How Investing in a Virtual Office Can Increase Your Profitability
Myth: Working from my home office saves me money.
Fact: The client’s perception of your business is dramatically enhanced when visiting you at your office – virtual or otherwise.
When a client visits your home office several factors influence your profitability:
- Attire is often more casual when meeting at a home office (or coffee shop) then when conducting a meeting in a professional office setting. The perception by the client is that your value as a professional is less than what it would otherwise be. So, for example, if you are a bookkeeper whose market rate is $65/hr, working from home, you may only bill your time at $45/hr.
- Time spent with each client during a visit to your home office is often significantly more than what you can bill for. When clients visit your home office, they often have the expectation that you will offer them a beverage and a chat and not charge them for the time. When clients meet you at the office, from the moment you greet them, the perception is that the clock is running. The receptionist has already offered them a beverage. When you greet them, it is time for business.
- Limitations may exist in your home environment that will turn away clients. Sometimes you will never even know. If your home has stairs and your client has difficulty accessing your property (say, without hand rails or other American’s with Disabilities compliance issues). If your home has pets (even if you keep them contained or outside during office hours) the noise, pet dander, and interruptions may be an inhibitor. For example, if your client has allergies, they may elect not to return; not because of your service, but because of the environment. Even lighting, table height, appropriate seating, and more may be the silent deal breaker.
Myth: I am more effective when working from home.
Fact: An investment in a virtual office allows you the added efficiencies and flexibility of working from home but adds credibility, collaboration and profitability.
Utilizing a home office can allow you alone to be highly productive. If your business does not require you to interact with others, then this may be a good model for your business. However, most businesses are built on creating relationships and generating referrals.
- Virtual Relationships cannot take the place of meeting face to face. Once you have developed a strong relationship with one another, then Skype away! Until then, it is important to be able to read a person’s entire “being”: 50% of a client, prospective client, potential connector (and more) perception of you is based on their perception of your physical presentation, 40% is based on your body language, and only 10% is based on what you actually say! Much of that “conversation” is lost in a virtual relationship (90%!).
- Social Media Marketing can create you as a credible expert in your field and add a mixture of your personality in as well. It can open the doors to building relationships. In order to convert those relationships into profitable ones with connectors or clients it is often (geography and budget permitting) necessary to come out of the virtual world and into the physical world. Doing so in a professional environment will allow your business to attract larger clients, have a higher conversion rate and generally be more fruitful in your efforts.
- Networking in a home office means that you must go to networking events and follow up with individuals who are also trying to sell their own wares. Networking within a collaborative work space, according to the International Labor Organization, makes your business 50% more effective without having to leave the office. While this does not replace networking events, it can also make networking events much more effective by partnering with someone who can be a raving fan and advocate for your business.
What to look for in a virtual office space:
Not all office spaces are created equally! I highly recommend you seek the following:
- Transparency in pricing (i.e. no hidden fees)
- Location that is accessible to local freeways and airports
- Collaboration to gain efficiencies with those who share the space
- Personality in a space where you will enjoy working
- Professionalism such as give your business the credibility it needs to increase profits
- Flexibility in contract. Month to month or short term commitments. Ability to grow as you grow.
- Support services that are reasonably prices so that you can focus on your business and not need to add staff that you cannot yet afford or have to perform functions outside of your skillset.
Happy hunting and the best in business success to you all!
By Virginia Lorimor, CPA*
CEO, The WIN Companies