How to Set Up a Virtual Office
As a small business owner, we know all too well the challenges one may face with trying to keep business operational costs at a minimum while maintaining a professional image. When we started consulting business in 2014, we searched for ways to keep the costs associated with running a business as minimal as possible.
To do this, we started doing online research to find inexpensive products and tools that would allow us to work without geographical and physical limitations to provide services to our clients. Finding these tools ultimately led us to create a “Virtual Office”.
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 on similar locale to be allowed to bid for business projects.
Unlike “executive suites,” or “business centres” 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 are becoming widespread in use and are seen as a cost-effective alternative to running a business particularly for small businesses and other self-employed professionals all across the globe. This is due to their ability to help entrepreneurs conduct business from practically anywhere in the world and save money on operating expenses.
Whether you’re a start-up, a small business owner who works from home and does not have the resources necessary to rent office space, a work at home mom, a freelancer, a solopreneur, a business owner looking for ways to cut costs, or a business looking to open branch offices, setting up a virtual office may be an ideal solution for you.
Read on to find out why virtual offices are so popular with a quick guide on how to set up your own virtual 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. The high cost of hiring employees, 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.
No Commute Time
We’ve found that the two or three hours spent every day getting ready for work and travelling to the office is now spent working. Because of that, productivity has increased and our employees are more focused.
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 travelling 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 travelling 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.
Possible elements of a Virtual Office
There are various services that non-physical offices provide, but the primary ones include a registered business address, virtual receptionist or assistant (VA), conference/meeting room services, Virtual call centres and Virtual phone systems or answering services.
Business Address Services
No virtual office is complete without a professional address to receive mail at. 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. Some of the business address 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 emails 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 etc. 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
A virtual office is a great way for your small business to save on the cost of renting an office space. Here we walk you through the 5 easy steps to set up your virtual office in under an hour:
- Mapping out your strategy
- Obtaining a virtual business address
- Selecting a virtual assistant
- Training your virtual assistant
- Getting a virtual phone system
Mapping out your strategy
Not everyone’s virtual office will look exactly the same. Perhaps you do have a physical office but would like to complement it with virtual assistants. Or, maybe you truly are starting with nothing and want to go 100% virtual from the beginning. No matter what your ultimate goals are, it helps to map out your strategy before diving in.
Possible elements of a virtual office include Virtual receptionists, Virtual Assistants, Virtual phone systems or answering services, Virtual call centres, Virtual business addresses and Rentable meeting spaces.
Obtaining a Virtual 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.
Selecting a Virtual Assistant
Virtual assistants are one of the most popular virtual office fixtures of all. They 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 than you’d want to save.
Before choosing a virtual assistant, check their reviews and rating. It makes sense to go for a virtual assistant who has more positive reviews than negative ones.
While it may sound like something out of a movie, you can actually hire a virtual assistant to handle your day-to-day tasks the way a standard office receptionist would. A handful of companies offer virtual assistant services, and most handle such tasks as data entry, phone calls, appointment scheduling, document editing, social media management, email correspondence, and more.
Training your Virtual Assistant
The actual hiring of a virtual assistant can be executed in under five minutes. The next, slightly more time-consuming task is training them to perform to your expectations. Here, it’s all about specifics.
Your VAs need to know what you’re all about. To be able to respond to your clients effectively, the VA will need a 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.
Getting a virtual phone system
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.
The idea of getting a phone system installed in an hour might sound like a pipe dream. But with a virtual phone system, the fantasy is a reality. A virtual phone system lets any business get up and running in just a few quick steps. All it takes is:
- Picking a business phone number
- Recording a customized main greeting
- Adding departments and employees
That’s it. Following these simple steps, you and your team will be able to take calls and receive voicemails and faxes from anywhere you happen to be.
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