Not all virtual offices are created equal: know what you are buying and what is a reasonable price.
Amidst the growing popularity of virtual offices, many service providers are using the term ‘virtual office’ in ways that were not intended by its creators. This article will help you sort through important considerations when purchasing a virtual office.
What is a Virtual Office?
To put it simply, a virtual office is a service that gives you access to a physical office infrastructure on a part-time basis. Typically the user’s main office is remote, whether in another city or at home. A virtual office plan can include products such as mail services, digital mail, live telephone answering, or access to day offices and meeting rooms at the selected location under a subscription model or some other form of discounted pricing.
What differentiates a virtual office user from a full-time office user is that the former does not have a permanent office at the location, but uses some elements of the services offered by the shared office infrastructure of the selected location.
It’s not just about mail – but mail services are important
The business address you select for your virtual office is one of the most important choices you will make. You will use that address on your marketing collateral, business cards, or website, and the flexible office operator hosting your plan will need to receive mail on your behalf, hold it for you to pick up, forward the mail to you, or scan and email it according to your directions. That’s what a complete mail service with digital mail makes possible. Make sure the operator has that kind of capability–a staffless, traditional office facility won’t be able to do that for you.
Some providers, typically low-cost providers, use the term ‘virtual office’ to describe digital mail services delivered out of inexpensive warehouses or UPS-like mail centers. They do nothing to improve your business image and, in fact, using their service is more likely to hurt rather than help your business. Beware of ‘digital mail’ at $9.99 as we have seen advertised across the web. In our experience, use of a business address for complete mail service including forwarding or digital mail is more likely to be a business image killer than anything of real value to you when priced less than $49/month. The office infrastructure is likely to be nonexistent, unreliable, and nothing to be proud of.
A range of $49-99/month for a mail plan that includes the use of a true professional business address is what you should budget for. More prestigious, Class A buildings in large downtown areas like New York City or San Francisco will lean toward the high end of that range or even beyond. You’ve got to pay the price if you want to establish your business in a trophy property. Nice suburban buildings in less expensive areas may offer effective mail plans on the lower end of that range. But stay away from plans below $49/month as they are just as credible as a “luxury” condo with an ocean view in Hawaii for $49/night!
What kind of business address?
One of the key drivers of the choice of a virtual office is the professional nature and image of the space the virtual office plan is attached to. Two important elements need to be considered: convenience and image.
If you work-from-home (WFH) most of the time but need to access the office on a part-time basis, selecting a location close to home makes sense. If you live out of town but need to conduct business in your location of choice, then proximity to clients or your place of business matters; for example, a Federal Court House if you are an attorney, or the State Capitol if you are a lobbyist. That speaks to convenience.
Image is important too because you will establish a big part of your business identity at the flexible office space that hosts your virtual office plan via the use of their business address on your marketing collateral. If the building is an old coffee shop converted into a shared office space that does not look very professional, your business image will suffer even if the general location is attractive. A downtown address may look nice on paper, but if the building’s appearance does not match the address’ prestige, it is all for naught.
If the space does not offer meeting rooms with the digital equipment that is expected in today’s business environment, you should not want to use it for business meetings.
Going beyond mail to establish a strong business identity
A good way to establish a stronger business identity is to add a local phone line (that is not your cell phone number) and live phone answering services to your new business address. The combination of a professional business address with a local phone number and a real person answering the phone, will help you project a much stronger business image on your website, or on any directory where you list your business information. People do expect to see a phone number with an area code that matches your business address. Listing your cell phone number on your website can be an image killer. Who expects the president of a company to publish their cell phone on the web?
You may not think you need it at first, but knowing that a phone answering plan could be added later to your virtual office plan is important. CloudVO’s live phone answering services range between $99 and $149/month with unlimited minutes and more free calls than 99.6% of users will ever need.
How about part-time offices and meeting rooms?
Due to the pandemic, hosting a business meeting at Starbucks or in your home is out of the question. That was never a good idea to start with anyway.
When Zoom meetings from home fall short and you need in-person meetings, having access to day offices or meeting rooms at your flexible office location is important. CloudVO enables you to buy heavily discounted subscription plans starting at $199/month to use day offices and meeting rooms in safe locations that respect local health and safety guidelines and often exceed them. We call these CloudTouchdown Passes. CloudVO displays health & safety protocols on many of its locations on the website via a safety shield icon that works as a badge of honor. Click through it and access the health & safety protocol for that specific location.
How can I trust that I make the right purchase?
There are only two ways to go about it: use a reputable company that has a network of locations that are carefully vetted for their professionalism and suitable business image, like CloudVO, or tour the place in person and talk to virtual office customers at that location. However, more than 75% of virtual office plans are purchased online. If you can’t go there in person, search for reviews on Yelp, Google, Trustpilot, or other reputable platforms. Chances are that you will see CloudVO Partner locations among those with the highest ratings and best reviews. We closely monitor the customer experience at our partnered locations and work with those that may underperform to improve their status. If there is little or no improvement, we will not retain them.
If you are not sure of the level of service you need, CloudVO plans do not require more than a 3-month initial commitment and have the flexibility to downgrade or upgrade your service package with ease.
Wrapping it up
- Use a trusted provider vetted by our team
- Check customer ratings and reviews
- Identify the service(s) you need
- Compare prices displayes on our site
- Purchase your virtual plan online
- Use the CloudVO support team to ensure you receive the service you expect
In the end, CloudVO has built an approach that is designed to help you purchase Virtual Office Plans that you can trust and be proud of! To learn more about our Virtual Office options, please visit us at CloudVO.com