Virtual offices can potentially compliment a small business start up where the proprietors work from home or where their tasks involve moving around frequently.
A virtual office is where a person pays a fee (usually monthly or annually) in order to use a business address as their own. This is not the same as renting physical premises which the person then occupies. Here, just the use of the address is rented which can then be placed on business stationery and the website.
Using virtual office services can portray to the outside world, that the business is located at that address and thus might protect the home residence from unwelcome visitors and unsolicited mail.
Depending on the provider of the virtual office services, a range of facilities might be available. These include mail forwarding, telephone answering, fax forwarding, meeting room hire, call diverts and sms text messaging.
The above services might be bundled together or could be sold separately, but there are usually discounts for purchasing several items at the same time.
Whilst a virtual office might provide several benefits to someone whose business is home based, there might be some potential disadvantages as well.
These could include:
Delay in receiving post
When mail forwarding services are used as part of a virtual office, the eventual recipient of the item will have to wait until the post is first received by the “official address” and is then forwarded to the home residence.
This not only delay the receipt of important documents, cheques and packages, but might also increase the chances of item being lost or damaged in transit.
Standard of service
Whilst there are many high quality virtual offices providers in the market, it might be a concern to the person using their services whether a receptionist answering a telephone call would do so as they would.
Even with excellent telephony skills, the operator might not have the product or service knowledge which the business owners themselves would posses and this might become an irritation to the caller.
Detachment from customers
Speaking directly with customers could be viewed as the primary means of keeping abreast of what is happening in the market and assessing demand factors.
In losing these initial contacts with potential clients by using a virtual office, the owners might not spot developments which others preferring direct contact might notice.
Having said this, it might be naive to expect a business start-up to operate in the same way and with the full catalogue of resources which an established operation would have at its disposal.
Whilst there are disadvantages in using virtual offices, they still have value for people seeking to minimise their exposure when starting a home based business.