Let's assume you support the idea of a virtual office. You understand that monthly rent on a fancy office space isn't worth it, and you don't want to succumb to a world where you're surrounded by filing cabinets.
We've written about why you should pick a virtual office over a physical one before. We've demonstrated why virtual phone systems, virtual assistants, and professional addresses save time and money versus traditional, in-house personnel and office space. For cost-conscious small to medium-sized businesses, there is simply no comparison.
Today, we’ll assume you support the idea of a virtual office and would like to get up and running immediately. Here's how to set up your very own virtual office in under an hour:
Map Out Your Strategy
Not everyone's virtual office will look exactly the same. Perhaps you do have a physical office, but would like to complement it with virtual assistants. Or, maybe you truly are starting with nothing and want to go 100% virtual from the beginning. No matter what your ultimate goals are, it helps to map out your strategy before diving in.
Possible elements of a virtual office include:
Virtual phone systems or answering services
Virtual call centers
Virtual business addresses
Rentable meeting spaces
How many of these things you wish to utilize will decide how much work is involved in getting started.
Obtaining a Virtual Business Address
No virtual office is complete without a professional address to receive mail at. As we noted in May's article, you don’t have to actually reside at the business address your mail gets sent to.
Services like NYMail.com, for instance, allow you to give key contacts and business partners a prestigious, professional-looking 5th Avenue business address. Using such a service, you can:
Check by phone to see if mail has arrived
Get automatic e-mail notifications when mail has arrived
Take advantage of extended pick-up hours
Have your mail automatically and confidentially forwarded to you at home
A $20.00 business pricing plan is available which enables business owners to obtain a prestigious business mailing address in 24 hours. Theoretically, you could sign up today and accept mail at your new, professional address the very next day.
Selecting a Virtual Assistant
Virtual assistants are one of the most popular virtual office fixtures of all. However, beyond the idea that a virtual assistant would be helpful to have, many of us get stuck in the process of actually finding and hiring one (much less training one.)
As it turns out, dozens of different companies offer virtual assistants on flexible pricing models that let you buy only as much service as you will individually use. In a blog post entitled How To Get Your Virtual Assistant To Schedule Your Doctor's Appointments, author Ramit Sethi recommends AskSunday.com as his virtual assistant service of choice.
Depending on your exact needs, you can choose a dedicated assistant (which gives you access to your own agent, dedicated to your needs, available 10:30AM EST - 7:30PM EST by email and phone) or 24/7 assistance (which gives you 24/7 access to a team of personal assistants accessible by email, phone, and the web.) Pricing details are available here.
Note: Your life will be made infinitely easier by requesting a VA (from AskSunday or any other provider) with excellent command of English.
Training Your Virtual Assistant
The actual hiring of a virtual assistant can be executed in under five minutes. The next, slightly more time-consuming task is training them to perform to your expectations. Here, it's all about specifics.
Because you will not be supervising a virtual assistant the way you would an in-person assistant, instructions, rules and procedures are a must. Luckily, you need not guess at how to effectively train your VA. The above post from Ramit, for instance, includes a detailed instruction script used to train his virtual assistant on selecting a nearby doctor.
Timothy Ferriss, author of The 4 Hour Workweek, wrote a blog post about how to outsource your entire email inbox to a virtual assistant and check it only two or three times a week. In it, Ferriss offers concise guidelines for training the virtual assistant to respond, delete, file, and categorize exactly like you would.
No matter which tasks you envision a VA carrying out, you’ll need a similar but modified list of rules for them to follow. In this way, the virtual assistant you hire will cease being merely an assistant and become your assistant.
Getting a Virtual Phone System
If you've owned a 'real office' before, the idea of getting a phone system installed in an hour might sound like a pipe dream. But with virtual phone systems, the fantasy is a reality. A virtual phone system lets any business get up and running in just a few quick steps. All it takes is:
Picking a business phone number
Recording a customized main greeting
Adding departments and employees
That's it. Following these simple steps, you and your team will be able to take calls and receive voicemails and faxes from anywhere you happen to be.
Get Down to (Virtual) Business
Now that you’ve hired an assistant, acquired a virtual business address, and set up your phone system, your virtual office is in great shape. You’re ready to get out there and start making waves in the business world.