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Entrepreneurs Go Virtual!

With the massive explosion of start-ups and home businesses developing, you'll be hard pressed to not know of someone going down the entrepreneurial route. Nowadays you can set-up shop and start trading in a matter of days, and the preferred choice for the neo entrepreneur is a service called Virtual Offices.

I myself, run and operate a Virtual Office company based in Central London and have written this short editorial to educate you in choosing the right provider and hopefully, help avoid the pitfalls in this relatively saturated market, so let's begin.

For those unfamiliar with the phrase "Virtual Office", let me offer you some indulgence.

A Virtual Office is a business location, simulated by Telecommunications and Accommodation Address agents. The core services themselves are better known as "Telephone Answering" and "Mail Forwarding" solutions respectively, which are offered by numerous companies around the world.

Its purpose is wide spread, but more than most, it is used by home workers, small business and start-up organisations, looking to give their company that "big business" image.

Lets start with the Telecommunications "Telephone Answering" solution. Upon signing for this service, you are allocated a telephone number to which someone dialing it, would be greeted by a receptionist who answers calls in your company name.

The level of detail, and by that I mean "how well the receptionists know your business" is down to the company you sign for, and of course, the amount of money you pay. Typically, the costs vary from between ?40 to ?120 per month and in most cases, also carry "per message fees", so make sure you know the complete story.

That's not to say that paying more gets you a better service, there are companies out there that offer a fantastic level of professionalism at the lower end price bracket and visa versa.

Done in the correct manner, it's a fabulous service which can really drive down the overheads of an organisation that would be better suited, subsidising the cost of a receptionists full time employment, and putting the capital to better use.

Let us move onto the second core service offered by Virtual Office providers, the Accommodation Address or "Mail Forwarding" service. This service offers its clients an address (which typically is in a prestigious location) for their correspondents to be delivered to. Most providers allow their mail to be picked up and/or have it sent to any address worldwide. In practise, what this offers you is a trading address, which allows you to work on the go or at home, maintaining a level of professionalism associated to established companies that have offices in prime locations.

The costs range from ?20 to ?100 per month and in most cases, also charge some form of handling fee for the post, if it is being sent out.

Typical questions you should be asking are; does the location offer Meeting Rooms? Do they allow the location to be used as a Registered Office address and are packages allowed at the location? These are all additional services which some, but not all providers offer.

I must however warn you, signing for these services requires extensive research, so do your homework! Ask questions and let these Virtual Office providers prove that they can be entrusted to handle your calls and mail on behalf of your organisation. The last thing you need is a call centre (this is where your virtual receptionists would be based) not answering the calls correctly, or worse! Not answering your calls at all!

Ask if you can visit their location. If not, then why not and are they hiding something? You don't want be told by one of your clients that they passed by your office (that's effectively what your address will be), and it wasn't up to scratch.

It is a matter of fact, that the more personal the company is to its clients, the better the service. Companies that offer no communication, particularly in a field such as this, will never be able to offer a personal service, and lets be honest, they are the first port of call between you and your client, and it really doesn't get more personal than that.

In closing, getting a Virtual Office is a great way to quickly establish yourself as a professional company and helps your business be perceived as an organisation that can do the business.

With such an aggressive market, prices need to be affordable and the level of service needs to be spot on.

Whether your working from home or just starting up, now more than ever, is a great time to Go Virtual!

Managing Director
City Office

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