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Justin Feral-McWhirter

Google… What do you want to know?

On the 4th of August, 2010. I will be holding a teleconference training about Search Engine Optimization. I won’t be charging for this training, however it’s my deepest hope that we can create something of great value. I will be approaching the call just as if I were charging each person to participate. Click here for more details.

Long Distance Charges May Apply

As I’m starting to offer conference calls as a training solution, I’d like to take a few moments to review long distance charges. As a long time Vonage customer, I forget that some people still pay for Long Distance. I’ve created this article to give some options for keeping your long distance charges down to the absolute minimum.

Quick Note: It’s Not Your Biggest Cost
Before I get into the techniques, I thought I’d share a concept. When you are considering a conference call style training session, long distance charges don’t represent most of your investment. It’s your very valuable time that you need to consider. Example: If you value your time at $20/hr (low I know), the potential long distance charges of 10 cents a minute ($6/hr), is really a drop in the bucket.

Cell Phone
Most cell phones include free long distance. You are being charged for your minutes. That said, if you are one of the many people who never reach the limit of their monthly pool of minutes, this may work well.

Magic Jack
Would you like to never pay for long distance again? You can invest $40 in a magic jack and that includes a year of phone service. Not only does this give you a way to call people without paying for long distance, you can also use this as a second line, maybe to give to telemarketers, or use for classified ads. After your first year it’s only $20/yr, or about $1.67/mo. If you currently have long distance charges of 10 cents a minute, you would need to use 400 minutes within the first year for this to be a break even prospect.

While I plan on getting a magic jack, I haven’t yet, so I can’t give you my personal experience with it. I do know someone who uses one all the time and she is happy with it.

Skype
While it Skype used to be free, and still is if you are calling another Skype number, it costs money otherwise. It is inexpensive and probably the best computer to phone voip (Voice Over IP) service available. They have a pay as you go plan for as little as 2.4 cents per minute within the US (except Alaska & Hawaii). They also have a $2.99/mo unlimited plan. This doesn’t give you a phone number that people can call you on, so I think Magic Jack is a better value, however the quality may be better on Skype. I have no experience with the quality on Magic Jack, but I’ve used Skype and the quality was very good.

Why Not Use a Toll Free Number
I’ve done a lot of research on this. While I can do a conference using a long distance number for free, the least expensive Toll Free service I’ve found is 3.9 cents per minute, per person. If I have a call with 25 people on it, the cost would be nearly $1/minute. I would be willing to pay this except the majority of people.

I hope this helps you save money if you don’t have free long distance. Feel free to contact me with any concerns.

Are You Paying Retail for Credit Card Processing?

Before I explain how to buy your merchant services at wholesale prices, let me take a minute to explain why it’s important to review these kinds of bills. Credit card processing is generally billed monthly. Anything billed monthly can sneak up on you. This is why I feel it’s important to review your insurance, credit card processing, telephone, internet, and any other monthly bills on a regular basis. If you shave $100/mo off your monthly bills, that’s $1200/year. It’s not at all unrealistic to save that amount when you really start reviewing your bills.

A few years ago I had the good fortune of meeting Scott. Scott works for a local software company (Sage Payment Solutions) that offers credit card processing / merchant services. I can hear you now, “So what? Those people call me all the time.” Well I have a few reasons to feel lucky to know Scott. Here are the reasons I think you should use Scott at Sage Payment Solutions.

Wholesale Pricing
He sells his services to the banks, they turn around and resell them to you. In other words, he’s the wholesale source.

Low Pressure
You are probably sick of hearing from merchant service people. Maybe you’ve been burned by one. Maybe you have just started hanging up on them when the call. Scott is different. He’s been in business for a several years (significant in that industry), and he has strong values.

Online Integration Tools
Sage also has great tools for integrating payment within your website. I haven’t found an easier or more cost effective way to accept credit cards using your own merchant account. It makes a great alternative to PayPal.

Expert in Your Corner
Merchant services have some of the most complicated billing practices. It’s so easy to get fooled by someone who is showing you one number and not all of the hidden extra costs. This is why having Scott in your corner is such a great way to make sure you aren’t ripped off. It’s like having a mechanic you trust.

In the interest of full disclosure, I must let you know that I have incentive to recommend Scott & his service. He sends business to me, and I get paid a nominal fee per account I send him. It’s even more important to note that even without these incentives, I would still recommend Scott, all day long. I was sending him referrals for a long time and that is why he put me on as an affiliate to get paid, so you understand the order of things. I would suggest that you call Scott and have him review your credit card statements. He will be honest with you and let you know if he can save you money or not. You can contact Scott at 503-307-1331, or for more information look at his website http://ScottLongacre.com (Note: I didn’t design the site, it’s provided by his company)

Free Fax / Voicemail Service – K7.net

*** 2017 Update ***

It doesn’t appear that K7 is still doing free fax numbers. I switched to FaxAway.com which is $1/mo prepaid. I actually prefer this to K7, as with K7 I lost my number a few times. If you are concerned with having your CC# out online, you could probably use a prepaid CC. I’ve even found those at the Dollar store, so you could put $20 on a card from there and fund the account, and be all set for 20 months.

For outgoing faxing, I always use GotFreeFax.com. I’ve used both the paid and free version of this service and both work well.

For free phone/voicemail, I use Google Voice. It’s a great way to get a second phone number that you can use for business or just for privacy. You do need to connect it with an existing number, I don’t recall if the number must be a cell phone.

For about a year I’ve been using a free fax service (http://voicemail.k7.net/signup/). People can also call my fax number and leave a voicemail, so you could use it as a voicemail number. When you sign up for the free service, you get an assigned phone number. Mine is a Seattle number. I believe you can pay extra for a local number.

The faxes come in as TIFF files that open fine in Microsoft Image Viewer. I didn’t need to set that up. When I clicked on the attachments they just opened. Some free services require you to use their software.

Note: I used to have another number, and I lost it. The reason is I don’t get very many faxes. If you let your account stay inactive for too long, you’ll get your number taken away. To make sure this didn’t happen I signed up for a weekly fax advertisement to come to my free fax number. This means I know I get a fax once a week, and that my fax number is staying active. I’ve included the link below to the one I use, but you can also just google “Weekly Fax Advertisement.”

http://www.busbook.com/busweekly.freesubscription.html

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Cheap Reliable Phone Service – Vonage

I’ve used Vonage for years. Every once and a while I’d have a connection related issue, until about 2 years ago. I can say for sure I’ve had flawless service for at least one year, and probably more like two.

If you are interested in trying vonage you can sign up through this link and get up to two months free (and I get two months free as well) http://www.vonage.com/friend/ Just put in my vonage phone number of 503-914-5990.