Answering the question in the title is like comparing a cherry to an avocado. While both belong to the same family, they’re very different and appeal to varying taste buds! Virtual offices and coworking spaces often get lumped together and confused for being essentially the same concepts.
However, as you’ll soon learn, each have significant differences and appeal to an entirely different type of entrepreneur.
A virtual office space is much different cost-wise than a traditional brick-and-mortar leasing scenario. Businesses who rent them obviously benefit from having a legitimate business address in a commercial office space, as opposed to a home-based address with a residential address. But, affordability often makes it difficult to justify brick-and-mortar rental costs for many growing businesses out there.
What do virtual offices offer?
They offer pretty much everything you can imagine, without the added pain and expense of monthly leasing costs, furniture, office equipment, overhead, cleaning, and security.
Here are a few things to expect when renting a full service virtual office from a reputable provider:
- A reputable office address you can register your business to.
- Access to a virtual business phone number, if needed.
- Call answering, forwarding, and transcription services.
- Ability to receive business mail and have it forwarded to you as needed.
- A fully furnished and outfitted office facility, including meeting areas you can access when desired.
- Ability to hire other services such as dedicated virtual receptionists and virtual assistants without having to look elsewhere.
A coworking space can offer many of the same options as a virtual office, excluding virtual staff, virtual phone number, and call answering services. They also tend to cost more, as they’re rented with the expectation you’ll be using your work space daily, or for the majority of the work week.
A virtual office is also different in that you have many more address options to choose from. For instance, you can choose from Wall Street addresses in New York, or George Street in Sydney’s central business district on the other side of the planet!
Virtual offices cheaper, but for good reason
The catch is that access to physically use these addresses is limited, and you’ll often have to pay a (reasonable) fee to use the space when/if you’re in the area. The reasoning here is that virtual office spaces cost less because they can rent out the space to multiple customers, whereas a coworking space needs to accommodate for daily use of the facilities they rent and thus limit the number of tenants.
Note that some virtual addresses only offer the option to use the actual address to register and market your business. These discount operations will also usually offer mail acceptance and call forwarding, as well as a limited phone services. Essentially, you get what you pay for and should research and choose wisely before dropping any money down.
Who uses them?
Virtual offices are perfect for freelancers, ecommerce businesses, and businesses with small teams like startups, who need the legitimacy a professional business address offers, but who aren’t ready to move from their current space (for cost or other reasons).
Most businesses use a virtual office to launch the business, before transitioning to an office all their own. In the meantime, your website, social media, and marketing materials can all legally bare your virtual office address.
A coworking space is no better or worse than a virtual office, it simply satisfies a different need among entrepreneurs. Like a virtual office, you can immediately adorn your website and marketing materials with the coworking address you rent, as well as register your business with the government using it.
However, you lose some value added services like reception and access to other virtual employees, but gain a physical space you can access whenever you wish. Not to mention, many other bright-minded entrepreneurs are using the same space, thus the term “coworking!”
What does a coworking space offer?
- Fax machines
- Kitchen and break room facilities.
- A fully furnished office that includes all the essential furniture you’d expect.
- Many will offer access to conference areas to entertain clients, partners, and investors.
- Coworking spaces offer an environment where you work with other “renters.” In the case of certain providers, they’ll match you with like-minded businesses in order to facilitate an incubator of sorts.
The advantages should be obvious, though it’s also important to point out that not all businesses will require the services offered by a coworking space. However, unlimited access to the facility and a dedicated workspace inside mean you can ditch the idea of setting up an office in your dingy basement, garage, or the corner of your one-bedroom apartment!
One disadvantage is that not all towns and cities offer coworking spaces, and you’ll often find they aren’t in locations that offer the prestige virtual spaces do. Though not universal, typical coworking locations range from aged buildings that were once headquarters to big businesses, right on down to refurbished manufacturing facilities found inside industrial districts.
Who uses them?
Coworking spaces are made available to professionals who don’t have the budget to rent their own office, and who obviously don’t want to dedicate a portion of their living space for use as an office. Startups flock to coworking spaces for this reason. But there’s more to this decision than just money.
On the other hand, many who rent coworking spaces do so because they want to work in a collaborative environment with like-minded entrepreneurs. As mentioned, many coworking spaces are offered to foster a business incubator of sorts, where ideas are shared and expanded upon for the betterment of all involved.
You’ll often find a lot of tech and sciency types in coworking spaces, but freelancers of all kinds will find their way into these environments too.
Which option is right for you?
I know the title promised you a resolution to this dilemma. However, the answer is one that only you can come up with, after scanning the options and benefits mentioned already in this article. After reading this, you should have a better understanding of the difference between these two “traditional” office alternatives.
Did this information help you come to a decision?