What is a virtual office?
If you are running your business from home, or the corner of someone else’s office, but need to reassure prospective clients that you are a serious professional operation, then you can hire the services of a virtual office. A virtual office provides the services of an office without the actual physical space. If done right it will give your clients the impression that you have a fully-fledged office of your own, when in reality you are simply hiring the bits you need for a fraction of the cost.
How does it work?
Depending on what you require, you can hire a prestigious business address and telephone number, a virtual receptionist who can answer your calls in your company name, deal with customer enquiries and forward calls as required, and a virtual PA who can provide full business admin support such as appointment scheduling, order processing and mail handling, all without the need for you to have physical office space. As many virtual office services are provided by companies that run serviced offices, you can often also hire real life temporary office space and meeting rooms by the hour or day for when you need to meet your clients in person.
Why do I need it?
Because customers tend to be wary of dealing with businesses that are run from someone’s spare bedroom or kitchen table – it does not instil confidence that you know what you are doing, are offering a professional service, or even that you are going to be around for very long. And private meeting rooms are essential for confidential discussions that cannot be conducted in public spaces such as coffee shops and hotel lobbies. In general, it is a good idea to try and make customers as comfortable and confident as possible that they are making the right decision in choosing to do business with you.
Virtual office services can generally be hired by the month. Think about what services you are going to need and choose a firm that can offer all of them as it will be easier to manage that way. If you are likely to want to hire meeting rooms, visit the building yourself first and consider what initial impression it will make on your clients to turn up for a meeting there. A big sign outside saying “serviced offices” or “meeting rooms for hire” is definitely not going to give a good impression – the ideal option is a discreet, unbranded building at a good address which really does look like it could be a proper office block.
Things to consider
Some virtual office services are a lot better than others so make sure you thoroughly research your options first and try before you buy. Price should not be the overriding factor in making your decision. Pay particular attention to the telephone answering service offered as that is often a customer’s first point of contact with your business – and first impressions count. Go on personal recommendation if you can.
Do not tie yourself into a long contract, even if you are offered a discounted rate – the whole point about virtual offices is that they are a flexible option and your needs are likely to change as your business grows. Indeed you may well want to move into your own permanent offices at some stage.
How much does it cost?
From a few pounds a month, depending on what services you require.