Is It Time To Open A Virtual Office

Renting an office space can be expensive.  But its also a big landmark for your business.  You have now outgrown your home.  No more working at the kitchen table or in your make shift office, that used to be your guest room!  But there are some things you need to watch out for before you sign on the dotted line!  Here are a few tips to help you negotiate your first office space rental.

Virtual Office Spaces

virtual office spaceVirtual office spaces are a very popular option for small businesses taking that first step out of their own home.  Virtual office space rentals come in many different sizes and features.  You should really take your time when you decide to take this route.

The basic virtual office will include the following:

  • mail handling
  • business license hanging

The next step up generally will include

  • Actual office space time – meaning that you can come in and use one of their furnished offices for a set number of hours each month.  You just bring your computer and files.  This is great if you only have the occasional client that wants to meet in your office.
  • Some places will also include conference room time
  • Some light receptionist duties
  • First come first served cubicles – these are open cubicles that you can use whenever you like.  But they are first come fist served.  Meaning you can get to your virtual office and find that there are no cubicles available.  You can either use your precious office hours or go home!

Co-working Spaces

When we were growing our business I really loved this concept.  You coworking spacedon’t get your own desk (most of the time)  that you work at every day.  Its more first come first served.  So if you have a particular spot that you like to work from, get there early and stake your claim!  But don’t expect to get the same spot everyday.

 You have to take your personal belongs back home with you every day.  BUT its a very economical way to get your business  out of your house.

What I liked about it is that the ones I would go to had a large table in the center of the room.  You could “announce” that you need some help fleshing out an idea and anyone who is there (and not busy) will come to the table and give you feedback.   I loved that!  I didn’t like that I had to take my stuff with me daily.

Some things to think about:

  • Do you want to have to take your belongs home with you daily
  • You understand you will not always have the same desk or space every time you go in there
  • Most people are considerate. But some people / businesses brought in some loud clientele.

Executive Suites

executive officeMany virtual office places also offer executive suites.  This is the Cadillac of spaces! And my favorite!  I first started out in a virtual office until I had a steady stream of clients that were coming in to see me.  I then started to upgrade my services until I reached the point where it was cheaper to just rent out an office.

An executive office space differs from a virtual office space in the following ways:

  • Comes with your business name displayed in the lobby
  • Full receptionist – meaning they answer your phones for you and great your clients.  If you are in an internal office (no windows) you may want to have the receptionist show your client to one of their conference rooms.
  • More conference room time
  • FURNISHED office – Usually a desk, chair, file cabinet, & phone system
  • All utilities including phone and internet

Its completely move in ready.  You just bring in your files and personal effects!   Executive offices are really nice.  You can find some in the best neighborhoods.  Remember you want to impress your clients.  Meeting them at Starbucks doesn’t have the same effect or credibility builder as meeting them in your swanky office in one of the best parts of town!

Tip: To save money and still get all the benefits of an executive suite.  Look for the most UNDESIRABLE of the suites.   What I mean is that I am in an office that has GREAT views of Houston’s Galleria area.  With floor to ceiling windows, these were truly beautiful work spaces.  BUT their beauty was matched only by their price!   So what I did was I rented one of their internal offices!  No windows.  Just a nicely furnished box.  That just happened to be 40% cheaper then the window offices!

Share an office space

Executive suites are nice.  They have all the bells and whistles. shared office space But they can be expensive.  More expensive then just renting an empty office space.  A few things to think about when you decide to rent an unfurnished space are:

  • How much will utilities cost
  • Many phone and internet services want businesses to sign a 2 year agreement.  Do you want to be locked in for that long?
  • If you have credit problems you may be forced to put down large security deposits to the office complex and utilities
  • How much will it cost you to furnish your office
  • Does the building have a conference room.  And if so, how many hours a month do you have access to it
  • How is the security. The last non-virtual office I rented had NO SECURITY.  I was there less than 1 month before I was robbed.  All computers taken.  And no I didn’t have insurance yet (get insurance IMMEDIATELY)  Thank God, I brought everything on my American Express business card that actually has insurance on purchases made within 45 days I think it was.  I broke my lease and although I explained the situation to Cox cable they wanted me to pay for the 2 years of service I signed up for even though I had been with them less than a month.  We never were able to come to an agreement and they placed the default on my business credit report.

OpeniGet rid of your fax machine. Try RingCentralng up your own office has some drawbacks and can be expensive.  But maybe you can share the expense with another business owner. This is a growing trend among businesses today because it enables a company to save as much as 50% to 75% on monthly lease costs.  Just make sure the type of work they do will not interfere with your work.  Or perhaps offend your clients.   For instance, When I was living in Las Vegas I was approached by a friend that is a photographer to share space with him. I thought about it, but I knew his biggest client ran an Adult site.  Although he swore he would make sure the door was always closed on the Studio.  I was afraid  LOL.  So I passed.

Lessons learned: No matter what kind of business you are in, make sure you are insured and you have security in place to not only protect your things.  But your clients files!

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Liz Roberts

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