Virtual office address: what is it and do you need one?
What’s a virtual office address? And why are they essential for some business owners?
In this article we explore the purpose of virtual offices, how they can help your business – and why they’re often a necessity.
So keep reading if you’re considering getting a virtual office address but want to know if it’s worth it.
Firstly, let’s explain what we mean by ‘virtual office’.
Table of contents
- What is a virtual office?
- How does a virtual office work?
- Who can use a virtual office?
- What are the benefits of using a virtual office?
- Do I need a virtual office?
- How much does a virtual office cost?
- Where should my virtual office be based?
- Is it legal to use a virtual office?
- What are the features of a virtual office?
- What are the disadvantages of a virtual office?
- Is a virtual office address right for you?
What is a virtual office?
A virtual office is a service that you can pay for, typically on a monthly basis, to get a real address that you can use as your own.
The virtual office address is actually a very real office space. You just don’t happen to work there. But you definitely can with some providers as they offer great flexibility in renting desks and meeting rooms per hour, days or longer term.
So it’s a real office address that you can display on your website, use to receive post (or mail if you’re American), and use for official purposes, including your company registration.
When you start a company with Tide, you can select a virtual office address during the registration process and set it all up in one go. Easy. You can get started over here: Tide company registration service
How does a virtual office work?
Like any business service, the exact features of the service depend on the provider, but most virtual office addresses share a few aspects.
You’ll probably pay a monthly fee to use the virtual office address as your official correspondence address. Some providers offer flexibility with month-on-month contracts and may apply discounts on 12 month or longer-term contracts.
You may also be able to receive post (letters and parcels) at the address, which you can then either collect in person, or have forwarded to your home. Some providers may include mail scanning and emailing your post as part of their standard mail handling service free of charge or may offer mail forwarding at additional cost to you. Make sure to check beforehand if this is a service important to your business.
Who can use a virtual office?
Anyone can use a virtual office.
It doesn’t matter if you are a sole trader or a limited company. These services are open to anyone who needs a fixed address away from their home.
What are the benefits of using a virtual office?
We’ll discuss these benefits in a little more detail, but here’s the short version.
Benefits of using a virtual office address as your registered office address:
- A permanent address that doesn’t move, even if you do
- Shield your home address from public view
- Adhere to your tenancy agreement
- Credibility, status and branding
- Affordable alternative to renting in a desirable location
- Flexible agreements and a low level of commitment
- Start a UK company from abroad
A virtual office gives you a permanent address
Do you know where you’ll be living or working next year?
If you move around regularly, you’ll know that one of the greatest hassles of moving is updating your banks, insurance companies, lenders, energy providers, phone companies and membership organisations with your latest address.
This effect is only magnified if you run a growing business with multiple partners, clients, customers, accountants and service providers – not to mention the tax correspondence.
And if you fail to receive letters from Companies House, for example, your company could get dissolved without you ever knowing there was a problem.
Clearly, you need to get your post wherever you may move.
Virtual office addresses remain the same wherever you may travel. You can work from a beach in Bermuda and your post will continue to stack up at the same desk in the same city (unless you have it forwarded to your current location).
Shield your home address
All limited companies are publicly listed, including their address.
When you create a company, your details are shared online by Companies House (as well as other websites and directories).
This transparency is fine for some companies, but it can be difficult if you run your business from home.
By using a virtual office address, you can protect your privacy and keep your home address off the internet and other public records. This also applies to the company director’s service address. If you want to keep that off the public records you can use a virtual office address for this one as well.
Adhere to your tenancy agreement
Some landlords do not allow tenants to use their properties for commercial purposes. Some tenancy agreements explicitly state that companies may not be registered at the address.
If you live in rented accommodation, you should check the terms of your tenancy agreement. Getting a virtual office address may be an absolute necessity.
Credibility and branding
Building a successful business relies, in part, on projecting a strong brand that appeals to your target market.
Your base of operations is part of this image that you project. And you can see why some companies need an office address inside a major city centre, rather than a suburban residence, in order to win the right kind of customers.
Having a virtual office address is a small detail, but it contributes to a picture of your company as an established, stable and significant operation. It’s a simple way to build trust, which is a priceless commodity for any new company.
Virtual office addresses cost a fraction of the rent that you would pay for an office in a similar location. Because of this, some companies will rent office space in one location and have an address somewhere more salubrious.
Start a UK company from abroad
All UK companies must be registered to a UK address. If you are based outside the UK, you will need to arrange a British address in order to operate as a British company.
Your virtual office provider will be able to manage your mail and forward everything to your primary home or work address.
If you create your limited company with Tide, you can select a virtual office during the sign-up process.
Do I need a virtual office?
Virtual office addresses are not essential, for most people – unless your tenancy agreement forbids you from using your current home as your company address – or you are based overseas.
Apart from these two use cases, a virtual office is typically a choice based on convenience, permanence, privacy and branding.
How much does a virtual office cost?
The cost of a virtual office depends partly on the location, the provider and the additional services that you want. For a basic virtual office address, you might pay £20 – £70 per month.
If you want additional features such as mail forwarding, call handling or meeting space, then you will probably need to pay a little more.
Where should my virtual office be based?
This decision is really down to you, the company you’re building and the clients you want to attract.
While many people will choose an address in the largest city near them, others will want an office address in their nearest town.
For some business owners, the specific location is crucial. In addition to choosing the right city for your business, you may know the particular neighbourhood, street or building where you want to be based.
Register your company – and get your mail wherever you are
It’s FREE to set up your limited company and open a business current account with Tide. You can also opt for a virtual office address, to keep your home address private and get your mail wherever you are. Get started
Is it legal to use a virtual office?
Yes, virtual office addresses are completely legal. Under UK law, there is no obligation to work from your registered address.
In fact, before virtual offices became commonplace, many companies would use their accountant’s office as their registered address. Clearly, this practice has been popular for decades.
What are the features of a virtual office?
The basic feature of a virtual office address is that it gives you a professional address where you can receive post. Most virtual offices allow you to either collect your post in person, or they will forward it periodically for a fee.
Some virtual offices provide additional services, such as call handling (or virtual phone numbers) and meeting spaces.
What are the disadvantages of a virtual office?
This is tricky to answer, because there aren’t any obvious flaws in the virtual office service concept.
Providing you choose your virtual office carefully, and select an appropriate location, then you should get all the expected benefits.
You may reach a point where, instead of having a virtual office in London (for example), you need a have a physical office in London, but it’s easy enough to cancel a virtual office address service and update your registered company address.
However, in that example you might prefer to maintain the virtual office address for your official correspondence like bank statements and tax paperwork, particularly if you are likely to change your physical office address any time soon (e.g. because you outgrow the space or need a different location).
Is a virtual office address right for you?
To summarise, virtual office addresses are ideal for anyone starting a company because they reduce the amount of paperwork you might have to do if you move. With a virtual office address you can have a single fixed point of contact wherever life takes you.
Most virtual office address agreements are rolling 1-month contracts, so you can usually cancel at any time if you get a new office or want to wind up the business.
With virtual offices, the commitment is small but the impact is big.
Photo by Anna Shvets, published on Pexels