Think You’re Getting A Deal With A Cheap Virtual Office New York? Think Again

By Stephen Furnari - December 15, 2014
Think You’re Getting A Deal With A Cheap Virtual Office New York? Think Again

A cheap virtual office New York really may not be the most bang for your buck.

If you research a virtual office New York, you may be surprised by the many options that come your way. Some virtual office set-ups go for as low as $24.95 a month. That is almost the same price as a gym membership in some parts of New York City.

If you think about it, sometimes a deal is too good to be true and more so than often, an astonishingly cheap virtual office arrangement is just that. Many people get so excited about the low price point that they fail to read the fine print. Just like a $20 air mattress that pops in two weeks because you are a wild sleeper, a cheap virtual office rental agreement will end up costing more over time.

What is a virtual office?

Virtual Office new yorkA virtual office rental is a financial agreement. Instead of jumping right into a shared space agreement, attorneys can pay a low monthly rent and use the commercial address and the amenities provided by the shared space on an as-needed basis. Virtual offices are one of the most frequently used office arrangements for solo attorneys and small firms, especially if it is an at-home or out-of-state situation, because of the need to have a commercial address in New York City.

How is a cheap virtual office different from a full-service virtual office package?

“Full service” virtual office operators essentially give you the same as a regular office rental but in a way that is easier on your wallet. In addition to basic mail services, access to office amenities such as conference room time, guest reception and even coffee is typically worked into that agreement.

In New York City, full-service virtual office packages start at about $99 per month.  This covers use of the address, mail services and buys you access to the additional services, usually at discounted rates.

Cheap addresses of virtual offices are just that: addresses. A monthly fee is paid to the provider for mailing purposes but all you really are getting is an expensive mail drop box. When you get a cheap virtual office, you typically do not get the other amenities like valuable conference room time or a much needed reception area.

Conference rooms may not be offered, requiring you to meet clients somewhere other than your office.

Virtual office new york Lawyers work in a fashion that client interaction is necessary to conduct business. That is just how any legal profession works. A cheap virtual office arrangement may hinder your practice rather than help it.

Imagine if you had to meet your client in a location other than your presumed office address and he or she asks why you cannot meet at that address. Wouldn’t that be entirely embarrassing [for you]? Your chances of making a good first impression are out the window and it is often impossible to recover once confusion has set in. This can even have a direct impact on what you can charge for your consultation.

Cheap virtual office New York City operators charge for every piece of mail they receive.

Mail fees are where most inexpensive virtual office providers earn their money.

For lawyers, mail is an occupational hazard. It is common for a solo law practice to receive 10 to 12 pieces of mail per day. If your practice involves personal injury work, multiply that by a factor of four.

Most cheap virtual office operators charge a flat fee of $1.00 per piece of mail they receive. Then they will charge you a $2.00 to $5.00 “envelope charge” to physically place your mail into an envelope. Then they will charge you a “postage fee”, which is typically 2x to 3x the cost of the actual postage required to forward your mail.

Assume you receive eight pieces of mail in your cheap virtual office. Those 8 pieces will cost approximately $15.00 to receive! Even if your mail volume averages 4 pieces a day, you will still be spending over $125.00 per month just on mail.

By comparison, with a full-service operator, your account is generally not charged for each piece of mail received, instead, a small handling fee is charged to package all your mail for forwarding and postage is billed at cost.  At Law Firm Suites, this fee is currently $2.00.

Additionally, many “cheaper” virtual office providers will not let you pick up your mail to avoid mail forwarding fees. Those that do often charge a $10.00 pick-up fee and have limits as to how frequently you can pick up mail in person.  One vendor we spoke with permitted mail pickup only twice a month.

Fees for “packages” will set you back more.

Several cheap virtual office set limits for how many packages you can receive; sometimes these arrangements can be as little as five packages.

Virtual Office new yorkA common definition for a “package” is any item not delivered during the one daily USPS mail delivery. Anything that is messengered, shipped via FedEx or UPS, or even something that is overnighted is considered a package. No matter what it is or how small, it would constitute the package definition be attributed toward your limit.

When this package limit is reached, a cheap virtual office provider will typically charge a fee for every package received after that limit. This is in addition to envelope charges and marked up postage fees just to send it to you and you do not have time that.

With most full-service virtual office plans, there is no fee to receive package, nor is there a limit to the number of packages received. Our clients typically pick up their packages, or we forward them to clients using their UPS or FedEx account.  No additional handling fees are charged.

Ethical restrictions may prevent you from using a cheap virtual office address.

Many jurisdictions have restrictions about what constitutes a bona fide office. In some cases, a cheap virtual office that is little more than a post office address cannot be used as an office address for a law practice.

Regulators often require that your office address be a place where clients can meet with you or find a representative of your firm.

A full-service virtual office arrangement frequently meets these ethical requirements. In most cases, you are getting everything that comes with a traditional office rental, just at an unbundled rate.

Do the math before you commit.

A cheap virtual office agreement may be ideal, especially if you are unsure and want to give it a go without having to make a huge commitment. If you are not expecting a lot of mail or packages and can swing the hourly conference room rentals, then this type of arrange may be on point for you.

But keep in mind, it’s a hassle (and expensive) to change a law firm’s business address. So when you are doing your math, if upgrading to more of a full-service location is part of your plan, factor in the cost of your time and the expense to change the firm’s business address when doing your cost-benefit analysis.

You may find that, overall, it may cost much less to go with more of a full-service provider from the beginning.

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About Stephen Furnari

Stephen Furnari is a self-employed corporate attorney and the founder of Law Firm Suites, the operator of coworking spaces for law firms. Through Law Firm Suites, Furnari has helped hundreds of attorneys launch and grow successful law practices. He is the author of several eBooks, including “7 Deadly Mistakes that Prevent Law Practice Success” and “An Insider’s Guide to Renting the Perfect Law Office”. Stephen has been featured in the ABA Journal, Entrepreneur, New York Daily News and Crain’s New York. Connect with Stephen on Twitter (@stephenfurnari).

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