Choosing between serviced and virtual offices
When you're running a small business, it's important to present a professional image to your clients. The good news is that modern technology and virtual services are making that professional image more affordable and attainable than ever before.
Not only do virtual services help to make your business look professional and larger than it is, they can also help you increase productivity by freeing your time so you can focus on the things that are most important to your business and your clients.
But before you rush out and sign an extended lease for a serviced office, take a few minutes to work out whether that's what your business really needs.
The difference between serviced and virtual offices
Serviced and virtual offices provide small businesses with the infrastructure and support of a big corporation without the cost.
Both offer the same types of office services, including someone to answer your calls in your business name, access to fax and voicemail services, and access to auto attendant (IVR) telephone menu systems.
The main difference between the two is that a serviced office comes with a physical office attached, whereas a virtual office provides the services only. This makes the virtual office less expensive than the serviced office, and an ideal solution for home-based businesses.
What are virtual services?
Most small businesses are familiar with outsourcing things that fall outside their area of expertise, such as book-keeping or web design.
Modern technology allows us to outsource not only services, but also some office equipment. As with traditional outsourcing, this allows small businesses to enjoy the benefits of the service for a fraction of the price.
Popular virtual services include the following:
- Live phone answering and concierge services who answer your calls when you’re not available for a fraction of the cost of a full-time employee.
- Virtual fax services, which allow you to receive and send faxes (via email) without the expense of buying and running a fax machine.
- Call forwarding/IVR menus, which allow you to direct incoming calls to any landline or mobile number based on caller selections.
- 1800 and 1300 numbers that are yours for the life of your business, and can be routed to any landline or mobile number in Australia.
Probably the most important virtual service is having someone answer your phones.
The phone is often where you have your first contact with clients, so it's where they form that all-important first impression of your business. That makes it essential that your phone is answered quickly and professionally.
There will always be times when you're not available to answer the phone yourself, for example when you're in a meeting, on another phone call, or working on a project that you don't want to be distracted from.
And it's probably more affordable than you'd expect. Hiring an Australian-based virtual receptionist who answers calls in your business name can cost as little as $39 per month.
Working in an office with virtual services
Virtual services can be added to any office: either a home office or one based in a commercial building.
Many small businesses begin at home. Having a home office helps to keep your costs down, minimise risk (not being locked into a lease), and provides a lot of flexibility around the hours you're able to work.
Adding virtual services to your home office can provide you with the best of both worlds: allowing you to present a professional image while enjoying the benefits of a home office.
Virtual office packages are usually upgradable too, which allows you to start with a subset of basic services, and then upgrade in future as your business needs grow.
The two things you don't get at home that are provided in a serviced office are a mailing address and meeting rooms, but both of those issues are easily addressed.
Most home-based businesses use a PO Box as their main mailing address. This allows them to keep the same mailing address if the business relocates, and delivers the mail to them usually 2-3 days faster than using a mail-forwarding service.
Client meetings can be held coffee shops or restaurants in a location that is convenient to the client. And for times where you need a bit of extra space, equipment, or privacy, you can hire a meeting room in a conference centre and serviced office as required.
Working in a serviced office
If you don't have room at home for an office, or if you're running the type of business where you expect clients to “drop in” without an appointment, the serviced office is for you.
These offices are well located (often in the CBD), so you can usually find one close to your target passing traffic.
In addition to your monthly rent for office space, you also have a wide range of virtual services available to you. These are usually offered as upgradable, allowing you to pay for the services you need to day, and upgrade in future as your business grows.
With a receptionist and meeting rooms available on site, this is an ideal solution for businesses that have frequent meetings with clients.
Creating the office that works for you
Both serviced and virtual offices will help you to
- Minimise overhead costs
- Present a professional appearance
- Save time and money and increase productivity with "virtual" services
It all comes down to which one works best for your business. Don't pay for services or office space that you don't need. Instead, look for a provider that will allow you to pay for what you need today, and upgrade in future as your business grows.
Whichever solution you choose, make sure it reflects the correct image for your business.
If you want to learn more about the types of virtual services that are available and how they can help your business, visit our web site at www.alltel.com.au or by phone us on 1300 ALLTEL (1300 255 835).