You’re ready to give your business an impressive corporate presence, but you’re not willing to plunk down millions of dollars for the office space, the permanent staff, and the infrastructure. A virtual office is probably a good fit for you -- offering a live person to answer the phone, a high-dollar corporate address, and conference rooms on demand.
But a quick Google search will turn up dozens, if not hundreds, of virtual offices for lease in any major city, and it can get confusing, fast. Here’s what you should know before committing to a virtual office.
DO: Ask Questions
You can find virtual offices for lease for anywhere from $99 a month to several hundred dollars a month. It may seem cheap, compared to the cost of a permanent office, but if you aren’t getting your business needs met, it’s not a bargain. Make sure you ask how long the leases are, and if there are any penalties for canceling early. Make sure you can access your monthly bill online, and that the supplier has customer support to work with you if there’s an issue in the future. Make sure the supplier’s conference rooms and physical offices are available to you on-demand, and that the cost isn’t too high to justify using the facilities.
DO: Comparison Shop
There are dozens of virtual office suppliers out there. Do your homework to make sure you’re getting the most bang for your buck. It’s more than comparing the monthly rent; compare the terms of the leases side by side.
Which one is cheaper to cancel, in case the virtual office isn’t working for you?
Which one makes it more convenient for you to use their conference rooms and support staff?
Does one supplier tack on added fees that other suppliers don’t – internet, coffee, parking etc?
Does one supplier have offices that are less than impressive?
DO: Check the Offices Out
That brings us to the actual offices. You don’t want to be embarrassed or make a bad impression on clients. If it’s physically possible, go to the virtual office space and check it out for yourself. If you can’t, ask for pictures or video of the space. And go online and read reviews. Yelp and Google reviews can be a business owner’s best friend -- flagging issues that you might not ever have known about.
DON’T: Accept Bare Bones
The benefit of the lower cost of a virtual office compared to a permanent office is that you can afford the professional staff, the impressive offices and the top of the line IT infrastructure that would otherwise be a much bigger investment. Can your supplier handle any Internet configuration? Do they have phone number portability? How do they route calls, and will they supply you with a landline number to use on your marketing materials? The answer to all of these questions should be yes.
Don’t accept bare bones for the office decor either. Make sure that if you’re bringing customers to the physical offices, it’s not a place that would leave you cringing with embarrassment.
DON’T: Accept Complicated Leases or Instructions
Keep it simple. When you sign a lease, make sure you understand what you’re getting and how much you’re paying and for how long. If you don’t understand a paragraph in the lease, or instructions the virtual office supplier gives you, ask for clarification. Something you don’t understand or that is not written clearly can lead to nasty surprises later.
DON’T: Lease a Virtual Office That Doesn’t Work for You
It’s important to be as careful signing a lease for a virtual office as you would be, hiring a new employee. There are a lot of different ways a co-working space can end up being unproductive -- whether it’s because it’s more like a coffee shop than an office, or the IT infrastructure is dated, or reserving a conference room is difficult and inconvenient. It is easy to be wowed by the idea of having a premium business address, or a live human to answer the phone. But once you’re past the honeymoon phase, asking the right questions and being picky about this business decision will pay off.
As with any decision you make as a business owner, you need to make sure you know what you’re buying when you sign a lease agreement with a virtual office supplier. A virtual office can help you move your business forward, as long as you follow all the dos and don’ts.
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