Virtual Offices, Coworking and Executive Suites

Virtual offices, coworking spaces and executive suites can be excellent options for small businesses that want an office address, a part-time workspace, or a meeting place, but don't need a full-service permanent office.

A virtual office gives you the appearance of having a permanent office location without the overhead. Virtual offices offer communication services such as phone, fax and answering service support from a remote location, while also providing a physical address for receiving mail and packages. A virtual office may also have conference rooms or private offices that you can use on an as-needed basis.

A co-working space offers a place to work and collaborate with others, on an as-needed basis. Co-working spaces tend to have open floor plans and shared spaces that are ideal for collaboration, but a coworking space may also offer dedicated desks, private offices and conference rooms. A coworking space is somewhat less likely to have receptionist and answering service support.

An executive suite is bona fide office space, often including use of Internet, shared conference rooms and other facilities. Executive suites are leased by businesses that want to maintain a professional image without the overhead of a full office suite.

Tenants in executive suites often share a receptionist, office equipment and other support services. Some executive suites even rent offices or rooms by the hour to home-based entrepreneurs or other people who need temporary space.

Virtual offices, coworking spaces and executive suites offer advantages for the small business owner. The trick is identifying your needs and matching them with the appropriate arrangement.

Virtual Offices

If you don't need a place to work and meet with people on a daily basis, a virtual office can create the perception of an established business and offer the convenience of professional communication support. While you will need to invest in your own copiers and office equipment, you won't incur monthly lease charges. Instead, you will pay a monthly fee for the virtual office service.

Here's what a virtual office service can do for you:

  • Receive phone calls "live," take messages and, in some cases, answer questions.
  • Provide a directory listing.
  • Provide voicemail services.
  • Establish a business mailing address, often in a prestigious location.
  • Receive and forward mail and packages.
  • Provide a virtual assistant for administrative or bookkeeping duties.
  • Provide office space rental on a daily or hourly basis.
  • Provide conference or meeting room rental.

Some virtual office providers offer a combination of services, including phone reception and package receipt, as well as conference rooms or temporary office space. In general, the more services you need, the more you will pay.

A virtual office is perfect for a professional who wants to maintain a professional image without having to pay for a permanent office or staff.

Coworking Spaces

If you need a physical place to work without a lot of overhead, a coworking space can be a good option. Coworking spaces typically have monthly membership fees, with basic membership allowing you to use a shared workspace and more expensive membership packages giving you a dedicated desk or private office. You may have access to office equipment, conference rooms and mailbox service.

While virtual offices tend to be located in office towers, coworking spaces are more likely to be in trendy and up and coming locations. Coworking can be a good choice for:

  • A business that wants to project a hip, creative image
  • Entrepreneurs who want people around to bounce ideas off of
  • Startups without much capital
  • Home-based consultants and other business owners who want to get out of the house a few days a week
  • Business owners who only need a workspace occasionally

Executive Suites

If you meet with clients or vendors and don't want to hold your meetings in your home or a public place, then an executive suite might be the right choice.

Think of this option as a lower-cost way to establish a physical office location. You can create a home for your company without committing to more space than you can afford, without signing long-term leases, without hiring full-time staff and without purchasing expensive office equipment and furniture. Most executive suites come fully furnished and ready to use, allowing you to adjust your space requirements as your needs change.

Executive suites can be a good choice for:

  • Small businesses that want to project a professional image while controlling costs and maintaining flexibility.
  • Branch offices, temporary meeting rooms and special projects.
  • Start-ups unsure of their long-term needs.

Standard executive suite arrangements generally offer:

  • Customized signage and office branding.
  • Offices, meeting rooms, lounges, reception areas and kitchens.
  • Receptionist services, including call and mail/package handling.
  • Office furniture and shared equipment such as copiers, printers and document shredders.
  • Utilities.
  • Insurance
  • Secure access 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
  • Internet access.
  • Cleaning services.
  • Convenient, well-lit parking areas.

To decide on the arrangement that best suits your business, take a look at your short- and long-term requirements. If cost is an issue, find space on the outskirts of your local business center. More prestigious locations tend to cost more. If image is crucial, limit your searches to the "right" buildings in better areas.

Next, focus on the services you require. Do you need extensive phone and reception services? If so, choose an executive suite that employs front desk personnel. If conference room availability is important, factor that in when making your choice. Finally, be sure the executive suite provides the office equipment you need.

Once you've created a short list, evaluate each potential location in terms of cost and length of lease. Some executive suites provide space on a month-by-month or even on as-needed basis; other locations require a longer-term commitment.

Weigh your present needs against future plans, and choose the executive suite that provides the best balance of cost and services. When in doubt, choose a location with a shorter-term commitment so you can test the waters. The beauty of using an executive suite is that moving to another location is relatively easy and painless.