When the concept of virtual office space started gaining traction about 10 years ago, it was quickly picked up by mainstream media and lauded as a way for smaller companies to present a professional front to their clients while keeping their overhead costs to a minimum. Now these services are popping up everywhere- many packing an assortment of slick services, such as ultra high speed Internet access, exclusive addresses, and virtual meeting rooms.
If you are a small or home-based business owner, especially one who often does business on the go, a good virtual office service may be essential. But before you spring for the services of a given company make sure you keep the following considerations in mind:
What services do you actually need?
Before signing up for a virtual office solution, you should be very clear about what your needs are. This is important for a couple of reasons. You don’t want to be paying for services or features that you really don’t have to use. Do you really need a live receptionist or will voicemail and call forwarding do just fine? Do you need global office solutions or will a locally focused virtual office service be enough? If you choose to meet or work at the space on occasion, do you really need cutting edge technology or are you in need of more basic office accommodations?
On the other side of the coin, you also don’t want to do without those services or features that may be essential to your business. For example, some virtual and serviced office providers offer access to an in-house IT professional. If your business relies heavily on the technology that supports it, then this feature may be something to consider.
Does your virtual address really fit your company?
Here is another very big consideration that often gets overlooked. Sometimes it may not be in your best interest to splurge on that prestigious downtown address and instead look for locations that are a little further out. Why? Because you run the risk of blatantly looking like you are trying to make the business appear to be something that it’s not- in effect creating the exact opposite impression you were going for. Your virtual location should be in line with your business’ brand- especially if you are working with local clientele who are familiar with the address. A less central location will typically be cheaper as well.
Another point: If you are flexible with your location, then you’ll benefit from researching your options, since prices and services tend to vary dramatically. Don’t just limit your search to the big, global players, such as Regus, either. Smaller, more regionally focused companies such as UK based i2 Office virtual office solutions, may be able to give you the services you need for a lower price. Sometimes, simplicity is better.
How reliable is the virtual office service?
Make sure you also do some background research on the virtual office before you sign up. I know several business owners who skipped this step and paid for it later. Not only should you look at customer reviews on sites, such as Yelp, but make it a point to check out the space in person or get a virtual tour if possible. If you need live receptionist services, you may also want to pretend you’re a customer or ask a friend to do so to see what the experience is like. You don’t want to loose valuable business because your virtual location of choice didn’t perform the way it was supposed to.
In short, virtual office services can be a real boon to small business owners- especially those who have limited funds to work with. But in order to capitalize on the set up, you need to give it some thought and do your research. You don’t want a potentially productive situation, turning into a cash draining nightmare.