Start a Business
Being a Telephone Companion

(Last updated: April 24, 2010)

This page shows how to start a business being a telephone companion. A telephone companion has conversations with lonely people to provide them with companionship and entertainment.

Use this information together with the Business Plan for Simple Services page.

The methods and procedures described on this page can be used to help satisfy your needs, and the needs of likely customers and clients.

Here are the topics:

Introduction to idea
Estimated startup costs
Putting idea to work

Other useful information

The Vital Guidelines for Novices page helps beginners who want to start a business. These guidelines provide focused advice and useful insights.


IMPORTANT

Before using this information to start a business be sure to read the following notice: Disclaimer

Introduction to idea

This topic provides an overview of the business idea so you can decide if it suits you.

Basic idea

Friends or relatives of shut-ins, the elderly, and other lonely people pay you to be a telephone companion. Depending on your telephone charges, you may be able to offer this service on a nation-wide basis.

Customers will pay for this service because they feel sorry for their friends or relatives. But they lack the time or energy to visit with their loved ones themselves.

Some of the lonely people might even pay for their own service. (Have you heard about the people who call 911 just because they want someone to talk to?)

This is an indoors activity that can be performed year round.

Suitability of idea

This idea is best suited for people who favor social activities.

Skills and equipment required

Primary skill -- You must be able to engage in comforting and interesting conversations with a variety of people, especially the elderly.

Primary equipment -- You need a telephone, preferably a business telephone in your home. It would be desirable if this telephone allowed unlimited long-distance calls at little or no cost.

Other equipment -- As part of a basic home office, I recommend the office equipment described in the following topic.

Profitability of idea

In order to show a profit, you would have to sell enough of your services to cover the startup costs and operating expenses. The more fees you collect over a certain time period the larger your profits. Therefore, you want to have substantial sales, along with low startup costs and operating expenses.

The fees you charge pay for your time and your ability to provide telephone companionship to the client. The amount you can charge depends on how well off the customer is and how anxious both you and the customer are to make a deal. The economic conditions of the customer's local area might also influence these negotiations.

See the Setting the Sales Price page in another section for more detailed information.

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Estimated startup costs

This topic discusses the estimated startup costs for this business idea. Startup costs are what you need to pay in order to be ready to begin business operations. The amount of these costs also helps you decide if the idea suits you.

List of items in startup costs

Note: I am only showing one month for certain expenses. You should be able to get your first job or two in a month. Then these items become operating expenses, not startup costs.

The assumed startup costs for this business idea consist of the following items:

Advertising and promotion (1 month) -- Small classified advertisements in local and/or national newspapers or magazines.

Business insurance (1 month) -- Business liability insurance. (Talk to a local insurance agent to see if you need this coverage.)

Governmental requirements -- Local fees and business license. (Note: You might also be subject to state and federal deposits and registration fees, but these will vary. So I have not included them in these startup costs.)

Office equipment -- Business telephone, desk accessories (stapler, paper clips, pen and pencils, etc.), and listing adding machine. (Note: Use the kitchen table and chairs for your desk and chair at first.)

Office supplies -- Check blanks for business checking account, file folders or large manila envelopes (for filing papers), lined writing tablets, and pads of accounting journals and ledger.

Other operating expenses (1 month) -- Business telephone expense.

Reference book -- Bookkeeping for Dummies (Paperback). (Note: The "for Dummies" series of books are easy to read manuals for normal people, not dummies.)

Dollar amount of startup costs

Here are the dollar amounts for a frugal business operation:

 

Estimated Startup Costs

  Advertising and promotion (1 month) $ 75
  Business insurance (1 month)   50
  Governmental requirements (local fees and business license)   50
  Office equipment   120
  Office supplies   85
  Other operating expenses (1 month)   50
  Reference book   15
     
       Total estimated startup costs $ 445

Note: See the Planning costs and expenses subtopic in the Business Plan on another page for ways to reduce these startup costs.

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Putting idea to work

This topic satisfies the Starting business operations subtopic in the Business Plan page.

Preparing for business operations

Completing the startup requirements -- This is the last step needed just before you start business operations. See the Listing the startup requirements subtopic in the Business Plan for the items remaining to be completed.

As a minimum, you should have discussed the business idea with your family, set up your business entity, and satisfied all governmental and insurance requirements.

Operating the business

Soliciting customers -- Place classified advertisements in a local newspaper, and/or national newspapers or magazines. Use a simple, honest description of your services. (Once you become established as a provider of this service, you should benefit from word of mouth advertising from satisfied customers in your local area.)

For additional ideas on soliciting customers, see the Sales Methods page in another section.

Qualifying customers -- Hopefully, some of the people who read your advertisements will inquire about your services. During this initial telephone conversation, you should determine:

  • If you are willing and able to provide the desired services.
  • If you and the customer can agree on an hourly fee, unless this was stated in your advertisements.

See the preceding Profitability of idea subtopic for my thoughts about setting your fee.

Getting customers -- After a satisfactory trial period, a prospective customer might agree to pay for your service on a long-term basis. You could try to get as many customers as you can handle.

Determining needs of customers -- To insure satisfied customers, you need to determine what they want from you. You need to replace assumptions with specific instructions.

Following are typical questions you might want answered:

  • The frequency and expected length of the telephone conversations with the client.
  • The best time of day and day of week to make the telephone calls.
  • The history, life style, likes and dislikes, birthday, and other special occasions for the client.
  • The client's name and telephone number.

You also need the customer's name and telephone number, if not the same as the client.

Finally, you need to give the customer your mailing address and determine when and how often you will be paid.

Job procedures

Preliminary service activities -- Prepare a calendar showing the date and time you should place calls to clients. (Remember to make any needed time zone conversions.) Keep a journal to describe each client, including highlights of past conversations.

Main service activities -- Place telephone calls to your clients per your calendar. Have a good time talking with them, and thank them for talking with you. Send them a card for their birthdays and other special occasions.

Final service activities -- Collect your agreed upon fee from the customer. (Your agreement with the customer should specify the frequency and amount of payment.)

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