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Use your smartphone smartly

How you use your telephone could be the difference between a successful business and one that fails. Simple tips such as when to answer the phone (not immediately), your tone of voice, and whether to ask open or closed questions, could make all the difference. Here's how.

"The Telephone"
A micro play in one act:
probably the shortest play in history!

Scene 1: Spotlight on prospective customer sitting at a desk. On the other side of the stage another spotlight is on a man in working overalls answering a wall phone. Prospective customer picks up a telephone and dials, at the other side of the stage the phone rings and the man in overalls answers.

Man in overalls: "Hello, who’s that?"

Prospective customer: "Is that Joe Bloggs, the printers?"

Man in overalls: "Yes, mate."

Prospective customer: "I'm looking to have some printing done, can you help?"

Man in overalls: "Nah, Joe Bloggs is busy at the moment, call back later."

Prospective customer: "Oh! Right, thank you."

They both put their phones down.

End of scene 1, end of play, end of business!




  • We wouldn’t dream of answering our business line like that, would we? WOULD WE? Well, it may be an extreme example but many of us are guilty of losing customers by the way we handle our telephone conversations. Of course, the most important conversation you have with your customer is the first one, and the first few seconds will shape your future relationship, if any!


  • Do not pick up the phone immediately when it rings. First, take a deep breath, relax and think what you are going to say:


    • "Good morning, London Office, how may I help you?" or
    • "Hi, thank you for calling and welcome to London Office, my name is Alistair, how can I help?" or
    • "You are through to London Office, we provide telephone answering and virtual office solutions for the small business, may I tell you a bit more about our services and how they may help your own business?"


  • Your tone is important. Try to sound crisp and upbeat but do not be abrupt – callers will think you are too busy to listen or help them. Now, the next bit is very, very important. LISTEN! The caller will tell you EXACTLY what they want and, from this moment on, you will win or lose the business by how you respond.


  • The caller probably hasn’t given you enough information for you to provide the product or service they want so you need to ask questions to obtain this information. Of course you do not have to be a trained sales person to sell your business but, by employing some simple sales techniques that sales people use, you are able to break through any existing barriers such callers may place to prevent them from being talked into buying your product or service.


  • There are two types of questions you can ask, open questions and closed questions. Open questions would begin how, what, where, when & why. Closed questions would gain a singular response, such as:
    • "Do you want to buy this product?" or,
    • "You do want to buy this product, don’t you?", another closed question would be
    • "Would you wish to pay by cash or credit card?".


  • Every time you speak it should always be in the form of a question. The reasons for this are twofold:
    1. To allow the caller to speak more and therefore feel more comfortable.
    2. To enable you to keep control of the conversation and direct the conversation towards your goal...
    ...which is, to complete the sale over the phone or to arrange an appointment to complete the sale face to face. Your conversation must always be directed towards this goal, otherwise you will be wasting your own and the callers time, and you should seriously think of an alternative means of income!


  • Keep all relevant information about your product or service to hand, including prices. This will allow you to answer any points the caller makes efficiently and effectively, continuing to control the conversation towards your goal. Now, this is all very well you say, but what if the caller asks the price of the product or service at the beginning of the conversation.

    "I tell them the price and the caller thanks me, rings off, never to be heard from again" or
    "The caller tells me he has received a cheaper quote from another company, how can I handle these calls?"

    Here are some examples:


    • "Hi, I saw your ad for your latest book ‘How to save money shopping on the Internet’ how much is it?"
      • "Yes, it is priced very competitively, did you know it contains over a thousand web sites that could save you anything from £1 to £1,000 on just one item when shopping on-line. Tell me, do you do much shopping on the internet at the moment?" The caller tells you what he normally shops for, you give him an example of what he could save by using your book. Hey presto! Another sale.


    • "You tell me your telephones cost £25.00 but I could buy one from B.T. for only £15.00"
      • "Yes, I know the model you are referring to, our telephone has all the features that one has but it also has a least cost routing button that, by simply pressing it before your call, would save money on your calls by being routed through a different carrier. Tell me, would you be interested in saving 50% - 70% on all your outgoing calls?" It doesn’t matter how much your product or service costs, it is how much it is worth to the customer.


  • Now, haven’t you wondered how, when you speak to a salesperson, they ALWAYS have an answer to any questions you ask. The reason is that they use what is called a script. On this script is what they would say initially to introduce themselves and also answers to all sorts of questions you may ask.


  • Of course, they do not read from this word for word but by learning the script they can automatically respond to your questions. You can, if you wish, create your own script to use when answering your phone. Think of the questions you would normally be asked by your prospective customers, write them down, then think of the best possible answers to these questions and write them down. Remember that it is useful to answer the question then ask a question to keep control of the conversation.


  • You will find that 95% customers will ask the same 4 or 5 questions so concentrate on these. Also contained in the script are closing questions. These are questions used to close the sale or arrange the appointment. These questions can be asked immediately or after answering a query. Following on from the examples above here are some closing questions:


    • "Yes, my book can show you how to save a further £350 for that camera you are looking for. The cost is £7.95. You can pay by credit or debit card, which would you prefer?"


    • "I know you are desperate to have your phone connected tomorrow. If you order your telephone now, we can ship it overnight for arrival 9am, what address should I send it to?


    • "Our salesperson will only take up 10 minutes of your time and he has some really special offers that, from what you have told me, would really be useful to you. Would 10am in the morning or 3pm in the afternoon be more suitable for you?"


  • Answer your phone professionally, control and focus the conversation and make that sale.

    P.S. – If you work from home and use the same phone for your business and your personal calls, install another line NOW! Otherwise you end up preparing for each call but are cut off mid-stream because it is only your Mum or your friend, or worse, assume it is your partner and say:


    "Hi, sexy, are you ready for another night of passion!"

    Having separate lines for personal and business will increase your business status, improve your telephone manner and increase your sales. I could tell you a tale, before I installed a business line, about how I used to hide whenever I heard my phone ring... but that’s another story!


This article was written by Alistair MacPherson from London Office who specialise in telephone answering and virtual office services for small and home-based businesses.