How To Set Up A Virtual Office For Your Startup
Like most things, the business industry is constantly changing its ways. Nowadays, starting a business doesn’t always mean having a space with four walls to get started. Thanks to the continuous advancement of technology, flexible and virtual working are now possible. This has become important and necessary, especially because entrepreneurs are now open to having a workforce in both physical and remote setups.
Besides safety purposes, virtual or remote working has helped workers and entrepreneurs create a healthy work-life balance as they can work anytime and anywhere. Meanwhile, virtual working is also an excellent option for startup entrepreneurs to open up their virtual offices with low startup costs. So, are you keen on setting up a virtual office for your startup?
What Is A Virtual Office?
A virtual office functions the same way a physical office does, but via the internet. Because your business is managed virtually, you can operate everything through your laptop and computer without worrying about investing in a workspace or office tools. If you have a big or small workforce, you’ll need to use systems and communication tools to keep in touch with everyone online.
While this new virtual approach provides numerous benefits like low startup costs and work flexibility, starting a virtual office business can also offer unique challenges. This article will cover a step-by-step process on how to set up a virtual office successfully and guide you toward which online tools and resources will help you get started.
Steps To Successfully Set Up A Virtual Office For Your Startup
Most startup entrepreneurs are very eager for their businesses to take off. Yet with limited funds, a virtual office may be the best option to start your business quickly and easily.
Here’s the step-by-step process when setting up your virtual office successfully:
Map Out Your Strategy
Like the traditional business, you still need to have a business plan and map out a strategy. Doing this will help you have a clear view of what your business may need to ensure a smooth virtual business operation. Your business plan shall include:
- Administrative summary
- Business description
- Industry and market analysis
- Management and organization structure
- Offered services or products
- Sales and marketing strategy
- Financial and budget projections
Developing this strategy will help calculate your needs in terms of staffing, workspace, resources, tools, and other essentials necessary for the success of your virtual startup.
Set Up Your Office Phone System
The availability of online platforms and online resources has made it possible to establish a virtual office. Now, you can find plenty of resources online that can replicate or replace the things you usually need when you’re in a physical office. One of these is your communication system. Because you’re a virtual business, you can only communicate with your employees or clients through virtual means, like a virtual office phone system.
Investing in a virtual phone system will boost your virtual business’s respectability and professional image. This system can offer you one primary business phone, toll-free and local numbers, call center services, automated text responses, and more. You can do all these through a smartphone application without having to invest in a fax machine or a telephone.
Construct Your Business Address
Even if you’re working virtually, your business still needs to have a business address to further establish your credibility and professionalism as a virtual entrepreneur. Furthermore, a business address is also required to create your limited liability company (LLC). For example, to form an LLC in Florida, your business address is needed to appoint a registered agent, prepare, and file your articles of organization, including your annual report.
Therefore, you need to invest in a virtual office company to construct your business address. Having a virtual office company can provide you with a virtual business address that also functions as a mailing address. This way, in case you need your mail to be delivered into your virtual business, your virtual mailbox will scan the envelope, including its content inside, before sending digital copies into your business email. Ultimately, you still get to work anywhere and receive your mail without having to access your mailbox physically.
Hire The Right People
One huge advantage of starting a virtual office is your unlimited access to a wider pool of talent. Unlike the physical office, wherein you can only hire people within the area, you can recruit the most skillful and talented applicants from all around the world for your virtual office. Thus, you can focus more on hiring the best and most qualified people for your virtual business, regardless of where they come from.
During the onboarding process, you get to decide whether you’ll need to hire virtual staff for your HR, sales, marketing, and other roles you might need. Alternatively, you can also outsource these responsibilities to a virtual assistant (VA).
Hiring a VA also comes with perks and benefits, especially for new virtual business owners. Your VA will help you organize and delegate your administrative tasks efficiently. Although some VAs may specialize in specific skills, you can hire one that specializes in the field where you need them to be.
For example, suppose you need a call center agent to operate your phone system’s predictive dialer. In that case, you’ll need to hire a VA with diligent communication skills and is skillful in professionally answering or making calls. Meanwhile, if you need someone to manage your social media accounts, go for a VA who’s an expert in operating multiple social media accounts and other organizational tasks. Overall, a VA is extremely useful in handling some of your responsibilities while you focus on the more critical aspects of managing a business.
Obtain An Email Address And Domain Name
If you’re thinking of using a Gmail or Yahoo account for your business’ email address, you may want to consider changing it into something more professional. Even if you have a virtual company, you must still preserve your brand or business’s credibility, which includes having a business email address. For example, your business email address should look like this:
Likewise, you should also consider creating a domain name for your business website. You can register your business domain name on different web hosting companies for as low as USD$10 or less. Before registering your domain name, take your time knowing the domain extensions and choosing the best one for your business.
You can choose from three main domain extensions:
- .com: This is the most in-demand domain extension and often the most expensive.
- .biz: This is often used by smaller enterprises.
- .net: If the .com is unavailable, some people may go for this option as it’s an abbreviated term for ‘network.’
Overall, having a business domain name and email address will make your virtual business more credible and help maintain its brand ownership.
Invest On The Right Virtual Office Tools
Instead of purchasing office tools and equipment (e.g., office chairs, desks, office storage), you’ll be focusing more on investing in the right software tools necessary for the type of virtual business you have. Here are a few software solutions you may need for your virtual office.
Invoicing And Billing System
You need to invest in online invoicing software to help you accept and process credit card payments (or other online payment resources), create billing statements, and send invoices to your customers and remote employees or freelancers via email. Think of this as a paperless way of handling your invoices and billing statements.
Document Management System
Because you don’t have a physical storage room or a printer to store, manage, and share your paperwork and documents, you’ll need to do it online via a document management system. A storage and document management system will be useful to store or share your documents with your clients or employees. You can also access this using your smartphone, tablet, laptop, or desktop computer.
Recovery And Backup System
As most of your documents and paperwork are done online, investing in a recovery and backup system is also crucial. This is important, especially because documents stored on the internet are more prone to hackers who could easily invade or delete your important files in a snap. Thus, you need to have a recovery and backup system to ensure your documents and files are safe, protected, and intact.
Productivity And Employee Management
Suppose you’re hiring a few people to work for your virtual office. In that case, you still need to closely monitor their attendance and productivity, particularly because they’re working remotely and with less supervision. Investing in a productivity and employee management system will help you monitor your remote team’s attendance records, working hours, and project progress.
This may not be required, specifically because the essence of having a virtual office is to start a business anytime and anywhere. However, you can encourage your remote employees to have a dedicated workspace or home office where they can set up their laptops, home computers, and internet connection. With a dedicated workspace, they can concentrate more on their tasks and improve their work productivity with fewer distractions.
Improve Your Means Of Collaboration And Communication
Having strong collaboration and communication for virtual offices is even more important than the traditional office setup. Considering that you’re already physically away from your employees and customers, you can only build relationships with them through proper communication.
Thus, make sure you maintain communication with your remote team and customers by utilizing virtual communication tools to strengthen your collaboration as a team. Some virtual communication tools you can use for your virtual office may include:
- Social media apps
- Instant messaging apps
- Phone calls
- Videoconferencing software
- Project management tools
- Mailing tools
Moreover, it’s also ideal to schedule regular video chat meetings with your remote team, as these will make them feel more involved and allow them a chance to build healthy relationships with their co-workers.
Set Up An Organizational Culture
Even if you have a virtual business setup, you still need to discuss company policies and responsibilities with your remote team. The following are some areas you should discuss with your virtual employees to help set up an organizational culture:
With a virtual office, you may have a more flexible work setup. However, it’s still ideal to implement virtual office hours for your employees, especially if you have remote workers from different time zones. This way, you can assign them a specific work schedule suitable to their time zone and let them enjoy a healthy work-life balance. Furthermore, implementing virtual working hours will restrict your remote team from working on a few more hours than they should.
Proper delegation of tasks and responsibilities is also vital, particularly because your employees are expected to work with less supervision. When onboarding new employees, make sure you provide them with detailed instructions about their duties and the company policies.
In a virtual office, building relationships with your remote team may be more challenging, but that doesn’t mean it’s not possible. You can prepare some team-building opportunities to prevent your employees from feeling isolated, which could impact their productivity and morale. Some team-building options you can consider are virtual company games, virtual office parties, virtual rewarding ceremonies, and more.
Advantages Of Having A Virtual Office
Now that you have a full concept of setting up your virtual office, here are the advantages of choosing to have a virtual business:
Low Start-Up Costs
As mentioned, a virtual office will only require low startup costs as you no longer have to worry about long-term leases or rental deposits. You can also save money as you don’t have to buy office furniture and equipment. Most importantly, you can free yourself from everyday expenses like utilities, cleaning supplies, etc.
Easy To Start
You can start your virtual office in no time because you don’t have to wait for a physical office to be set up. Instead, you can sign up for the software services your business may need and start operating right away.
With a virtual office, you have more flexibility. You and your employees no longer have to worry about commuting to a physical office. You can work in your own homes and individual schedules.
More Opportunities For Expansion
As an entrepreneur, it’s only normal to wish your virtual business to expand, specifically if you want to generate more sales and have more customers soon. With a virtual office, you can grow your business in no time without worrying about buying more office equipment or looking for a bigger office.
Altogether, setting up a virtual office comes with numerous perks and benefits you may not gain from a physical office. It’s also the perfect option for startup entrepreneurs who may not have enough finances yet to establish their own place.
As long as you have a transparent business plan, the right online tools, and the best remote team, you can get your virtual office running in your most preferred time. So, follow the steps provided in this guide and let your virtual business start thriving.