How a Virtual Mailbox Compares to Other Addresses

By
Leela Hopkins
VPM Staff
Updated
July 30, 2020

As a business, it’s easy to find yourself flooded with endless mail, but thankfully, much of it comes digitally. However, some of it does/will come through the physical mailing system and are often vital documents such as bills, legal documents, and checks. So how can you make sure you don’t miss anything?

The secret? More and more businesses are using a virtual mailbox to handle their physical mail as they run everything remotely. There are other address options too, depending on what kind of business you are and your business needs. We’ll explore how a virtual mailbox compares with those other address options. See the pros and cons of each plus get BONUS insider tips for how to best use them.

Virtual Mailboxes

Virtual mailboxes collect your physical mail and forward it to your digital mailbox. This can be useful as it means all of your mail will be kept safe in the same place. No more lost mail!

How does it work, and why use one?

First, you will select a location to be your physical mailing address.

Second, complete the USPS 1583 form, you will find detailed directions and resources to complete this form here.

Third, fill out the Change of Address With USPS, which is a request to have USPS forward your mail to a new destination address (i.e. your virtual mailbox). This can either be temporary or permanent, and it can be done online or in person. You can learn how to file a change of address with USPS here.

Now that we’ve covered the most time consuming parts above here is the easy part.

Once mail begins to arrive the unopened envelopes are scanned so you can view your mail online at your convenience. Then from there, you decide what to do for example have the mail opened, mail forwarded, or destroyed.

If you’re a remote business or travel often the convenience of accessing and managing your mail digitally (just like email) will be useful.

The Pros

The nice thing about a virtual mailbox service is it’s more than just used for mail. You can combine other features such as check depositing, package forwarding, registered agent services to be your all-in-one business solution. Here’s what you can use a virtual mailbox for.

You Can Protect Your Privacy

If you use your home address for your business, it will be made publicly available. You may prefer that clients, customers, and vendors don’t know your home address. Having a separate business address will keep your personal information confidential.

You Can Use The Address To Register Your Business

Use a virtual mailbox for registering your LLC or corporation. It’s not required to have a separate business address, but it does add another level of privacy by protecting your home address (like most startups do), which can be used on state websites.

You’ll Build Customer Trust

Having a professional business address adds a layer of legitimacy to your business in the eyes of your customers. As a first time customer who is seeing your home address as your business they’ll probably envision you in your pajamas eating chips and dip while watching tv in correlation. That’s their real first impression of your business, do you want that?

Your Mail Is Accepted By All Couriers

Unlike a PO Box, which only receives mail from USPS (that’s very limiting) a virtual mailbox can receive mail and packages from all courier services such as USPS, UPS, and FedEx.

You Can Manage Mail At Your Convenience

You have access to your virtual mailbox anytime, anyplace, 24/7. As long as you have internet access you can easily view your mail the same time you’re posting your photo of your fancy work dinner on Instagram #amazing

You Get A Permanent Physical Address

Your virtual mailbox address will remain the same, even if your business moves. Imagine all the headache of updating your address a virtual mailbox just saved you! Additionally, a virtual mailbox is accepted in more places than a PO Box. That’s a double win!

You Don’t Ever Need To Go To A Bank Again

Nothing beats that feeling of seeing more money in your bank account. A virtual mailbox can help you get paid faster. When you receive a check in your mailbox, you can request to have it deposited into your bank account. Your bank processes the deposit and credits your account with the money.

You’ll Save Time

Save yourself the time of manually opening mail and filing it (that’s a lot of potential paper cuts too). With a virtual mailbox you can easily automate this process and you can then use that time elsewhere such as reading that book or listening to that podcast you’ve been wanting too.

You Can Easily Keep Track of Documents

Let’s say it’s tax time and you head to your file cabinet full of old documents that as you open it moths come flying out. Ok, maybe not that old, but you get the picture. A virtual mailbox will give you the ability to no longer dig through piles of physical paper mail. You’ll have a digital mail solution that you can archive, track, and search all your important documents with a click of a button.

You Can Have Mail and Packages Forwarded Anywhere

As you’re traveling for business or just for fun as you’re running your remote business, you can easily forward mail and packages to yourself from anywhere. For example, you’re in China and don’t have deodorant. Fun fact if you didn’t know it’s a challenge to get deodorant in China. You can easily use your virtual mailbox to get your deodorant in no sweat (pun intended)!

The Cons

It is A Pain To Cancel

As with most things cancellation can be difficult. In this case, if you need to cancel your mail service, you will have to go through every item that is sent to your virtual mailbox and inform senders of the change of address MANUALLY.

You Might Have To Pay Extra Cost

A virtual mailbox can cost you extra than picking up your mail.

You Might Have To Login Often For Daily Management

Despite a virtual mailbox being a relatively automated system, you will still need to login daily to manage your mail, depending on how much mail you receive.

Who Should Use a Virtual Mailbox?

The main advantage of using a virtual mailbox is for people who work remotely, but still need a physical location. This can be for keeping in contact with government entities such as the IRS, DMV, or voter registration. There are additional reasons and people who use a virtual mailbox and you can view that in the quick breakdown below.

Startups and Small Businesses

If you care about privacy then here is where a virtual mailbox shines. When you register an LLC or corporation the forms require a business address. This business address will be on public and state websites for the world to see. A virtual mailbox lets you use that as your business address instead of your home address. This will protect your privacy by not exposing your personal home address.

You can use your virtual mailbox to create and maintain a professional image that will make you look more trustworthy to customers because they’ll see your professional business address and not a home address.

A virtual mailbox enables you to handle your mail immediately from any device. You'll receive an instantaneous notification when mail is scanned and processed into your account. You will need to log into your online account to open and view the mail scans and decide what to do from there, but immediate access is a must have as a business.

Lastly, with a virtual mailbox you will be able to store and archive all your important business documents for effortless record-keeping. This gives you a paperless office solution that automates, eliminates junk mail, and lets you skip the hassle and wasted time of opening and sorting your mail manually.

Digital Nomads and Travelers

For those who have no fixed abode, and work from wherever they find themselves, virtual mailboxes offer a stable touchpoint for their businesses.

The most appealing benefit of a virtual mailbox for the digital nomad or avid traveler is never having to change your permanent address again. A virtual mailbox gives you a permanent address while letting you explore the beautiful beaches of Thailand. It’s your permanent address when the world is your home.

With this unpredictable lifestyle you can view, read, store, or trash mail online, anytime and at any location. Other benefits of a virtual mailbox service enables you to easily forward mail and forward packages to any address in the world.

Because of the nature of working in public places, security is especially critical for digital nomads. It’s probably more important to protect yourself as you don’t want your information to be stolen by that stranger in the blue baseball hat sitting behind you at the coffee shop you are working at. All the mail and data handled by a virtual mailbox service are safely encrypted and are only accessible to the recipient. Packages are professionally handled and stored at mailing locations with the highest security standards.

Receiving salaries and paychecks from different countries is a pain as a digital nomad. When funds are low that also means a big HALT in exploring too. Not a problem anymore with a virtual mailbox! You don’t need to ever go to the bank, as everything is managed by your virtual mailbox service. You can deposit checks to any US bank for faster payments.

Expats

For those who live abroad, a virtual mailbox means that their mail goes straight to them, rather than passing through customs first. This helps them stay connected with their business or personal contacts and adds a layer of increased privacy and security.

PO Boxes

Another address option is a PO Box. A PO Box is the best choice if you have basic needs for a mailbox service. It’s similar to a virtual mailbox service in the ways of providing a separate business address to protect your privacy (your home address) and a professional business image.

WARNING #1: A PO Box only receives mail from USPS.

If you expect to receive or want to receive mail from other courier services such as FedEx or UPS we’ll save you the hassle and say a PO Box isn’t a good fit.

WARNING #2: If you need to register your LLC or corporation.

A PO Box won’t cut it for your business entity and a virtual mailbox might be the better option.

We just saved you 2 big headaches. You’re welcome.

If you do only expect to receive mail from USPS (no other couriers) and do not plan on forming a LLC or corporation then go forth and read on about PO Boxes.

How do they work, and why use one?

Essentially, a PO Box offers the same basic mailing functions as the virtual mailbox, without the physical address. They are often lockable mailboxes at a post office which you can access whenever.

If you have simple basic needs for a mailbox service such as protecting your privacy or for keeping an address that you use for mailing address purposes, a PO Box is a smart and affordable choice.

The Pros

A PO Box is best if you don’t expect much mail volume and if you don’t mind the drive to pick up your mail often. Here are more benefits a PO Box can offer.

Permanent Address

Having a PO Box gives you and your business the benefit of having a fixed physical street address. This is particularly helpful if you travel often or if your business moves, as you won’t have to change your mailing address.

Privacy

Having a separate mailing address adds a barrier of privacy between you and your work. There are certain times when you don't want certain people to know where you live. By getting a PO Box, you get another mailing address that you can use for selected contacts and transactions. Senders won’t know exactly where you are. This might come into play if you are a property manager and you don’t want angry tenants finding you especially if eviction day comes. Putting some distance between where people see the mail coming from and your home adds comfort.

Security

Security is an advantage as PO Boxes are located inside an actual post office. Also, the box is locked, so it is only accessible if you have the right key or combination.

Fast Delivery

Because PO Boxes are hosted by the Post Office, mail typically gets delivered faster to a PO Box compared to a residential or business address.This is useful if you need to often get mail out the same day.

The Cons

You Cannot Use A PO Box To Register A LLC or Corporation

The disadvantage of using a PO Box compared with a virtual mailbox is that it cannot be used as an official address when registering your business if you are an LLC or corporation.

You Cannot Use A PO Box To Open A Business Bank Account

Similarly, most banks won’t accept a PO Box address as a legitimate address for your business, which is important if you want to set up a business bank account.

You’ll Get A Less Professional Business Image

While it is always better and more professional for a business to have a physical mailing address, a PO Box looks less professional than a virtual mailbox. Depending on your business, this can either help or hinder you.

You Can Only Get Mail From USPS With PO Boxes

A disadvantage of using a PO Box is the lack of couriers that deliver to them. The only one that does is USPS, and not FedEx or UPS. This will affect and limit what mail you can receive.

You Need To Travel To Your PO Box For Mail and Package Pickup

Another drawback is that you have to physically travel and pick up your mail and packages at the location often. This is extremely inconvenient as you have to go to the location to check for mail. If there’s no mail, then you have wasted time making that trip. If you travel far away or if you will be gone for long periods of time, you will not be able to access and check your mail in a timely manner to make sure it doesn’t overflow.

You Have To Be Careful With Packages

If your package is too large for your PO Box, then USPS will often send it elsewhere, leaving you to track it down again.

You Will Pay Extra For Mail Forwarding and Package Forwarding Services

The charges for mail forwarding and package forwarding can be high. USPS charges extra for these services so be ready to pay more than you expected.

Who Should Use a PO Box?

Many new business owners make use of a PO Box to protect their privacy. It’s easy to rent a PO Box and is an option if you care about the following.

You Want To Protect Your Privacy

Instead of using your home address you can use a PO Box to protect your personal information.

You Don’t Want To Deal With A Change of Address

A PO Box is great for people who move constantly. If you've ever relocated, you know the pain you go through changing mailing addresses for bills, bank statements, and magazine subscriptions, updating personal information with the IRS and the government, and sending email or emailing friends your new address.

It's very easy to miss updating an important service. Next thing you know, you end up with identity theft because someone happened to get his hands on your personal mail. A PO Box reduces this problem by cutting down the frequency required to change your mailing address every time you move.

Virtual Office

Another solution for obtaining a business address is having a virtual office. It’s important to note a virtual office is the most costly address option out of this list so if you don’t need a physical space and business related services are not a priority then a virtual mailbox is more cost-effective.

However, if you think a virtual office is a better fit we encourage you to view the pros and cons below.

How do they work, and why use one?

While you are not renting an actual office space to work in everyday, a virtual office allows you to interact and collaborate with employees just like you would in a traditional brick-and-mortar office.

Think of a virtual office as a collaborative space in the same way a traditional office is, but without the need for expensive overhead and fees that are involved in the rental. Basically, you get the benefits of remote working combined with a physical office.

The Pros

You Get A Professional Business Address

A place to receive, pick up, and/or forward mail. Your business will be given a professional business address, which you can use instead of your home address.

You Get The Office Perks Without The Overhead

The other attractive feature of a virtual office is that there’s no office lease, no utility payments, no hardware, and none of the associated costs that come with having a traditional office space. You can benefit from having all the perks of an office without the cost of hiring an office.

You Can Use Your Address To Register For LLCs and Corporations

Virtual office spaces often include a physical business address to which you can register your LLC or corporation. This is often not an option with PO Boxes.

You Get a Local Phone Number

Sometimes it’s necessary to speak to clients via telephone and virtual offices offer a local phone number that clients can call, which also can enhance your professional business image.

You Get Live Receptionist Services

Make use of a virtual assistant or receptionist service when you receive vendor and partner calls again improving your professional business image.

You Can Rent Meeting Spaces

On occasion you might need to hold an in-person meeting and virtual offices often include virtual meeting rooms and conference spaces that can be rented out for this purpose.

The Cons

A Virtual Office is Expensive

One of the main issues is that a virtual office is costly. While it is a good alternative for those looking to save time and money in recruiting business resources, it is more expensive than other business address services. Due to the expense, if you only need mailing services, then this might not be the choice for you.

You Will Have A Lack of Flexibility

Because of how many services virtual offices offer, you may well end up paying for things you don’t use. Also, it is rare to find a virtual office service that allows users to customize their services. This is a draining cost if you actually don’t need a conference space, receptionist, or phone number.

You Can’t Use The Physical Space To Do Work On A Daily Basis

Virtual offices often limit the amount of time you can spend working in them, which can be difficult for those regularly working long hours. Sad? We know.

Who Should Use a Virtual Office?

The real benefits of having a virtual office extend beyond just mailing services. They are mainly for those who want all the benefits of having an office, without the overheads involved with renting a space.

So those who should use a virtual office include:

  1. Businesses who need a “home base”.
  2. Individuals or small businesses who want the office related services and workflow of a real office, without the costs involved.
  3. People who need virtual conference spaces and places to meet clients.

Overall, if you wish to convey the appearance of having a physical office without the need to have a commercial office space a virtual office is your cup of tea.

Coworking Spaces

A coworking space is a shared space in an office building. By using a virtual mailbox with your coworking space you will truly have the freedom to work anywhere while running a remote business. You will have the ability to work at any coworking space in the world without ever worrying about updating your addresses or how you’ll get your mail and packages as well as store everything digitally. Talk about the best of both worlds!

How do they work, and why use one?

Sick of the coffee shops? Sick of being alone?

(Alexa play the song “All By Myself” by Celine Dion)

Coworking spaces are designed for those looking for community and who need a physical office space to physically work on a daily basis. They are great for individual and group work, as they often have large desks and plenty of space in which to work.

Usually in a coworking space, individuals simply look for any open desk to use. There’s no dedicated or reserved desk for you unless you pay for it.

The Pros

You Can Feel Like You’re Part Of A Community

You will find yourself working around and among other professionals, often from a wide variety of industries. This can offer some incredibly diverse networking opportunities, support systems, and learning opportunities that would be hard to find elsewhere to build your business.

You’ll Have Access To Amenities

Coworking spaces often come with a wide variety of amenities that include the following:

  • Access to meeting rooms.
  • Community break rooms.
  • Open collaboration space.
  • High-speed internet.
  • Modern and functional work desks and comfortable chairs.

Imagine an environment without the stuffiness of a corporate office space, but still more structure than your home office.

The Cons

It’s Expensive To Have a Coworking Space

A coworking space is an expensive option, but is still cheaper than renting your own space. The membership prices vary so be sure to do your research.

You Are Not Guaranteed Workspace Availability

Often, the nature of coworking spaces is on a first-come-first-served basis, thus there is no guarantee that you will find a space in which to work.

(Alexa play the song “All By Myself” by Celine Dion)

If that is the case you’ll have to head back to the coffee shop or your house to work for the remainder of the day.

You’ll Be Distracted

Another downside of coworking spaces is that you will receive the same distractions as in a normal work office environment. It is best to consider your personality and work style before selecting a coworking space.

Who Should Use Coworking Spaces?

Coworking spaces are best for those wanting to leave the solitude of a home office or coffee shop and value belonging to a community, while networking and socializing with fellow entrepreneurs and freelancers. They are a good choice for people who want a physical location to work at every day too.

Which Mailbox Solution Should You Choose?

Overall, a virtual mailbox is the most flexible option out of the other addresses and for businesses because it overcomes all the disadvantages of a PO Box, it is more affordable than a virtual office if you don’t need a physical location, and it complements coworking spaces where you don’t have to worry about changing your address. You can work in any coworking center and have a permanent address.

Hopefully, with the information and comparisons provided, you will be able to make an informed choice to choose the business address of your dreams.