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What is a virtual office?

So, you’ve heard people talking about virtual offices and how great they are for start-ups, SMEs and entrepreneurs, but you’re not quite sure what one is. We get that. And we get that sometimes you don’t want to ask because that would be admitting you don’t know. That’s why we’ve written this – put you in the picture and help you decide whether a virtual office is the right move for you.

What Is a Virtual Office?

First things first, let’s deal with what a virtual office is. A virtual office is a physical address for businesses that work remotely.

You get a top-notch business address to impress your customers, an efficient post management system for your mail and avoid the huge overheads of renting a traditional office. 

A virtual office – also known as a virtual business address – can also offer different mail delivery options, a virtual landline, a telephone answering service, the use of addresses for registration on Companies House, and more.

Why not use your home address?

Working from home can save you the expense of leasing an office and daily commuting. It gives you more time to focus on your business and a better work-life balance, so why not make your home your business address?

The truth is that declaring your home as your company’s address comes with a lot of negatives.

Remember you’ll use your address on your website, marketing materials, online directories, invoices, maybe even on your business Facebook page.

A would-be customer may feel a little less confident about you once they see you’re working from a mid-terraced house and not a swish office block. 

And imagine the day a client turns up at your door, and you answering in your fluffy slippers and giraffe onesie. That may not be what they were expecting.

What about your business phone too? You either go with your personal landline or mobile. What if you expect another cold caller and answer a little bluntly and it turns out to be that big new client.

A virtual office avoids all this for a small monthly subscription.

Also, wouldn’t it be great to have an office opposite the biggest players in your industry? A virtual office in a great location is sure to turn heads and impress your customers. 

So, how do virtual offices work?

Once you sign up to a virtual office, you’re free to show-off your new address on your website, marketing materials, online directories, invoices and anywhere else you need to use your trading address.

You get to choose whether you want mail to be forwarded by post to your nominated address or opened, scanned and emailed straight to your inbox.

Then every time a customer, supplier or other stakeholder sends you mail, we’ll deliver it to you in a flash.

What services do virtual offices provide?

A virtual office provides a physical trading address for your business. This always includes a choice of mail delivery options and use of the trading address wherever you need.

However, your virtual office can offer so much more.

For starters, you have the option to use this address to register your company with Companies House. This does not come with the basic virtual office service, but can easily be added at a small cost.

One of the most popular upgrades is the use of your virtual office phone. You can easily add a Virtual Landline, which diverts to your home or mobile phone every time you receive a call. 

You can choose a number local for your office, and when it diverts to your phone, you’ll know it’s time to prepare for a business call.  

Another option is to use our virtual reception. Your virtual receptionist will answer your business calls for you, following a simple script, and relay the caller’s details and message to you via email. 

Virtual personal assistants take this one step further. They look over your incoming business calls with a bespoke script. But they can also transfer live calls to any of your team, take orders, schedule appointments, manage your inbox, and more.

What is the difference between a Virtual Office and a Registered Company Address?

Our Registered Company Address service is not the same as a Virtual Office service. 

When you go to register your business as a limited company with Companies House you need to provide an official address.

This address is not, necessarily, your trading address. And that’s what differentiates a virtual office from a Registered Company Address.

Your virtual office is just a trading address. Although, for an added fee, you can use this address as your Registered Company Address.

Depending on your needs, you can buy either on their own or together within the same subscription.

What sort of businesses use virtual offices?

Virtual offices can be used by any type of business from any industry. They are highly popular with SMEs who want a large presence while benefiting from remote working. 

They also speak to larger companies looking to expand into new territories and take advantage of additional features they need, such as call answering services. 

In short, a virtual office can be used by all business types searching for a low-cost option to impress, grow and expand.  

Where should I rent a virtual office?

The location of your virtual office depends on your market and brand. Most of the time, business owners choose an address in the heart of their target market.

Being local increases the chances of your website or online listings appearing higher on search engines and other sites when people search for your services locally. Every time you appear on screen is another opportunity for a click. call or sale. 

The question of where is also influenced by your brand.

The reputation, image and even micro-culture of a very localised area can add or take away from your brand. 

A street renowned for large corporate business may not be the best place for your online yoga class business. Similarly, a bohemian hipster part of town may not be the best place to base your law firm. 

Fortunately, most big cities in the UK have virtual offices. And they’re often spread out across many districts.

Where you choose to locate your virtual office is up to you. Think about where your potential customers are. Will being local influence their buying behaviour? What does an area add to your brand?

Is a virtual office a real address?

Yes. They never appear to be a virtual office from the outside – but that’s kind of the point. They are amongst real, traditional working offices.

When a potential customer visits your website, your office needs to impress. And at the same time, save you ploughing loads of your profit into leasing your own city centre workspace.

This is why virtual offices are growing in popularity.

How much does a virtual office cost?

You can rent a virtual office for just £10.42 per month. 

Even in central London, you can get a prime business location in the financial capital of the world for less than the cost of two pints of beer – remember, we’re talking London prices here! 

Additional services such as a Virtual Receptionist or a Registered Company Address are available for an extra fee, but even for the full package, you’re looking at getting change out of £50 per month. 

When you think about the potential for more business and the savings you’ll make on renting a traditional office and commuting, it’s a tiny price to pay. 

And as long as you take-up a monthly rolling contract, you can cancel any time. 

If you do decide it’s worth the investment, ask about discounts for paying annually. It’s just one more little saving to make sure you keep as much of your hard-earned cash in your pocket as you can.

What to look for in a virtual office provider

Right, let’s assume you’ve decided a virtual office is for you and you know where you want to be based. How do you go about picking the provider?

First off, you want to look for one that operates UK-wide. This is an indication of the size of the company and it also gives you the flexibility to expand into other cities in future. 

You shouldn’t be paying set up fees. The whole point of the service is to save money, so there’s no reason to pay anything other than your address rental and postal fees.

Look for flexibility in the contract terms. You should be able to choose to pay monthly or annually according to your own preference and check the cancellation policy too. In particular, when you first enter into the world of virtual offices, you want to be able to cancel if you decide it’s not working for you. 

Obviously, you’ll want to compare prices but dig into the detail of each package too. Do they offer a free mail scan-to-email service, for example? This could prove a valuable benefit down the line and save you having to pay and wait for it to be redirected. 

And check the testimonials and reviews. This is a great way to understand what existing clients think of the service. It’s better to find out if a provider is unreliable before you part with any hard-earned cash.

Whether or not a virtual office is the best solution for you will be based on a number of factors and will ultimately be a decision you need to make. But, hey, you’re the decision-maker. That’s one of the reasons you chose to run your own business in the first place, isn’t it?

It’s certainly true to say that changing times have made virtual offices a good choice for businesses of all sizes across the UK and there are multiple reasons why. So, if you’re a business owner and have big aspirations, it’s worth seeing if it works for you.

Paul Sandquest

Head of Marketing

Paul is Head of Marketing at Virtually There and has over a decade of experience supporting businesses across the globe.

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