Ever faster internet and broadband connections mean that more of us can and do work remotely. A virtual office is a professional front-end to that arrangement, where all the parts of the business can be remote but the image presented to customers and partners is of a slick, coherent, impressively-located business.
So you may be working in your back bedroom in Bolton, but your registered business address is in a smart location in central London and you use virtual 020 numbers to reinforce the London image. When you call customers, even from your mobile, it will flash up on their screen that the caller is from London.
If a big city address isn’t important to your business, you’ll find virtual business address services in most large towns. Many accountancy firms also offer this service to their clients.
An all-singing-and-dancing virtual business might also use the services of a virtual assistant to provide seamless and immediate customer service communications and receptions services.
A virtual office can be a stepping stone or even a long-term business strategy. Here are some of the ways it could help your business:
1. Manage cash flow
If you are a start-up or if cash flow is tight, you can obviously save a lot of money by having a virtual rather than physical office. A virtual registered address can cost from just £10 per month, though expect to pay up to £300 per month for more prestigious addresses.
You will need to balance the financial savings of working at home or remotely with potential productivity costs. How much more efficient would you be working in an office or co-working space? How many extra coffees will you buy if you have to work in cafes? With the average office space per desk averaging £300 per months, what is the cost/ benefit?
Some businesses already have premises or office space and choose to use a virtual address to give a more prestigious image; in that case you wouldn’t need to factor in productivity and refreshment losses!
2. Build trust
If potential customers haven’t heard of your business, then an address in a familiar location with positive associations can be a way of accelerating trust.
Trust is absolutely critical in customer relationships and any and all ways that you can build that should be a very important part of your marketing strategy. If the incoming call from you to a potential customer flashes up New York rather than your small town, many customers are much more likely to answer it with a positive expectation.
Similarly, a professional business address is likely to give your business more credibility than a residential address.
Since the 2006 Companies Act, all UK businesses are required to display their registered office address on their business website. You are also required to put your business address on any email marketing promotions that you send out. If your business is registered at your home address, anyone and everyone will know where you live and be able to have a look via Google Streetview or even rock-up to pay you a visit.
It happens. We’ve read more than one account by female bloggers, where their familiar tone encouraged followers to think of them as friends and’drop in’ on them when they were in the area.
Setting up a virtual office enables you to keep your private life just that.
4. Seamless customer service
Most virtual office services offer more than just an address. You should expect them to also provide a mail handling and forwarding service and access to meeting rooms, so that on occasion for important clients you can be on site when necessary. In addition some offer telephone answering and reception services. Combine those services with a local phone number and a virtual assistant service and you could be in a position to never miss a call, an important message or an opportunity to respond to a customer communication.
Finally, if you’ve decided that a virtual office is for you, think very carefully before you commit to a particular address. While most services offer easy-out contracts, meaning you can leave with a month’s notice, remember that you will also have to change all of your stationery as well. It doesn’t cost much to become a virtual office, but changing address can be expensive in terms of time, hassle and print. Get it right and it’s a small price to pay to make a much better first impression.