This image may look familiar to you. The starting (and sometimes always) work place of small and freelance businesses… the home office. Whether it’s your spare room, your living room, the boffice (bed office – Walker, 2013!) or an allocated office space, you find a space in your home that works for you and your business. But there comes a point when you need to receive post, perhaps even meet a client and often all panic can set in as you’re not sure you want to give out your address or let people know you work from home.
If the thought of suggesting the coffee shop down the road to meet a prospective client you’re dying to impress worries you then fear not, there is a solution… and an affordable one!
The virtual office
Virtual offices are taking the world by storm. All you need is a local business centre or shared office building close to you or where you do business and you can have a virtual office for anything from £20 per month.
A virtual office can include any of these and often more;
- Business postal address, sometimes it can be your registered address too
- Forwarding of your post or collect in person
- Telephone answering and call forwarding service
- Your company name displayed in their main reception
- Administration tasks such as photocopying, typing, scanning, laminating
- Meeting rooms at discounted rates
- Networking opportunities for all the office’s clients
Benefits of a virtual office
A professional look
If you target businesses that have a certain expectation from their consultants, having a business centre or any virtual office address can indeed help you win more clients as prospectives will immediately view you as a professional in your field.
A virtual office gives your company the professional image it deserves for no capital outlay with all the advantages of having your own office in the building; use of meeting rooms, a telephone answering service – you need never miss a call.
Work in any city you want
You could register for an address in your current city but if you lived in London targeting customers only in the North, why not just take a northern address so it lets your clients know that’s where you do business. Similarly if you do work in two places, take up two addresses. Many business centres have multiple facilities so you could keep it consistent with the same company, or use two independent ones. Regus offer virtual and actual office space in the UK and around the world. The centre will have a service to post you any received post so you can be anywhere if you don’t live locally to collect.
Ability to meet your clients
Most business centres that offer such virtual services also have meeting rooms to hire and offer their clients discounts. I’ve known some to offer for as little as £10 an hour. It might be more expensive than buying cappucinos in your local cafe but think about how much more professional you will look having a space to meet your client with no distractions of a public place, especially if they’ve been welcomed by the offices receptionist and shown to the meeting room.
Would you want a client to Google Maps your house?
Personally, no! I use the internet daily, on my laptop, PC and phone and I especially love Google Maps to find where places are. There’s no shame in working from home whatsoever, but when a client, or prospective, checks you out online, do you want them to be using ‘street view’ to see where you’re based and find the house you live and then the surrounding area? Possibly not.
Or, imagine your sat in your home office and a client fancies popping in to ask you something as they were passing ‘your office’ and they turn up at your house. The last thing you want is to open the door to them in your fluffy slippers and jeans.
Some offices offer networking opportunities for their clients which is a great way to meet others in similar positions to you but also an opportunity to meet potential referrers, collaborators for future projects or clients. We all know people buy people and they’re likely to refer you if you get on and you’re both virtual clients of the same centre. Even if the centre only sends out newsletters to it’s clients or puts leaflets in pigeon holes, take advantage of this to access to them as you never know who could be a potential referrer.
Have you any experiences of virtual offices or thinking of acquiring one and have a question? Please comment below…