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What Is a Virtual Phone Number and How Do You Get One?

6 min read

By Laura Boyle

Virtual phone numbers do not rely on traditional phone lines and are not tied to a single device. These numbers can be used to receive calls anywhere, using any device that’s equipped with the necessary software. This could be a cell phone, traditional phone line, or a VoIP-based system (Voice over Internet Protocol).

Virtual phone numbers are most often used to divert calls from one number to another number, IP address or device. This allows people to accept work-related calls on a personal device, while still using their business number and without being tied to a location. The person making the call will not be aware that they’re using a virtual phone line.


How does a virtual phone number work?

While landline phones and cellphones rely on physical infrastructure, virtual phone numbers operate via the internet. Users can elect one or more alternative numbers or devices, to which phone calls will be forwarded to. This makes it possible to pick and choose where you receive calls and at what time, without callers needing to try calling different numbers.



Businesses of all sizes may benefit from using a virtual phone system. Here are some of the main advantages them:

1. Never miss a call

Setting calls to divert to your cellphone or laptop means you’ll never miss a business call and can ensure that clients or coworkers can always get ahold of you. Since multiple numbers can be added to the system, you can also set up calls to divert to a different employee if somebody is out sick or on holiday.

2. Save money

Depending on the size of your business, virtual phone lines are often far more affordable than traditional phone networks. Significant phone bill savings can be had by switching to a virtual system. Pricing is extremely competitive, as the market is crowded with virtual phone line providers to choose from.

3. Work anywhere

Virtual phone numbers allow you to take business calls anywhere with a reliable internet connection. This means you can work at home, in a café, library, at a client’s office, or anywhere off site, while still accepting business calls via the same number. Given how prevalent remote working has become, this is an enormous advantage.


4. Professionalism

Virtual phone lines can help businesses create or maintain a professional image, as all incoming calls can be managed via a single company number associated. This makes things easier for clients, customers, suppliers, vendors, and anybody else making contact via the line, as they won’t need to remember multiple numbers. It also means your customer calls will never be left unanswered, and you won’t end up with half a dozen phone messages every time you step away from your desk.

5. Multiple numbers with a single connection

Depending on your budget and requirements, you have the option to add multiple phone numbers to your virtual phone system. This can be useful for SMEs and larger businesses with multiple departments, sites or service offerings, who do not want all phone inquiries coming through to the same device.

6. Customizable plans

Virtual phone systems are highly customizable. You’ll be able to choose from a range of options, features and services that can be personalized to suit your business needs. Many of the following features are offered as standard with VoIP systems:


Are there any disadvantages to virtual phone numbers?

The advantages of having a virtual phone number considerably outweigh the disadvantages, though there are several potential downsides to be aware of. One of the biggest concerns, which can apply to any business, is the degradation of boundaries between work and personal life. This is perhaps more of an issue for very small businesses, or those run by one person. Being able to take a call at any time outside business hours or while out of the office can affect work-life balance and eventually lead to burnout. However, this can be mitigated by disabling call forwarding outside work hours or on your day off.

Another possible downside is inconsistent call quality. As virtual phone lines are internet-based, they require a strong internet connection. This could become a problem if you or your employees need to take calls in remote, low signal areas. To avoid any unwelcome disruption to call reliability or quality, it’s advisable to choose a provider with an efficient and readily available customer service department.


Who should have a virtual phone number?

Though there is still a place for traditional on-site landlines, most businesses can improve operations and reduce costs by switching to a virtual phone system. However, businesses in the following industries may find virtual phone lines especially advantageous:


Businesses with a large percentage of mobile workers (for instance, delivery firms) may be able to improve internal communications with a virtual phone system.


Doctors, dentists and other healthcare professionals often experience a huge influx of calls at certain times of the day. A virtual phone line can ease the pressure by diverting calls to additional devices at peak times. A queuing system would also be advantageous, if there are often more incoming calls than there are employees to take them.


The scalable nature of virtual phone systems makes them a great choice for fast-growing startup companies, who will eventually need to add additional numbers, features and services. They can also help to keep costs down, leaving more money for growth and development.


Builders, electricians, plumbers and other tradespeople who frequently move between sites can maintain better communications with customers and coworkers, by switching to virtual phone numbers.

How much does it cost to get a virtual phone line?

The cost of getting a virtual phone line varies significantly based on which provider, plan and features you choose. The size of your operation will also have an impact. Here are some of the variables that can affect cost:


Types of virtual phone numbers

There are two main types of virtual phone number:

Local virtual numbers

These are also known as Direct Inward Dialing (DID) numbers. They can be used to re-direct calls to any location around the world. However, the number itself is linked to a specific location (I.e., it follows the same format as other local numbers). Local virtual numbers work well for businesses who wish to be associated with a specific area, no matter where the call is being taken.

Toll-free virtual numbers

In the United States, toll-free virtual numbers let callers connect with a business without being charged. North American toll-free numbers start with 833, 844, 855, 966, 877, or 888. You may also be able to pay extra for an original 800 number, if your provider offers this service. Toll-free virtual numbers work well for large corporations with busy customer service departments, as they can increase customer satisfaction by making incoming calls free.


How to get a virtual phone number

If you’re looking to make the switch to a virtual phone line, there are dozens of reputable providers to choose from. One review of top VoIP companies names the following providers as the best of the bunch:

  1. – voted the best for global companies
  2. Grasshopper – voted the best for small teams and solo businesspeople
  3. Google Voice – voted best for integration with Google Workspace
  4. GoToConnect – voted best for automotive companies
  5. Nextiva – voted the best all-round provider

As with any new business service, shopping around and comparing quotes from multiple companies is the key to getting the best deal.

About the Author


Laura Boyle is an expert writer and researcher with over a decade of experience producing high-value marketing collateral in the fields of medicine, business, and finance. Laura is also the Co-Founder of UK-based copywriting agency Black & Gold, where she works as a lead writer, creating branded content for clients all over the world. In her spare time, Laura can be found bingeing on good food and great books – usually at the same time.

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