What Is a Phone Extension? Everything You Need To Know

What Is a Phone Extension? Everything You Need To Know
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Whatever your job, work comes with countless essential responsibilities. Just when you think you’ve covered them all, something else usually pops up that catches you off guard. For many freelancers, one of these unexpected issues involves telephone-based communication.

Everyone knows that communication and networking are essential parts of freelancing. You must be able to contact your business contacts and clients, and if you’re freelancing full-time, your contacts list may be extensive. You can probably imagine the potential headache of trying to handle all your communications using a single phone line. 

It’s very common for freelancers to use their personal cell phones for everything when they’re first getting started. While it’s always a wise decision to keep your work and personal lives separate, money is usually pretty tight in the beginning, and sacrifices must be made. You might be able to get away with a single line for a little while, but you’ll eventually need some additional ones. Especially as your list of clients and amount of work starts to grow.

That’s where the concept of using a phone extension can help. It’s an easy way to make professional communication more efficient. Fortunately, phone extensions are pretty simple to understand. By the end of this writing, you should have a firm grasp on what they do, how they work, and why you should use one for your business. 

What Are the Different Types of Phone Extensions?

Note that the term “phone extension” can have multiple meanings. It will largely depend on the context in which you’re using it. There are essentially three types of phone extensions, and it’s important to understand their key differences. 

Residential Extension

The first and simplest type of phone extension is a residential extension. Before cell phones became the standard, most residential households were serviced by a single telephone line. During the height of landlines, it was fairly common for there to be a few different devices being used. A single home might have a phone in the living room, kitchen, and/or bedroom, for instance. Each device would technically constitute a specific extension.

The main issue with residential extensions is that they would only use a single phone line. Any incoming calls would make each individual device ring. Any device in the house could be picked up and used to answer the call or join in on the conversation.

The problem is that no device would be able to field an additional call or make one. The single telephone line would be in use whether one or all of the devices were being used. 

Business Extensions

The second and most commonly used type of extension involves business. If you think that having several people inside a house use a single telephone line is hectic, then think about a company trying to use just one.

Can you imagine the wait times if major corporations only used a single phone line to field customer calls? Fortunately, phone extensions can help customers reach the people who can most effectively help them more easily. (We will primarily be discussing this type of phone extension today.)

Off-Premise Extensions

The third extension refers to off-premises extensions. These extensions function in a similar way to business extensions. The critical difference is that they are typically located away from the headquarters or physical location of the business.

By using Voice Over Internet Protocol (VOIP) technology, a business can create an off-premises extension to connect calls to any location around the world. It’s common for these types of extensions to be used for cell phones, so VIP connections can be reached at any time and at any location. 

What Is a Business Phone Extension? 

A business phone extension is a few digits that are assigned to a specific person, group, or department within a company. In other words, it’s a unique code that can be used to quickly contact a certain individual or team.

These numbers typically range from a single digit to five of them. The numbers are highly customizable and can be assigned based on whatever system you would like. 

In most cases, each extension will be linked to the primary phone number of the business. That way, a customer can call one number and use it to be connected anywhere within the company. It also helps with internal communication by eliminating the need for employees to dial more numbers than the extension. By being a part of the internal network, they can simply dial the extension and instantly be transferred through. 

How Do Business Phone Extensions Work?

The easiest way to understand a business phone extension is by using an example. Let’s say that the primary phone number for a business is (777) 555-1111.

Anyone could reach the central switchboard of a company by dialing those numbers. From that point, they would have the option to enter the extension of the party they want to contact or wait for an operator to assist them. 

Let’s imagine that the caller needs to get in contact with an employee named Kevin. Kevin is an integral part of the customer service team and has his own extension of 999. To reach Kevin, the caller could either enter 999 when prompted or wait for an operator to make the transfer. In essence, Kevin would have his own number within the company of (777) 555-1111-999. 

Now let’s say that Kevin can’t help the caller as he needs information from the shipping department. Kevin would simply have to put the caller on hold and locate the extension for the shipping department (let’s call it 50).

Instead of dialing the company phone number and adding the extension, Kevin could simply dial 50 from his desk phone. The call would be transferred internally to the shipping department, where Kevin can talk directly to them. 

Options for Creating Business Extensions

You have a few ways that you can set up phone extensions within your freelancing business. There's really no right or wrong way to do it. It’s more a scale of more efficient or less efficient.

Generally, you have three distinct options for creating a business extension:


A specific person has a dedicated extension that reaches them directly. 

In businesses, these are reserved for very important people such as executives, managers, and operators. Not everyone needs their own direct line, so you would need to choose these individuals carefully. An extension for them could be created for their desk phone, business cell phone, their computer, or personal cell phone. 

For freelancing, this is the most basic extension arrangement you can have. You simply set up a work line and a personal line, and field all professional communications with your work number.


Ideally, each separate department within a business should have its own extension. If there’s a need for the department to exist, there’s a need for them to be contacted quickly.

Typically, the extension for a department will be assigned to a centralized phone within the department. However, you could assign the extension to the phone of a manager who would field all calls made to the department. 

In freelancing, this could look like having separate numbers for different clients. If you’re just starting out, this may not be necessary. However, as you scale and take more jobs, having distinct numbers can greatly increase your organization and help manage your distributed assignments.

Why Should You Use Phone Extensions for Your Business?

As a freelancer, you are the face of your business. Your clients rely on you to provide high-quality work and excellent customer service. One of the most important aspects of presenting a professional image to your clients is communication. 

Phone extensions, also known as virtual phone numbers, can offer several benefits for freelancers regarding professionalism, privacy, flexibility, and organization.

1. Professionalism 

As a freelancer, you want to present yourself as a serious business person committed to your craft. 

When you use a phone extension, you create a dedicated phone line for your business, separate from your personal phone line. This gives the impression that you are a professional who takes their business seriously. 

Furthermore, phone extensions allow you to customize your greeting message and provide a professional tone for your callers. This helps to create a positive first impression, which can help you secure more (and better) gigs.

2. Privacy

In today's digital age, personal information can be easily accessible online. Using a phone extension can help protect your privacy by keeping your personal phone number separate from your business line. 

You can use your business line to communicate with clients, vendors, and other business contacts without giving away your personal number. 

This privacy also contributes to a greater degree of control over your work-life separation, ensuring your clients can't intrude upon your personal life outside of work hours.

3. Flexibility

Freelancers can often work from anywhere: be it in a home office or coffee shop. With phone extensions, you can take your business phone number wherever you go. 

You can use your smartphone or tablet to receive calls and messages or forward calls to another number if unavailable. 

4. Organization

When you use phone extensions, you can set up different extensions for different clients or projects, making tracking your calls and messages easier. You can use call logs and message histories to track who has contacted you and when. 

These features can help you manage your professional communications more effectively and improve your productivity. 


Freelance jobs require a lot of time, effort, and dedication. To be successful, you’ll need to push yourself past limits that you didn’t know you had. It can be difficult to turn your freelance business dreams into a reality, but it’s not impossible. Many have succeeded before you and blazed the trail. All that you have to do is follow their path and reap the benefits. 

One of the most significant things in freelancing is establishing clear methods of communication. Even if you’re a freelancer with only one client, you need to have a second number for business purposes. As your workload and contacts list grows, you’ll need to increase the number of phone lines and extensions that you use. 

Burner is the best place to start: It includes a variety of beneficial features that can help your business. The easiest way to experience them all is to try them out for yourself. Download Burner and create an account today to start your free seven-day trial.

With Burner, you can take your freelancing business to another level and maintain proper communication with every aspect of your workflow. 


How the Loss of the Landline Is Changing Family Life | The Atlantic

The Importance of Telephone Communication in Business | Chron

5 Steps of Compartmentalization: The Secret Behind Successful Entrepreneurs | Forbes

Why Labor Economists Say the Remote Work ‘Revolution’ Is Here To Stay | CNBC

Voice Over Internet Protocol (VoIP) | Federal Communications Commission

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