Are you considering using a virtual address for your LLC? Maybe you would rather just save some money and use your home address? Or perhaps you have an office address already and think that is the best option?
I’m going to share with you 8 reasons you should use a virtual mailbox for your LLC. I will also share some of the best virtual business address services you should consider. Finally, I will discuss why a virtual business address is different from a registered agent address.
So let’s jump to it.
1. Your Home Address should only be used as a last resort for your business entity
When most online entrepreneurs are ready to set up their LLC, they tend to shoot first and ask questions later. This is especially true when it comes to filing their Articles of Organization to form their limited liability company.
As a new small business owner, you may not always understand the consequences of every little action you take. When filling out the Articles of Organization for a new LLC, many entrepreneurs write in their home address in the address line without thinking about the legal consequences.
There are three main problems with using your home address.
Your Business Address is Public Record
In every state your business address is public record and can easily be found by anyone online. This means that anyone, including your clients and customers, will know where you live if you list your home address as your business address. This is true even in Wyoming, Nevada, New Mexico and Delaware, where anonymous LLC’s are popular.
If you are concerned about privacy, using your home address is a big mistake. You should consider a virtual address service instead.
You are going to move
Second, people move on average every 7 years. And when you move, you will need to update your business address with the Secretary of State. But for an LLC, updating your address isn’t as easy as just going online and pushing a couple of buttons. You will need to file Amended Articles of Organization and pay a filing fee to the Secretary of State.
If you are anticipating a move in the near future, using your home address is a major mistake.
A Virtual Address will eliminate Junk Mail
Third, there is the issue of junk mail. As soon as you file your first LLC, you will begin to get inundated with unsolicited junk mail. A LOT of junk mail. And some of it will be disguised as official looking mail. I’ve had clients unknowingly sign up for unnecessary services when they thought they were paying a state required fee. I've also had clients call me to ask questions about professional looking documents that are just solicitations.
If you choose to use a virtual address for your LLC, you can have all this junk mail trashed automatically.
Your Business Address need not be a physical address
Many newbie entrepreneurs unknowingly think that their business address must be a physical office address. But this is not true.
The requirements for setting up an LLC will vary in different states. However, each state allows you to use a virtual business address for your LLC. Note that this is different from the registered agent address that we will discuss later in this article.
If you were planning on using your personal address because you thought a physical address was legally required, think again. You can use a virtual business address.
2. The Address You Choose to use for your LLC is public record
As mentioned above, even in states with strong privacy laws such as Wyoming, the business address you list for your LLC will still be public record and easily accessible online. If this is something that concerns you and you would like to keep your home address private, then a virtual business address is an excellent option.
Even if you don't expect to receive much business correspondence, having a professional appearance through a virtual service provider provides peace of mind and is always a good idea.
3. A virtual office address allows you to work from anywhere
One of the best things about a virtual office address is not only the privacy that comes with it, but also the fact that you can live in one city and establish an office location in another city or even multiple cities.
I know lawyers that have used virtual office addresses to expand the geographic reach of their law firms to entire states when in fact their “main office” is only located in one city.
If you live in Europe (as I soon will) or Australia or Canada or anywhere else that is not America, then using a virtual office address will provide you with freedom to live wherever you want while still running a business (and receiving mail) in the United States.
4. Your physical location is irrelevant (mostly) when you use a virtual business address
When you set up your business, the state where you choose to form your LLC is important. Typically, unless you live outside of the United States, you are going to form your LLC in the state where you live and work. This means the state where you pay taxes, have a driver’s license, are registered to vote, etc.
Although it is best practice to have your business address in the state where your LLC is set up, that doesn’t mean it has to be in the same city.
Take Hart Digital Media, LLC, which is my personal LLC that I use to run my digital media businesses (apart from my law firm). Although I live and work in Cary, North Carolina, and have for over 10 years, my virtual office is located in Raleigh, North Carolina.
If I wanted to, I could set up virtual addresses in Charlotte or Asheville or Wilmington, or any other city in North Carolina.
I would not set up a virtual address outside of North Carolina, as that could tie me to another state and potentially require the filing of a foreign LLC in that state.
5. Small businesses and online entrepreneurs are best served by a virtual office address
More and more small business owners or online entrepreneur working remotely from home find that a virtual office service is an ideal way to protect your privacy online and maintain professional looking office space.
Most corporate entities will have a physical address, so a virtual office address is not as important.
But more and more, I’m seeing high six and seven figure businesses that are running their entire operations with multiple remote employees from a home office.
In these situations a virtual office address is a terrific idea.
6. When you have a virtual office address, you won’t have to reprint business cards
If you are someone who still uses business cards – and you know who you are – then having a virtual office not only protects your privacy (as outlined above), but also allows you to provide a professional address that will never change and is unique from your residential address.
So even if you decide to move to a new city, or find a new physical office location, you can still use the same virtual office address on your business cards.
I know other lawyers that have been using PO Boxes in this way for years. But the problem with PO boxes is that you have to send someone to pick up your mail every day. With a virtual office, you can find a solution where they will open, scan and email you your mail.
7. A virtual office address portrays a more professional image
I remember the days when I received business cards at networking events. At almost every event, there was one person handing out business cards with their home address. I always thought that was tacky and unprofessional. Sorry if that makes me judgy.
Some people are looking to save a few bucks by using their home address. However, you must consider what using your home address says about you to potential customers.
A virtual address tells people that you care enough to invest in your business. Not only that, but you want to portray a professional image.
I’ve also dealt with professionals that want to keep their home address private. They refuse to invest in even a PO Box so that they can receive professional mail. This is infuriating. It makes it hard to send thank you cards or small gifts. When you are trying to keep a personal connection, that is important.
The virtual mailbox service provider that I use for my law firm
So far I’ve touted using a virtual business address for your online business. Accordingly, I would be a hypocrite if I didn’t use one for my own business.
Not surprisingly, I do use a virtual business address.
Up until the end of 2021, I had a physical office address. In 2018, I signed a five year lease for an office condo in Cary, North Carolina. The plan was to build a boutique law firm serving clients in the Triangle region of North Carolina.
Then COVID happened and everything changed.
I immediately began working from home, and suddenly my big office condo was no longer necessary. At the end of last year, I sublet the office and eliminated that financial burden.
I then converted my son’s old bedroom into my home office and have been working here ever since. Next month (July 2022) we are moving overseas and I will need a US business address to receive mail.
I happily signed up with Earth Class Mail last month and so far have been pleased with the service. It gives me a private virtual address to use for my businesses, as well as an address to forward our personal mail to once we move. In my opinion, it is one of the best virtual mailbox services available. Not only because of the overall cost, but also because of the services provided.
Here are some of the benefits of using Earth Class Mail as your virtual business address:
- They will scan all of your mail with high-resolution scanners that convert your mail into PDF enable with full-text search
- They will hold your mail for 30 days and forward it to an address of your choice, even Europe!
- They can accept UPS, DHL, and FedEx packages (which PO Boxes cannot do).
- You can automate tasks such as mail scanning, forwarding, uploading to a cloud storage solution, check deposits, and more.
- No contracts or setup fees and a month-to-month billing contract
- Affordable pricing and low monthly fee. Plans start at $19/month (I signed up for a $79/month plan so that I could access a NC address)
8. Why you should NOT use a registered agent address as your virtual business address
Many people mistakenly sign up for a registered agent service, and then using that address as a business address. While there are some corporate registered agents that will provide this service, in general it is a bad idea (unless you have cleared it with the registered agent first).
When you sign up for a corporate registered agent, you are appointing someone to receive legal documents (such as lawsuits, subpoenas, tax notices, etc.) on behalf of your LLC. You are NOT hiring a company to provide you with a virtual address for all of the other mail that your company will receive.
Unless you are serving as your own Registered Agent, or otherwise own or control the address of your Registered Agent, we do not recommend using that address as your business address.
Aside from potentially violating the terms of your contract with the corporate registered agent you chose, this could also potentially eliminate the liability protection afforded by your LLC.
This is because the corporate registered agent you hired is frequently NOT equipped to handle and process your normal business mail. It is likely that you will not have provided them with the authority to do so by completing USPS Form 1583 (Earth Class Mail requests this documentation before they will accept your mail), and as such you are violating USPS regulations.
As such, when you file your LLC, you are making a “fraudulent filing”, and are giving a skilled plaintiff’s attorney a method to “pierce the corporate veil” of your LLC if they discover what you have done (and they WILL figure it out).
The best practice therefore is to NOT use the same address for your business as the corporate registered agent you hire. Instead, you should use an appropriate virtual office or virtual mailing address. By doing this, you will sign a contract that gives you control over that address, such that you have the legal authority to use it and receive your postal mail. You will also sign the required USPS forms that allow a third party to open and process your mail legally.
Not Legal Advice
I realize it goes without saying, but no attorney-client relationship is formed just because you have read this post. This post is for informational purposes only, and if you require additional legal support or advice you may click here to schedule a strategy session with a lawyer from The Hart Law Firm, P.A.