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

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.

June 12, 2020

Exterior of Forma Virtual Office

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

So lets start with one of the most important elements of a Virtual Office: location, location, 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 Businessis 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

Mail Boxes etc Address Covent Garden

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.

Hoxton Mix Exterior of Cheap London Virtual Office and Business 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:

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. This can be called collection as well. With this free option you can come into an office during normal business hours and pick up your mail.

Mail Forwarding

Mail forwarding packages can vary from an all inclusive price in your package, a cost + markup percentage or a fixed additional monthly cost (we've seen instances of this being £50 extra a month).

Mail Redirection

Mail redirection is similar to mail forwarding but is essentially forwarding your mail the same day to you.

Digital Scans

A lot of people want their mail on demand and tostore 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 registred address. At a minimum this is £10 extra if not £25 extra a month.

Other business address providers may have features for digital notifications when mail arrives - you can then decide what they do with the mail and generally each action is a new charge and opportunity for things to go wrong.

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 Pret 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 3 hours or half a day.

You can also get meeting rooms that are cheap 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 and Local Phone Number: Can you build 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: we spoke to a range of conversion rate experts who have designed thousands of websites and they say to ALWAYS put your number on the top right in the navigation bar if you want people to enquire. It makes you really accessible.

Want to talk about a Virtual Office? Do you want to call us on 0203 411 1004 or 07520 233 240? (Please don't call that mobile number, we made it up.)

So, you may want to consider a local phone number depending on your business.

Prices are reasonable from most providers and can vary on whether you take 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/mo you can pay someone to answer the call in your company name and then forward calls to your mobile or voicemail.

You can usually set special instructions i.e. on Mondays before noon send everything to voicemail, I don't want to talk to anyone.

This is a particularly useful service if you need someone professional to ensure calls get answered if you're busy.

Onboarding Process: Is it Quick and Digital?

Onboarding is where things can REALLY fall apart.

Our CEO would know - he used to manage the virtual office service for 150,000 customers in 3,000 locations.

One big thing about registering a virtual office in London is you have to go through Anti Money Laundering checks and verify yourself. These are strict guidelines from HMRC and London Local Authorities. Most providers will ask you to come into an office to register yourself.

You won't be able to receive any mail before you pass compliance with a legitimate mail handling service.

Please note, if someone doesn't ask for your ID when you sign up then it is 100% illegal.

We understand how annoying this can be, so we made our verification process all digital. It takes about 3 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 24 month agreements which is insane. Other providers take a 12 month upfront price.

We didn't like either of these options as we hope you stay with us for years (or leave as your business grows) 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.

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