Choosing a Professional Office: The Virtual Advantage
When Parm Gill graduated from BCIT’s interior design program, she was still living at home and expecting to find herself in a traditional job environment: a cubicle at a design firm. Facing a recessionary climate with few jobs on the horizon, Parm turned to self-employment but found herself challenged with the question of where to work.
Like many graduates-cum-entrepreneurs, Parm needed to match expenses with revenues. In other words, she needed to save cash until client fees started rolling in. Leasing an office space was not part of the immediate future. Student loans limited her ability to borrow in order to redesign her parents’ den into a home office. And with “home” based in the suburbs 50km from the nearest metropolis, she could hardly expect to meet the needs of corporate clients who were centered in the downtown core.
As a first step towards a professional office image, Parm could consider providing a business address and not her parents’ home. Two options make this affordable: renting a postal box office or using a commercial mail receiving agency mailbox service. The upside: it sounds corporate, and there is a suite number. The downside: if your clients drive by, they may realize that this is not a corporate office.
Parm’s solution? Going virtual. A low monthly rate provided all the services, staff and state-of-the art technology Parm would need for her growing business. Most virtual professional office spaces provide a corporate mailing address, well-designed lobby and reception (with call screening and forwarding to your home or cell phone) along with meeting rooms and the use of a work space.
But what should Parm be looking for when shopping for a professional office?
Like many creative professionals, Parm needed her virtual office to provide an area where she could meet clients as well as take care of the backend: creating designs and organizing the meeting notes, photos and paraphernalia provided by clients and suppliers. As an essential part of her office would be a desk large enough to accommodate paperwork as well as computer equipment. Few student-sized desks have large enough trays for keyboards let alone space for drawing paper and blueprints. Parm would need an L-shaped desk with a spacious keyboard tray as well as lower shelves for peripherals or files.
While many virtual office packages provide a low-cost rate for shared desk space, Parm opted for a private desk at a rate comparable to renting a bachelor suite.
Being on the road between her Langley home and Vancouver clients, Parm needed to ensure there was a virtual assistant during core business hours to take calls while she was driving and to receive courier deliveries.
Next, Parm’s virtual office needed some essentials to supplement her laptop and cell phone. Shelves, cabinets and file cabinets would help her stay organized and store swatches as well as other samples provided by suppliers and clients.
What are some of the tech basics Parm should consider in a professional office? A multi-purpose scanner, fax machine, copier and printer provides an advantage if space is limited. But if one component breaks down, you might find yourself wishing you had a separate device (for faxing and photocopying).
Since Parm’s work involves presentations, here are a few more virtual office perks that she could look forward to using: web conferencing for interactive presentations and video conferencing for communicating face-to-face with clients spread out in other areas or clients on the road.
First impressions are hard to undo, and for a design professional, the image Parm wanted to portray was stylish and hip. After visiting a variety of virtual offices, Parm found a renovated heritage-style building which offered exposed brick walls, hardwood floors and floor-to-ceiling windows that bathed the space in natural light. Shared by other design professionals in web and marketing, Parm discovered that not only did the space provide the setup and equipment but also an instant office to network with.
A Nice Hot Cup of Tea!
Image by JohnGoode
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