Of all the things to consider when starting a business, establishing a mailing address may be pretty low on your list of priorities. While it may seem like a trivial issue, choosing the right business address from the beginning can help you start off properly. First impressions are key and selecting the right street address will help you set a professional tone and foundation for your business, with far-reaching effects in the future.
Many startups have traditionally used a Post Office Box (PO Box), out of simplicity and ease of use. However, a PO Box comes with a host of limitations that can seriously impede your business. We’ll take an in-depth look into all the important reasons why you should consider a virtual mailbox as a better solution for your startup than a PO Box.
What is a PO Box
A PO Box is a lockable mailbox located in a postal office. PO Boxes are often used to receive mail in areas where mail is not delivered directly to your home. Today a PO Box is more commonly used for other personal reasons. Here are just a few ways a PO box is used for:
- Get a permanent street address.
- Keep home address private.
- Used for mail security because a PO Box is physically located inside a post office, where it is securely monitored. It is also locked and accessible only with a key or lock combination.
A PO Box is the best choice if you have basic needs for a mailbox service that will protect your privacy while providing a physical address for mailing address purposes.
Did you know PO Boxes are not always the best choice if you are registering an LLC or corporation. PO Boxes are also not the most convenient mail solution if you work and travel remotely. As an alternative you might want to consider a virtual mailbox. To learn more you can read The Ultimate Guide to a Virtual Mailbox.
What is a Virtual Mailbox
A virtual mailbox is an online mailbox that you can access your mail and packages using any device. It makes managing your mail as easy and convenient as email. You’ll have the ability to receive, forward, shred, or discard mail and packages all remotely. Some main advantages of a virtual mailbox include:
- A commercial business address, which is an address that is tied to a commercial office location. It is a real street address that can be used for almost all purposes.
- A professional business image because your virtual mailbox is a commercial address with your own personal box number.
- Easily and quickly forward important documents to yourself, such as driver’s licenses, passports, and credit cards.
- Ability to consolidate packages and ship them to anywhere in the world at affordable prices.
A virtual mailbox is the best choice for those who want a more sophisticated way of managing mail and packages remotely and comes with all the features you get with a traditional PO Box and more.
When Can I Use a PO Box vs. Virtual Mailbox
There are several important reasons why a virtual mailbox is a superior alternative to a PO Box. PO Boxes come with a list of serious disadvantages, especially if you are an LLC or corporation.
These restrictions include:
- Not Permitted for Business Registration - If you are an LLC or a corporation you can’t use a PO Box as your principal business address.
- Non-Professional Business Image - Consumers pay attention to professionalism and credibility when they choose with whom they will do business. A PO Box will potentially raise red flags and drive away business.
- Not Accepted By All Couriers - A PO Box only receives mail delivered through USPS and not other couriers such as FedEx or UPS. This will severely limit the types of mail you can receive and may cause you to purchase an additional mailbox service.
- Inconvenient - You must travel to the physical location of your PO Box and be conscious of not letting it overflow with mail and packages. In fact, your PO Box may be closed if it frequently overflows. If a piece of mail or package is too large to fit in your personal mailbox, a carrier might leave the package at your front door or lobby area, which is a security risk for you. The US Postal Service gives the recipient a limited number of business days to pick up a package before it is returned to the sender. This creates problems when you are away or unable to travel to your PO Box. The USPS also states that, “if the item requires a signature, a notice will be left. If the second attempt is unsuccessful, the item will be returned to the sender after the required number of business days have elapsed.” This constraint can pose a problem for important legal and time sensitive documents and can ultimately hurt your business. It’s also worth knowing that in some cases, the senders of technological products will not deliver their products to a PO Box address.
A virtual mailbox, on the other hand, overcomes all the above-mentioned limitations of a PO Box:
- Allowed for Business Registration - You can use a virtual mailbox to register your LLC or corporation, as it provides a real street address for your business. You can also use this business address on state websites, thus protecting your privacy.
- Professional Business Image - The commercial business address that comes with your virtual mailbox lends an air of legitimacy to your company and builds trust with customers. A commercial business address on your websites, business cards, and marketing materials conveys a strong corporate image.
- Accepted By All Couriers - A virtual mailbox receives mail from all couriers, including USPS, UPS, and FedEx, regardless of size or weight. This means you can rest assured that all of your packages will be accepted and stored securely, and not left unattended on your porch or in a post office lobby.
- Convenient - You can access your virtual mailbox to manage mail and packages remotely from any device, 24/7. Set aside a few minutes to log into your virtual mailbox account and view your scanned mail pieces. Then simply decide whether to open and scan the contents, forward the item anywhere in the world, or destroy and shred it.
A Quick Summary of a PO Box vs. Virtual Mailbox
- Is a PO Box a business address? No
- Is a virtual mailbox a business address? Yes
- Can I use a PO Box to register my LLC or corporation? No
- Can I use my virtual mailbox to register my LLC or corporation? Yes
- Does a PO Box give me a professional business image? No
- Does a virtual mailbox give me a professional business image? Yes
- Can I receive mail and packages from all couriers with a PO Box? No
- Can I receive mail and packages from all couriers with a virtual mailbox? Yes
- Is a PO Box convenient when I travel? No
- Is a virtual mailbox convenient when I travel? Yes
- Is a PO Box best for running my remote business? No
- Is a virtual mailbox best for running my remote business? Yes
Other comparisons of a PO Box vs. Virtual Mailbox
- Do I get live support with a PO Box? No
- Do I get live support with a virtual mailbox? Yes
- Can a PO Box manage my snail mail online? No
- Can a virtual mailbox make my snail mail digital? Yes
- Can a PO Box send scanned mail and packages? No
- Can a virtual mailbox scan mail and packages? Yes
- Can a PO Box forward mail and packages to wherever I am? No
- Can I use my virtual mailbox to forward mail and packages? Yes
- Can a PO Box recycle and shred junk mail? No
- Can I recycle and shred junk mail with my virtual mailbox? Yes
- Does a PO Box have package storage? No
- Can I store my packages with a virtual mailbox? Yes
A virtual mailbox not only overcomes all the drawbacks of a PO Box, but offers many additional benefits to your startup.
Track and manage all important bills, legal documents, and business information online.
- Get email notifications when your mail is in your inbox for immediate action.
- Archive mail for future use.
- No need to keep physical storage of mail or documents.
Mail and Package Forwarding - Forwarding mail and packages from a PO Box is not cheap. USPS charges extra to perform this service for you. With a virtual mailbox, your mail and packages are securely stored until you forward them. And when you forward your mail you pay competitive rates.
Check Deposit Services - You can deposit checks into any US bank that offers mail-in deposit service, without having to go to a bank in person. This includes traditional banks, online banks with no physical retail locations, and even brokerage firms. You can also receive checks from US clients if you’re operating internationally and deposit them no matter where you are in the world.
How a Virtual Mailbox Can Be Your Business Solution
When you use a virtual mailbox it is your full digital mailing solution. All your incoming business mail will be digitized for ease of record-keeping and hassle-free paperless filing.
A virtual mailbox service scans unopened envelopes so that you can view your physical mail online. Then you decide whether to have the mail opened, scanned, forwarded, or destroyed. This will save you the hassle and time of opening and sorting mail.
You’ll also be able to access all your mail documents online, since your delivered mail can be scanned securely and sent to you electronically. All of your scanned mail is stored automatically within your online account, and documents are kept for as long as you have an active account. This is extremely useful for tax and legal purposes.
Managing your postal mail online is so easy, you’ll never want to handle mail the traditional way again.
I’m Ready for a Virtual Mailbox!
While a PO Box will work for basic mailing needs a virtual mailbox will provide much more benefits for your business in the long run.
A virtual mailbox will attract more customers and establish credibility as well as protect your personal privacy and information. In some instances, it may even be required to register your LLC or corporation.
A virtual mailbox will provide the best value and utility for a startup business. It is perfect for those who do not need a physical office and can run their businesses remotely.