Many small businesses struggle with bringing on new employees, and market conditions can sometimes make it challenging or impossible to find new workers. However, having someone on hand to take calls can be a massive boon for many businesses. In addition to freeing you from dealing with phone calls all day, you'll also have a professional face to put forward to the public.

If you don't already have any front-desk employees, then you may be wondering whether you should hire a receptionist or contract an answering service. The best option will be different for every business, but these three questions can help you focus your decision-making process.

1. Do You Already Have a Physical Office Presence?

If you own a contracting company or another type of business that doesn't need a physical presence, you may simply work out of your home or truck. Hiring a receptionist can be challenging in these circumstances, especially if you don't want to take on the costs of renting an office. Although remote work is far more common, managing a remote worker can come with its own hurdles.

In these cases, an answering service is often a far more straightforward and cost-effective solution. With a contracted answering service, you can continue to operate as you always have, without the added costs and hassles of renting an office space.

2. Do You Need Around-the-Clock Service?

Many small businesses, including everything from electricians to HVAC contractors, need around-the-clock emergency service. This requirement may mean waking up at odd hours to answer calls from desperate homeowners for relatively small companies. Hiring an employee to cover an emergency service can be challenging and require you to bring in multiple workers.

On the other hand, many answering services have 24/7 availability. Working with one of these services will usually be a cheaper option, and they can provide screening to ensure your sleep is only disturbed when a customer has a genuine emergency. You can also choose to use an answering service as an after-hours only option so that your customers can speak with you directly during the day.

3. Do You Need Flexibility?

Hiring for seasonal businesses can be challenging. If your business waxes and wanes throughout the year, then a full-time employee answering phones can be a waste of money during your off-season. Most answering services offer flexible plans, and you can usually adjust them to fit your needs throughout the year.

This improved flexibility means you'll get all the benefits of having someone answer your phone without the drawbacks of keeping an employee on hand all year long.