by Andrew Frame

Mention “voice mail” to someone, and the responses run from a finger down the throat, to the business bonus of the ’90s.

A recent job shift, and the resulting limitations on personal business activities put the voice-mail issue back on the table for me.

I need my clients to be able to reach me without my employer knowing it—they can’t call or fax me at work.  Also, some of them are twitchy about doing business with a person that has a “day-job.”  They feel they’re being moonlighted, and a dead giveaway is a person that you can only reach by a pager.  So, I can’t let them know I’m calling from work.  (Politics - don’cha love it?)

Voice-mail solves part of this problem neatly.  My client can call one number, leave a message or send a fax, and I’m paged.  I can retrieve my message or fax, and, if necessary, call the client back using a long-distance carrier “calling card,” or a cellular telephone, so the call doesn’t show up on the station phone bill.  (The company allows personal calls of short duration, and requests we use calling cards in this manner.  So I’m playing by their rules—okay with me!)

However, pricing voice-mail, pager, and cellular service recently left me quite discouraged.  I was preparing myself to shell out almost $100 a month for a package.  But, I was rescued by a purchase I made over a year ago.  The new fax modem I bought for my PC had a twist; it was a fax-data-voice modem.  I re-read the tiny book that explained the software, and realized I was sitting on just what I needed!

The “voice” part of the modem/software package was voice-mail!  Extra features included automatic fax recognition, fax-back functions, 100 mailboxes, customizable greetings that can be produced and imported via a .WAV file, and pager notification.

Total price for all this wonderfulness, less than $100 from my neighborhood computer store.  It did take a few hours of tweaking, but once it was set up, I had a system that does just what I needed.

I’m going to use the fax-back to enable prospective clients to get my resume and price listing with a phone call, automatically.  And, with the voice-mail manager part of the program loaded into the Start-Up window, if the power should be out longer than the battery back up will hold, the voice mail will reboot automatically when the power comes back on.

If you are in a similar situation, needing prompt, yet affordable voice-mail services, look again to see if you have a fax-data-voice modem.  If not, and it’s upgrade time anyway, you now know what to look for! 

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