This article is part of a larger series on VoIP.
The process of how to get a business phone number is fairly straightforward. However, the cost varies, as do the types of numbers and services available, so it’s essential to understand the differences between the options. We explain the pros and cons of various types of business phone numbers so you can determine which type is right for your company, compare providers, and choose the best option to get a business phone number for your organization.
Types of Business Phone Numbers
Virtual phone systems and voice-over-internet-protocol (VoIP) services often include a local business number, although some give the option of choosing a local or toll-free number. You may need one company phone number shared between staff using extensions or individual phone numbers for each or some of your employees. If you already have a number, you may be wondering if you can port it into a new business phone system.
Below are some of the business phone number options available and the reason to choose each one:
Reason to Use
Get a new business number quickly and connect with your local community using a familiar area code
Free or starting at $4.99 to $9.99 per month
Establish a national presence and give the impression of a larger business with a toll-free business phone number
$0.99 to $15.99 per month
Improve brand recognition by using memorable vanity numbers in ads and marketing materials
$4.99 to more than $50 per month
Support customers in international locations and build your business in global markets
$4.99 to $15.99 per month
*Pricing varies by provider. The cost per number may decrease when purchasing more than one number at once and providers may charge activation fees for additional numbers.
A local business phone number includes an area code, telephone prefix, and a line number. Companies can get a local business phone number from the local phone company or through a VoIP or virtual number provider.
When purchasing phone service, the vendor may offer a selection of phone numbers based on the business’ address, but you can also request a different area code. For instance, businesses in small or rural areas may prefer an area code used in a nearby larger city. Local customers will recognize the area code and believe you’re calling from a location near them.
Toll-free numbers, also commonly called 800 numbers, work well for small businesses that want to foster a national brand presence. They also work well for companies with a customer service center and those wanting to offer a toll-free hotline for sales or support.
You can make phone calls using your toll-free business phone number and receive calls on your business phone, personal cell phone, web-based interface, or another device. Customers within the United States can call an 800 number for free. However, international callers may pay more to call an 800 number than other types.
Although a toll-free number is most commonly understood to be an 800 number, it also includes other prefixes, such as:
Currently, the North American Numbering Plan (NANP) has other toll-free phone number prefixes reserved but not open for use yet. These include 822, 880, 887, and 899.
Unlike with a local phone number, a VoIP provider charges per-minute (metered) fees for inbound calls to a toll-free number. Some services, such as RingCentral and Nextiva, include toll-free minutes with subscriptions, but calls are still metered and not unlimited. Learn more by exploring our guide on how to get an 800 number for your company.
Vanity phone numbers are customizable business phone numbers and can be local or toll-free. You choose the digits of the number to spell out a word or simply create an easy-to-remember combination. Examples of vanity numbers include 1-800-FLOWERS and 309-GET-RUGS.
Vanity numbers can be impactful in helping to reinforce your brand or business type. Since they are generally more memorable, they also make it more likely someone will remember and call your business when looking for the types of products or services it sells.
You may have one main vanity phone number that people dial to reach your business. Then your auto-attendant forwards calls to local numbers or to the extensions of various staff or departments.
Providers like Grasshopper offer subscriptions with multiple phone numbers, and you can choose between vanity and standard local numbers. Others only provide vanity phone numbers as an add-on in addition to your business phone system.
If you want to establish a local presence in a foreign country, geography-specific direct inward dial (DID) numbers are a good choice. In this case, you don’t need a physical office or employee in the region. When a customer calls your line, your provider routes the call to your domestic telephone number and phone extensions, which you can pick up on your mobile or office phone.
Some VoIP vendors, such as 8×8, also provide toll-free international numbers for certain regions. But 8×8 says that “certain countries require you to have a local business address and/or a Letter of Intent that indicates your line of business and how you intend to use the number.”
Types of Business Phone Number Providers
Since a free business number typically comes with paid and free VoIP phone system subscriptions, many people go this route and use the provider’s options to choose a number. However, if you want to buy a business number to transfer to your existing phone service, you can also purchase these for a one-time fee.
Here are the different provider options to consider:
- VoIP providers: Cloud-based phone services like 8×8 and RingCentral transmit calls over the internet and can replace your current system. The best VoIP phone systems tend to have far more features and flexibility than other business communications options, allowing you to use the phone service for customer service centers or collaboration with co-workers. VoIP services often support use on personal devices as well as existing desk phones, softphones, and other common business telephony hardware.
- Virtual number providers: A virtual number service is similar to VoIP, as it uses the internet to send and receive calls and comes with a phone number. However, a virtual service can only forward calls to an existing phone line (usually a cell phone, but in some cases, a landline). Grasshopper and Google Voice offer virtual phone numbers for small teams and rank among the best virtual phone number providers.
- Free business phone numbers: Services like Google Voice and Skype provide a free business number for solopreneurs. These platforms lack advanced VoIP features such as a virtual receptionist and skills-based call routing, but they’re an excellent alternative for entrepreneurs who just need a second phone number for their business.
- Standalone business numbers: Several providers sell toll-free and vanity phone numbers online for a one-time fee. You can forward the number to your cell phone or port it into your phone system, but it’s a good idea to check with your carrier first to ensure that the selected number is portable.
- Business phone number apps: Phone number apps like FreedomPop use cellular data, whereas Callcentric relies on the internet to make and receive calls. You can forward calls to mobile devices and access features through the app. If you’re looking for low-cost or free phone numbers, check out our picks for the best free business phone number apps.
How to Get a Business Phone Number
If you already know what type of number you need and have a provider type or specific service in mind, head straight to the vendor’s website. Need help choosing between business phone number providers? Take this quiz to learn which type is best for small business owners:
Answer a few questions about your business, and we'll give you a personalized product match.
Alternatively, if you want a business phone number but aren’t sure where to start, take the following steps:
1. Decide What Type of Number Your Business Needs
While businesses often start with a local phone number, a toll-free number is better for brands wanting a national presence. Some VoIP providers let you create memorable vanity phone numbers using local or toll-free prefixes. Or if you have customers worldwide, you may want local numbers in other countries.
Most VoIP providers include a free business phone number with paid subscriptions and guide you through the process of how to get a business phone number using pop-ups and on-screen instructions. However, some only include local numbers, whereas others let you choose between local, toll-free, and vanity numbers.
Additionally, not all vendors supply international numbers. Those that do often require you to pick a local or toll-free number as your primary number, and then you can add an international phone number after signing up.
For example, Nextiva subscriptions include one local phone number with unlimited minutes and a toll-free number with 1,500 to 12,500 minutes, depending on your package. But Nextiva doesn’t offer international phone numbers. On the other hand, Dialpad comes with a free local number and you can add toll-free numbers after setting up your subscription. If you sign up for 8×8 or RingCentral, you can choose an international number as an add-on.
2. Select a Provider
When choosing a provider, the type of phone features included, business phone number types, and pricing can vary widely, so it’s important to understand your budget and needs before picking a phone provider. Additionally, although most VoIP plans include a local phone number, other numbers cost extra.
Unless you purchase through a third-party standalone number provider, your business’ phone system will usually be your means of obtaining a business phone number. Which business phone system to choose depends on your size of business, the volume of inbound and outbound calls, and the types of business phone numbers you want.
Virtual phone number providers like Grasshopper and Google Voice offer a virtual business phone number and forward calls to an existing phone line. It keeps personal calls separate yet doesn’t require another device, and usually comes with basic features like voicemail and do not disturb (DND). You can make personal and business calls from your mobile phone. Virtual business phone numbers may also work on a desk phone, laptop, or desktop computer.
In comparison, a business VoIP phone service provider can replace your current phone system and provide one or more business phone numbers. Like virtual phone number providers, you can also receive and place calls from your personal cell phone, desk phone, or computer. VoIP systems often have many more features, such as an auto-attendant to route incoming calls to employee phone numbers or extensions, on-hold music, ring groups, and call queues.
If you plan on buying multiple numbers, make sure you check out each provider’s fee list and see how much additional phone numbers cost per month. For instance, RingCentral charges $4.99 for extra toll-free, vanity, or local phone numbers, whereas Ooma charges $9.99 a month for each additional local or toll-free number. Over time, these costs can really add up.
3. Sign Up for a Business Phone Service
If you’re buying a standalone phone number without VoIP services or want an international number, you can skip this step and move to the next step. Otherwise, you’ll pick your new number as part of the sign-up process for a business phone system.
Some vendors, such as Grasshopper, ask you to choose a phone number first before picking a plan. You may also have the option to start a free trial. In this case, you can sign up for the free trial and choose your number at the same time. But keep in mind that if you don’t continue your subscription after the trial ends, you will lose your business phone number.
Others, including RingCentral and 8×8, require you to select a plan and enter your contact details before choosing a number. Choose the subscription plan that has the features your business needs and sign up. Once you do, your new business phone number is typically ready to use. A vanity or toll-free number may take additional time to set up, but the provider will usually give you a temporary number to use until the new number is processed.
4. Choose One or More Business Phone Numbers
A standalone number provider will let you pick one or more phone numbers using a number picker tool. You can add these numbers to your cart and follow the company’s checkout process.
However, suppose you want an international number along with a VoIP subscription. In that case, you must pay for your subscription and get a local or toll-free number first, then log into your service using the administrator portal. The portal shows a list of your current phone numbers, and you can click the appropriate menu box to add a new one.
If your service offers international numbers, you can search for your desired country and view a list of available numbers. Once you select a number, you can assign it an extension or decide where to forward it. Some providers require a one-time fee for additional business numbers, and this may go on your upcoming bill or be required at the time of purchase.
Alternatively, some VoIP providers also have number picking tools. This can make it easier to choose a business phone number that is easy to remember or to find available vanity numbers.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Can I keep my landline phone number & use it with a VoIP service?
Yes. If you want to keep your landline phone number but take advantage of VoIP features, such as voicemail-to-email and call recording, you can port your current business phone number to your new provider. The process varies by service, but, typically, you must complete a form and ask your VoIP provider to port your number. In the meantime, you should keep your landline service active until your new VoIP provider says the process is complete.
How can I get a free business phone number?
The best way to get a free business phone number is through Google Voice. All you need is a Google account to sign up. Once you sign in to your account, you can request a Google Voice number and agree to the terms of service. Google provides a list of telephone numbers to choose from. For more information, check out our step-by-step guide to getting a Google Voice number.
Do business phone systems work on a cell phone?
Yes. You can forward calls to a mobile device by configuring call routing rules and installing the provider’s mobile app. Some paid services also offer a follow-me feature, which can ring several devices in a designated order. Today’s leading VoIP and unified communications services are designed with distributed teams in mind and support a BYOD (bring your own device) workforce.
A business phone number makes it easy for prospects and customers to reach your business, and makes your company look more professional and legitimate. Many providers offer several number types and subscriptions for different budgets. If you want a basic, cheap second phone number to separate business and personal calls, consider Google Voice. On the other hand, check out RingCentral if you need a full-featured VoIP system for unlimited business calls.