How virtual offices can add value to small businesses

From branding to efficiency, four ways a virtual office could improve the running of your start-up

If you have a small business based in or around London, the ultra-competitive office rental market may be persuading you to consider trading your desk for a virtual office instead.

Starting at around £50 per month, using virtual offices in London is certainly a cheaper alternative.

But if used smartly, there may be more benefits to using a virtual office than simply saving money.

Dan Millington from i2 Office looks at some of the ways going virtual can actually add value to a small business.

Branding: Constructing a professional corporate identity

To the old guard the idea of having a reception and address far removed from your actual location may seem a bit insincere. And perhaps having a Canary Wharf address when you’re really operating out of a garage in Hackney can seem a bit like trickery. But branding has always been an inherently smoke-and-mirrors kind of affair.

Potential clients have little else to judge businesses by than their exterior. (How often have you based your entire judgement of a company on their amateurish website?). Investing in a professional image is crucially important to gaining the trust of future clients or customers. How calls are answered can be a critical component of this branding process.

Having a professional call answering service can be particularly valuable asset to a “one-man-band” or small start-up, where one person is required to juggle a host of roles. It creates the impression that you have dedicated areas of responsibility within your organisation, even if you are that entire organisation.

Marketing: Giving your business added relevance

For those in the manufacturing business it makes sense to have a separate, central location for their client-facing sales department or showroom whilst their factory or workshop is located elsewhere. This model is typically only cost effective on a larger scale.

But with a virtual office even a small-scale bespoke shoe maker can have a workshop in east Hertfordshire and an address on Regent street. There will be limitations on how you can use your virtual office (you will not be able to use the virtual address in Google places, for instance), but a carefully selected location can make you seem far more on-trend and connected to your industry.

Accessibility: Bringing your business to your clients

Many high quality virtual office packages offer complimentary access to business lounges and discounts on meeting rooms. This means you can easily arrange to meet clients at your virtual address or even further afield should you be travelling. If your chosen virtual location has strategic relevance to your industry this will make you more accessible to the people you want to connect with.

Efficiency: Freeing up your employees to do their real jobs

We’ve all been there – it is virtually impossible to get anything done when the phone is ringing off the hook. If your business is just beginning to take off, you are bound to get more calls, demanding ever more time from you and your employees.

The result will invariably be a reduction in productivity. Yet few start-ups have the resources to hire a full-time receptionist to prevent this from happening. Using a virtual reception (at a fraction of the cost of a full-time employee) lets you re-allocate responsibilities, allowing you and your team to get back to the things that drive revenue.

Dan Millington works for i2 Office who have business centres across the UK. They offer fully serviced and furnished offices, virtual office packages, meeting rooms, business lounges and hot desks to businesses of any size.

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