Virtual offices: How do they work?

Should I get a Business Phone?

What is a virtual office?

A virtual office provides businesses with a physical address, a place to receive and forward mail from, access to meeting rooms, and physical office space without the costs of a full-time office rental or administrative staff. It is particularly advantageous for small businesses, startups, and entrepreneurs.

How does it work?

Virtual offices have a physical location that receives your mail and can provide an official business address for you. It gives you a physical presence in whatever city you desire without the overhead costs of office space rentals. Virtual office providers give you people, a place, technologies, and services to help businesses or individuals work more efficiently. This is often done remotely and has become more popular after COVID-19 as businesses have shifted to remote and home-based work environments. Some even plan to stay remote.

Some of the physical characteristics that virtual office spaces provide include the following:

  • Business address: You will be provided with a recognized address at a physical office building in whatever city you choose. You can use this to send mail to and for official purposes such as business licenses and LLC establishment.
  • Receptionist: They can help take care of mail processing, greet guests, and set up your meeting room if you arrange for meetings at the physical location of the virtual office.
  • Meeting rooms: Some virtual office providers also provide access to physical workspace including private offices and meeting rooms. These virtual office plans can include a set number of hours for these on site spaces in the monthly fee. Others may charge an hourly fee.
  • Copying and printing facilities: Some of these centers may provide copy and print machines that are available for a small additional fee.
  • Mail services (processing and forwarding): Mail can be received and signed by in-person receptionists for you to collect or to have forwarded to an address of your choice, such as your home address.

Some of the virtual services that some virtual office providers give include:

  • Remote receptionist: Calls can be answered remotely in your business name, filtered, and sent to your voicemail by a professional receptionist service.
  • Digital mail service: Some virtual office providers can scan your mail digitally and send it to you for you to decide whether to have it forwarded or thrown away.
  • Business phone service: There are sometimes phone services provided where you can customize greetings, caller menus, etc. for your business
  • Business number: Sometimes the option to select a business number (either toll-free or local) can be provided by virtual office companies

So a virtual office can provide all the important characteristics of a physical office, including an address to fill out your articles of organization for your LLC filing. So with the increasing advent of tools such as videoconferencing and messaging services, the use of virtual offices has become increasingly popular.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of a virtual office?

One major advantage of a virtual office is the lower costs than traditional offices. There are no required maintenance or staffing costs. In addition, virtual offices typically do not require long-term leases. Instead, they can be secured through month-to-month leases which improve the flexibility if a tenant’s business changes. For instance, if the business grows and then the owners decide that they want coworking or traditional office space, they don’t need to wait years for their lease to terminate or incur any costs for breaking a lease.

Another advantage of a virtual office is that you will have a mailing address and telephone and video conferencing services. This can make small businesses appear more credible and larger than they are. In particular, if the address is a well-known area, this can provide some level of distinction for the business to potential clients. Having a remote receptionist and professional telephone service can also improve the prestige of your business.

The potential downside to virtual office arrangements is that they may require some planning on your part. For instance, some virtual office packages limit the use of in-person meeting rooms, teleconferencing, and videoconferencing services. They also can restrict access to certain services on weekends and nights. The lack of flexibility can be rather inconvenient. Working, in large part, remotely, can also come with disadvantages that include the potential for distractions, isolation, and lack of support from colleagues. Some workers may not be as productive in a virtual office setup.

What is the cost of a virtual office?

Costs for virtual offices range anywhere from $50 to $200 per month. This can vary depending on the services that you want to be added to your contract and the location of the physical address provided. Costs can also fluctuate significantly depending on how many competing virtual office spaces are located in the area you desire your address to be in. For instance, a virtual office in New York City tends to be cheap due to the competition in this area and the many virtual offices available.

How to find a virtual office?

There are many options out there to choose from. Selecting the best fit is tricky when you live and work in a large city overflowing with options. The following factors may help guide you in finding your ideal virtual office space.

  • Location: You may want to consider an office that is conveniently located for you, your team, and any visiting clients. It may also be helpful to consider whether parking is available.
  • Technology: Does the virtual office have the technology you need to perform your work duties and grow your business? This will vary based on the industry you are in but it is important to list your business needs to narrow down your options. For example, if you want high-speed internet and functioning printers, you need to make sure your office has this because this may not always be the case.
  • Professional Meeting Rooms: If you plan on booking conference rooms from time to time, you may want to ensure that the meeting rooms on-site appear professional and there aren’t too many limitations placed on reserving these rooms.
  • Payment structure: Understand the fee structure of your virtual office. Some may provide limitless printing and copying as part of your monthly fee, others may tack on an additional fee for these services.
  • Lease flexibility: Some virtual offices have more flexible lease terms and allow short term leases. Others may require committing to a longer term lease. Make sure to ask questions and understand what you are getting into before you sign your contract.

Should I get a virtual office?

Whether you would benefit from a virtual office depends on your business goals and the industry you are working in. Some industries that may benefit from virtual offices include freelancers, consultants, startups, e-commerce businesses, accountants, realtors, and tech companies. These industries tend to be able to work remotely without the need to rent a traditional office space to work in. Virtual office providers also give you the option to completely customize your plan to maximize your benefits. Speak to a virtual office space provider that you are interested in to better understand what options are available and may be the best fit for you.