Your Ecommerce Store HQ: Your Home, Rented Space or Virtual Office?

There are plenty of advantages and disadvantages to running your ecommerce business from home, but an argument can definitely be made for having a separate business address to display on your websites.

Home office space

A proper business address legitimizes your online operations, while comfortably insulating your personal life and family from the business itself. Not to mention, you don’t want angry customers showing up at your house when the postman drops and destroys the bright blue widgets they ordered from you!

A virtual office also offers benefits that both working from home or renting a full-time brick-and-mortar office do not. While the final choice will definitely come down to your own preferences, and the type of online store you run, you’ll find the advantages offered by each down below to help decide which option is right for you and your business.

Home-Based HQ Advantages

It’s easy to get used to the idea of running a home-based business. Cost savings, zero commute time, and the ability to work by yourself without a team can be appealing to any business owner.

  • Cheap to run: Aside from the online costs of running your ecommerce store, such as design, hosting, computer, and other costs of doing business, it doesn’t get much cheaper than a home-based HQ to run your business out of. The space you use can be written off on your taxes too. You can also run operations off your home-based services (Internet, phone, etcetera) as opposed to paying double.
  • No Commuting necessary: Another obvious advantage of having homebase in your house is that there’s no daily commute to the office. You can get up, go for a walk with the dog, eat some brekky and then step into your office whenever you like.
  • No need for office staff: Working from home, it’s easy to justify running completely in a virtual work environment; hiring the best virtual workers for a given job. Renting an office generally creates the need for employees to man the phones and at the very least, cleaners to keep things orderly. Working from home, you can run an entirely virtual team of outsourcers without the worry of providing them with supplies, benefits, vacation pay, etcetera.

Rented office space

Rented Office HQ Advantages

Renting an office is a big step for any business owner, and a definite sign that your online store is doing well. Not only does an office add legitimacy, it gets you out of the house and into the real world that exists beyond a computer screen.

  • Legitimizes the business: When you’re running an ecommerce store that’s based solely online, with no official office location and separate phone number, it can turn off potential customers from doing business with you. A separate office that consumers can visit in person or via a Google Street View search can go a long way toward legitimizing operations.
  • Separation between work and life: While working from home can seem advantageous, mixing business with pleasure can create a lot of problems, such as interruptions from your spouse, kids, pets and neighbors. Unless you’re the laser-focused type, working from home can really curb creativity and lead to burnout.
  • Corporate culture: Whether you have one employee or many, bringing different personalities together can spawn a culture of teamwork, creativity, and wellness that isn’t always possible at home. Things like team trips and parties, learning new skills, and a feeling of belonging are all possible when you rent and manage a physical office location.

Virtual office space

Virtual Office HQ Advantages

The term ‘virtual’ can be misleading. In fact, a virtual office is a real office located at a legitimate address. The businesses who use them are provided all the amenities of a real office, without the financial and contractual obligations that come when you lease a full-time brick-and-mortar.

  • Legitimizes the business on the cheap: A virtual office offers several cost saving benefits over renting brick-and-mortar. You can register your ecommerce business with your Federal government using a legitimate business address, and be able to provide customers with real-world office location. Typically, Virtual Offices will also provide additional virtual services such as virtual reception, virtual assistants, mail forwarding, access to office facilities all over the world, and a virtual phone number.
  • Office amenities only when you need them: Running an ecommerce store offers the advantage of being able to work from wherever you like, and not be bogged down with an office to run. A virtual office provides you with basics like reception, mail forwarding, and access to VAs for a low monthly cost, and allows you limited access to an actual office when you need it, such as to hold meetings with partners and clients, or when you need to print or fax documents.
  • No long term obligations: When you rent a full-time office, you’re unlikely to find lease terms of less than 3 years — flexible lease terms are rare because commercial landlords need to keep offices filled to cover their own expenses and make a profit. For an ecommerce business, you never know when things will change and profits will dwindle, making the flexible plans offered by a virtual office provider (Eg., month-to-month, three months, one-year prepaid, etcetera) very appealing.

You’ll note that no single option above will be ideal for all ecommerce store owners. The current scale your business is running at will have a definite impact on which of the three options listed above you end up choosing.

However, whenever it becomes affordable to do so, all home-based business owners should opt for a virtual address since, as mentioned, a legitimate and online search-able business address and phone number adds a level of trust to your business which will definitely lead to more sales.

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