How to use a virtual mailing address to register your business

Using your home address may have some significant drawbacks

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July 18, 2024 |

How to get a virtual address

About 50% of all small businesses in the United States are home-based businesses. They come in every shape and size—from landscape designers freelancing out of their garages to a 30-person app development firm with employees all over the country and no physical headquarters. As different as they may be, they all have at least one thing in common. Each company has to decide what address to use to register its business.

The decision isn't as straightforward as you might think, and if you're reading this article, it's probably because you've figured out that using a virtual mailing address is the best option for your business. But if you're still on the fence, this article may help guide you through the pros and cons of your various options (like using your home address) as well as how to get and use a virtual address to register your business.

Virtual Business Address 101

A virtual office address provides businesses with a real street address without the need for a physical office space. Essentially, a virtual address is a physical address that is managed remotely through a virtual business address service, allowing your company to receive business mail while maintaining privacy and security.

A virtual business address service provides a crucial mailing address for your business and often handles receiving mail and mail forwarding—it's your own virtual mail center. The service will also deal with package acceptance and scanning services so you can receive important documents using a virtual address without sharing your physical address. 

Businesses can have multiple virtual business addresses. This allows for flexibility, which is one of the key benefits of using virtual business address services. Whether you have multiple locations that need their own addresses, operate in multiple regions, target different markets, or just want to enhance your business presence, having multiple virtual business addresses can be helpful to your plans.

Registered agent vs. virtual address

A registered agent is an individual or entity designated by your business to receive important tax and legal documents on your behalf. You typically need to select a registered agent when you register your business, which provides a legal address to state authorities. Most businesses are required by state law to have a registered agent—whether that person is you or someone else. Their address serves as the professional address for your company. State agencies will direct communications for your business to the registered agent’s address. 

A virtual address is different from a registered agent in that your virtual address is simply the street address listed on the public record as where your business operates. Having one is not a legal requirement, whereas having a registered agent often is. Additionally, a virtual address does not have to receive mail or be a physical office. A registered agent, on the other hand, must be equipped to receive mail and packages on your behalf, whether they are from the United States Postal Service or some other provider. 

Why you shouldn't use your home address to register your business

If you're starting a business from your home, you may be inclined to use your personal address when you register with your local secretary of state's office. After all, your home will be your office. However, using your home address has some significant drawbacks.

  1. You don't want to entangle your business and personal affairs. If you're registering your business, then you're likely creating a limited liability company (LLC) or corporation—probably to get the benefits those structures provide, like a shield from personal liability. Smart move. Unfortunately, if your company was ever involved in a lawsuit, the court would look for things like separate bank accounts and addresses to determine whether a liability shield is appropriate, i.e., whether your business and personal life were actually separate. Let's be clear: registering your business using your home address probably isn't going to bring the feds knocking on your door. But if you experience legal issues in the future, you'll be glad that you kept your business and personal affairs separate.
  2. The address you use to register your business is public. Anyone can look it up on your local secretary of state's website. Publicizing your home address increases your susceptibility to identity theft. Between 7 and 10% of the U.S. population falls victim to identity fraud each year, and sharing personal information online makes you more susceptible to attack. Even if your information remains safe, you may open yourself up to having an upset customer knock on your door while you're having dinner with your family.
  3. You may be prohibited from operating a home-based business at your home address. Some homeowners' associations, condominium or apartment associations, and municipal ordinances ban people from operating businesses out of their homes. The reason for these bans is generally to avoid the activity of a business (traffic, customers coming in and out, etc.) in a residential area. Many home-based businesses don't have any of that activity, especially if you're providing a service that involves sitting in front of your computer at a desk. However, using your home address as your business address for an LLC may open you up to complaints or citations. Make sure you know what the rules are where you live before you get started.

Business virtual address—why should you register it?

At this point, you're probably pretty clear on why you shouldn't use your home address to register your business. But why should you use a virtual address for an LLC?

The answer is simple: getting a virtual mailing address for your business protects your private information and keeps your business and personal affairs separate.

Of course, your business mailing address does much more than serve as a registration location for the secretary of state's office. You provide your business address for your LLC to many people, in dozens of places:

  • On your invoices
  • When you register your domain name for a website
  • On communications with customers (For instance, anti-spam laws in the U.S. require any business sending marketing email communications to include their business address at the bottom of the email.)
  • On contracts or purchase orders with vendors
  • When you open a business bank account
  • To be on online review sites, like Google My Business or Yelp

Reasons to separate your business and personal affairs 

Maintaining a firm line between your business and personal affairs is a must for any business owner, especially for home-based businesses. Doing so protects your personal assets from any liabilities your business incurs, such as debts. By having a different business address for your home-based business—such as a virtual address for an LLC—you reduce the risk of personal financial loss by creating a boundary between your home and your business.

Another reason to keep your business and personal matters separate is that you can present a more professional appearance by having a physical business address different from your home address. Using a virtual business address creates a more professional image for customers, especially if you run a home-based business. 

Virtual mailing address

If you're going to be using a business address for an LLC in all those ways, you might as well have it work for you. A virtual mailing address adds flexibility to your business operations by allowing you to check your mail from anywhere in the world—sitting on your couch or on a bicycle tour of the Irish countryside. Wherever you have internet access, you have your mail.

With a virtual address for an LLC, you can easily share mailed documents with colleagues or clients and save important information securely in the cloud. Plus, you can be sure you'll never miss an important piece of mail.

Now, let's take a minute to talk about P.O. boxes.

Some home-based businesses rent a P.O. Box to avoid providing their home address when they register or on other business documents. Unfortunately, not all states allow businesses to register with a P.O. Box, and a P.O. Box can't give you the flexibility that a virtual mailing address provides.

The 411 on virtual mailboxes

A virtual mailbox helps your business manage mail efficiently and securely. With a virtual mailbox service, businesses can receive postal mail at a designated address, typically a real street address, without the need for a physical presence. When you use a virtual mailbox, you can access and manage your mail remotely through an online portal. Mail is a key element of running a business, so it is a good idea to consider a virtual mailbox if you have no other way to receive and manage mail. This can be a particularly good option for an online business without a permanent business address.

Virtual mailboxes have a number of advantages over traditional ways of managing mail, such as using a home address, a P.O. box at the post office, or a physical business address. They create a secure location for receiving mail and packages, which cuts down the risk of theft or loss. Virtual mailbox providers can do mail forwarding so you can receive your mail anywhere in the world, no matter where your business entity is based. 

Virtual address for business

LLCs and corporations must have a registered agent in the state where their business is registered. A registered agent is someone that you designate to receive specific important documents on your behalf—for instance, documents from the secretary of state's office or "service of process" documents if you're ever involved in a lawsuit.

Each state creates its own rules about registered agents. In most states, you or another individual from your company can act as the registered agent as long as you have a physical street address within the state. However, someone would need to be present at that address during working hours to sign for important documents, and the registered agent's address is publicly available on the secretary of state's website.

Because someone must be physically present for a registered agent's address, you may not be able to use a virtual address for business. Check with your local secretary of state's office to be sure. Online companies like LegalZoom offer registered agent services, as do many local businesses and attorneys.

Virtual address for LLC: How to register your LLC or corporation with a virtual address

You can get a virtual business address within a matter of minutes.

  1. Choose the virtual address plan from Earth Class Mail, a LegalZoom company, that best meets your business's current mail needs.
  2. Click the "Buy Now" button and enter your name and email address.
  3. Choose a virtual business address for an LLC in the state where you're registering your business. If you're choosing a virtual address that's a P.O. Box, check with your local Secretary of State's office to confirm that you can use a P.O. Box address to register. Earth Class Mail's P.O. Box virtual address for an LLC works the same as our street number virtual addresses.
  4. Fill out a USPS Form 1583, a form required by the federal government, before any third party can gain access to your postal mail. You'll need to have the form notarized with two forms of identification. Then, send the original form to Earth Class Mail.
  5. Once you receive notice that your virtual address is set up, visit your local secretary of state's website and use the virtual address to register your business.

If you've already registered your business using your home address, don't fret. You can always change it, and now is the perfect time to get that personal information off a publicly available website.


What exactly is a virtual business address? 

A virtual business address is a real street address managed remotely through a virtual address services provider. It provides businesses with a professional address without the need for a physical location, allowing for privacy and security while receiving business mail. The business owner can avoid revealing their residential address to the public, which can be a problem, especially for small business owners. 

Why should I consider using a virtual address for my business? 

Setting up a new virtual address for your business offers numerous benefits, including enhanced privacy, professionalism, and flexibility. It allows you to maintain a separate business address from your home address, which protects your personal information and presents a professional image to customers and business contacts.

Can my business have multiple virtual addresses? 

Yes, businesses can have multiple virtual addresses. This flexibility enables them to establish a presence in multiple locations, target different markets, or boost their business presence with a professional address in a given location. 

How does a virtual business address differ from a registered agent address? 

A virtual address serves as the public record address for your business, while a registered agent address is your legal address associated with your business name. A registered agent is designated to receive important tax and legal documents on behalf of your business. A virtual address is not always a legal requirement. A registered agent address usually is, depending on state regulations.

Why shouldn't I use my home address to register my business? 

Using your home address to register your business may expose you to privacy and legal risks. It can blur the lines between your personal and business affairs, potentially compromising your personal assets in case of legal disputes. Additionally, publicizing your home address increases the risk of identity theft and may violate local regulations.

Why is it important to keep your business and personal affairs separate? 

Separating your business and personal affairs is important for protecting your personal assets from any liabilities incurred by your business. By using a different business address, such as a virtual address for an LLC, you reduce the risk of personal financial loss and present a more professional image to customers.

What are the benefits of registering a virtual address for my business? 

Registering a virtual address for your business ensures privacy, professionalism, and legal compliance. It shields your personal information from public exposure, enhances your business's credibility, and helps maintain compliance with state regulations regarding business addresses and registered agents.

What is a virtual mailbox, and how can it benefit my business? 

A virtual mailbox is a modern solution for managing business mail efficiently and securely. It allows businesses to receive postal mail at a designated address, typically a real street address, without the need for a physical presence. This service enables remote access and management of mail through an online portal, ensuring timely and secure handling of important documents.

Can I use a P.O. box instead of a virtual address for my business? 

While some businesses may use a P.O. box to conceal their home address, not all states allow businesses to register with a P.O. box. Additionally, a P.O. box lacks the flexibility and features offered by a virtual address, such as mail forwarding and online access to mail management tools.

How can I register my LLC or corporation using a virtual address? 

Registering your LLC or corporation using a virtual address is a straightforward process. Choose a virtual address plan that suits your business needs, fill out any required forms, and provide necessary documentation. Once your virtual address is set up, use it to register your business with the appropriate authorities, ensuring compliance with state regulations and protecting your personal information.

LZ Virtual Mail solutions

LegalZoom provides comprehensive legal, tax, and compliance products to run and grow your business with confidence. We've helped more than 4 million people form businesses over the past 20 years. LegalZoom also gives customers access to trusted, affordable legal help via our independent network of attorneys. This article is for informational purposes and is not legal advice. It is the expression of the author and has not been evaluated by LegalZoom for accuracy. Information may have changed from the date of publication.

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