Small business owners who work from home and do most of their business online face a common challenge: to share or not to share their home address. For those that feel a bit leery giving out their home address, your options are limited. You can get a P.O. box or not share an address at all. I have done both, and while I don’t think it matters in many situations, each option has the potential to give the wrong impression.
Consider, for example, the contact page on your website. Having no address takes away some of your approachability, can introduce trust issues, and may make potential clients have a difficult time viewing you as a “real” person. A P.O. box basically screams, “I work from home,” and that can be a deterrent for new clients, too.
There are other options such as renting mail space at a local physical location, or using a virtual office address that then forwards mail to you. But those options have their own drawbacks.
So I ask you, my fellow home-based business owners: Do you share your address? What type of address do you use, and do you think it impacts how potential clients view your business?
Image credit: lizerixt
I live in an RV with the prospect of always being on the go, so I use a PO Box a’la The UPS Store (since they accept packages – unlike the USPS).
That sounds like fun, Billy (the RV, not necessarily UPS Store, that is!).
I’ve used PO boxes that have physical addresses, like a Mail Boxes etc. They don’t “PO BOX” in the address and gives the appearance you have a suite number instead of a box.
Great point, Desiree. That could be the perfect compromise between the options if you have a place like that near where you live.
I don’t work in my home (have a physical office that I go to every day) but I still use my PO Box. I get frustrated when I look up a company and they don’t have an address on their website. It doesn’t phase me at all when someone has a PO Box…never even thought it screams “I work at home”. Interesting thought, though.
Lanel – I agree about wanting to see an address. At a minimum, I want to know where someone is located. I also hate it when there’s no phone number easily accessible.
I don’t list any mailing address – and I’m okay with that screaming “I work from home”. Actually, I state right on my website that I work from home. My typical clients, lawyers, usually appreciate the honesty!
I think what you do, Laurie, having your location, email, phone, Skype, etc. gives people plenty of ways to contact you. You got the bases covered! :-)
I also don’t mind letting people know that I work from home. I always explain that it lets me keep overhead low so that I can pass those savings on to my clients. Besides the fact that I rarely ever send or receive mail…
I do have a project coming up, however, that may change that, and if I decide to provide a physical address, it will most likely be a UPS Store address.
Home-based business owners face a common challenge: to share or not to share your home address. What do you do?
I currently don’t list my address online, and only the major metropolitan city nearby for my location. I do, on some social sites, list the town next door to mine that people in my area recognize. When I use my actual town people locally assume the other end of town/area – as there is a well-known landmark there. So this causes more confusion (people think I’m really in the boonies, but I’m right near a major road with easy access to major local destinations). I had not thought about the negative of not listing an address. So few people send mail anymore – most of what I do is email, phone, skype, scan, occasionaly faxing, paypal and an occassional check (for which I provide an address on my invoices).
Another issue with home addresses for those who work at home, is access to the various location-based, geo-targeted online opportunities/challnges and sites From FourSuare and Gowallla to Facebook Places, Google and Yahoo Local, Yelp etc.
I’m off the beaten path a bit in the suburbs, Clients don’t come to my home, I go out for meetings or I work with people virtually. I don’t want folks to know when I am or am not in my home office (both for perception’s sake, but more for safety, I think), nor do I really want for everyone to be able to see my front door (when I last checked, Google street view showed my neighbors house at my address – I’m not sure if this is good…or bad – maybe both).
Someone suggested using a PO box or a Mail boxes etc or UPS store – and that it can work. While it might work for some, there are none of those within 5 miles of my house. What’s a girl entrepreneur to do? I have been holding off on this one so far.
Thanks for bringing up a good though-provoking question.
Thanks for your comment, Cathy. I agree that there probably isn’t one solution for everyone. It think it really depends on who you’re targeting and what they expect/need in order to reach a comfort level that reduces any hesitation to do business with you.
One idea, although I’m not sure how realistic, is using an “online” PO Box service that gives you a physical address but will scan and email you all of the contents of your mail. With some of them, you can decide what hard copies you want sent through and they will recycle the rest.
We struggled with this issue at first as well. We didn’t want to give out our home addresses but we didn’t like the idea of not having an address at all. We started out with a PO Box but have now moved to a virtual office. It works for us because we have the professional address, someone to receive packages for us, and a professional space where we can meet people when necessary.
Sounds like you have a great setup, Lily!
When I first started working for myself, I did use my home address and even had a few clients that came to my house. But I didn’t like the idea of having my address everywhere. It’s bad enough that people can get it quickly with a search.
I used the UPS Store for a while, because it was the only thing nearby. But I found it to be very pricey – just to rent a small box. So when they built a Post Office right by my house, I was there on the first day getting a PO Box for my business. Another advantage, is that I don’t have checks delivered to my house and sitting in an unsecured box!
If you want to be totally legal, then you have to use some address when you send business emails. CAN-SPAM rules require that you include an address on your emails, as well as some other requirements. And I definitely want to be legal there, because the fines can be over $10,000!
Great point, Barbara, and one that hasn’t been mentioned. You definitely need to think in terms of how you will use your address when making the decision. CAN-SPAM is no joke!
With a family—and a desire to keep them safe—publishing my home address seems dangerous. I get quite a few calls “What’s your address?” and I tell them it’s at my “Corporate Basement Headquarters” and they laugh. I continue that if they want to meet, we need to schedule an appointment. When I mention they can email me their photo (I’m a photo retoucher), they seem to like that better anyway. Some non-computer saavy folk prefer a face-to-face.
I do publish a P.O. Box. I wish I could afford an office, but I’ve resigned myself to this reality and am willing to lose customers if they find it annoying.
I would love to use my local UPS Store, as that would be a street address, but it’s twice the price of a PO Box. I’ve been grappling with this for the past week.
We currently use a PO Box. When customers ask why, we inform them that we are currently in our “start-up” phase and cannot afford an office space. They appreciate the honesty.
SIDEBAR: We’re still working on our website.
Now that there are a lot of shared working spaces many people are opting to use the address of their shared office. It’s a great option. In New York City there is great shared working space at The Hive at 55 which also has a great address of 55 Broad Street.
Co-working is a great alternative, Sabrina, if you can get a mailing address at the location. It’s becoming more popular, too, so I bet a lot of people will have access to a co-working location if they do some searching. Great tip!
Thanks for such a great discussion. I’ve never had to deal with this issue until I recently went to start an email newsletter and learned of the CAN-SPAM laws. I still haven’t started that newsletter because I’ve been trying to decide what to do. As a freelance writer the only time I’ve had to use my physical address was for magazines to mail me checks. I feel comfortable with that. We live quite rural but are fortunate to have a post office within 2 miles of our home. I do believe that a P.O. Box is what I’m going to end up doing. However, because of the nature of my business, I still don’t see a need to put P.O. Box on my website. I think town/region and state is sufficient.
Previously I had a physical office, but due to the nature of my business (vacation planner) we were always on the go… and quite frankly very, very few people actually wanted to meet at a boring ole office. The cost of the office was for vanity reasons – just to say we had an office. How silly? Getting rid of the office 3 years ago was the best decision I’ve made to date and a $30k year savings (office space, phones, all the office complexes little fee’s, etc). Everyone in the office started working on the go (not necessarily from home because we travel so frequently). And clients like that we meet them on the go as well. Initially we kept our address at our old office building as a virtual mail address and we were able to rent our conference rooms when necessary. After year 1, we never used the option and the virtual office was $99/mo – a big waste. We resorted to a Mailboxes etc box for $45 a quarter for the 2nd year – no one cared whether it was a physical address or not, so we nixed that one and this year we now have a PO Box. And no one cares… we accept packages at home (no client has a need to send us anything the PO cannot accept – just our vendors). Bottomline – we use a PO Box and meet our clients on the go… we are Vacation Planners… its the way we work. Cheers to you!
When I first started in business 12 years ago, I used my home address. For the first few months it worked well, but then my wife became concerned about the security risks of having our home address listed on the Internet. A friend told me that he had rented a P.O. box and found his potential customer did not take him seriously by working out of a P.O. box. He instead signed up for a virtual office at a company called Telsec Busineness Centres in Toronto Canada. I decided to check the place out myself only to find myself singning up for a virtual office too. They not only gave me a prestigious downtown business address for $30 per month, but I was able to book the boardrooms when my clients wanted to meet at my office rather than my home.
Within a few months, I upgraded to a virtual office package that included telephone answering and messaging, my prospects were impressed by the fact that I had a receptionist answering my phone calls. The receptionist would answer my calls and forward them to my home number without callers knowing that I was not actually in the office. I could not have done that at a P.O. box address.
Years later I decided to rent physical office space from Telsec and did not need to change my business address or my phone number. I now preach to other small business owners about avoiding P.O. boxes. When the management of Telsec heard about my many posts on other small business websites about the virtues of business centers, they invited me to write a few guest blogs for them. One such blog that I wrote for them (http://telsec.net/blog/virtual-office-toronto-is-better-than-a-p-o-box/)
is really what this thread is about.
I hope this comment will be helpful to your readers and I look forward to contributing more to your blog about the topic of having office space at a business center rather than a traditional office.