Running your own business can be tough. You take on all the risk and then hope you have put the right effort into the right areas to see a return on that risk. Choosing the right space for that business involves the consideration of multiple factors including cost, time, and the needs of your individual business. Often, especially when starting out, the home of the business is also the business owner’s residential home. This works well for many and is much more time and cost effective than other solutions. The big question, however, is something every business faces, no matter their size or location: how do I look professional? What do I need to do to give that image of being a leader in my field and the right person to meet my clients’ needs?
Is your address projecting the right image?
The problem of professional image can seem much bigger for a home-based business than for businesses housed elsewhere. All businesses need to register an address with ASIC and other professional organisations. This means your home address will be associated with your business. It also means if you want to have a Google pin or register with other search engines to be included on their maps, the address you are giving is your home address.
Having your home address associated with your business can work out well for some, especially if you provide services like accounting or occupational therapy and have a dedicated area of your home where clients will visit you without impacting on the rest of your living space. However, for many, there are a few reasons why a home address can present a problem for a business owner.
Think about how clients will find you, and what they might do to try to find out more information about you. One of the first things many people will do is look for a map or an address to see where you are located. Will it look professional if the map shows that your business address is a residential address? Often that in itself is not too much of a hindrance to looking professional. But what if your residential address is in a less desirable area, or you are trying to target clients from a certain area?
Many businesses are able to offer services to people who are not in their local area, either because the nature of the work is not location based, or because they are willing to travel to a wider area. Web designers, for example, could be anywhere in the world providing their services. On the other hand, tradespeople work in a physical location, but might be willing to service a much bigger area than their potential clients realise. For examples like these, a home address, or a single address, can be a hindrance to getting seen by the full range of potential clients.
Home based businesses have been around for a long time and will continue to be. As such, most potential clients know to respect boundaries and not turn up at a residential address unannounced, even if there is a business associated with it. Having said that, there are always exceptions to the rule, and having a client (or their angry spouse) knocking on your door while you are celebrating your son’s birthday is not something anyone wants to have to deal with.
Another potential issue along the same lines is the risk of seeming like you are always available. In some ways there is a sense that people who work from home are almost always ‘on the job’, rather than having regular business hours. This can be something you accidentally foster yourself in trying to offer great service, or it can be a bit of psychology… people tend to think of offices and assume there are office hours, whereas for a home office it can seem like the person is just there and ready for business all the time.
Fix the problem - Home Business meets Virtual Office
The good news is, you can continue your home-based business as usual, while eliminating some of the issues discussed above. You want an address for your business that is professional, shows a good location, and is not your home address. A virtual office package can do that for you.
What is a Virtual Office?
A virtual office gives you the opportunity of having your business associated with an established professional address. You would be given a physical address to use for ASIC registration, Google pin, listing on your website, and using anywhere else you would like to list your address. For a monthly fee, that address becomes your business address. Any mail sent to that address will be collected by the virtual office provider and you will be notified of its arrival. If your provider has a reception area, you can also have packages delivered, which is particularly useful when some senders will only post to a business address. Some virtual office providers will have addon services available for an extra cost, for example phone answering services.
A virtual office package gives you a virtual presence in a physical space, and allows your clients to see a professional, non-residential location. You can even have multiple virtual offices if you would like to give the impression of having a large corporate operation. Most major cities in Australia and across the world have at least a few virtual office providers. The key is finding one in a location that suits, with a package that suits your needs.
How to choose a Virtual Office
The main thing to understand when choosing your virtual office provider, is that you are choosing your address. Make sure that the address and location align with your needs and the image you wish to portray. Think about how much mail you might receive and how easy it is to pop in from time to time to collect it. Think about how your clients might view the location, and what they will find in the unlikely event they decide to visit your business address unannounced?
Meeting Room Hire
Does your virtual office provider offer meeting room hire? This can be an important factor if you would like to meet with clients in a professional environment. It is something to consider not just for now, but for when your business grows. You might grow enough to employ a couple of people, which might mean you want to use a meeting room for a staff meeting or training session every so often.
Value for money is also a big consideration when choosing a virtual office provider. As with many things in life, cheaper is not always better, but you do have to know you are getting the value that you are paying for. Some virtual office providers will offer large discounts or are much cheaper than others. These can be fantastic when you are starting out but consider how much you will be paying once the discounts end. Also consider the length of contract you might find yourself signed up for if you choose one of those options. Flexibility and excellence of service are ultimately a much better indicator of value than price alone.
The Bottom Line
Find a provider who will work for you and with you every step of the way. The partnerships you choose now will set you up for success (and less stress!) and will serve you well for years to come.