How to setup a virtual office small business
Virtual offices are the answer for small business owners looking to reduce expenses, get a well-located business address while enjoying all the perks of having a location independent job. They help startups and small organization to save money on rent and maintenance of facilities, to later invest it in software to gain competitive advantage.
Virtual offices are changing the way business are made. More than 40% of workforce in United States are freelancers, and there is around 28 million small businesses. It’s just a matter of time for virtual offices to get ahead of physical facilities, even for companies with big number of employees.
What is a virtual office?
Virtual offices are a collection of software for communication and management working together to do the same processes tackled in a company facility. This arrange of tools comply with all the requirements needed for enterprises to get in touch with clients, manage requests, outsource work, assign activities, receive mails, and in general deliver a high-quality product.
As traditional offices rely on facilities and local networks to send information and interact with customers, virtual offices use internet and clouds to perform the same job. Therefore, lack of internet connection represents a problem them, and possibly lead to delays on the distribution of the product.
However, small business particularly benefit from off-site locations, more than permanent offices. Facilities based in the center of business areas are costly to rent and maintain, yet having a mailing address or offices in these areas display professionalism, success, and help on building trust with clients. Then, owners with virtual offices in these districts would have the mailing address, without paying for the whole facility.
Features to consider in a virtual office
As we mentioned before, virtual offices are all about functionality and affordability. They need to display trust to clients while having strong management and communication systems.
If you are in the market for a virtual office you must bear in mind finding flexible and easy to use software, with the 3 following capabilities:
· Virtual assistance
· Manage tasks and schedule appointments
· Instant Messaging
A fair amount of companies with permanent facilities have a receptionist or assistant welcoming visitors, directing instructions, strengthening communication channels, answering questions from customers etc. So, depending on the flow of queries and amount of clients, you will need a software or a person to take charge of these tasks.
Now, not every small business has the same amount tasks, but even one-man ventures sometimes require to manage and outsource tasks. It’s hard to keep track from the development of activities when workers are in a different time zones. That means, if your business has several employees, your virtual office should consider software that integrates task management and a single calendar displaying everyone's agenda.
We know this sounds very expensive - but it’s not. For instance, Google Calendar has a friendly interface that integrates with each team member agenda and let you see activities scheduled and availability.
Communication is perhaps the most critical feature of a virtual office. For small businesses this shouldn’t be a huge problem, there are plenty of low-priced software out there with workspaces for small teams. If you are sort of lost where to start, check Slack - free for for a limited number of teams and basic communication channels.
The 5 steps to setup a virtual office
Mailing address and working space
Although it’s contrary to the idea of “virtual office” you probably will need a working space to hold meetings with clients. To decide the ideal size and location of this occasional office, first you should consider amount of people your work with potential amount of meetings in a month.
The mailing address and the meeting office do not necessarily have to be the same. But, many companies providing virtual office services offer special packages with great prices for small businesses looking for meeting rooms for certain number of hours a month.
Virtual assistantData entry, phone calls and appointment scheduling are some of the most common duties of virtual assistants. Small companies with only a handful of clients often do not require even a part time virtual assistant. In those cases, a virtual phone with voice mails, customized greetings and extensions for world-wide locations does the job.
This is a perfect option for small business on a budget. You won’t miss calls from clients and your brand will look professional.
Clouds for storageWhile some businesses with permanent facilities invest on hardware to store and get access to documents in local networks, virtual offices need to consider a shared online network with easy access for team members.
The most frequently used programs for small businesses are Google Drive, Dropbox and OneDrive. Choosing a suitable cloud for your venture depends on the amount of people trying to get to the network at the same time, and the storage required.
Instant messagingPlatforms with instant message features are important to keep the team together and enhance interactions within members. They are very helpful to share files, last-minute conferences, screen sharing and keep track of simple assignments.
Task ManagerFor small businesses facing rapid growth, task management software is pivotal to ensure the work is getting done in time. They remove the need of constant emails checking up on team members and unnecessary meetings.
Task management apps streamline work among peers, without holding meetings in person. In other words, they enable communications and help to keep up with the most urgent activities and guarantee a quality product.
The downside and last advices
Having a virtual office is challenging and it demands extra efforts to make communication steady and build appropriate company culture.
People working remotely have almost no supervision on daily basis. Consequently, small business owners need to focus on cultivating discipline and encouraging the use of programs acquired, said to manage tasks, storage information or talk among peers.
It is particularly difficult to ensure opportune and healthy communication. The nonverbal impressions and ideas given in a face-to-face conversation are lost in video conferences. For that matter, virtual offices for small businesses need to particularly address this issue in order to keep growing.
The message delivered in terms of culture and sense of belonging from the organization is not equally strong in location independent jobs. However, workers appreciate having the freedom to perform their duties at home, which often leads to strengthen the bond between the business and their employees.