Google Voice and Google+ Hangouts: Tips For Using These Free Tools

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Real estate investors (and entrepreneurs in general) are bombarded on a daily basis with the “latest and greatest” new tools, toys, programs, and _____ (you fill in the blanks.) There is always something that gets our attention.

It is really hard to stay focused on our core business at times because of all the “shiny objects” that come our way. The very traits that make us good entrepreneurs and real estate investors can also be the very same things that cause us problems. We are thinkers, creators and builders at heart. It is this same curiosity that gets us into trouble.

But there are also some pretty cool tools out there and I wanted to talk about two of them today; Google Voice and Google+ hangouts. Some folks may already be using these free tools, but I find that many more folks aren’t for one reason or another.

Shiny Objects; How Do You Determine Quickly Which Ones Are Valuable?

Here is the way I decide. If a tool can add value to my business (especially if it’s FREE), then it gets at least a quick look and a test run. I am a firm believer of using free tools that big companies have spent a lot of their money developing.

Google Voice

Google Voice ( is a free tool that everyone should take advantage of. Most of us have a main phone number that we use for our businesses, but there are also times when it is nice to have another published phone number in addition to our main business phone number as a way to filter our calls.

Like most of the services Google provides, all you need to use it is to set up an account. What I like about Google Voice is that it helps you manage your calls, and it even transcribes the calls and sends them to your email so you can read it on your smart phone.

I have to admit that sometimes when a caller doesn’t speak clearly the transcription you receive can be pretty funny, but you will always be able to listen to the actual call.

For those folks using bandit signs, you can put a Google Voice phone number on those signs which prevents you from having to use your actual phone number.

Here Are Just a Few of the Cool Features of Google Voice

  • You can set up custom greetings for different callers if you want to. For instance you can have one greeting for business and another one for your friends.
  • If someone calls your Google Voice number you can have it ring one of your phones, all of your phones or you can also choose to have it go straight to voicemail.
  • You have the ability to listen in while the voicemail is being recorded which is kind of cool. This works similar to the old answering machine for screening callers.
  • One really nice feature is that you can send a free text message to the caller if you can’t speak to the person that moment but you want to let them know you received the call.
  • You can “share voicemails” that are memorable or useful. Did you ever wonder how folks share those hilarious calls they get from angry sellers? You can do that with this free service.
  • Conference calls are also easy with Google Voice


Here are 3 of suggestions for using Google Voice:

  1. Put this number on your Bandit Signs instead of your actual phone number.
    NOTE from the Editor: Only use these signs in areas where they are legal.
  2. Use your Google Voice phone number when you place ads such as Craigslist ads
  3. You can put a Google Voice number on your squeeze pages

You can check it out here at:

I know you’re wondering; is there an app for this? You bet!

Let’s move on…

Google+ Hangouts

I did my first Google+ Hangout this year, and I have to say that I find it intriguing. It was a bit confusing initially, but I think there is definitely a place for something like this in our businesses.

A lot of folks seem to be switching to this platform to replace some of their webinar events. One nice thing about Google+ Hangouts is that you can have the best of both worlds; you have the ability to share slides like in a traditional webinar with the added ability to see the faces of the participants. This platform is useful for interviews, meetings and “hangouts” such as masterminds to name just a few. Rather than simply doing a conference call, you can actually see each person on the screen.

When you set up a hangout, what you will see is one big screen and smaller screens below that one. All of the participants are shown. For instance, you could be conducting a mastermind meeting with 5 other participants. As each person speaks their face moves up to the “big screen”. The other participants remain below on the small screens. So the person speaking is always on the big screen. You can stream these events live or record them. This really makes events like conference calls a whole lot more fun and interactive.

Getting Started

One thing you want to do is to set this up properly from the start. You will need three things:

A Gmail account, a Google+ account and a YouTube account. Here is a link for you to get you started:

Think of your Gmail account, your YouTube account, and your Google+ Hangout account as one big tree where they all come together. You want all of these to be linked to the same Gmail account. You need a YouTube account because as soon as you are finished with your hangout, your video will be rendered and saved on YouTube. (Don’t worry if you want your recording to be private rather than a public video. This is easy to fix).

I have more than one Gmail account, and I made the mistake of signing into the wrong Gmail account when I did my first Google+ hangout. Therefore that video did not get posted on the correct YouTube account.

Remember that I said it will be posted automatically to YouTube if you initially chose this to set it up this way which most people do. It was quite an ordeal for me to get this moved over to the correct YouTube account so don’t make this same mistake. Be sure to set these accounts up so that they are connected properly.

What Are Some Ways Real Estate Investors Could Use Google+ Hangouts?

  • Conference Calls
  • Weekly recaps with your contractors
  • Monthly calls with your property managers
  • Mastermind Calls
  • Brainstorming with other real estate investors or your accountability partner
  • Coaching Calls
  • “How To” instructional trainings and interviews
  • End of the week re-caps with your virtual assistants

Once again, these “hangouts” don’t have to be made available to the public. Once they are uploaded to YouTube, they can be made private for viewing by select people. You can also use 3rd party recording software to record your hangouts if you don’t want to involve YouTube.

If you give these a try, I think you will find them to be very useful tools for your business.

Is anyone already using these free tools? Let us know how you use them.

Photo: Kalexanderson

About Author

Sharon Vornholt

Sharon has been investing in real estate since 1998. She owned and operated a successful home inspection company for 17 years. In January of 2008 she took the leap of closing her business to become a full time real estate investor.


  1. I have been using Google Voice for my direct mail marketing. I like it and like that it’s free, too. I find the log of calls a little confusing to sort through but that’s probably more me than the app.

    I have my GV number forwarded to my cell/business phone, but I can’t figure out a way to tell if an incoming call is from GV or direct-dialed. Sharon do you know how to do this? That would make it perfect. Alison

    • Travis –

      It is a video call. It’s pretty easy to use once you know the basics like “be sure you are in the right Gmail account” LOL. I think the quality could be improved on the video, but it is still a very useful tool.


  2. Glenn Schworm

    Sharon, I love your comments about chasing the shiny new object. What I like best is that you are so thorough with the shiny new objects, that I don’t have to chase them, I just wait to see what you suggest. 🙂 Good article, your info is always valuable and appreciated.


    • Hey Glenn –

      Technology is great when you can find a way to use it in your business that doesn’t involve a big learning curve. Google+ hangouts gives a whole new meaning to “conference call” by adding faces to the call. It sure makes it more interesting. Once you brainstorm a little, you can find a lot of ways to use it in your business. I did one video interview with it a while back. I do like that the person speaking is on the main screen.


  3. My experience with google voice has approx 1 in 10 calls having quality so bad you have to hang up and try again. It’s a free product so you can’t complain too much. One thing I don’t like though is you can not receive texts with pictures. My contractors have my google voice number so I have to give them another one for pics. I do like the flexibility of having google voice go to multiple numbers and your computer handy.

    I also have it set up that all calls to my google number will ring me cell differently that a call to my regular cell number.

    I’ll try out hangout. Sounds interesting.

  4. Great article as always Sharon. I love it when I really learn something that I had no idea about before reading the article. I am excited to say now i know I can save and share the voice mails from crazy people. 🙂 I actually wish Google would allow more numbers without going through what it takes to get more than one number. I would pay for the second number.

  5. Gary –

    I just set up several accounts with Google – different email accounts. Then I have them all forward to my main Gmail account. I don’t want to be looking at a bunch of different email accounts every day. I like my main account, but I wanted one that had the same name as my blog for my YouTube videos. I want them to be branded differently. You can hook them together and just “switch” accounts without actually signing out.

    I would just spend a little time thinking about what you want to accomplish, and then just set up one or more email accounts.

    There is another service I am going to be writing about in the next week or two that isn’t completely free, but it is a great service for under $10 a month so stay tuned.

    Google Voice and Hangouts are both great tools. The “bandit sign” police will have a hard time tracking you down with a Google voice number if you put those out.

    Thanks for reading.

  6. Hi Sharon! I was talking about Google numbers when i said I wish Google would allow more numbers. I know it is possible with a different email account but one needs a different primary number to get multiple Google number as far as I know.

    The cool thing about your reply is, again, I learned something. I have multiple Google email accounts and keep the ones I want open by using different browsers or email clients. I’m going to research linking them together.

    Thanks Sharon and I look froward to next week’s blog.

  7. Sharon yet another amazingly helpful article!

    Is being able to sign into multiple Google accounts at once new? I kind of remember a couple years ago having to logout and login a whole new account to use an alternate email I set up. It was super annoying since it didn’t have my bookmarks and stuff.

    Just signed into that account without getting out of my other one! Totally awesome! I don’t have a Google Voice hooked up on this one yet so that is going to be my new marketing number (The one I have tied to my primary I use for PM calls for rentals).

    Thanks again for the great insights and information!

    • Shaun –

      It has been around for a while, but I seem to remember the same thing. I don’t know if is a newer feature or if I just didn’t know how to do it at the time. (Just as likely.) It is so much easier to just “add” another account than to have to sign out and start over.

      I also forward all the emails from each of my Gmail email accounts to my main account (so I don’t miss anything) with the forwarding feature in the settings.

      Another nice feature is that if you forward emails and you respond to someone, it will respond to them from the email address that it was originally sent to; not the one it was forwarded to if that makes sense. You may not want folks having your main email address.

      You can also put different “signatures” in there and links back to sites. I really love this. I don’t necessarily want people that are emailing me about houses to know about my personal Facebook page. So I wouldn’t have those links in that signature. You can really customize things for your target audience.

      Thanks for taking the time to leave your comments.

  8. Great job Sharon explaining the different use of the google VM and the importance of it.
    I did one google hang out a few months ago as an educational free live event. It was about 45-60 minutes and we had a decent audience. I forgot the exact # of listeners. We didn’t use the video feature and not sure how that would work with many listeners.

    I like some of the other reason you mentioned you can use it for.

    • Mike –

      SInce it only pops up the person speaking on the “big screen”, it probably wouldn’t matter. I don’t know if there is a setting for that; one that would limit the number of the people on the bottom of the screen.

      You really should record those so you can post them on your site one day. If you record them you can set it to post them right to YouTube after they are done rendering. It’s another great marketing tool to help you stand out in your market.


  9. I’ve been using Google Voice for years and I appreciate the convenience of accessing and responding to my voice mails via email, on tablets, pc, laptop, and the phone. Although the voice transcription is still in need of improvement; you can understand enough to know the gist of the message; and of course you can always listen to the message. It’s a great way to screen your calls.

    If you are a small business owner; consultant, micro business, etc. it’s a good way to use a number for business other than your cell phone or landline number.

    • Sharon Vornholt

      I agree Stephanie. I wish I had started using it right from the beginning.

      They still make a mess of most of the transcription. I got one yesterday that really wasn’t that hard to understand, but what they transcribed was terrible. But I like getting the message without having to answer my phone on a Sunday afternoon. In this case I called the seller right back, but the choice was mine. Thanks for sharing your experiences.


  10. I know this is an old post, but I just heard today that google is working on updating google voice. No word yet on what they might be doing, but at least they are working on it. I use google voice myself and truly love it. Best tool that I have. When someone calls, my cell, and my husbands both ring at the same so if one of us are busy then the other person can answer it.

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