>Take Advantage of Free Calling with Gmail (by Matt Heffner)

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Ever run out of minutes on your cell phone plan? Or get charged a huge fee because you didn’t realize how much you were over? It has certainly happened to me before, but not anymore.
Google now has a new feature with their email service, Gmail, that gives you “free” minutes.
Using this service you can make and receive calls for completely free within the United States and Canada. It is also very cheap if you want to call out of the U.S., just check their rates.
The concept is similar to Skype in that you use your computer to make a call instead of a phone. But Skype charges you to make calls to phones. But not Gmail. Below is what the menu will look like in Gmail. Simply dial the number you want to call and press the “Call” button.
So, what do you need to get started? Not much really: 1. You will need a Gmail Account (Email from Google), 2. A microphone hooked to your computer. Let’s look at each step in more detail.

Getting a Gmail Account: A Gmail account is similar to a Yahoo or Hotmail account providing a free email address along with other free features. Gmail has many other great features beyond the voice calling that make it a new favorite beyond Yahoo. You can sign up at www.gmail.com.

Setting up a Microphone: You will need some type of microphone for calling from your computer to work. You may have one built in especially if it is a laptop. Or you may want to purchase a cheap headset to use for better sound quality. You can usually find a decent one for about $20 at a computer store, Wal-Mart, or Amazon.

That’s about all there is to set it up. Not too bad, eh? Whether you are a small business owner running on a shoestring budget, tired of your teenager racking up minutes on your call plan, or just want to stay in touch more with the people you love, using Gmail for free calling is the way to go. I hope it helps.

Matt Heffner is Co-Owner at Encounter Marketing, a local company that works with small businesses, non-profits, and churches to use online/internet tools to reach their supporters or customers.

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