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How to choose a virtual office

With more people working for themselves than ever before, virtual offices are becoming a popular option for startups, freelancers, and small businesses. But how do you know how to choose one? We’ll take you through the ins-and-outs of choosing a virtual office service, answering your burning questions and offering our top hints and tips to boot.

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With more people working for themselves than ever before, as well as the impact of the pandemic and an increase in remote working culture, virtual offices are becoming a popular option for startups, freelancers, and small businesses.

But with so many varieties of virtual offices available, how do you know how to choose one? And which is the best option for your business? We’re about to take you through the ins-and-outs of choosing a virtual office service, answering your burning questions and offering our top hints and tips to boot.

Having a virtual office can be a smart move for small businesses, giving you a secure, reputable address for your company, providing mail management and even helping you to stay on top of client calls.But not all virtual offices are created equal, so let’s take a look at how to choose a virtual office that actually fits your needs.

What to consider

What are the features of a virtual office? Postcode is important, but it’s also about what your chosen address can offer you in regards to additional services and facilities. Let’s take a look at what to consider when choosing a virtual office.

 

Location

Where your business is based can make a real difference to the types of clients you bring in. Some companies only like to deal with local businesses – and others have a real thing for London. As a small business, it can feel like a never-ending battle, vying for the attention of your dream clients – but with a virtual office address, you can give your potential customers reassurance about where you’re based (even if you’re not really there).

Is the location right to attract the clients I am targeting?
Knowing where your potential customers are based, and where they look for business can help you understand where you need to be. With a virtual office, you can pick and choose which location is right for you (and your potential clients).

Is it a prime location with a good reputation i.e. a popular business district?
This is often important if you want to use meeting rooms. Meeting other businesses and networking can be difficult without a physical location. A virtual office in a prominent business district can help spark those all-important conversations.

If I need to, can I use meeting rooms, and is the location easily accessible?
A virtual office that doesn’t have a physical presence can be tricky when clients start asking for in-person meetings. An easily accessible virtual office location from Virtual HQ, with state-of-the-art meeting rooms, ensures you can impress your clients. Plus with great motorway links and public transport nearby, the majority of our virtual office locations are easily accessed from lots of different routes.

 

On-site facilities

You might be after a virtual office, but don’t forget that you’ll also have a physical location you can visit with Virtual HQ. Many of our locations have excellent on-site facilities, including bike storage, meeting rooms, places to eat and drink, as well as co-working spaces, helping you to network with other businesses. You’ll also want to consider the kind of tech your virtual office has too, such as super fast broadband, presentation facilities, screens, and telephone systems.

Are the virtual office locations real offices?
A good question to ask yourself is whether your chosen virtual office is part of a thriving business complex. You will usually get a good indication from the pictures and location description, but it doesn’t hurt to do your homework. With Virtual HQ, you can rest assured that ALL of our virtual offices are part of existing business hubs and office complexes. This means you can access meeting rooms and onsite facilities on a pay-as-you-go basis.

Is there a coworking space I can use if and when I need it?
Having the option of coworking space gives your business greater flexibility. Some virtual office locations will have coworking spaces to use on a pay-as-you-go basis. This saves on costs, but still gives you that experience of a physical office. Check with your provider to see what’s available to you.

Are costs clear for usage?
Before making that investment, make sure that you’re clear on all the costs involved. You may have opted just for an address, or included add-ons such as mail forwarding or a local telephone number. Whatever your business needs, you want to be totally clear on any initial costs and ongoing monthly or annual payments.

What happens if someone goes into the building and asks for me?
Your virtual office should know their physical and virtual tenants, and be able to handle any unexpected visitors if they arrive. Make sure that there are reception staff at your chosen location, and they are trained to look after your brand’s reputation. If an existing or prospective client turns up, they need to be on hand to ensure your business is protected.

 

Meeting rooms

There’s only so many times you can take a client to your local coffee shop – or meet halfway at a service station. Sticky tabletops, unfiltered conversations, and subpar toilet facilities can leave your clients with a bad taste in their mouth – no matter how good your work.

Conference and meeting rooms are often a must when it comes to investing in a virtual office – even if you only use them a handful of times. Choosing a provider which offers meeting rooms to utilise on a pay-as-you-go basis provides a cost-effective solution to impressing clients.

How often can I book a meeting space?
As long as the meeting space is available, then you should be able to book as often as you like. This is great if your business starts to grow quickly and you have to meet clients in-person on the regular.

Do you charge for booking by an hourly or daily rate?
Flexibility in business is key. Which is why you should be able to book a meeting room by the hour, half day or full day, depending on your needs. When booking, check what you pay for the room and facilities, such as use of the TV screens, flip charts etc. Exactly what is included will vary by location, so it may be worth getting in touch to enquire about your specific virtual office.

 

Telephone services

Want to really impress your clients? Get yourself a business number, and have someone else to answer the phone for you. Having a local landline or 0800 number can look a lot more authentic than your personal mobile number. Prospective clients might be more likely to call this kind of number than a mobile phone – simply from a trust and reassurance point of view. In fact, 44% of potential customers prefer to call on a landline than a mobile, making it a no-brainer when it comes to your business. Even if you generate a lot of your business through your website, having a dedicated business phone number can add that element of professionalism and authenticity to your business.

Can I include a telephone number with my virtual office package?
Check that your chosen virtual office provider offers telephone services. If so, you can usually add a local or national geographic phone number as part of set up. If this is not offered, you may want to either choose an alternative provider, or use a separate provider for your number. Incoming call to your business number are usually diverted to a chone of your choice, that could be a landline or mobile phone.

How do I set up call answering?
As telephone numbers, call answering may be offered through your virtual office provider, or you may choose to use your own. Often your office will have a partner company they work with, or can make a recommendation if they do not offer this service directly. Using a recommended partner or preferred supplier can also save you money, so check for discounts available.

Will a receptionist answer the phone in my company name?
If you choose to have call handling as part of or alongside your virtual office package, you can outline exactly what you’d like the reception staff to say when they answer calls for you. This helps manage your brand’s reputation.

 

Mail services

We know that most businesses are able to function without the need for a physical mailbox – but having an option for mail collection, forwarding, and scanning can help you manage this aspect of your business – without ever having to worry about it. You never know when you might receive something important in the post – including HMRC information!

Is mail handling service included in the monthly cost?
When selecting your virtual office, check to see what mail options are included in your monthly cost and what you may need to pay extra for. Mail collection will often come as standard, but you may need to upgrade to forwarding or scanning, or pay extra for a higher volume of post. Also check the quality of your mail handling options. For example, is mail forwarding first or second class?

How often will my mail be forwarded?
This will depend on the provider, but it’s worth checking and considering, especially if you receive a lot of post. You may be able to choose how often your mail is forwarded – whether that’s daily, weekly, or monthly. Flexible options are crucial for running your business how you want to, so take time to consider the options available.

 

Cost and membership packages

When choosing a virtual office supplier, you need to make sure from the get-go that you’re aware of the cost implications and what your package offers. It should be straightforward, easy to understand, without any surprise fees. As your business grows, you should also have the option to be able to increase your membership with your virtual office provider – and, if necessary, change your terms to meet the needs of your business. A virtual office is all about flexibility – so you need to make sure you have a provider that offers that.

Do I need to provide a deposit to set up my virtual office?
Some virtual office suppliers will require a deposit as part of the set up process, and some won’t. Make sure you check this, and the terms of this deposit. So there are not nasty surprises in the future.

Are there any setup or administrative fees?
A set up or admin fee usually covers the cost of the staff getting all the paperwork and account ready. Importantly, it will usually cover the costs of Anti Money Laundering checks. This is an imperative part of any virtual office set up. Check with your supplier what their fees are, and what they cover.

What kind of contract is being offered, is there any flexibility for my business needs?
Flexibility is key when it comes to running a successful business, so knowing from the off what your obligations and options are is important. Make sure you’re clear on the contract type and length, plus any cancellation penalties there might be. You will need to speak to your provider to confirm these points.

Culture and people

Although you won’t be spending all of your time in your virtual office (the clue’s in the name…), it is important to ensure the location you’re choosing is home to reputable businesses. It’s also vital that the staff who work for your virtual office provider are polite and lovely – something which we pride ourselves on at Virtual HQ. Making a good impression on your clients and colleagues is essential and can be easily achieved with helpful and friendly staff at your chosen location. Having interesting and reputable brands in your virtual office will expand your network and potentially bring new business on board.

Is the location a reputable, working business centre or office complex?
Not all virtual offices are created equal. Some providers will just offer you a building with an okay address, whereas others offer working business centres and office complexes in thriving business areas. Price can often be an indicator of what it is you’re going to get, but it’s not always so obvious. Do your research on your ideal location before committing. Reputation is everything, so make sure you’re setting the right one.

Are there friendly, professional staff on-site?
Again, this depends on the provider. Choosing a bustling business hub means having professional staff and support available.

Are virtual offices legal? What checks are implemented at the offices to keep my business safe?
Yes – and you can read more about the legalities behind virtual offices here.

 

Virtual office onboarding

And finally, it’s important to be aware of the onboarding process when it comes to choosing a virtual office. You want things to be as straightforward as possible, without any unnecessary complications.

Will I have lots of documents to sign?
Ideally the answer to this is No! Check your suppliers requirements and steps for set up, as these can differ. With Virtual HQ for example, we keep our paperwork as simple as possible, so your onboarding process is smooth. As mentioned previously, your provider should run full Anti-Money Laundering checks. Find out more information on these here.

What if I’m not a Limited Company, can I still use a virtual office?
Yes absolutely. If you’re a sole trader or freelancer, having a virtual office address can make you appear more professional and reassure your clients that you’re a legitimate business.

How do I add additional features to my package?
You should be able to add additional features by speaking to your account management team. However this does vary, so check that this is an option with your provider. Business changes daily and you need a virtual office provider who can keep up.

Final thoughts

It’s so important to know exactly what you need and what you want from a virtual office. Make sure you pick the right location for you – but consider whether this will affect your on site facilities and the quality of the businesses around you. As your business grows, you need a virtual office provider who’s flexible and can accommodate your needs. Not sure you’re getting all the answers from the provider? Speak to the businesses already using their facilities and read testimonials online.

If you’re interested in starting your virtual office journey, take a look at the premium locations offered through Virtual HQ. Or for further information, contact us today.

 

Haley heads up all things marketing here at Virtual HQ - making sure that we're visible online and that we look damn good.

Haley Darby
Haley Darby

Head of Marketing

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