The first virtual office can accurately be credited to Ralph Gregory, who in 1989, right after his first child was born, the need to work from home and spend more time with his wife helped him innovate "The Virtual Office Inc." His idea has now become a global trendsetter in the business world experiencing rapid growth and popularity. A little peek into the massive growth of virtual workforce will help you understand the essence of "intangible" offices. A recent study by The New Jersey Institute of Technology found that 45% of US employees work from home and 53 million people work as freelancers.
In this digital-age, the ever-advancing technology has seen that small businesses and start-ups benefit from virtual offices. Companies that already have physical offices can also benefit from virtual offices to enter into new markets. In fact, there are some businesses that require that contractors need to be based in similar locale to be allowed to bid for business projects.
Unlike "executive suites," or "business centers" which have a physical office space, a virtual one exists only in the cyberspace. And this means that owners and their employees can work from any location.
Virtual offices have become a practical alternative to paying high rents or leasing commercial office space. Read on to find out why virtual offices are so popular with a quick guide on how to set up your own office.
Benefits of Virtual Offices
Skyrocketing rents for office spaces alone deter many from venturing into business. Not to mention the cost of buying office furniture, office equipment, taking care of the utility bills and so on. Or the high cost of hiring employees and paying their payroll taxes, health and sick days. These are just a few of the costs that come with setting up a brick-and-mortar space; virtual offices greatly eliminate these costs.
Imagine how much money you would need to set up a physical office in London or New York. A virtual office presents you the opportunity to have a prime location without physically conducting business there. Even if you’re running your office from the basement of your home, your clients don’t get to see this. What they see instead is a prestigious address on a high-quality location. This way you are allowed to venture and offer services in new markets whilst simultaneously earning your customer’s trust by growing your organization’s reputation. What more would an entrepreneur want?
The fact that you don’t need to report to the office every day means that the time that you would have otherwise spent traveling to work and getting stuck in the rush hour traffic; you’ll spend working. Besides, the flexibility that comes with working in an online workspace means you can work while traveling and, therefore, beat deadlines. You can work from anywhere in the world- literally!
Going virtual means that you’re not bound by geographic locations; you can outsource for virtual assistants worldwide, meaning that you won’t lose out on talented individuals simply because of location. Not only does this increase productivity but as a business person, you get to benefit from new innovative ideas from the great global minds you can implement in your business.
Better Work-Life Balance
In these modern times, a major contributor to the growing stress in the working class population is the work-life imbalance. The demanding jobs that require 40hrs per week or more leave most people with little time for family or leisure. Virtual office workers can have a great work-life balance by spending more time with their family. Work-from-home employees report greater enthusiasm and cheer in working, which also results in greater productivity levels.
Different Types of Virtual Office Services
There are various services that non-physical offices provide, but the three primary ones include a registered business address, virtual receptionist or assistant (VA), and conference/meeting room services.
Business Address Services
Using a home address or PO Box tells your customers one thing: that your business is a one-man show which reduces credibility. Virtual offices provide you with a professional address at a prestigious location and a local telephone number. The business address is one of the key components of services offered by non-physical offices. Therefore, pay close attention to the address features. Some of these features include courier management, registered address, mail forwarding, and local mail drop-off and pick up.
A virtual or remote receptionist attends to some tasks such as answering incoming calls in your businesses name, forwarding mails and faxes, scheduling plus other administrative duties. The number of services can be many depending on your budget. As opposed to an answering service which only takes messages, VRs are trained in what your businesses does meaning they can answer to the less-complex customer questions. Also, when so instructed, VRs may also transfer calls directly to you.
Conference and Meeting Room Services
This service varies from provider to provider. Conference and Meeting room services come with a billion dollar features to give your business a professional appearance. The features may include big screen monitor, whiteboards, conference phones, video conferencing e.t.c. Although some virtual offices allow their customers to utilize conference rooms for free, others charge either on a monthly or hourly basis.
Procedure of Setting Up a Virtual Office
Setting up a virtual office can be faster that most people think by following these steps:
1. Lay Down a Strategy
Different businesses have different needs hence mapping out a plan should be the first step. A start-up business, for example, may want to go 100% virtual right from the onset while an existing one that already has an office may prefer to complement the brick and mortar office with some services of businesses existing only in the cyberspace. So, determine what you need; do you need a VR who can help ease some of the administrative tasks from your shoulder, or is access to the conference and meeting room more important for your company? Simply put, look at the various services virtual offices offer and determine which of these you mostly need.
2. Secure the Essential Equipment
One factor that makes the equipment needs of a virtual office different from the needs of a physical one is control. The home-worker may not have the luxury of calling in an IT expert every time they encounter a problem, which means that the worker must be familiarized with the equipment and its maintenance. Having efficient equipment, for the out-of-the-office worker is an absolute must.
The essential equipment a basic worker needs are a laptop, a reliable internet service, a work line for voice with call waiting and 3-way calling, an answering machine, a work line for data, a fax machine, and its line. Purchase a laptop with plenty of storage and memory fast processor, and an inbuilt camera for efficiency. Tablets and smartphones come in handy in where using a laptop is impossible. Teleworkers should sync their mobile devices with their laptops to gain access to data using cloud based software. To improve effectiveness, look at what other equipment you might need to complement your virtual office. Instead of working from the living room, you can convert the basement into a simple office and buy the necessary furniture you need.
3. Request a Virtual Mailing Business Address
A professional address is one of the primary benefits of having a virtual office. As aforementioned, you don’t have to reside at the business address your mail gets sent to. If you want to have a paperless office, for instance, you can opt to have a virtual mailroom where your mails are received, envelopes are scanned and images are uploaded to a secure website where you can view them and decide what action should be taken. Some actions to be taken may include forwarding the letters to you, depositing your checks, paying your bills and even shredding the letters.
4. Select a Virtual Assistant
VAs handle some of the menial tasks allowing you to concentrate on the core tasks of your business. Selecting a wrong one will cost you more that you’d want to save. Ask yourself these crucial questions:
What tasks do you want the VA to handle?
Will these tasks be part-time, ongoing or just a one-time project?
What time do you need the VA to come in? Is it during business hours or at night?
What should be the VA’s native language?
What budget are you working with?
Before choosing a VA, check their reviews and rating. It makes sense to go for a VA who has more positive reviews than negative ones.
5. Train Your Virtual Assistant
After choosing the VA, the next step is training them. Your VAs need to know what you’re all about. To be able to respond to your clients effectively, the VA will need good understanding of your products or services. Virtual assistants need a set of rules and procedures to work with, and only you can give them these. How well your virtual assistant executes tasks will be linked to how well you train them. An excellent way to go about this is to create a training manual and then have the VA document and share with you what they learn.
If you have accomplished these steps above, the last thing you do is set up a phone system by getting a business phone number, recording a customized greeting message then adding departments and employees.
Even with all the benefits that come with having a virtual office, you must choose the right providers to realize these benefits. You need to outsource for virtual services that help you maintain a professional image; services that utilize the high-powered business tools so that you can compete with larger forms.
If you have been reading this, you’re at the right place. Starting business can assist you with virtual office services helping you enjoy the financial freedom that comes with starting your own business.