Run a virtual business, i.e., an online company. One priority will most likely be to have an office facility where you can handle all official matters, just like a traditional business.
You want a specific location where you’ll receive business mails and get phone answering services, an address that’ll also be on your website rather than using your home address.
But being a virtual business, you don’t need block-and-mortar office space, so why rent one? A virtual office solves that dilemma.
However, since you don’t operate physically, your virtual office setup will differ from a traditional office space. Not to worry; this article offers you a simple step-by-step guide on how to set up a virtual office business.
What is a Virtual Office?
A virtual office is a service that provides businesses with all office-related resources (physical office address, meeting rooms, tools, etc.) but without the overhead cost of owning or leasing a physical address.
Companies offering virtual offices give remote teams the ability to work efficiently online while being miles apart. The resources they offer include:
- Telephone numbers
- Virtual business address
- Meeting rooms on demand
- Virtual assistant and receptionist service
- A temporary private office you can use whenever you want.
Note that even while you’d be having an office address, the office space does not exist in a fixed location.
Instead, you get all the office-related services and resources over the Internet. Just handle your device and hop right into your own virtual office.
Why Do You Need a Virtual Office?
Virtual office solutions are essential to both online and offline businesses for many reasons:
To reduce the overhead cost of running a business.
Small businesses and startups often face many financial challenges, including leasing and setting up a virtual office arrangement. They also need to maintain the office and its equipment. Such businesses can minimize those overhead costs by getting their own virtual office.
Traditional companies that want to minimize the cost of owning a physical office space can leverage virtual offices just well as online businesses.
To build a professional image.
One problem a virtual business owner will likely have is the issue of using their home address in their legal documents and website. A home address on a website can discourage potential clients, investors, and lenders as they might consider the business unprofessional.
Virtual offices solve this problem because they offer virtual office spaces within a high-profile business district.
You get all business-related services on the go.
With your own virtual office, you have a dedicated live receptionist, a dedicated local phone number, a corporate mailing address, and video conferencing ability wherever you are.
Save time and money on technology.
Rather than procuring several technologies to handle your calls, videoconferencing, and mails, you’d have them all in one virtual office. This means everything comes at a tremendous discount. Additionally, you don’t get to stress yourself about how to obtain and maintain the technologies.
Handle project management effectively.
Project management is a critical aspect of any successful business. Notably, your remote team can collaborate efficiently and handle project management tasks wherever they are via your virtual office. So hop on the web, and voila!
How Much Does a Virtual Office Cost?
The cost of using a virtual office may be around $40-$200 per month, depending on how many services you require. You can spend below $40 monthly if you need just one or two simple services or above $200 if your virtual office needs are more sophisticated.
How to set up a virtual office business?
Whether you’re looking to start a virtual office rental business or obtain the service, here’s how to set up your own virtual office.
1. Set your strategy
As with many other things, the first step to setting up a virtual office is to create a strategy. Whether you work remotely or not, it’s your business plan that will help you map out this strategy and determine the kind of resources you’ll need in the virtual office space. Your business idea should be clear enough to help you map out this plan.
Essential things your business plan should include are as follows:
- An executive summary
- Company description
- Market analysis on your chosen industry and competitors
- The products/services you offer
- Marketing and sales strategy
- A layout of your organizational and management structure
- Company budget and financial projections
- Funding request (optional)
Drafting out this strategy will help you clarify your needs regarding staffing, equipment, workspace, business legal structure, among others. All of these are critical to the smooth running of your business.
2. Get a virtual business address
After clarifying your strategy, the next step to set up a virtual office is to get a virtual business address.
Having a business location rather than a home address or PO Box will help you establish credibility. That’s why your virtual address should be in a high-profile business district that’s well known, as this will increase your chances of winning customers. It could be an actual street in New York City, the Financial District in San Francisco, or some other place you don’t even live in.
Your virtual business address is where you’ll receive your mails. They’re scanned when you receive them, and an image is uploaded to your digital mailbox. You can then view and request it forwarded to you, stored, or shredded as the case may be.
You can also hold your temporary conference meetings with clients in that virtual business address on demand.
Check out some of the best virtual business addresses available so you can choose a provider that works best for you.
3. Get the tools and resources your virtual office space needs
There are many different tools and resources essential for virtual offices, such as a virtual phone system for voice and video calls, among others. These tools — most often Software as a Service (SaaS) platforms help you work and manage projects in one central location just as you would in an actual office space.
For example, a virtual phone system like RingCentral can provide you with one main phone number, toll-free numbers, call center services, call forwarding, and conference calling services.
If you’re looking to communicate virtually via live video, you can leverage Zoom for your virtual office. The feeling of seeing your team members’ faces gives a more personal touch than merely talking over the phone. Again, this is important for a virtual office.
Additionally, Slack is another exceptional tool to keep in touch with your team and clients on the go.
Invoicing tools like Xero can also help you send and receive invoices via email. These invoicing solutions typically let you accept credit card payments and set up recurring billing.
Time and performance tracking are two crucial features you’d find in HR software to help you track progress and measure employee performance.
Importantly, project management is one aspect you mustn’t neglect, whether you’re a virtual office rental business or not. There are many tools, but some of the best project management software to leverage include Asana, Monday, and Wrike.
Finally, if your business often shares large files, Box offers a smart cloud collaboration tool to help you securely send, receive, and store them within your virtual office.
A virtual office rental business may procure these technologies to offer them to other virtual business owners.
4. Choose your virtual assistant
Most startup entrepreneurs often need virtual assistants, especially when hiring several remote workers isn’t something they immediately need or can handle efficiently. Getting a virtual assistant is crucial to setting up a virtual office.
A virtual assistant can handle many tasks such as recruiting, HR management, marketing, customer service, content, and your social media accounts while helping you stay organized. Virtual assistants can also be in charge of handling supplies and scheduling meetings while you focus on growing your business.
A virtual assistant can handle almost anything. They are an incredible resource for virtual offices as they help the business owner stay organized, even as a one-person squad.
However, when choosing a virtual assistant for your virtual office, there are qualities you should watch out for, such as:
- Ability to prioritize and focus
- Ability to work efficiently with minimal supervision
- Good writing skills since virtual assistants handle virtually everything, including communication, by writing.
- Diverse skills in management
You may also hire more than one virtual assistant. While one can be responsible for your content and social media marketing, another may be handling your meetings, supplies, and organizational tasks.
Of course, you can get as many as possible, but hiring a versatile virtual assistant is an added advantage as it reduces cost.
5. Train your virtual assistant
Even though your hired virtual assistant has years of experience, you may have unique requirements to run your own virtual office effectively. Your hire would therefore need to undergo virtual assistant training.
The training isn’t about how to be a virtual assistant but how to tailor their skills to your virtual office space.
Running your marketing, managing your social media accounts, scheduling your meetings, and handling payroll; all of these would typically be bespoke for every virtual office. So you want to make sure yours is unique, hence the reason to train your virtual assistant according to your company culture and goals.
- Define their role
- Set expectations
- Write out instructions for significant tasks
- Provide visuals on how to do some things through screen recording, as that’s more efficient than verbal instructions for specific complex tasks.
- Stay organized by keeping training materials on a shared system such as Google Drive so that your virtual assistant can easily access them.
6. Choose your business form (LLC, C Corp, S Corp)
Your business form is the financial structure your business takes when you register — or incorporate — it as a legal entity recognized by the state.
As an online business owner, you can choose to incorporate your company as a Limited Liability Company, C Corp, or S Corp. Imagine having an LLC or Inc. after your business name; lenders, clients, and vendors are more likely to take your business seriously.
Your virtual office business needs to thrive in this kind of professional image.
So if you’ve been operating as a sole proprietor or partnership, it’s an excellent idea to incorporate your business while setting up your virtual office.
But out of these three business forms (LLC, C Corp, and S Corp), which should you choose?
Their pros and cons will guide you. But first, it’s worthy to note that an S-corp isn’t technically a business structure but a tax status. It helps small businesses to enjoy similar tax advantages as a corporation but without double taxation.
Notably, you must first register your business as an LLC or C-corp to receive the S-corp tax status.
- Protects your personal assets
- Very easy to form
- Less paperwork
- Unlimited members
- It doesn’t require shareholders
- All net profits are taxed
- Cannot reinvest profit
- Challenging to raise capital from external sources
- An LLC may dissolve if a member leaves
Note: A limited liability partnership (LLP) is a variant of LLC for professional businesses with multiple partners. Each partner carries their own liability and can get sued, such as lawyers and doctors.
- Protects personal assets
- Unlimited shareholders, of which some can be foreign
- Option to keep profits in the business to avoid tax
- The business continues to exist even when the original owner(s) no longer exist.
- Double taxation at both corporate and individual level
- Must have a board of directors meeting every year
- Requires more paperwork than the LLC
- You enjoy tax-free profits
- Up to 100 shareholders
- Can’t reinvest profits
- Requires more paperwork to create
- You need to set up payroll, document paying yourself a salary, and take out self-employment taxes every month.
Typically, LLC is recommended for most small and virtual businesses. However, if your profits are minimal after deducting tax, you may consider going for the S-corp tax status.
7. Choose your business domain name and email address
One vital aspect of setting up your virtual office is obtaining a domain name and email address.
Your domain name is the web address that identifies your website on the Internet. Importantly, it should contain your business name and should be easily recognized. For example, if your business name is Virtual Office, your domain name may be virtualoffice.com.
You can get an affordable domain registration for as low as 1 USD.
Notably, there are several extensions you can choose from:
If your preferred domain name isn’t available with .com, you can always use .biz or .net instead. For example, [Business Name] dot com is taken by another business; you can make your [Business Name] dot net or [Business Name] dot biz.
Depending on your country, you can also add .ca (for Canada) or .co.uk (for UK companies). That potentially brings you closer to your local audience.
If your virtual office still uses a Gmail account, it’s time to change your email extension to your company domain, such as firstname.lastname@example.org. This is also one way to create credibility while setting up your virtual office.
A virtual office must be adequate for your remote business to thrive. It would be best if you stood out as a reputable business. All of that has been covered in the steps above.
Hence, by following these steps, you can confidently beat your chest and say you have a great office space even when there’s nothing tangible to be seen.
But also remember that every business is different, as is every virtual office, so you should always work towards obtaining what’s best-suited for yours.
We hope you enjoyed this article. If so, you might enjoy these resources:
- Best Virtual Mailbox Services in Canada
- Virtual Mailbox Services for Business and Travelers
- Why You Need a Virtual Address for LLC? And How to Get One?
- 8 Best Virtual Office Services for Businesses & Startups
- 10 Reasons a Virtual Mailbox Is a Perfect Solution for Remote Business
- Can You Use a Virtual Address for Your Local Business?
- Best UK Mail Forwarding Services
- 7 Best Mail Forwarding Companies in the US