Updated November 2, 2020:

Using a virtual office as a registered business address usually is not possible. While you can certainly run your business online, the state needs a physical location where it can contact you.

Laws That Apply to Virtual Offices

Even if you operate your business using a virtual office, you will likely still need to comply with the same rules and regulations as physical businesses. For instance, it's likely that you'll need at least a general business license for your company. You may also need several specific licenses depending on your industry.

While your business runs in a virtual space, you, the owner, are a real person, which means licensing and other government agencies will need some way to contact you and to establish your presence.

Getting Your Licenses

When you're ready to apply for licenses for your business that runs out of a virtual office, your first step should be to determine exactly which licenses you need. The best way to do this is to contact either your city or county licensing agency. The agency should be able to tell you if you need a license and what requirements you'll need to meet. You should also ask if there are any specific laws that apply to your virtual business, including whether you need to pay business or sales taxes.

The great thing about running your business out of a virtual office is that you can work from anywhere. That said, you will need a physical base of operations where you can receive official documents such as business licenses and state notifications. You can choose several options for your business's home base:

  • Your home.
  • The home of a family member or friend.
  • A Post Office Box, if your state allows this.

If you ask to use a family member or friend's address, you should be sure that they understand the legal ramifications of accepting this responsibility. You should also make sure that you're regularly communicating with this person so that you receive important correspondence as quickly as possible.

Once you've established your physical base of operations, you can apply for any licenses and permits required for your company. On the license application, list the address where you've chosen to receive your official documents, but make sure to indicate that your business will primarily be run from a virtual office.

Advantages of a Virtual Office

There are some advantages to running your business from a virtual office. For instance, using a virtual office will allow you to keep your home address private in many circumstances. It can also help you save a great deal of money in the early stages of running your business.

Another benefit of having a virtual office is that they are open during normal business hours. This means that if you're expecting a package or need a document signed, you won't have to worry about missing the delivery. You can schedule visits with your customers and know that your day-to-day business needs are taken care of.

Customers are commonly wary about working with home businesses because they don't seem as professional. However, if you have a virtual office, customers searching for your business will find an actual commercial address, which will help to inspire confidence and will make them more likely to work with your company.

Another big benefit of a virtual office is that you'll have access to a physical location where you can meet with investors and customers. Having access to a meeting space is particularly beneficial for small businesses. Frequently meeting in hotel meeting rooms can get expensive, and coffee shops don't have the air of professionalism or the privacy that you need. A virtual office allows you to hold more successful meetings so that you can grow your business.

With a virtual office, you'll also have a much easier time expanding your business. For instance, if you want to open up shop in a new city, you would have to rent a new space for your business in most cases. Many virtual office companies already have locations in numerous cities, meaning you can easily expand your company into one of these areas.

Finally, a virtual office allows you to focus on running your business instead of spending your time dealing with administrative tasks. By freeing up your time, it will be easier for you to turn a profit.

If you need help with using a virtual office as a registered business address, you can post your legal need on UpCounsel's marketplace. UpCounsel accepts only the top 5 percent of lawyers to its site. Lawyers on UpCounsel come from law schools such as Harvard Law and Yale Law and average 14 years of legal experience, including work with or on behalf of companies like Google, Menlo Ventures, and Airbnb.