Business Mail Forwarding Services
In this article I’ll look at the issue of mail forwarding services.
These are services for businesses that allow mail to be addressed to one office, then forwarded elsewhere.
Other services also allow the use of another office for registering the company’s official Registered Office address.
By the way, I’m talking about real, physical snail mail, not email or email mail boxes!
Why Use a Mail Forwarding Service?
So I run a small UK limited company, Winnersh Triangle Web Solutions Limited. The company operates a number of websites, and has no physical presence. In fact the company really has no need of a physical office, or even a post box.
However, for statutory regulations, Companies House need you to supply a postal address as part of their records about your company. And there may be occasions when you want your small business to receive post.
While I currently use my home address for this, a number of problems have arisen due to this:
- A lot of marketing companies like to print off lists of companies and send them unsolicited junk mail. And because this is sent to a business address, there’s not much you can do to opt out of it.
- I own websites in a few what I would call sensitive topics. So I’m a little concerned that crazy folk could potentially look up my home address. And yes, there are some seriously deranged people out there. I was once a member of a forum where a guy faked his own death. I also run a dating site and I can tell you that there are some seriously weird folk online!
- A couple of years ago I actually got my identity stolen! I traced this back to poor security controls on the Companies House website. So you need to know that by listing your details on the Companies House website, you leave yourself wide open to identity theft. While I was fortunate that time not to have any money stolen, it took at least 2 days of phone calls and other effort to resolve.
- Finally, I plan to live overseas for a couple of years, but I want to keep my business in the UK.
So as you can see, I rather like the idea of having a virtual UK address that I can use for my Companies House record and other official documentation.
Options for Mail Forwarding Services
There are various options for mail forwarding services. I’m reviewing the UK options here, but there are many international mail forwarding options open to you.
Cheap and Basic Virtual Addresses
As a bare minimum, a Registered Office service might be all you need. This allows you to use a company’s address as the address of your own limited company.
A number of companies offer this service. Generally it’s cheaper to have a registered office whose address is outside of London. Many providers give you the option of a London or non-London based address. I guess if you have a lot of overseas customers then a London registered address will be more prestigious. As far as London postcodes go, W1 (the West-end) or EC1 (the financial city) are usually the most sought after.
Talking of prestige – it is also possible to buy postal addresses for some of the country’s most prestigious addresses. For most small business owners though, a city centre address in a small-medium sized city is usually sufficient.
Note that these services aren’t comprehensive mail forwarding services. However, they will often forward you official correspondence from Companies House, HMRC and other government departments. Check with the service you intend to use to make sure you know exactly which post will be forwarded to your own address.
Many providers will supply you with a Registered Office. As an example, VirtualHeadOffice will allow you to use their office as your Registered Office address for £60 a year.
If you’re going to use one of these services, then remember to check your company’s Articles of Association (if you used a company formation service then this is one of the documents they should have supplied to you). Some Articles of Association may specify where the company’s Registered Office must reside. Usually though this is only relevant if you’ve started a company in Wales or Scotland.
Mail Forwarding Services
If you want to get all of your mail forwarded then you’ll obviously need a more comprehensive mail forwarding provider. As an example of cost, the WestOne Business Group will supply a year’s mail forwarding for just £9.99 a month.
Extra services include a very handy service for stripping out junk mail and circulars from what’s forwarded onto you.
Another alternative is to use a PO Box number from the Post Office. You can then pick up your post from your local sorting office. PO Box numbers cost from around £200 a year for a basic box that you need to pick up the post from.
There are a wide range of other add-on services that you can buy, including the ability for post to be forwarded onto another location. Check the Post Office website if you’re interested in this service.
The downside to PO Box numbers is that not all companies will deliver post to them, particularly parcels.
Additional Virtual Office Services
You can get all kinds of other virtual office services, including:
- Telephone answering services, with your own virtual secretary. Just the thing if you need your company to appear bigger than it actually is! This is a trick many business people have used in order to land their embryonic businesses large orders with established businesses.
- Company formation.
- Website development and online marketing.
- The usual business accountancy services such as tax filing, payroll accounting and general administration.
These services are useful if you run a small business that needs office support but you don’t have an actual physical office or you don’t want the hassle of recruiting your own employees. As a small business owner I’ve never actually employed anyone myself – if I want some work done that I can’t do myself then I tend to outsource it though a service such as oDesk.
So if you’re running a small business at home, then there are a wide range of ways of stopping nuisance callers to your home, identity theft etc., as well as allowing your business to appear larger and more prestigious than it actually is!
By the way, if you know of any really good mail forwarding providers, then leave their details below.