Ask LH: What Should I Look For In A Virtual Office?

Hi Lifehacker, I’m planning to start out a new consulting business, and as it will be a one-man operation initially, I am looking at using a virtual office to field phone calls and to give clients a physical address that isn’t my home office. I’ve looked into several different providers: is there anything I should watch out for or be mindful of when choosing a service? Thanks, Virtual Virgin

Office picture from Shutterstock

Dear VV,

A virtual office can be a very sensible choice for a new business. This is a non-exhaustive list of issues we’d suggest bearing in mind as you weigh up your choices:

  • Avoid long-term contracts. You’ll often be offered a discount for signing up for longer periods, but that isn’t wise until you’ve determined that the service can meet your needs. Ask for a trial period first.
  • Ask for references. If a service can’t refer you to existing happy clients, proceed with extreme caution.
  • Don’t pay for services you don’t need. If you only need a meeting room once in a blue moon, there’s no point paying for regular access to one.
  • Check access and parking. If you are planning to use meeting room facilities, make sure that the site is easy for clients to visit. A CBD address may look impressive but can be a pain if your clients want to drive there.
  • Check availability in other cities. If you travel for work, access to office space in other cities can be useful.
  • It may not be the right approach. Depending on your business needs, other approaches may work better. If you have a small client base that requires individual attention on calls or need broader organisational help, a virtual assistant might be a better choice.

If readers have other experiences and advice in this area, we’d love to hear them in the comments. Good luck with the new business!


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