A guide to business phone numbers for your company

What kind of number would best suit your business?

When starting up your own business, there are so many different things to take into account: funding, office space, staff, marketing, accounts… It’s no wonder that simple things like telephone numbers can often be overlooked.

However, adopting a non-geographic phone number for your business is key to presenting your venture as professional and trustworthy.

Non-geographic numbers are those which are not assigned to a specific location (as opposed to those starting with an area code, for example, 020 for London or 0161 for Manchester) and could be based anywhere in the UK.

So, non-geographic numbers can give your business a national presence, helping you to appear well-established. They’re also portable – if you move offices and change phones, you won’t need to change your number – and they can be redirected onto different phone lines, for example your mobile, if needs be.


Choosing a non-geographic business phone number

Of course, deciding to adopt a non-geographic number is only the first step. You’ll then have to choose from the range of non-geographic numbers available, based on how they can benefit you and what they can offer your customer callers.

To get started, take a look at this quickfire comparison table for an overview of the different types of numbers available to your business. Then read on to learn more…


Type of business phone number Key benefit Connection fees Monthly line rental Cost to your customer (per minute)
Freephone: 0800, 0808 Calls are free for customers £0 to upwards of £1,000 £5-£75 Free
Local rate: 0845 Cheap rate for your customers £0-£25 £0-£40 Up to 7p, plus an access charge
0843 and 0844 Generate additional revenue from calls £0-£25 £0-£40 Up to 7p, plus an access charge
National rate: 0870, 0871 Generate additional revenue from calls £0-£25 £0-£40 Up to 13p, plus an access charge
UK-wide: 03, 0345 Low-cost option for your business Often free £0-£25 Up to 9p on landline, 3p-55p on mobile
Premium rate: 09 Generate large amounts of revenue from calls £100, plus £250 annual charge. Memorable numbers may cost more Varies – can be free Up to £3.60, plus an access charge, plus 5p-6p per call
Personal numbering: 070 Calls automatically forwarded on the go Usually free Free, plus call forwarding is usually free 4p-£3.40 on landline, 30p-£2.50 on mobile, plus a possible 51p per call


The different types of business phone number


Freephone numbers: 0800 and 0808

What is it?

Prefixed with 0800 or 0808, freephone numbers are completely free to call from a landline or mobile.

Having a freephone number can encourage more potential customers and clients to get in touch because they won’t be charged to do so – not to mention that offering free calls shows that customer service is a priority for you.

How does it work?

With calls being free to customers, your business would have to foot the bill for all the phone calls it receives – meaning that this can be a comparatively expensive line to run. Typically, you’ll pay at least 1.5p per minute per call.


Local rate numbers: 0845

What is it?

Adopting a local rate number means your caller will pay their own local charge – no matter where you or they are. While not completely free to the caller, local rate numbers still give a fairly cheap phone call.

For this reason, a local rate number can help to generate more contact from customers, as they won’t have to pay over and above what they’re used to in order to get in touch.

How does it work?

Typically, customers and clients who are calling you will pay up to 7p per minute, plus an access charge determined by their phone company.

To make this possible, your business will need to pay the difference for each phone call it receives.


0843 and 0844 numbers

What is it?

Similarly to local rate numbers, 0843 and 0844 numbers require the caller to pay their local charge, again providing a fairly cheap call to customers.

The additional benefit of an 0843 or 0844 number, however, is that these phone numbers can generate revenue for your business.

How does it work?

For each phone call made to your 0843 or 0844 number, you can receive a share of what the customer pays for the call – typically at a rate of 1p to 4p per minute.

However, your business will still need to pay the difference so that your customers can just pay their local charge. It may be that the revenue you generate from calls is used to help you cover this.


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National rate numbers: 0870 and 0871

What is it?

Similarly to 0843 and 0844 numbers, 0870 and 0871 numbers can generate revenue for your business.

However, while the former charge the caller local rates, 0870 and 0871 numbers charge the caller a national rate, which is usually more expensive.

How does it work?

Like 0843 and 0844 numbers, with an 0870 or 0871 number some of what the customer has paid for their call is rebated to your company.

However, unlike 0843 and 0844 numbers, customer calls can cost them up to 13p a minute (plus an access charge), which you won’t have to cover or contribute to as the customer pays the whole rate.


UK-wide numbers: 03 and 0345

What is it?

Often used by charities, UK-wide numbers are relatively cheap to set up, and so are commonly adopted as an alternative to 08 numbers which tend to cost businesses more.

On the flipside, though, calling these numbers may cost your customer more – usually the same as what they’d pay to call an 01 or 02 number.

How does it work?

While calls from landline phones to an 03 or 0345 number tend to cost up to 9p per minute, calls from a mobile can cost between 3p and 55p per minute.

So, you might dissuade potential customers from calling you – although this does offer the advantage of only attracting genuine enquiries.


Premium rate numbers: 09

What is it?

Premium rate numbers are generally used for technical support, chatlines, phone-ins and competitions. Calls are charged at a high rate to callers: costing up to £3.60 per minute, plus an additional 5p to 6p per phone call.

However, using a premium rate number comes with the risk of alienating your customer and making them less likely to contact you. If excellent customer care is important to you, this isn’t the number for your business.

How does it work?

The caller pays for the entire phone charge, and the revenue generated from it is split between the telephone operator and your business. If, for example, you set up a phone line charging £1 a minute, you could expect to earn as much as 56p per minute on each call.

Premium rate numbers have strict user guidelines set out by PhonepayPlus, so make sure you enquire about these when considering your options.


Personal numbering: 070

What is it?

Sometimes known as follow me numbers, these virtual numbers can be routed to other phone numbers (specified by you) across the world, with calls being automatically forwarded to the line that’s most likely to be active at the time.

You’ll find this particularly useful if you travel often, or if you’re keen for UK customers to contact your overseas operations.

How does it work?

You can choose which phone lines each call is forwarded to by setting up a series of priorities determining when you (or your staff) are most likely to be at which phone.

For example, you might have calls forwarded to your office phone between 9am and 12pm, your mobile phone between 12pm and 2pm, your home phone between 5pm and 9pm, et cetera.

You can change these forwarding instructions instantly at any time by dialing your 070 number and entering a pin code.


Once you’ve chosen the type of number you’d like to adopt, you might also think about using an…

Alphanumeric telephone number

What is it?

These can be freephone, local rate or national rate numbers. Generally, the more memorable they are, the more expensive they are to purchase.

With an alphanumeric number, a word of your choosing determines what your phone number is. For example, a florist might choose ‘freephone flowers’, and share this with their customers as well as the number it corresponds to.

The idea behind an alphanumeric number is that the novelty value and high memorability of it is likely to draw more customers and clients to use it.

How does it work?

In the case of an alphanumeric number, the phone number itself depends on the number buttons on a phone keypad which show each letter of the word. So, freephone flowers would be would be 0800 356 9377 (freephone = 0800 and then f=3, l=5, 0=6, w=9, e=3, r=7, s=7).

You’d just need to be wary that not all handsets have numbers or letters printed on the keys – so always make sure you provide the full number as well as the word.