In the United States, as in most countries, when registering a business, you will need to provide a business address. Whether you decide to establish your business as a sole proprietorship, a c-corporation, or an LLC, you'll need to decide what business address to use to register your business and/or display on your website and marketing materials.
Do I need to have a physical office to register my business?
In the past, it was a foregone conclusion that having a business meant renting or owning office space. A lot of that has changed. Today, remote work is the status quo. Companies work with independent contractors or employees worldwide, and freelancing is a viable business model.
Whether you're working from home by choice or otherwise, the point is—a physical office is not always necessary. The money you would typically allocate to an office lease could be put to much better use; you could invest it back into your business, buy new equipment or software, or channel it into marketing.
You will need a business address to set up your company. However, using your personal address might not be the best idea. Fortunately, having a physical office space and using your home address aren't your only options.
What is a virtual address?
A virtual address, also known as a virtual mailing address, is a subscription service that allows you to use a real physical address for mailing or business registration purposes. These addresses are virtual in the sense that you don't need to be physically present to use them, but they are real street addresses.
Digital nomads, expatriates, and frequent travelers often rely on virtual addresses to sustain their lifestyles. However, registering a business is one of the most popular reasons for securing a virtual address, as it comes with many benefits.
Why people choose virtual addresses over a personal address
There are many reasons to choose a virtual business address and even more compelling reasons not to use your home address.
- Privacy. When your home address is your business address, it becomes public domain. Anybody so inclined can search your location through the secretary of state's website. It's on your business cards, website, and all your marketing collateral. Your suppliers, vendors, and customers know exactly where you live. Should you have to deal with anybody who is disgruntled in any way, you may be putting yourself and your loved ones at risk.
- Zoning laws and homeowner's associations. Some regions have laws against operating a business in a residential area. You might risk having an issue with your condo or homeowner's association, landlord, or your neighbors if you're running a home-based business unlawfully. Local zoning might be an issue, too, depending on where you live. Be sure to check the rules before you move forward.
- Liability. If you're registering your business as an LLC and using your home address as the primary business address, you might face difficulties if you are ever sued. For example, a debtor has the right to seize business assets—but not personal assets. However, if your business address is your home address, neither you nor your property is protected.
Benefits of a virtual business address
On the plus side, a virtual address gives you access to addresses in just about every major city in the country. New York, Houston, San Francisco—it's all possible! Even if you live in Texas, you can have a Park Avenue address for your business. Plus, if you ever move, you won't have to change your address. If you're a globetrotter, you can be anywhere in the world and still access your postal mail.
Scalability is another huge benefit. If you're growing your business and entering new markets, you can set up local virtual addresses in those regions to build trust and capture new customers. Plus, a virtual address enhances your business identity, as your address is a critical component of your professional image and reputation.
As for your business mail, virtual address providers like Earth Class Mail, a LegalZoom company, offer postal mail services as well as mail forwarding, shredding, and digitization. Earth Class Mail receives postal mail on your behalf and scans the contents. You will then receive a digital, sharable copy of your postal mail in your inbox.
How do I know what virtual address to sign up for?
Before you choose a virtual address, there are a few things to consider. Even though you can get an address anywhere, the address you choose should be in the state you register your business in.
Many states have rules around what you can and cannot use as a business address. Some do not allow P.O. boxes, so you'll need to know that before you make a decision. When you're ready to register your LLC at the secretary of state's office or the SBA, make some inquiries about what's allowed.
How to register your business with a virtual address
Before you register your business, you'll need a business address. First, choose the virtual business address plan that suits your needs. Here are a few questions you might ponder before you decide:
- How much business mail do you expect to receive?
- Will you receive payments by check, and will they come to that address?
- Do you have other employees? And if so, will they receive mail as well?
- Will you require physical or digital mail forwarding?
- Do you receive large amounts of paper, such as contracts?
With the answers to these questions in mind, choose the plan that suits you best. We offer mailbox plans suitable for solo operations and small organizations and mailroom plans for larger businesses and enterprises.
Next, you'll choose a virtual address in the state where you're registering your business. You will need to fill out a USPS 1583 Application for Delivery of Mail Through Agent. This authorizes Earth Class Mail to collect and handle your business mail. You will need to have the form notarized and provide two pieces of identification. If you have any trouble with this, reach out today—we can help!
Once you have secured your virtual business address, it's time to register your business on your local secretary of state's website or through the SBA. Then, it's official: Your business is registered.
You can check out our guide to registering a business for more detailed information and tips on this process.
There are several factors to consider when choosing an address for your LLC. Registering a new business can be a complex and confusing process, but once your business address is established, you're free to move on to bigger and better things.
To learn more about Earth Class Mail's offerings, go here.