phone number to multiple people, so they can work together to answer calls and field messages
- Set unique business hours for each number, which is useful when team members work in different time zones
- Create a different auto-attendant (phone menu) for each number
- Set different caller IDs to help clients distinguish between your numbers (be sure to also register your business profile with the FCC and Free Caller Registry)
Your options are almost limitless with virtual phone numbers.
2. Scale your business with ease
Virtual phone numbers are easy to add at any time. With no physical setup required, you can add a new number in a few clicks and instantly start making calls from any device.
Adding new team members is easy, too. With OpenPhone, all you need to do is invite them via email. Your new employees can then accept your invite, create their account, and start calling as soon as they download our desktop, web, or mobile business phone number app.
If your team wants to expand to new cities and countries as it grows, virtual phone numbers make the process easier. The majority (59%) of people are more likely to answer calls from local numbers, so the ability to choose an area code for any Canadian or US virtual phone number can help you establish a trustworthy local presence fast. Plus, since your team members can access their virtual numbers from anywhere, on any device, you can onboard talent from any location without any worries.
Long-distance business calls tend to be more affordable with virtual phone numbers than traditional ones, too.
3. Take advantage of small business-friendly pricing
Getting a top-grade phone service doesn’t have to cost you an extraordinary amount. Unlike traditional PBX phone systems, which require massive upfront investment in specialized hardware and IT support, virtual phone numbers eliminate the cost of any dedicated hardware. You can use your number by hopping onto your existing work computer or a personal phone — take your pick!
OpenPhone plans start at just $15 per user per month. Every user gets a number for free and you can purchase additional numbers for $5 per month.
Virtual phone numbers also offer far greater value than traditional numbers, because, quite simply, they do more for your money. They support all the basic calling and SMS features you’d expect in addition to advanced functionality like integrations, number sharing, call recording, and call forwarding.
How to get a virtual phone number
Once you’ve selected the right VoIP alternative for your business needs, getting a virtual number is usually as simple as signing up. For example, here’s how you can create an OpenPhone account and get a free virtual phone number within minutes:
- Click “Try for free” up top on this page.
- Enter your email address and click “Continue.” You’ll receive a six-digit code in your email inbox, which you can enter to continue.
- Confirm whether your virtual phone number is for work or personal use.
- Continue with an automatically assigned virtual phone number, or tap “Pick a different number” to select any available US or Canadian local phone number, or a toll-free number.
- Verify your account with an existing phone number.
- Enter your credit card information. You won’t be charged until your seven-day trial ends, and you can cancel anytime — we’ll even send you a reminder.
With OpenPhone, you can turn an existing cell phone or landline number into a virtual phone number, too. We offer free phone number porting.
Try out OpenPhone during a free, one-week trial to confirm it’s a good fit for you. Then fill out a one-minute form in the OpenPhone app, and we’ll handle the rest. Within a few weeks, you can access all the benefits of a virtual number using your existing phone number, so you never have to worry about interrupting the client experience. 🙌
Do more with your phone number
A virtual phone number empowers you to take your calls and texts with you wherever you go. As long as you have an internet connection and your VoIP app downloaded, you can answer calls from any device. Plus, you’ll have a more customizable, scalable, and affordable number to help your business grow.
Sign up for a free trial of OpenPhone to try a virtual number for yourself.
Emily is a freelance business and marketing writer based in the desert, though her writing is anything but dry. Her passion is writing compelling, human-friendly content that helps growing businesses perform better.