UPDATE: One year on from writing this post and I’ve renewed my SkypePro service. I had no issues at all with the service in the year following this post, and while I still wouldn’t recommend relying on them 100%, I am impressed with the flexibility the service has offered me. Here’s hoping Skype have upped their game for good.
Skype is running an advertising campaign with a difference. They’ve kitted out Rebecca, their 26-year-old Australian travel nomad, with some mobile Skype gear. She has to remain in perpetual motion for 33 days while travelling around the world, using Skype to blog, Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, YouTube and MySpace her way into our hearts and minds. And she’s a copywriter, so we should expect some readable writing too (Twitter constraints aside).
Now, I know translators are a crazy bunch of early adopters when it comes to technology (ahem), so before anyone gets too excited, I feel it’s my duty to sound a cautionary note: Be sure you know what you are letting yourself in for before relying on Skype for your business needs – and always have a Plan B!
Let me explain. I’ve been using Skype in a non-work capacity since early 2006, but as a handy-to-have novelty, rather than a key part of keeping in touch. There were a couple of things I didn’t like about it in the early days which stopped me throwing myself whole-heartedly into the revolution. But hey, it was a reasonably cheap way of making calls to my many family members and friends overseas, and Skype never pretended to be a fixed landline replacement (you can’t use them to make emergency calls, for example).
Technology moves on, of course, so in view of my pending move to Australia in February this year, I decided to upgrade to the paid service to give it a more serious (read: business) try. I’d heard some horror stories, but I’d also spoken to a few people, including other translators, who use it in a work capacity to great success. I signed up for a package which allowed me to set up a fixed UK line-land number and a voicemail service in a couple of very quick and easy steps. Skype is not always the cheapest way to make or receive calls when you involve landlines or mobiles, so it wasn’t really about saving money (although that’s always welcome, of course). But I figured the benefits of having a local number for my clients to call would be enormous, especially as I’ve had a couple of jobs on the go over the move, and given the time change of 10 hours, a voicemail service was definitely a welcome service too. The set-up cost for this particular package was only about €20 a year. So far, so good.
A couple of months in and I have to say, I still have my reservations. Calls out (i.e. me making calls) are great – no complaints there. I’ll certainly continue to use Skype to make business and personal calls.
But the call-in service (i.e. me taking calls) is still not reliable enough for my liking. The fixed-line numbers are occasionally down and my voicemail is frequently out-of-service. And that’s just the times I’ve “caught” it. Realistically, I’ll probably keep the landline numbers until my subscription runs out, given the lack of alternatives that suit my needs, but I’ll be withdrawing the numbers from circulation in the meantime. And I definitely won’t be having them printed onto my new business cards.
I’m not complaining, mind you – I was aware of the pitfalls before I signed up and I knew not to rely on their non-existent customer service to bail me out either. It’s just that personally, I’d rather not have the hassle of wondering if it is or isn’t, so I’ll do without until the next best thing comes along. Fair enough. With all this in mind, my little trial has not had too much of an impact on my business either – I’d given clients some other non-Skype numbers to reach me just in case, and we tend to communicate mainly via email anyway.
So is Skype worth giving a go within your business? Definitely – in fact, you’d be crazy to ignore it. But just don’t say you weren’t warned.
I’d love to hear about your Skype experiences – please leave a comment and let me know.
HT to WebWorkerDaily for the Skype Nomad story.