We’re big fans of starting a business before you retire that will support you after you retire. It can help some retire earlier and others retire with a better lifestyle. You can even continue to run your business on a part-time basis to maintain or build on the monthly income that it produces. Read more about this in Enjoy a Great Retirement Lifestyle Without a Huge Nest Egg. But because we are retiring in the Caribbean, we had some concerns over communication back to the States. How do we communicate with customers without them knowing we are somewhere in the Caribbean? And, how can we keep the cost reasonable? Here are the results of our research for phone solutions for expats that own a U.S. business. There will be more tips for expats that are business owners coming soon.
Expats Without a Business
People that retire abroad and don’t have the need to communicate daily for business have many ways they can affordably talk to friends and family back in the United States. Probably the least affordable method for calling the U.S. for expats is to keep their existing cell phone service. But if they “unlock” their phone through their existing carrier they can get a SIM card in their new country and load minutes on their phone with a local carrier. That will reduce the cost.
Voice and Video Calling
We have a friend that moved to England. For friends and family, he uses the voice and video calling available through Facebook Messenger. I‘ve used Facebook Messenger for calls to Canada from the U.S. and was surprised how good the quality of both were. The video calling feature is excellent. If someone wants to use Facebook Messenger for calling, they just need to make sure they have enough data on their monthly cell phone service plan. He occasionally calls customers in the U.S. and has kept his Sprint service for that. He pays a reasonable monthly fee and 25 cents a minute. 25 cents a minute for business calling would add up very quickly for us.
Another great calling service for expats living abroad who want to communicate with friends and family is WhatsApp.
Most people use WhatsApp for voice and video calling from their phone. But there is a browser-based version of WhatsApp which syncs with your mobile phone. Another solution is FaceTime (Apple) if you’re an iPhone user. Both of these seem to be a popular way to go although, unless you’re on Wi-Fi, data usage can be expensive.
A Note about Wi-Fi calling - Unless you’re using the internet for Wi-Fi (home, place of business), Wi-Fi calling will default to using your phone’s data plan. If the recipient of your voice or video call is not using Wi-Fi you will then be switched to utilizing a cell tower and thus data as well. Calls typically use about 1 MB of data per minute for a call, and 6-8 MB of data for a video call. For more details about Wi-Fi calling visit Hushed.com
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How to Call the U.S. as an Expat Business Owner
But if you’re running a business in the U.S. as an expat those solutions aren’t going to work as they require the other person to have the same App or service. That may suffice for employees or distributors as you can coordinate that ahead of time, but it just won’t work for customers. U.S. business owners living abroad need a solution that can call anyone and not require the receiver of the call to have a specific App.
Also, if a customer realizes you are in Belize, Panama, or another country, they will lose confidence in doing business with you immediately. We needed an affordable solution that could have our U.S. business number showing in the caller ID.
So, for communication solutions for expats that own a business in the U.S., we did some research. Of course, we hit the internet. But we also got advice from people that were currently living in other countries and running a U.S. business. We wanted to know what they were using. We got a lot of different solutions but there were 2 that stood out.
Note- the following solutions use VoIP (Voice Over Internet Protocol). Effectively they communicate through your internet service. Like the Apps described above, these too will use data if you are not transmitting via Wi-Fi. The major advantage is that the receiver of the call could be using any device such as a landline or cell service.
One woman who lives in Belize and runs a business back in the U.S. uses Skype. You can set it up to “pay as you go” with your credit card. As this is VoIP (Voice Over Internet Protocol) or using your internet provider for calls, you must have a high-speed internet connection to have quality calls. Skype gives you the added benefit of doing video calls as well. There were a few people that we talked to that used this solution for business.
A similar solution to Skype for those owning a U.S. business as an expat is magicJack. The people that responded that they were using magicJack were very happy with it. But they also shared that the internet speed will dictate the quality. Most countries, even those in the Caribbean, have fiber-optic high-speed internet. Therefore, it is very viable as one of the communication solutions for expats that own a U.S. business.
Another one of popular communication solutions for expats that own a U.S. business is Vonage Business. One woman shared that she uses Vonage Business ($30/month) for outbound calls to the U.S., and Skype ($6/mo) for her U.S. clients to call her. She lives within 3 miles of the downtown area and has fiber optic internet service. Several people responded to say they used Vonage Business and were very happy with it. Vonage Business has a business plan that is just $19.99/mo if you only want to use a mobile phone and desktop and you don’t need video calling. An advantage with Vonage Business is that you can keep your existing number.
One gentleman said that he used Google Voice by connecting to an Obi device that effectively plugs his phone into his router. He makes free calls from anywhere in the world. Further, he stated that you need to sign up for Google Voice while still in the United States before you move but it will work from anywhere.
There are many other solutions for expats calling the U.S. for business that you’ll see while surfing the internet. CallHippo looked interesting. They offer a $0/month plan for 2 users. However, none of the expats that own a U.S. business that we talked to were using CallHippo so we would tend to stay with some of the solutions that are working for them.
Top Choices for Phone Solutions for Expats That Own a U.S. Business
After our research we would more than likely choose Vonage or MagicJack to be among the top communication solutions for expats that own a business in the U.S. We would also use Facebook Messenger for talking to friends and family because who doesn’t have Facebook these days?
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