Aug 30, 2018
Here are 5 basic points to consider when shopping for a mailing address in the UK.
1. How Much Is It?
Virtual offices, like dentistry, are not something you economise on. Cheap clothes with cover your body just fine but a cheap virtual office might cost you a lot more in lost revenue in the long run.
You want a provider that looks like they’ve been around for years and will be around for years to come.
There should be some ‘meat’ to their website and they shouldn’t be shy about who’s actually running it. If you can, go and visit the address. That will tell you much more than any ‘phone call.
Even so, virtual office companies can go out of business the same as any other, especially if they are offering services with are labour intensive at low rates. So, make sure you don’t put all your essential mail through them; just the essentials to maintain your business’ image.
2. What Is It For?
Typically, people want an address when they start up a small business and realise they need a correspondence address.
– Their home address won’t do – it looks amateur and weirdoes might come ’round the house;
– Companies House won’t accept a PO box number;
– PO boxes look suspect anyway;
– Your friend Jerry won’t let you use his office address – he’s been burnt before!
So you go shopping!
You want and address that looks normal on paper so that no red-flags pop up in people’s minds when they decide to buy from you or write to you.
3. How Does It Look?
There are basically three types of mail-forwarding address provider.
– Been around for 5 years, amateur-looking, low prices;
– Been around for 10 years, solid-looking, mid-range prices;
– Been around for 20 years, old-school styling, high prices.
Any of these can suit your needs, but don’t shop on price alone.
Too often, people choose a service that is ultra-low-cost and then later when they absolutely, positively need that vital HMRC letter they find they can’t get it because the provider isn’t returning calls and a trip to their office reveals piles of letters in the hallway when they peek through the letterbox of a locked door!
That cheap address you ‘just need for your website’ can turn out pretty expensive in the long run.
The physical address should suit the niche you’re trading in; a rough-looking address is fine if you’re a plumber and a glass-fronted sky-scraper would be ideal if you are starting an accountancy firm.
Most people won’t bother looking up the address in Google Maps unless they have to do some serious financial transaction with you. Then they they will pore over your business with a fine tooth comb.
If your address is a shed in Romford, they’ll stop returning your calls!
4. What Do They Do With Your Letters?
– Some companies will forward them via Royal Mail;
– Some companies will let you collect them in person;
– Some companies will scan and email them to you;
– Some companies will do all of the above.
We believe that getting the letters posted to you is the best.
Collection in person means you might forget about important letters which have deadlines in them. It’s possible someone will send you a legal letter with a deadline, like a court case, and you won’t know about it if you only collect your letters every three months.
Contrary to what you might think, the court case will go ahead even if you don’t turn up to the hearing. This can be disastrous for a small company, as a judgement will still be made in your absence and become part of the public record.
Scan and email means that you can’t use letters with cheques or debit cards in them. You need the physical letters. Digital copies can degrade or be lost forever if you lose your flash drive.
It’s best to get the physical letters posted to you and have done with it. They act as tangible reminders of things you’ve got to do and you’re not having to negotiate with the virtual office staff about individual letters.
You can use them as proof of address or that you actually have a working company in your dealings with third-parties.
5. Is There A Meeting Room?
Very, very rarely you might need or want to meet someone at your ‘virtual’ office. HMRC might want to discuss your VAT registration with you. A client might be old-fashioned and not want to meet in a Starbucks(!) to discuss important business with you.
You can’t invite them to you home and their office is hundreds of miles away, anyway. They want to reassure themselves that the person they’re dealing with is organised and substantial. It’s quite normal to want to meet at your business address.
It’s embarrassing if you have to tell them your address is a ‘front’, so choose an address with a meeting room for hire.
You can then call ahead to book the room. You turn up there a little early to get the lie of the land and then have your meeting.
You have all the appearance of having an office in a major city with none of the standard financial overheads.
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