What is a Virtual Office: 7 Things to Know Before Buying

Chris Andreou

May 28, 2021

What is a virtual office
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A Virtual Office is a great way to expand your local presence in an affordable way. Here's 7 things you need to know before buying.

Virtual Office

Using a Registered Business Address: Is it a good location?

Let's start with one of the most important elements of a virtual office: location.

For a low cost, you can use a professional address for your companies house registration, website, business cards and Google My Business location.

A good, central address in a professional office can really provide an edge and make it look like you have a real office, while in reality you'll be working from home (or the beach).

Google My Business is a great way to boost your website SEO and get your business found in search results, so you'll want to factor this into what people see when they search for your business.

Today, the Google My Business "card" features in search results in 93% of searches today.

When you Google a business name, you've probably become accustomed to seeing the company card on the right of the search result. This provides an accessible way to locate the phone number, website and address of the business (as well as products/ services and offers).

One critical thing site visitors can see with your business address is the exterior of your "office". For example, here's how the exterior of Mail Boxes Etc. appears at its Covent Garden location:

Mail Boxes etc Address Covent Garden

If anyone searches for you on Google, and you've set up a Google My Business profile, then they'll see your Mail Boxes Etc Professional Office.

Other providers offer "Premium" central London business addresses, yet in reality the exterior can best be described as awful. Here's just an example of a low-cost and widely used London address looks like:

Hoxton Mix Exterior of Cheap London Virtual Office and Business Address

This image literally pops up for anyone searching for businesses registered at that location.

It's important to find a good price point for a professional address that represents your business but doesn't break the bank.

Here's how our address looks for only £25 a month:

Forma Cheap London Virtual Office Business Address Exterior

At the end of the day, we're proud of our location, and we want you to be proud of yours too.

Mail Forwading, Handling and Redirection: How quickly will you get your mail?

Virtual office and business address providers will provide some elements of mail handling, but this can vary significantly.

One thing that you should check is what the additional costs of mail forwarding, handling, scanning, redirection or notifications are.

Most providers will give you a basic package where you can come and collect mail from their office (would you want to when the location looks like this though?).

Hoxton Mix Exterior of Cheap London Virtual Office and Business Address

Mail Handling

The basic service offering is mail handling, also otherwise known as mail collection. With this free option, you can come into an office during normal business hours to pick up your mail.

Mail Forwarding

The pricing of mail forwarding services may vary, depending on your provider. It may be offered as part of your package, at a cost + markup percentage or at a fixed additional monthly cost (we've seen instances of this service being charged at an additional fee of £50 per month).

Mail Redirection

Mail redirection is similar to mail forwarding. It refers to having your mail forwarded to you on the day it was received at your virtual address.

Digital Scans

A lot of people want their mail on demand, and to store it online for reference i.e. tax documents, registration documents.

Being able to pull this up in an email or online folder is way easier than fishing through a drawer of documents.

Additional Costs

Some companies may charge an additional fee for signage in the lobby to use the location as your registered address. At a minimum, this should be priced at an additional fee of £10 - £25 per month.

Other business address providers may have features for digital notifications when mail arrives—you can then decide what they do with the mail.

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Use of an Office or Coffee Shop: Can you work there?

So, assuming that you put your business address on your website, business cards or online business directories, you'll hopefully start getting enquiries from partners or customers who may want to meet.

What happens if someone asks to meet you there?

You could offer to meet them at a location close to the office, suggest a phone call or book a meeting room or office to meet them.

Generally, most virtual office providers will make you book a meeting room if you want to meet with a customer and it typically involves emailing an inbox and waiting to confirm a meeting room.

We wanted to do things differently, so we let our virtual office customers meet in our coffee shop and cafe.

Forma Farringdon Virtual Office Coffee Shop to Work From

After all, as a Virtual Office customer you're generally starting out and looking to secure your first customers and meet other people.

It's also a great part of London to meet people after work or meet multiple clients in the city (you can also leave your stuff in a locker if you need to) or use a private phone booth for free if you need some peace and quiet.

Be careful, there's also a few comfy spots where you may fall asleep.

Use of Meeting Rooms: Can you meet people there?

As mentioned above, some virtual office providers offer a meeting room but prices and quality varies considerably.

Some may ask you to book a meeting room for a minimum of three hours or half a day.

You can also get meeting rooms that are priced cheaply, but this is what you get:

Cheap meeting room at a Virtual Office address in London

We tried to find a balance with ours—a fair price for an inviting meeting room with lots of light and a view of London.

Here's what you'll get for £60 an hour at our space:

Nice meeting room in Faringdon London

Warning: the sun can get in your eyes at different points in the day, so you may have to pull the blind down a little bit.

Call Answering: Building a local presence

Do you use your personal phone number on your business cards and websites?

If you've landed on the website and a personal mobile number is featured at the top right navigation bar, do you call it?

Whilst it may not feel super important on a business card, it's a pretty critical factor on your website.

Insider tip: Having spoken to a range of conversion rate experts, it's been recommended that you put your number on the top right in the navigation bar. This makes your business appear more accessible and encourages enquiries.

Local Phone Number: Building a local presence

These two contact numbers—0203 411 1004 and 07520 233 240—may affect how your business is percevied by prospective customers. As such, you may want to consider a local phone number depending on your the nature of your business.

Prices are reasonable from most providers and can vary, depending on whether you choose a freephone, national or local number.

We offer a London 0203 number for only £10.

Do I want call answering?

The next thing you may want to consider is a call answering service. From around £25 per month, a staff may answer calls in your company name and forward it to your mobile or voicemail.

Most of the time, you'll be able to indicate your availability and specific instructions, such as having your calls answered on your behalf every Monday afternoon.

This is a particularly useful service if you need to ensure calls that your calls get answered, even when you're unavailable.

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What's Inside:

  • What is a Virtual Office
  • Benefits of a VIrtual Office
  • How to choose the right virtual office
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Virtual Office Guide

What's Included:

  • What is a Virtual Office
  • Benefits of a VIrtual Office
  • How to choose the right virtual office

Onboarding Process: Is it Quick and Digital?

The onboarding stage is typically where things fall apart.

Our CEO would know, given his experience with managing the virtual office service for 150,000 customers across 3,000 locations.

One major thing about registering a virtual office in London is that you're required to undergo Anti-Money Laundering (AML) compliance and verify yourself. These are strict guidelines imposed by HMRC and London Local Authorities. So beware: if a provider doesn't ask for your ID when you sign up, then they aren't legitimate.

In most instances, your virtual office provider will ask you to come into an office to complete your registration. You won't be able to receive any mail before you pass compliance with a legitimate mail handling service.

We recognise that this process is inconvenient, so we made our verification process digital. The registration takes just three minutes to complete online.

How long are the agreements?

The final component of your virtual office or registered address agreement is how long you have to sign up for.

Some providers look for a 24-month agreements. Others take a 12-month upfront price.

We didn't like either of these options. We'd rather adapt to your needs as your business grows, so you continue to stay with us as a choice—so we're not going to trap you into an agreement.

Make sure you check your terms and conditions around cancelling—particularly for companies taking an upfront payment. Certain providers may require that you forfeit just the deposit, while others may not refund any payment made.

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Why you need a Virtual Office
Featured Article

11 reasons why your online company needs a (Virtual) Office

A virtual office can help your online business manage mail, take phone calls, provides you with space to hold meetings, and so much more

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10 tips on assembling a virtual team

As a solopreneur, you tend to be on your own.

That doesn't mean you have to do it all. Rather than growing your company through hiring employees, you can take advantage of a variety of virtual services designed for solo traders like you. You just have to know how to get started.

Solo traders continue to be in the rise in the UK. According to the Federation of Small Businesses, about 60% of all small-to-medium size businesses are sole proprietorships, which equates to a total number of 3.4 million solo traders in the UK economy.

Yet many of these solo traders face daily problems. Even when they succeed, they tend to struggle scaling up their services.

That's where virtual services come into play.

-The right virtual team can help solopreneurs scale their businesses without the expense of full-time employees. If you're considering going this route, implementing the following tips can help ensure your success.

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What is a Virtual Office: 7 Things to Know Before Buying

Let's start with one of the most important elements of a Virtual Office: location.

For a low cost, you can use a professional address for your companies house registration, website, business cards and Google My Business location.

A good, central address in a professional office can really provide an edge and make it look like you have a real office but in reality you'll be working from home (or the beach).

Google My Business is a great way to boost your website SEO and get your business found in search results so you'll want to factor this into what people see when they search for your business.

Today, the Google My Business "card" features in search results in 93% of searches today.

When you Google a business name, you've probably become accustomed to seeing the company card on the right of the search result which provides an accessible way to find a phone number, website and address for the business (as well as products/ services and offers).

One critical thing users can see with your business address is the exterior of your "office".

Here's an example of how Mail Boxes Etc. looks at it's Covent Garden location:

If anyone searches for you on and you've set up a Google My Business profile then they'll see your Mail Boxes Etc Professional Office.

Other providers offer "Premium" central London business addresses but in reality the exterior is... awful.

Here's the exterior of one particularly popular cheap London address.

That literally pops up for anyone searching for businesses registered at that location.

It's important to find a good price point for a professional address that represents your business but doesn't break the bank.

Here's how our address looks for only £25 a month:

At the end of the day, we're proud of our location, and we want you to be proud of yours too.

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Mail Forwarding Service UK

Mail forwarding is a convenient way to use a registered business address to receive all your business mail, and to ensure you receive your mail on time.

The benefits of using a professional address are that it allows you to keep your home address off of public records (like Companies House) and you can put it on your website, business cards and use online directories, like Google My Business to get found in local search results.

When you essentially use the office of someone else without being a tenant then issues can arise with getting your mail promptly.

Some locations will only let you collect your mail, while others will charge a variety of additional charges for either sending on your mail, notifying you or for even checking to see if you've received mail when you ask.

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What are trading and registered office addresses?

As its name suggests, a registered office address is the address which your company is registered at Companies House. It is shown on the public record, and official mail is sent to this address. When you purchase Forma's virtual office package, you can use our Central London business address as your registered company address.

A trading address is where your customers, banks or suppliers send you correspondence. It can differ from the company's registered address, and doesn't have to be public information.

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Business Mail Redirection UK

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Virtual Office Guide

  • What is a Virtual Office
  • Benefits of a VIrtual Office
  • How to choose the right virtual office
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How do I transfer/ change a registered address?

If you change your company's registered office address, you must inform Companies House. You can do so online, or by sending form AD01 to Companies House by post. Once the change is approved, Companies House will then notify HMRC.

Do note that the change will only be official once Companies House has registered it. Additionally, your new registered office address must be in the same part of the UK that the company was incorporated.

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8 benefits of a Virtual Office over permanent office space

Renting permanent physical office space is an expense many self-employed entrepreneurs simply cannot justify.

In fact, as Forbes recently observed, some of the biggest challenges of being a solopreneur are a direct result of this lack of personal space. And yet, overcoming these challenges is more straightforward than you might think.

In nearly every case, a virtual office will meet all of your needs at a fraction of the expense.

Let's look at those needs in detail so we can tick them off the list.

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How to stop holding meetings in cafes without renting an office

If you're just starting a business, meeting with clients can be tough. Chances are you don't have the luxury of a company-owned conference room that offers a natural spot to engage and be productive.

As a result, many freelancers and entrepreneurs branch out to coffee shops.

But is that really a better choice? Places like Starbucks and Costa tend to be crowded, causing you to fight for a spot-and even when you find one, the lack of privacy can make it difficult to hold a substantial conversation.

That matters, whether you're trying to meet with clients, interview potential new employees, or engage in any other formal business meeting. You might even get a coffee for free but everything else, though, tends to be difficult to manage.

Fortunately, that's not your only option. With the right planning process in place, you can find more professional and productive places to hold business meetings that don't require you to rent office space long-term.

Consider these six alternatives for your plans instead.

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Business Address Service London

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What is a Service Address?

A service address is an address which can be used as an alternative to a residential address for the purpose of receiving post.

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11 reasons why your online company needs a (Virtual) Office

Modern businesses can run almost entirely online, and thrive through the internet business culture.

From e-commerce to freelance programming, it's amazing how many small businesses can thrive without booking a commercial location as a headquarters. It's even possible to have a completely remote team, none of whom have ever seen each other in person.

However, there are some things that you can't do with online platforms and email alone.

Here at Forma, we know know that some aspects of business require a physical location, and many of them are not well-suited to using a home for that purpose. Even if your home is your official HQ, you'd likely rather not share that information with customers or business partners.

The simple addition of a virtual office to your business resources can provide everything you might need from a commercial office-without the hassle or expense of actually relocating your business or renting commercial real estate.

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Change of company address ‚- who to inform and how

If you change your company's registered office address, you must inform Companies House. You can do so online, or by sending form AD01 to Companies House by post. Once the change is approved, Companies House will then notify HMRC.

Do note that the change will only be official once Companies House has registered it. Additionally, your new registered office address must be in the same part of the UK that the company was incorporated.

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