How to start your own answering service

Most people that want to start their own answering service fall into one of three categories: Either they heard that an answering service is a good business to get into, they are an unhappy client at an answering service and would like to do it better or they are an employee at an answering service and want to have their own business.
This decision is something to take into careful consideration before jumping into.

A telephone answering service is a labor intensive business that is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. For the first few years of owning the business you will likely find yourself working 60 to 80 hours a week or more and possibly even end up sleeping in the call center to answer possible over-night calls. This can begin to wear you down.

Starting an answering service is not something for the faint of heart or people who are unwilling to make sacrifices and considerable investments of both time and money. Running an answering service, just like any business can be very challenging, but getting started can be absolutely overwhelming.

On the bright side, owning your own answering service can be a satisfying and worthwhile enterprise for those with the right personality. First, you may enjoy a great satisfaction that can be derived from helping others, which is what you will be doing day in and day out. Secondly, an established answering service can generate a fairly steady and predictable income. Some clients may come and go, but most continue to use the same answering service for many years. Finally, a well run, large sized answering service can generate a significant income and is a business that can be passed on to your children or other loved ones.

The first step in establishing an answering service, like any other business, is to have an action plan. As the saying goes, “failing to plan is planning to fail”. Here is a basic and realistic action plan:

First, examine your motives. You will want to make sure your desire to start a telephone answering service is for the right reasons and also that you have realistic expectations. Often times people are interested in starting an answering service because either they don’t like the answering service that they are currently using, they work at an answering service and think they can do it better or they heard an answering service is a great way to make lots of money in a hurry.

If these are your motives you may be headed in the wrong direction. The first two reasons are probably risky and the third is a flawed expectation. If you like helping others, love talking on the telephone, and flourish under sometimes stressful circumstances, then starting a telephone answering service might be right for you. While creating a business you enjoy, you might be able to earn a reasonable income. The possibility of getting rich from owning a telephone answering service is slim to none, but earning a decent living is very attainable with the right amount of hard work and determination.

Next you should consider the following two alternatives to starting from scratch. The first is to buy an established answering service and the second is to subcontract the phone answering portion to another company. Running an answering service is both labor and capital-intensive, so doing anything to reduce either of these will help minimize the risk of starting an answering service.

Another thing you will want to do is research the industry. What are other companies already doing? What kind of equipment will help you succeed? Is there a need for another answering service in your area? These are questions to consider as you do your research.

Next, you will need to make a working business plan. This is a necessary step in starting any small business and you will need to provide this to your bank in order to qualify for a loan to get your business started. This plan will detail what equipment and supplies you need to get started, how much capital is required to get you through your first year and a rough projection of the revenue you expect to generate.

Another thing you will need to do is determine your service packages and billing rates. You will want to be competitive, yet allow yourself enough income to pay the bills and still make a profit.

Next, you should decide when you would like to open and begin preliminary marketing. This is a time to put your feelers out there and begin attracting potential clients.

Now, you will want to find a convenient location for both you and your potential employees. Another consideration in regards to location is finding something as near the phone company as possible, because certain services are charged according to the distance you are from them.

The next steps involve assessing, purchasing and installing equipment. Hopefully, you have done your research and know what you will need to do the job efficiently without being in debt for the rest of your life. You will also need to order phone and internet service to prepare for launch day.

Once you have everything in place you should begin to hire and train your staff. This is absolutely crucial. Your employees ARE your business. They represent you and your clients to every person that calls in. You can invest in all the latest technology, but if your employees are not efficient and personable, it will all be for naught.

You made it! You are now ready to begin serving clients and hopefully making some money in the process. As you can see there is a lot to consider before starting your own answering service, but it can be done if it is what you truly desire to do.