Virtual Offices – Providing Support For Home Businesses

Many people that work from home find it difficult to manage all aspects of their business by themselves. Unfortunately many business owners simply do not have the capital to be able employ or accommodate an administration team to provide them with support. Virtual offices offer affordable support solutions for people that run home based businesses. Work can be outsourced to virtual assistants who have the skills and knowledge to handle both administration and customer service tasks.

License: Creative Commons image source
License: Creative Commons image source

Virtual office services

Virtual offices usually offer a telephone answering service, where a business’s calls will be directed to a virtual receptionist, rather than to the business owner. This enables business owners to get on with other more productive tasks. Using a virtual receptionist will also make your business look bigger and more professional.

They will answer your calls using your personalised business greeting and learn information about your business so they can answer your customers’ queries. If you are not available to speak to a customer, the virtual receptionist will take a message which will be sent to you via email or text message.

Giving out a home address to clients can often look a little unprofessional, giving them the wrong impression about your business. Combat this issue by using a virtual office’s mail forwarding service. You will be able to use the virtual office’s address as your own, which looks far more professional to customers, especially if the office is based in a prestigious area. The mail forwarding service will also help to increase efficiency, as you will no longer feel like you have to wait around at home to sign for important letters and packages.

Virtual offices also carry out other general administration work for businesses such as invoicing, scheduling and faxing. Some companies even offer extensive services such as social media and project management.

Benefits of using a virtual office

Virtual offices provide an affordable solution for home business owners that require additional support. Rather than having to hire an employee who would require a wage and other benefits like sick and holiday pay, you can pay a monthly fee to receive the services of a virtual office. Not only is this more cost efficient for small businesses, but it is also less of a commitment. Virtual offices usually offer small contracts or provide services on a month to month basis, preventing you from having to tie yourself into long contracts.

Working with a virtual office will also help to increase productivity. You will have much more time to spend on sourcing products, marketing your business and planning expansion as you will not be sat at home taking your customers’ phone calls all day.

How to choose a virtual office

When it comes to choosing a virtual office it is important to find one that will take the time to get to know you and your business. It is important that the virtual receptionists and assistants are able to represent your business in a way that you are happy with, as they will be the people speaking directly to your customers. Do a little online research and you are sure to find a company that is capable of representing your company to a high standard.

Outsourcing work to a virtual office will mean you have more time to work on the parts of your business that you enjoy!
License: Creative Commons image source

Conclusion

Virtual offices enable home businesses owners to grow and develop their company with a supportive team behind them at just a fraction of the cost of hiring an in-house admin team. Everyone needs a little extra support sometimes and this is something that virtual offices are there to provide. Not only will a virtual office benefit a home based business in terms of support, but it can also make them look more professional, creating the right impression on customers.

About the Author: Written by Megan Hunt who likes having home business support

Should I Work from Home? Pros and Cons

If you’re growing tired of the rat race and yearn to set up your own business, doing something you love and making money from it, you’re far from alone. And in this time of recession, with people still being made redundant left, right and centre, more and more people are choosing to set up shop themselves.

If you’re thinking of doing the same, one question you will probably ask yourself at some point is: should I work from home?

work from home
Image by Jelle Vandebeeck

It’s true that working from home can be enormously beneficial in terms of satisfaction, productivity and time spent with the family, but it is not without its pitfalls. So you need to think long and hard before deciding whether you want to turn a little corner of your house into a home office or workspace and shelling out for office furniture or equipment.

The pros of working from home

No boss

If you’re working from home, you’re either your own boss, or you have permission from your boss to work away from the office. Either way, you don’t have the feeling of someone over your shoulder all the time.

Make your own working hours

Some people are far more productive outside the general office hours of 9-5. If you do your best work early in the morning, or later in the evening, or even in the middle of the night, you have the freedom to set your own hours and work when you’re at your most productive.

Save the environment (and some money!)

If you’re not using you car ever day on that daily commute, you’re helping to cut down on fuel emissions, and reducing your carbon footprint. You’ll also be able to save money, without the cost of petrol or train fares to worry about, or the cost of renting an office.

Spend more time with your family

If you’ve not got a horrendously long commute to worry about every day, it gives you more time to spend with your family. You’ll be able to get the kids ready for school, maybe even walk them to school, and have breakfast as a family in the mornings. And in the evenings, you’ll be there to listen to their stories about their day, and have dinner as a family too.

Work in your pyjamas

If you find you’re much more comfortable in your pyjamas, or tracksuit trousers and a slouchy jumper than you are in tailored work suits, then you’re probably not alone! And if it makes you more productive, there’s no reason why you can’t wear whatever you’re most comfy in when you work from home.

The cons of working from home

Distractions

When you’ve got no boss to worry about and you’re working at your own speed, it’s easy to get distracted. The TV, the cat, making a cup of tea, surfing the Internet…. all of these things can command your attention, making it hard to focus on your projects.

Procrastination

When you make your own hours, it can be very easy to think, “I’ll start in an hour or so”. Then that can quite easily turn into a couple of hours, and before you know it, it’s lunchtime!

Lack of designated work space

Not everyone who works from home is lucky enough to have a home office or workspace. Many people simply don’t have the room. This can make it hard to focus, especially if you have to move, for example if you’re using the family dining table, or if there are other people around during the day.

You can’t get away from it

Unless you are lucky enough to have a designated study, studio or other workspace that you can just shut the door on at the end of the working day, you’ll find it hard to escape your work. And you might also feel that you have to work all hours of the day or night to please clients, particularly if you’re a new business. When you work at home, this is all too easy to do.

Trust signals

Even in today’s age of ecommerce and doing business online, many people still like to see a bricks and mortar shop/office. So not having one of these could be detrimental.

In many cases, working from home can be hugely rewarding, whether you have the option to do so from time to time, or you run your own business. However you do need to be careful to strike the right work-life balance, not let your work impinge on your family life and vice versa, and make sure you maintain a sense of structure. You might need to be strict with yourself in terms of procrastination and the hours you keep too, especially if you’re easily distracted!

Author Bio: If you’re thinking of working from home, it’s a good idea to have a home office, which should be tidy and organised, and allow for maximum productivity. ForMyOffice are a leading supplier of office and home office furniture, as well as lighting and desk accessories for all your office needs.

Tips for Being Productive Outside the Office

If you have ever had a job working in an office, then you have probably heard plenty about productivity. Many bosses take great care about finding out how productive potential employees will be when looking to hire new staff, and productivity is often a big part of performance evaluations.

Productivity is simply a big part of having a job; however, productivity should extend outside the office. After all, going the extra mile is what separates the good employees and the excellent employees. But it can be difficult to be productive outside the office if you do not know how.

business productivity tips

Separate You Work and Social Life

One big part of being productive outside the office is separating your work and social life. One good way to help keep these two sides separate is to get a second phone line. This does not mean you need to carry two phones, since the SmartPhone app Line2 can work as a second phone line on a SmartPhone for business calls. Separating your phone lines can help you to seem more professional and productive.

To further keep your work and social lives separated, avoid making many friendships that might interfere with your work. It is fine to have a colleague or two that you get a drink with after work sometimes, but it might be a problem if you find yourself invited to your employee’s daughter’s birthday party.

This is a matter of common sense and personal judgment, since all business relationships are different, but it’s generally not a good idea for business associates on different levels of “the food chain” to get too close. This not only can cause people to become suspicious if you or your friend gets a raise or paid vacation, but it can also lower your productivity dealing with the issues that can arise.

Working From Home

Another situation that can give people trouble is when they have to work from home or a hotel, such as finishing and sending in a report while on a business trip. It can be distracting and demotivating if you do not have to get ready or dressed to go into work, so many people find themselves becoming less productive in these situations.

The best thing to do is pretend you are at work. When you wake up, take a shower and get dressed. This gets you in a working mindset. Set a strict schedule and follow it, and avoid all distractions such as television and friends. Also, make a list of things to do every night for the next day. This will help you keep track of exactly what you need to do.

If there is one thing that impresses employers and future employers, it is an individual’s ability to be productive outside the office. It is often the deciding factor when an employer is deciding between applicants for an open position or when deciding who they need to lay off. Increasing your productivity outside the office is a great way to put yourself ahead of the competition.

About the Author: Jessy is a stay-at-home mom and business blogger.

Working at Home – Know Your Stuff and Avoid the Scams

Having the opportunity to work from home is a dream for many people. Some people choose remote working as a way to earn a little extra money while looking after their kids, while others opt to work from home so that they can avoid the daily commute, or just structure their work day a little differently to the average 9-5 job.

Because remote working is so popular, this has led to a lot of scams job advertisements cropping up. Job sites do their best to try to remove the scams, but it can be difficult for them to stay on top of the sheer number of job postings that are submitted. If you want to avoid dodgy work-at-home advertisements, try the following tips.

work at home

Remember That Real Jobs Don’t Cost Money

If a job posting asks you to pay money up front, steer clear of it. A real employer would not charge money for training materials or equipment. Never hand over cash when you apply for a work-at-home job. You won’t see that money again.

Don’t Expect to Get Rich

Avoid listings that promise good incomes for part-time hours. Those listings are almost always pyramid schemes, MLM, or something similar. Work at home jobs are still jobs, and you’ll have to put in real work to earn real money.

Read the Advertisement Carefully

Before you apply for any remote working job, make sure you understand exactly how it will work. Many jobs work on a commission basis, or a revenue sharing basis. This doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re a scam, but it does mean that your income isn’t guaranteed. If you need a fixed income to pay the bills, be careful applying for commission related jobs.

Common Scams to Avoid

Until recently, assembly related jobs were a common work-from-home offering. These jobs tend to require fiddly, difficult assembly work. You can expect to work long hours to meet your targets, and will then have a sample of your work quality tested. If any of your work fails the test, you won’t get paid for that batch.  Home assembly jobs might sound nice, but you’ll probably do a lot of work for very little money.

Another common remote working scam is data entry. While fast typists can do very well financially from real data entry jobs, in the work-at-home world, data entry is a euphemism for posting spam advertisements on forums and job boards. Your income (if you get any) will probably come from scamming other people into paying to buy the “data entry” start-up kit that you just purchased yourself.

Finding Real Work-at-Home Jobs

The best way to approach the work from home job hunt is not to look for jobs that advertise themselves as “Work from Home”. Instead, treat it like a normal job hunt. Figure out what your marketable skills are, and look for jobs in those areas. Jobs such as tech support, public relations, accounting, and software development all support working from home these days. Look for jobs with well known, reputable employers, and negotiate remote working with them if you want to avoid scammers.

About the Author: This post was written by James Harper on behalf of Maintel the remote working experts.

Image: Eric__I_E / Flickr

The Challenges of Working From Home

Many people believe that working from home is a luxury. Yes, you don’t have to make the commute every day, and yes, you don’t have to deal with those annoying co-workers, but while working from home may save you from the boredom of your cubicle, it still poses the following challenges.

Home Office v 2.0

1. Communication Barriers
If you work in an office, and you need to ask a coworker a question, you can simply walk to their office, pop your head in, and get your answer. When you work from home, you rely on other forms of communication, such as email, phone and/or social media. While these are all great ways to communicate, you can end up playing phone tag or waiting all day for an email response. This is fine when the answer you need is not time-sensitive, but it can be extremely frustrating if your deadline is fast approaching and you have a question about an important aspect of the project.

2. Distractions
There are distractions at the workplace, but there are more at home. Those dishes piling up could be driving you crazy. Your dog could be begging you to go for a walk. Your bed is also a short distance away, and would anyone really notice if you took a quick nap?

While you are working in an office, you can focus solely on doing your job. Aside from your co-worker’s drama, there is nothing there to distract you for the entire day like that to-do list around the house.

3. Allocating time appropriately.
If you work from home with a lax schedule, it can be hard to allocate time to complete your work. Maybe you have errands to run during the day that need to be done while the stores are open. Then when you get home, you have to make dinner, and after dinner, you have to help kids with homework. By the time you’re ready to start working for the day, the day is long gone.

4. Lack of social interaction.
Sure you are working in the comfort of your own home, but working by yourself can be depressing. We all enjoy taking that five minute break to talk about last night’s game or discuss social happenings with our coworkers. We get to know each other and build a rapport, and having an adult conversation, no matter how trivial it may be, is good for our social lives. When you work from home, you miss out on that social interaction. You don’t talk to anyone face to face, and you’re left out of the “goings ons” at the office. Plus, think of all those tasty treats you’re missing at those impromptu office parties.

While working from home does have its benefits, it also has its challenges. If you have the choice to work at the office or work from home, consider the pros and cons of both. Working from home may be the gig for you, or maybe you would be more productive in the office.

About the Author: Hillary Fox is a marketing major at the University of Texas with a passion for writing on the side. She is a proud advocate of dining on quick and easy freezer meals. Hillary cannot cook.

Start a Home-Based Business

Starting your own home-based business can be a fantastic opportunity. You have the chance to work for yourself, make all the decisions and major calls, and maybe even choose your own schedule to watch the kids while you’re working from home.

However, with the power and perks of a home-based business often comes responsibility. If this responsibility is not handled properly, it could land both you and your business in hot water. There are plenty of legal ramifications to consider with such an operation, and being prepared can help you avoid potential issues that could be costly both in time and money.

Legal Operation

One of the first things you’ll likely have to consider in a home-based business is whether your operation is indeed legal to operate. Many locales have a variety of zoning laws and restrictions. Even certain housing developments, apartment communities or condominiums may have guidelines governing the operation of a home-based business. Therefore, it is important that before you make any sort of sizeable investment to get your business up and running that you make sure you are in compliance with area zoning and business operation rules and requirements.

Insurance Needs

A home-based business can be convenient in that it allows you to work from the privacy and comfort of your own home. However, this also means that customers and clients may be coming onto or into your property on a regular basis. A simple trip and fall by a customer on your property could result in a lawsuit. By having the necessary business and liability insurance paid up and in proper coverage amounts, you could be better protecting yourself legally when it comes to the possibility of injuries or other issues that might occur upon your property.

Employees

Insurance can also be important if you are planning to have someone other than yourself working in and around your home. While many home-based businesses are sole-proprietorships and don’t have to worry about employees, should you have someone working for you on the premises, it can be critical that you take this into consideration when it comes to your policy.

It is also critical that you know and understand the state and federal laws governing employee/employer relationships in order to avoid lawsuits pertaining to discrimination, harassment, and other workplace violations. You can check with the SBA (Small Business Administration) or your state government to learn more about the rules that apply to your home-based business, ask questions or get advice.

Taxes

While you may have done your personal income taxes in the past, starting a home-based business may make tax season a bit more difficult. Not only might you have personal income taxes with which to deal, but you could have business taxes as well. If you have employees or are planning to delve into the realm of business deductions, property tax deductions for a home-based business, and similar tax areas, you may want to consider seeking the advice and assistance of a tax professional. Having your tax issues squared away can help keep you out of legal hot water when it comes to you and your home-based operation.

Billy enjoys informing his readers of their legal rights as US citizens.  He can help if you are looking for a criminal attorney in Houston that will fight for your legal rights as an individual. If you have been arrested for assault, then a Houston assault lawyer is available to protect you against any un-just accusations.