What is a Virtual Office?

Who Uses Virtual Offices

Benefits of Virtual Offices

Corporate Identity

Common Features

Business Expansion

Rules and Regulations

Costs

Frequently Asked Questions

Virtual offices allow you to enhance your corporate image without having to pay excessive overheads for a physical workspace.

They are often used by independent contractors and small businesses in order to:

    • establish a presence in a prestigious location;
    • have access to services and facilities that are otherwise unavailable;
    • and establish boundaries between home and working life.

Even though you don’t own or rent the office space, a virtual office provides you with a mailing address and telephone number. You can then use this information on business cards and email signatures, etc.

With a virtual office you won’t have to worry about mundane tasks such as general maintenance and janitorial duties, allowing you to save money and concentrate solely on your business without any distractions. Other expenses such as liability insurance are also reduced, as they are not required unless you have a physical office space.

Home Office

Credit: David Martyn Hunt

Remote working is becoming increasingly popular and can significantly increase morale in the workplace. With virtual offices your employees can work from home, which allows you to judge them by their quality of their work, rather than how they spend their time.

According to Brandon Gaille, CEO of Internet marketing company ByReputation.com, 65% of employers encourage their employees to work remotely (2013). Of these 65%, only 7% think they were less productive. The vast majority find it to be liberating.

Contrary to popular belief, virtual offices don’t solely rely on telephone, email and video conferencing. With virtual offices you can also use other facilities on a pay-as-you-go basis. For example, if you require a meeting room, you can arrange to hire a space at an unbranded business centre. This allows you to retain your professional image.
Expansion is always one of the most difficult elements of business, and with a physical office space and long-term lease agreement, it can be difficult to cope with the changes. Virtual offices completely alleviate the problem as they can expand and contract without hindering the flow of business.

Who Uses Virtual Offices?

The virtual office industry has no limits and plenty of people use them from all walks of life. Whether you’re a small business owner or the CEO of a corporate empire, virtual offices can be beneficial.

Tech and Retail Industry
As more and more people choose to shop online, the retail sector is relying less on traditional sales and more on ecommerce. According to CPC Strategy, EU ecommerce sales are increasing at a rate of 34% per year; and the more high street stores turn to the Internet, the more staff they employ to work from home. Many of these workers use virtual offices to process transactions and communicate with clients.
Most tech based businesses provide remote working opportunities. Website designers, video game designers, graphic artists, etc., don’t need to work from a traditional office space, and with free services such as Skype, everything from telephone calls to video conferencing can be conducted at the click of a button.

Home Businesses and Start-Ups
Start-ups and home-based businesses often used virtual offices in order to establish a presence in a certain location without having to commit to a long-term lease agreement.

Businesses in Need of Telephone Answering Services
It’s not always financially viable to employ a receptionist; so many businesses opt to use virtual offices instead. This ensures vital business calls aren’t missed.

Telephone answering
Credit: Monkey Business

Businesses that are Testing the Market
When a multinational company wants to test a local market and save money on upfront costs without committing to a long-term lease agreement, they will often use virtual offices to dip their toes and establish whether or not it’s worth pursuing in the future.

Business that Require Extra Support
If a business needs to hire someone new to provide some extra support, but they don’t have enough space in their existing office, virtual offices can provide a solution.
Businesses that Require Office Renovations
When renovations take place and workers need a temporary workspace, virtual offices allow companies to remain operational without disrupting the flow of business.
Virtual offices are hugely versatile. Regardless of your industry or circumstances, they can provide numerous benefits if you don’t want a traditional office space.

Benefits of Virtual Offices?

The main reason why most businesses choose virtual offices is because of their price. It’s significantly cheaper to use a virtual office than rent a physical office space, especially if the primary purpose is to enhance corporate identity. However, there are also plenty of other reasons why they can be beneficial.

Working From Home
Over the past decade working from home has developed into an acceptable way to conduct business, especially among freelancers and new business owners. Working from home is no longer seen as a business solution, but a lifestyle choice.
There’s a common misconception associated around home-based businesses that workers are detached from the real world. This misconception can drive clients away from conducting business with you, as many of them would rather visit a well-known office address and contact an office phone number. Clients and leads see this as security, which is exactly what virtual offices can provide.

Small to Medium Sized Businesses
Small businesses and start-ups are often eager to expand, but don’t have the capital to justify having an “official” office space. Regardless of the reason, moving to a prestigious address is often a priority. When this isn’t possible a virtual office is perfect for the first stages of business development.
If you have a virtual office and want to move into a traditional office space, operators such as ourselves, may be able to provide a physical office in the same location as your registered address, which can save you hassle changing your information on business cards and promotional materials.

Large Businesses
Many corporate empires use virtual offices to establish a presence in a new location and test local markets. Because a virtual office doesn’t require workers to physically be at the office; relocation costs are saved.

When it comes to testing new markets, ‘A/B testing’ is one of the most effective methods. This process revolves around testing two areas of business and comparing the results. You can use virtual offices to A/B test different locations if you are unsure which areas to target.

Decreased CO2 Emissions
The long-term effects of global warming are serious. In recent years, businesses have begun to step up their game and make positive changes. Using a virtual office instead of a traditional office space will reduce your CO2 contribution. In addition, working virtually requires little paperwork, which creates less waste.

Co2 emmissions target

Credit: Carbon Visuals

Reduced Transportation Costs
Transportation is often a huge expense. Virtual offices significantly cut down transportation costs, which allow you to invest your money elsewhere. This also increases job satisfaction as employees don’t have to invest their own money in commuting.

Increased Productivity
Many employees struggle to work efficiently when they constantly have managers looking over their shoulder. While virtual offices make it difficult for you to keep an eye on your staff, the level of productivity is often increased as workers feel more relaxed and engaged.

Administrative Support
Good quality operators will provide administrative support as and when it’s required. With virtual offices, you can hire people for administrative support, such as telephone answering, without having to hire somebody on a permanent basis and avoid getting tangled up in employment legislation.

Savings on Office Equipment
Buying office equipment is one of the largest overhead expenses that you can incur. In many instances, printers, fax machines, copiers, etc., are only required on a temporary basis, which doesn’t make them a viable investment. Most virtual offices will allow you to use these services on a pay-as-you-go basis, which can result in phenomenal savings.
Virtual offices can equip your business with the support you need to progress forward and expand, without the excessive overheads associated with moving into a traditional office space.

Corporate Identity

Corporate identity is the way in which your business is perceived. It’s very important to build an identity which coincides with your primary business objectives. Having a distinct corporate identity will:

      1. help others distinguish your business among competitors;
      2. strengthen your brand;
      3. and make you more approachable.

Location is one of the most important elements of corporate identity, and people will often judge you based on what they see. If you work from home or in an undesirable location, virtual offices can help you bypass this problem. For example, if you own a web development company, but would prefer to keep your working location discreet, you could register your business in an area known for the industry, such as “Tech City” in Shoreditch. This will give your clients more faith in your business.
Virtual offices can strengthen your corporate identity by allowing you to have a prestigious office address and phone number on your business cards and website, etc.

According to SmallBusiness.co.uk, 74% of virtual offices in London are based in either the West End or the Central areas of the city – this proves how highly businesses regard their company profile.

Business Cards
Credit: desgr.com

Building Credit
Building your corporate identity isn’t purely for image purposes; it can also help you meet compliance demands from creditors, lenders and suppliers. Many companies will refuse credit to home-based businesses; however, if you operate from an office location on paper, then you may be entitled to such benefits. If you plan on applying for credit, ensure that all of your business information is uniform across the board and registered to your business address.

Multiple Locations
When a business has national clientele, they will often employ people who are geographically spread. While it’s necessary to have a reputable point of contact, a full scale office isn’t always financially viable. Having a virtual office can further strengthen your corporate identity if you’re considering national expansion.
When you search for a virtual office, choose a location that will compliment your business model and enhance your professional image.

Common Features

Virtual offices are highly customisable and can be adapted as and when you require. Services range from an address for your mail correspondence to physical facilities, such as meeting and waiting rooms.

Telephone Answering
Telephone answerers usually work in a standard office environment. They will use specialist computer software that allows them to differentiate calls between the businesses they represent. After greeting callers, they can take messages or transfer calls directly to you.

Mailing Address
Having a prestigious working address in a location that would otherwise be out-of-reach is the most common reason for using a virtual office. Addresses can be used for all of your business correspondence and mail.
Reception Courtesies
Virtual office receptionists can sign for incoming mail and deliveries, and provide drop-off and pick-up services. This allows your business to remain operational 24/7. They can also take messages for you if somebody visits the office.

Letter Scanning
Handlers can open your physical mail and scan the contents. This is then emailed to you via a cloud-based storage system, allowing you to access your mail immediately. Once letters are opened they will be shredded, unless you state otherwise.

Casual Workspace
Many operators provide casual workspaces which allow you to drop-in and work in an office environment on a pay-as-you-go basis. This can be beneficial if you need to rid yourself of distractions.

Shared workspace
Credit: Jesse Marlow

Meeting Rooms
If you need access to meeting rooms, waiting rooms or conference rooms, they can be provided on a pay-as-you-go basis. You can usually hire these spaces on short notice.

Office Equipment
Full-service virtual offices provide office equipment such as fax machines, copiers, printers and Internet. If you don’t require these facilities on a regular basis, hiring them can be far more cost efficient than buying them.

Internet Services
Some operators may provide additional Internet services, such as website design, business card printing and business consultation.
Virtual office operators strive to tailor their service to suit your business needs and many will provide bespoke services and facilities upon request.

Business Expansion

Expansion is an exciting prospect; however, it can easily lead to adverse effects if you don’t have the finances to adapt to the changes. Virtual offices can not only help your business appear bigger than it is, but can also pave the way for expansion and provide a backbone of support at a fraction of the price.
Contrary to popular belief, expansion isn’t only defined by the increased size of your office space, it relates to all aspects of your business, including number of employees, profit margins and clientele. Virtual offices may not provide a physical office space; however, they can assist with other aspects of expansion at a significantly reduced cost.

Fewer Overheads
Virtualisation is about extracting the most out of your business without incurring excessive costs. Their pay-as-you-go infrastructure makes them perfect for expansion as you won’t have to commit to long-term lease agreements and will save money on overheads, maintenance costs, and full time staff.

Limited Risk
If you’re business is expanding, but you’re hesitant about hiring new staff, virtual office operators can provide pay-as-you-go services such as telephone answerers, virtual assistants and reception workers. Hiring workers from a virtual office can be far more cost efficient and limits the risk if your expansion efforts don’t work out.

Research Opportunities
Many large scale corporations use virtual offices in order to research new markets without excessive expenditure. Taking their methods on board is recommended if you’d like to open a branch of your business in a new location.
Whether you’re looking to expand your business locally, nationally or internationally, virtual offices can help you achieve your goals with minimal investment. For more information on how to manage expansion, visit: MyOwnBusiness.org.

Business expansion
Credit: dailyworth.com

Rules and Regulations

Virtual office agreements are designed with simplicity in mind. They avoid any complicated legal jargon and word all of the terms and conditions in a simple, easy-to-read manner. This saves you expenses in legal fees as you won’t have to hire a solicitor to check the contract.

Payments
Payments for virtual office packages are required either monthly, quarterly or annually in advance. Any additional services are usually billed at the end of the month in a single consolidated invoice.

Payments
Credit: Cybrgrl

Flexibility
Virtual offices are designed to provide a flexible service that can be adapted to suit your business needs. If you require the use of extra facilities due to expansion, operators will strive to meet your expectations.

Business Registration
It’s important to have a uniform business address. You can use your virtual office address to register with HM Revenue and Customs and Companies House. This allows you to draw a line between your home and business life, as all of your official documentation will be sent to your registered office.
If you want to cancel or change the terms of a rolling contract, most operators will require at least one months’ notice.

Costs

NOTE: * COSTS ARE ESTIMATES
The price of a virtual office depends on how many services you’ll require. While a standard PO Box may only cost a few pounds per month, a full service including telephone answering, mail forwarding and fax forwarding could cost between *£40 and £150 per month.

Location
Prices can significantly vary depending on the location. For example, mailing addresses in Central London are generally more expensive than mailing addresses on the outskirts of the city.

Telephone Answering
Most virtual offices will either charge a fee for each telephone call that is answered or a monthly service fee. Telephone answering on a pay-as-you-go basis can range from *20p to £1.50 per call.

Mail Forwarding
Mail forwarding is usually charged per mailing (plus postage). Prices usually start at *£1, but can increase to *£10 for courier or special delivery services. Opening, scanning and emailing is usually charged per page at the average rate of *50p to £1.50; this fee often decreases after the first page.

Casual Workspace
Casual workspaces are charged per hour, day, week or month. Although they aren’t supposed to be a permanent office solution, they can be beneficial if you simply want a change of scenery.

Meeting Rooms
Meeting rooms can be charged per hour, day, week or month and can vary in price depending on the location, facilities and capacity.

Office Equipment
Office equipment is priced on a pay-as-you-go basis. For example, you will be charged per page if you require copies or printing.

Office equipment

Credit: officetechnology.ie
Most operators will bill you with a single consolidated invoice at the end of the month for any additional services you have used.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: How long does it take to set up a virtual office?
Virtual offices can be set up instantly. Once you’ve completed the paperwork and paid the upfront fees, they can be ready within a matter of hours.

Q: How long are contract commitments?
Contract commitments can significantly vary depending on the operator. In most instances you either pay in advance for a select period of time or use the services month by month as a rolling contract.

Q: How do telephone answering services work?
Your calls will be answered by professionally trained receptionists using your company name. They can either take a message or transfer the call to your mobile or landline. Most operators will also provide voicemail services which can be accessed at any time.

Q: How is mail forwarded?
There are various ways to receive your mail. You can choose to have it forwarded to you at the end of the week or month; or you can have the contents scanned and sent to you immediately. Most operators will require a postage deposit, which covers the handling charges; however, this is refundable if it’s not used.

Q: Are there any hidden costs?
There are never any hidden costs. You will always agree on the fixed cost with your operator before you sign any paperwork. Any additional services and facilities are charged on a pay-as-you-go basis.

At The Workstation, we can provide serviced offices, mailbox rental and virtual office solutions. Our team of dedicated professionals will listen to your requirements and provide a tailored service that’s specifically designed to benefit your business. If you would like more information on what we can offer, please visit our Business Services page or call us on 01727 260 177.

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The Workstation

Arquen House, 4-6 Spicer Street, St Albans, Herts, AL3 4PQ

Telephone 01727 260 177

Email info@theworkstation.co.uk

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