By Geraint Evans, Sales and Marketing Director, Avanta Serviced Office Group

There are over 2.9 million home-based businesses in the UK contributing around £300 billion to the economy and, with around 1,400 new businesses being started from home each week, this is not a flash in the pan phenomenon. Spanning the whole spectrum of industries, from accountants and lawyers, to authors and chefs, these people are harnessing modern technology to create, on the whole, a far more appealing work life balance. The old adage of a ‘cottage industry’ no longer applies to these businesses that can easily compete in the global market place despite being based in a spare room, or at a kitchen table.

There may well come a time however, when a home based or small business needs to appear bigger than it really is. This could be when pitching for new business, hiring new staff or carrying out training. For these times, there are a number of different options to suit different businesses, situations or budgets.

Mailing addresses

Taking a mailing address is an ideal option for businesses that are quite happy with the status quo of being based at home, but want to project a more professional business image to the outside world. For a small monthly fee, you can use an address, usually of a business centre or private club, on your business cards and receive post there. Depending on what arrangement you choose, you can either pop in to pick up your post (if it’s convenient to do so), or the location you use can send your mail on to you. If needed, you can even register your business to the address to complete the picture. Taking a mailing address is a great way of positioning your business in a desirable location, without incurring huge overheads.

Telephone answering

A mailing address in central London, for example, is a great way to project a bigger image, but it all falls down if you don’t have the central London telephone number to go with it. Taking on a telephone number to go with the mailing address generally completes a virtual office package and ensures that you’ve successfully positioned your business at an entirely different location. There are many different options available with regards to managing your calls including calls being automatically forwarded to another number i.e. your mobile or home phone, or being answered professionally by a virtual receptionist.

Virtual receptionists

Sometimes, just answering the call just isn’t enough. If you’re out and about a lot, or juggling running your company with childcare arrangements, it can be hard maintaining that professional business image around the clock. This is where a virtual receptionist service comes into its own. Professional, highly trained virtual receptionists answer your calls and can either forward them or take a message – whatever suits you best. Not only does this project a larger and more professional image for your company, it ensures that even when on the go, you don’t miss out on any important sales opportunities.

Meeting rooms

There will be plenty of occasions when you will need to host a meeting; be it for a client catch up, or a pitch for new business. In these instances, the local coffee shop just won’t do and you will need to look around for a meeting room venue that sets the right tone. This is where business centres come into their own as, from the moment you walk in the door, you are welcomed into a professional and fully equipped business environment. Most business centres will allow you to hire rooms by the hour, half day or full day, allowing you to budget carefully and only pay for exactly what you need. Many come equipped with Wi-Fi, bottled water, pads and pens, plasma screens and white boards as standard and you can usually order catering, or any additional equipment if needed. It’s also worth mentioning that, to the outside world, you company will appear to be based there – giving your company that extra boost it may need in their eyes.

Serviced offices

Our final option is to take a serviced office. This will obviously not appeal to many people who happily choose to work from home, but for those businesses that can no longer function without a central office environment, then serviced offices are a cost effective option. Not only can they offer huge flexibility in terms of the length of contract, but all the common parts (reception, meeting rooms, kitchens, toilets, corridors) and staffing are managed and maintained by the operator allowing you to concentrate on running your own business. And nothing says ‘take me seriously’ more than an impressive reception in a central part of town with a smiling member of staff greeting your clients.

As you can see, there are a number of options and, depending on budget and what your overall preference is, you can easily make your business appear bigger than it really is.