How To: Set Up a Business Mailing Address
by: Leo Welder | ChooseWhat.com
Getting a mailing address is one of the first steps you should take when starting a business.
A business mailing address is important because without it, your young company won’t be able to perform the most basic functions. The business address allows you to receive mail, open bank accounts, and provides you with an official location to receive written communications.
For the startup or sole proprietorship, the most frequent and common method is to use your residential address. That option carries risk, though, and we recommend alternatives such as virtual mailrooms, virtual offices and private mailboxes, which will suit you better in the long run.
Before you set up your business mailing address, you should:
Select a physical location for your business (e.g. your house, rented office space, commercial office space, etc.)
While many new businesses work out of a residence, we recommend against using your home address or obtaining a P.O. Box from the United States Postal Service. Logistically these options create more problems than they solve. For more information on the drawbacks of those options, read our STARTicle.
A “virtual mailroom” is a service that provides you with a business mailing address where they receive your mail, scan the envelopes and upload the images to a secure website where you can view the images and decide what actions you want taken, including:
- Open and scan the contents of a piece of mail
- Shred the letter
- Forward the letter to you
- Deposit your checks
- Pay your bills
Many virtual mailrooms also offer “registered agent” services, which is necessary if you want to use your virtual mailroom address for your legal business address with the state in which you register.
Virtual mailrooms are ideal for people trying to create a paperless office, because they handle the scanning and shredding of the documents as they arrive. But, virtual mailrooms base their pricing on the amount of mail they handle on your behalf, so these services can get expensive, if you receive a lot of mail.
- Earth Class Mail is more expensive, but they also have more addresses: California, Delaware, Florida, Illinois, Oregon, New York, Texas and Washington
- $25 setup fee, $30-$50/ month (depending on address) for up to 50 pieces of mail per month + $1.50/ item opened and scanned
- Additional fees for shredding, registered agent services, check deposit and mail forwarding
- Mailbox Forwarding, Inc offers addresses in California, Michigan and Florida
- No setup fee, $15-$30/ month (depending on address) for up to 50 received pieces of mail 10 items opened and scanned per month; $.75/ extra item opened and scanned
- Shredding and registered agent services are included for no extra fee; Additional fees for check deposit and mail forwarding
If you decide NOT to go with a virtual mailroom, you can still create a "paperless office" by using a document scanner. Neat.com offers 3 different types of scanners (ranging from $180 to $500) as well as special services to help people eliminate the hassle and cost of storing paper.
Virtual Office and Executive Suite providers charge around $100 to $300 per month and offer a wide variety of services. We recommend virtual offices for business owners who are interested in exhibiting a more traditional professional image without incurring the overhead of paying for office space.
- You receive a real street address instead of a P.O. Box number, which provides you with advantages in business dealings that require street addresses.
- Viirtual office mailbox services will accept and sign for packages from all carriers and will give you mail and package notifications.
- Virtual offices also offer other services, such as office space or conference room rentals and virtual receptionists.
- A virtual office will continue to receive your mail if you move your business location.
- Many virtual office providers offer registered agent services.
Davinci Virtual Office Solutions is a virtual office provider with hundreds of locations across the country. Davinci's services include registered agent services (at many locations), live receptionist services, large meeting room reservations, etc.
The least expensive option for your business is to sign up with a Private Mailbox Service offered by companies such as UPS or Pak Mail. The cost of a private mailbox depends largely on your location and the size of the mailbox. For example, in Austin, Texas a medium-sized mailbox from UPS starts at about $75 for three months. The biggest dropback to Private Mailbox services is that they typically will NOT serve as your registered agent, which means you'll have to list a different address on your legal business filings.
The benefits of a Private Mail Box include:
- You receive a real street address, which provides you with advantages in business dealings that require a physical location.
- Private mailboxes offer additional services that the United States Postal Service does not such as package acceptance from all carriers, email or text notifications when packages arrive, and the ability to call and inquire if you have any mail.
- A private mailbox will continue to receive mail if you move your business location.
- Zoning Laws: If you have a home business, make sure that your physical address is properly zoned for your endeavor. Check your local zoning laws to make sure your home business complies with them before you start listing your home address as a business mailing address.
- Receiving Mail: You will receive a lot of mail at your business address, so keep that in mind, especially if you plan to use your residence. In addition to bills, invoices, and other important mail from business contacts or clients, you should expect junk mail and random offers. It’s important to exercise caution when mentioning your address online or offline, as it could increase your junk mail.
- Receiving Packages: Consider how frequently you expect to receive packages. Typically, someone must be present to sign for your package. If you expect to receive packages frequently, don’t use a residential address if someone isn’t always at home to sign for parcels.
- Receiving Customers/Publicizing Your Address: If you frequently meet customers or clients, using your home address probably isn’t the way to go. You might not want clients or business contacts knowing where you live or randomly dropping by without an appointment. Conversely, if most of your work is done from home and you rarely meet with clients, then the home address is a good option for your business address and makes checking your mail extremely convenient.
- Problems with Changing Your Address Later: Small businesses typically need maximum flexibility when it comes to office space. An average startup might move office locations three times in one year. Avoid having to change your mailing address on your business cards, website, corporate documents, and other official forms by getting a Private Mailbox or Virtual Office, both of which will continue to receive your mail no matter where you move.
- If you go with a private mailbox address or virtual office (or even a P.O. Box despite its problems), make sure it is centrally located. If you end up moving offices, you still want to be relatively close to your mail. For example, we selected a virtual office in downtown Austin to receive our mail, which was relatively close to each of our physical business locations.
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