From the December 2000 issue of Entrepreneur

Question: I'm planning to start a professional organizing service but must remain in my regular job until I can generate at least half my needed income. How can I still be accessible to potential clients? Is it acceptable for my voice-mail greeting to state that I'll return calls within 24 hours? I'll rarely be home to take calls on weekdays. Is it necessary to "apologize" for not answering calls in person?

Sandra Trca-Black
Story City, Iowa

Answer: Don't be defensive about not answering your phone in person. Instead, capitalize on your "problem" by lightheartedly saying in your message that you're out "organizing" or something else that implies you're in demand.

Yes, you can say you promise to return calls within 24 hours, but committing to a faster turnaround time is better. Often if someone seeking services doesn't get a live person or at least the assurance their call will be answered shortly, they'll go on to the next name they have.

Here are other easy steps you can take to turn callers into your clients:

Get Caller ID so, if someone doesn't leave you a message, you can call the number to see whether the caller needs a professional organizer. You may even stimulate business from people who phoned you for some other purpose.

Instead of just having an answering machine or voice mail, consider using personal communications assistant technology, such as Wildfire, Oryx, Personal Assistant or SoloCall. These give your callers more of a sense of personal service.


Small-business experts Paul and Sarah Edwards' latest book is The Practical Dreamer's Handbook(Putnam Publishing Group). If you have a question regarding a start-up business issue, contact them at www.workingfromhome.com or send it c/o Entrepreneur.