Virtual Office vs. Coworking: Which Is Right for You?

Entrepreneurs and business owners have multiple options for office space above and beyond traditional leases. Two of those options are virtual offices and coworking space. Both are viable options for freelancers, contractors, consultants, and a host of other professionals.

It’s not possible to say that either one is a better option in every case. People are different, and so are their work needs. A thorough analysis of the two options is necessary to determine which one is most appropriate. With that said, do you know which one is right for you?

Differences Between Virtual Office Space and Coworking

Definitions of both virtual office and coworking arrangements provide a starting point for our analysis.

Virtual Office Space

A virtual office is an office that exists primarily in cyberspace. In other words, a freelancer ‘renting’ a virtual office would not have physical space in which to work every day. Instead, his monthly fee would cover certain benefits and amenities like call answering service, reception service, a physical street address, and mail and fax handling.

Coworking Space

A coworking arrangement is different. Coworking space is physical space offered to renters under a number of different configurations. A typical coworking space involves multiple renters sharing open collaboration space with access to individual offices and conference rooms as needed.

In summary, the main difference between a virtual office and coworking space is the physical space the person actually works in. Virtual office renters physically work from home, coffee shops, or wherever else they happen to be when work needs to be done. Coworking professionals work in shared spaces in an office building.

The Benefits of Each

Virtual Office Benefits

Virtual offices are ideal for consultants, freelancers, and sole proprietors who need the benefits of a physical address without actually needing dedicated office space. A physical address affords mail handling, parcel delivery, and a place to meet clients when communicating electronically is not optimal. Virtual office arrangements offer additional benefits unavailable in a home office.

Coworking Benefits

Coworking offers all the same benefits but with the addition of physical space in which to do one’s work. Coworking means shared space with like-minded workers, more collaboration, access to office equipment, and so forth.

The primary benefit of both types of office arrangements is cost. A sole proprietor or freelancer can purchase a virtual office or coworking package for a fraction of the cost of maintaining dedicated office space.

Included Services and Amenities

Virtual Office Services

What any particular package offers really depends on the service provider. As a general rule though, virtual offices offer the following amenities and services as standard:

  • Prestigious physical address
  • Mail and fax handling
  • Parcel receiving
  • Telephone answering service
  • Voicemail service
  • Reception service
  • Limited use of conference rooms

Coworking Services

A typical coworking arrangement should offer the same services and amenities as a virtual office, along with a few additions:

  • Use of private office space
  • Access to office equipment (fax machines, copiers, etc.)
  • Community break rooms
  • Open collaboration space
  • High-speed internet access
  • Access to business services
  • Support services

Average Costs

Cost of Virtual Office Space

Both virtual office and coworking space can be established with very little start up costs. As for monthly fees, they vary by market. A basic virtual office plan with few amenities can cost about $100/month in some markets. This price can average out to $200 or more in expensive cities such as New York and San Francisco.

Cost of Coworking Space

The cost of coworking space starts at about $200/month, and goes up from there. Pricing usually depends on whether you’re renting just a desk or getting a private office, combined with the services and amenities offered. Some of the more exclusive coworking plans in high-demand markets can easily fetch $500/month.

Deciding Which Office Space Is Right for You

Now that you know the difference between virtual office and coworking space, the challenge is deciding which option is right for your workplace needs. The decision doesn’t have to be difficult. Just step back and assess your situation in both the present and the short-term future.

If you primarily work alone from a variety of locations, and you don’t plan to be in a physical office on a regular basis, a virtual office package is more than likely your best bet. A virtual office allows you to work remotely, while still having access to very valuable services.

If you value physical office space and a collaborative environment built around the idea of a business community, coworking is likely to be your preference. Coworking gets you out of your home and in the presence of like-minded workers who share your passion for entrepreneurship.

In both cases, you’ll benefit from a prestigious physical address and a range of services that add legitimacy to your business venture.


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