An American Editor

September 4, 2013

Going Wireless

When I first began my career as a freelance editor, I realized that I needed a business telephone line. In those days, email and the Internet were still barely taking their first steps in publishing. Most of my client contact was done via postal service mail and telephone.

In addition, I had two young children who wanted to remain in contact with their friends and who had little concept of “no, you can’t use the telephone during business hours.” Thus, the need for a dedicated business line.

So, I had a second line installed at my home, a line dedicated to business.

Not long after I had that business line installed, I recognized that clients wanted to fax material to me. Sometimes the faxes would run dozens of pages. So I decided to install a second business line. This line was for both voice and faxing. I also arranged for “rollover”; if someone called one of the two business numbers and I was on the telephone, the call would rollover to the other number. It was something like an early call waiting system.

Over the years, I found that rollover to be indispensable because by ringing the alternative number, my wife could answer the phone, giving the business greeting. I began to look like a real company — multiple telephone lines and a “receptionist” to answer with “Good morning. Freelance Editorial Services. How may I help you?”

Also in those days a key to a successful business was having toll-free telephone numbers. So I indulged and got a toll-free telephone number for each of the business lines. That actually was one of the least expensive investments I had made in my quest for “perfect” telephony services. The numbers cost me $5 a month plus 3¢ a minute. A typical bill, surprisingly, was less than $10.

This served me well for a long time. Ultimately, the kids moved out and there really wasn’t a need for a “personal” telephone line. So that line got converted to a third business line, but this time dedicated to my wife’s business. A third toll-free number was added.

The combination of multiple telephone numbers and the toll-free numbers emphasized to clients that I was truly a business, a company. The image I was projecting was reinforced with every business card I handed out that displayed four of the six numbers plus a business e-mail address and website.

Right up to the early 2000s, a client could reach me by telephone using any one of six available numbers. I didn’t make any changes because the monthly cost was relatively low and although the balance had tipped — work proposals came more frequently via e-mail than by telephone — the telephone was still producing a goodly amount of business.

A change I did notice, however, was that no one was using the toll-free numbers. If they called, they used a standard phone number. I think this came about because the telephone companies had moved away from charging separately for long distance calls. Plus, increasing numbers of people were using their cell phones to make calls. So I began the first pruning and eliminated the toll-free numbers. If they weren’t being used, I saw no sense in paying for them.

So life continued on with three landline business numbers. To that two cell phone numbers were added. We didn’t give out the cell phone numbers because we rarely had the cell phones on, except when we were traveling and wanted certain clients to be able to reach us.

The next change came with the arrival of FiOS (fiber optic digital service from Verizon). When it first became available in my neighborhood, I switched my Internet service from Time Warner Cable to Verizon FiOS, hoping that FiOS would be more reliable than cable had been (and that the customer service folk would be less surly and more caring). It turned out that FiOS was a major improvement in virtually every way. I’ve had FiOS Internet service for at least 5 years now and it has nearly always been on and available, unlike the experience I had with cable.

The Internet service plus the chance to lower my monthly costs convinced me to switch our landline telephones from the copper-line service we had to FiOS digital telephone service. We made the switch and the experience was mixed. On the one hand, the telephone service was fine; on the other hand, we lost our rollover capability because it couldn’t be done with the digital service, at least not without great expense. Our monthly telephone bill decreased significantly, which was a plus, but increasingly any business inquiries were coming via e-mail, not telephone.

Unfortunately, my wife’s cell phone was dying. We were still using the cell phones we had bought nearly 10 years ago, so we had gotten our money’s worth out of them. The impetus to do something about the cell phones came with my wife’s participation in a plein air paint show in Pennsylvania. She would be gone for a week and during that week would be required to paint outdoors in an area that we had only visited once before. The thought of her traveling with a dying cell phone made me think about our telephone system yet again.

The decision was made to cancel our landline service and port two of our landline telephone numbers to new cell phones. We would take the plunge and go wireless.

It has only been a month since we went wireless, but for the most part we like our current situation. The biggest negative is that we are always tethered to business and to the Internet. The phones travel everywhere with us, which means we are accessible to clients (and to family and friends) wherever we are. A positive is that unlike the landlines, we can turn off the phones and not be bothered. (I’ve noted that we are getting fewer unwanted solicitations, which is a bonus.)

My daughter was delighted when I went wireless because I got my first smartphone. She thought she could text me to keep in touch. I put a stop to that thought immediately. My wife is happy to communicate with our children via texting — better than no communication, she says — but not me. I’m still living in the 1960s when voice-to-voice and face-to-face were the preferred communication methods. I told my daughter to call, not to text. So far, she is listening, but I know that won’t last forever.

My business has changed over the past 30 years and just as it has had to move, through fits and starts, into the 21st century, so has my telephony needs. At least for now, I’m wireless. Tomorrow may make other demands on me.

Have you gone wireless? What has been your experience?



  1. Going wireless isn’t an option at our home for the simple reason that service isn’t available in this hilly, low-population region. Even if it was, I would stick with a landline for personal and business because (1) the audio clarity is much better, (2) landline stays live during power outages, and (3) I prefer using handsets rather than pressing a little plastic rectangle with buttons against my face. If somebody came up with a cell phone or smartphone shaped like a handset, I would probably switch over.

    We have a cell phone for travel, which I use for calling out not in. Well, sometimes in, but I find it extremely annoying to be bopping around, minding my own business, and then the phone rings. Double annoying to see so many other people bopping around not minding their own business because they’ve got a phone plastered to their face. And don’t get me started on texting while driving!

    We discovered that our carrier offers a pay-per-use plan that costs per year what it used to cost just to have the capability for one month. Immediately switched to that. The downside is you have to guess how much you’re going to use it and prepay, and we overshot so won’t get some of our money back — they don’t roll it over. You can go low and buy up, but not the other way around. Won’t make that mistake again next year.

    The home has high-speed internet, and our region is in the process of being rigged for fiberoptic and eventual cell-phone coverage everywhere. This is still 1-5 years down the road, though. Inside the house, we now have wireless for the computers and printer, which is very convenient, save for the unreliability of the lower-dollar routers we’ve been buying. So we retain cable for those occasions when the thing dies and there’s a delay while we go get another one.

    I expect we will become more wireless as time passes, but I’m in no hurry. It’s proven impossible to keep pace with technology changes, so we update when circumstances require.


    Comment by Carolyn — September 4, 2013 @ 7:05 am | Reply

  2. I have two cell phones. I cut off my landline nearly 10 years ago. I was not one of the first in my area or among my associates to do so, in fact, I was the last one to let go of my landline. The issue for me was that the landline cost rose substantially each year, for no reason. Moving to a cell phone was actually less expensive for me. I took on the second cell line as a matter of course for my spouse and when that union dissolved, kept the second line so personal and business calls could be separate.

    I upgrade phones about every 2 years, but have had my favorite Blackberry for nearly 5 years. My second phone is a Q10 Blackberry. I do not need a phone that Googles, plays games, sucks battery life or connects me to social media. I use my phones to make calls, receive calls, see what time it is, text contacts when appropriate, and once in awhile snap a picture on lake walks.

    I have a PC, laptop and tablet. I do not need a phone for internet access or email. I still believe that business is best carried on face-to-face whenever possible and that business written contacts (excluding texts) should be warm, to the point, and approachable. I do not operate with my cell phone taped to my ear or with an ear bud “implant”, nor do I feel the need to proclaim my existence by talking on my cellphone at a volume one would use to holler at someone in the backyard from the kitchen door.

    The only thing I miss about my landline is what I most valued about it: it worked in a storm. The old handset I had was probably 20+ years old, had a battery in it, and even when the power lines were down it would still dial out. In the Midwest, this is a good thing.

    I regret the mania over cell phone use as I regret the mania over social networks. Obsessive use, use that is no longer defined by reason or true need, is such a waste it seems.

    I enjoy the flexibility of two cell phones. One is always charged and available. My family has both numbers, my friends have whichever one I give them, and my clients have my business number. I can call from either phone, can forward calls when I need to, and am free to pursue necessary tasks knowing that I can be reached, or at least can check voicemail, while I’m out and about.

    To me, the changes in technology are not difficult to anticipate or to determine if they suit your purposes. All choices are still defined by your business and personal needs. The global culture is extremely stimulating and technology has allowed us to experience that stimulation, sometimes in very up close and personal ways previously not available. Nothing quite like Skyping someone you’ve worked with for years in the UK and chucking over preconceived notions of one another. 🙂


    Comment by Maria D'Marco — September 4, 2013 @ 12:02 pm | Reply

  3. We got cell phones years ago for traveling; they were useless in our house and in many parts of our town. Then, a few years ago, a cell tower went up somewhere nearby, and we instantly got 4 bars of service! We had three landlines at the time as well: one for household use, one for my business, and one for my husband’s business. I was the first to shut down my business landline and use my cell for business. It went pretty seamlessly, since most of my contact with clients is via email anyway. I put the new number on new business cards and all my email sig lines. It gave me a great excuse to contact all my current and past clients with the momentous announcement of a change in telephone number.

    I use a wired, plug-in headset for my cell phone (and also for my landline). It’s much more comfortable than holding a cell phone up to your ear, and it eliminates the possibility of problems with the radiation or whatever is the issue with having a cell phone directly touching your head (don’t know that anything has been proved about that, but might as well avoid it when there’s such a simple, cheap solution). I’ve found that the incoming voice quality is better on my headset, but I have to position the mike just right for the person on the other end to hear properly.

    It took longer for my husband to make the switch for his cabinetmaking business, because he depends more on the phone for work and has some listings in phone books, which you have to update about 6 months before the next one comes out. He also had to carve a new phone number plaque for his business’s big wooden sign. Now he’s got a smart phone and can send clients photos of work or PDFs of designs right from his phone on a job site, and he can check email from his workshop and job sites.

    We still keep our remaining landline for household use and emergencies. The voice quality is generally better on the landline, too. Most of our landline phones are cordless, but we retain one old-fashioned corded phone that will work when there’s no electricity but the phone lines still work, which happens here on occasion. I also like the landline because I guess I’m a throwback to when the telephone wasn’t a totally personal means of communication. When someone calls me and my husband picks up, it might be a mutual friend, which could lead to a pleasant conversation for them before the phone is handed over to me (and vice versa, of course). If one of us isn’t home, the other will take a message (or say when the other is expected home), which is sometimes better than an answering machine message, because there’s some give-and-take and clarification if needed. If one of our relatives on either side of the family calls, it’s nice for the in-law who might answer to chat a bit rather than the call just going to the blood relative. And, of course, it’s much easier to have a spur-of-the-moment group conversation using extensions on a landline than trying to set up a conference call on cell phones (which you have to plan in advance, AFAIK).

    The other reason we keep the landline is that the only Internet we have available here is DSL via our local phone company. The best deal is bundled Internet and phone service (though we have the DSL on its own dedicated line, left over from one of the previous landlines, so I think the service is better). We make almost all of our long-distance calls with our cells, though, since we have a ton of minutes and a Friends and Family plan that lets us list 10 or more numbers that are free calls at all times (including our home landline!).


    Comment by Teresa Barensfeld — September 4, 2013 @ 1:20 pm | Reply

  4. You no longer use a fax, Rich? I have clients who like their corrected pages returned by fax. I still have a landline for that, storms, and power outages. We are now averaging about five power outages a year–from one hour to four days in length.


    Comment by Cecilia E. Thurlow — September 4, 2013 @ 1:22 pm | Reply

    • The only faxes I have sent in the past 2 years have been to my bank authorizing wire transfers. Now, I just scan them into a PDF and e-mail the PDF. The only corrections we make these days are to files; I stopped doing paper corrections about 8 years ago.


      Comment by americaneditor — September 4, 2013 @ 1:50 pm | Reply

  5. I have one mobile smartphone for both business and personal use. I limit the amount of access my clients have to me by answering the phone when I want to and am ready to, not just because it rings.

    I have a different phone number for my business without needing a separate phone by using Google Voice. You can It rings on my mobile phone, but it will also take voice mail and email me the voice message and its transcript. I make all my calls to clients using Google Voice. (Or Skype) My hands are free, the quality is good, and there is no cost to me.

    I can’t remember the last time I sent a fax. All my work is done on files, not on paper.


    Comment by mary — September 4, 2013 @ 3:00 pm | Reply

  6. We’ve had two landlines since the last century – one was for us, the other the family BBS. Nowadays I use my cell phone exclusively, as does my daughter; our original home line is used for business, and I think the second line is still around but mostly gets used for Fax on the extremely rare occasions we need one – and even then the fax goes through the computer: I don’t OWN a separate fax machine.

    Meanwhile, there are times when I find text EXTREMELY useful. It’s far less disruptive than a phone call when someone is driving, at work, or otherwise unavailable to instantly answer telephones. Also if their phone is turned off, or they’re in a no-call zone, the text message will be delivered when they bring the phone back up and be available as soon as they care to look at it, while getting at voice mail takes longer and is usually more complicated – I know which *I* check first! If there is any information I wish to deliver that they may want to write down, it is FAR easier to retrieve such from a text message (ever run through the same voice mail message 5 times to get a phone number quoted by someone whose diction is less than perfect?). You can also use it to schedule a conference when you are both available for phone/Skype/whatever.


    Comment by anansii — September 4, 2013 @ 8:34 pm | Reply

  7. I’m curious about your earlier rollover facility where “by ringing the alternative number, my wife could answer the phone”! Couldn’t she just pick it up?

    I generally give everyone my mobile/cell number as I work from different locations and don’t want the complication of call-forwarding. Haven’t used fax for years, yet still remember when businesses would advertise their fax number as evidence of how advanced they were.

    As for texting I think all forms of communication have their uses. A text is useful for a quick short message especially if you think the recipient might not want to be interrupted or the phone is off or out of range. Slight downside is you can never be 100% sure when it will arrive or if it’s been read so I wouldn’t rely on it for anything important without getting confirmation.

    Curious phenomenon I just discovered: my partner was wondering why a friend had stopped responding to her texts but would still answer calls. Finally realised that somehow an extra digit had got added to the stored phone number. This made no difference to voice calls but texts never arrived yet there was no error message.


    Comment by Jim Hart — September 4, 2013 @ 8:43 pm | Reply

    • Jim, you wrote: “I’m curious about your earlier rollover facility where ‘by ringing the alternative number, my wife could answer the phone’! Couldn’t she just pick it up?” I think the confusion is this: Rollover occurred when someone called my telephone number and I was already on the telephone with someone else. Normally they would get a busy signal. With rollover, their call was “forwarded” to a second number. If that number was also busy, the call would be forwarded to voicemail; if it wasn’t busy, the number would ring and then either I could put the person I was speaking to on hold and answer it or my wife could answer. If no one was able to answer, eventually it would go to voicemail.


      Comment by americaneditor — September 5, 2013 @ 6:35 am | Reply

  8. I have a cellphone for when I’m out of the house or traveling, so my husband can reach me in an emergency (or just for mushiness) and vice-versa, but I plan to keep my landlines. I have one that’s for both personal and business use, and another for my fax machine. The fax line is unlisted and only $4.95/month and is still useful more often than I would expect nowadays, although far less than in the past.

    One reason for keeping a landline is that I can be found in directory assistance. It’s frustrating to need or want to reach someone by phone and not be able to do so because the only phone access is a cellphone.

    The cellphone also has come in very handy for checking directions, letting a client know I’m stuck in traffic, calling for help with a car issue, etc. I’d rather not use it for regular business contact, because I have to remember to charge it, have it handy, etc.


    Comment by Ruth E. Thaler-Carter — September 5, 2013 @ 2:07 pm | Reply

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