What is a Virtual Office?

What is a Virtual Office?

Traditionally, offices were a place where people would go from 9-5 and sit at a desk with a computer. Along with the creation of new types of businesses, many entrepreneurs and freelancers are dreaming up new places to complete their work. This means that more people may choose to work from home, opt for a coworking space, or decide to travel for work.

Here’s why a virtual office could be just what you’re looking for.

 

Virtual Office

A virtual office provides businesses with an address for mailing and presentation purposes, without the upkeep of a physical office. Virtual offices are perfect solutions for small businesses or professionals that work from home, particularly businesses that rely on technology but tend to work remotely.

While coworking spaces and private offices offer a physical location to work from, virtual offices are limited to mail services, physical address use, and conference room use (depending on the plan). This allows businesses to save money while creating a professional image.

 

Virtual Office Advantages and Disadvantages

Here are a few reasons a business may want to invest in a virtual office:

  • Receive, send, and scan mail with a physical mailing address 24/7
  • Use of a virtual receptionist- a real person to take calls directed to the physical address
  • Improve rankings within local search results
  • Create a professional impression to your clients
  • Reduce privacy and security concerns (instead of using a home address)
  • Utilize conference rooms and kitchen spaces for meetings and client visits
  • Save on the full expense of a private office or coworking space

There are also a few tradeoffs to keep in mind:

  • Limited conference room use each month (other tiers have unlimited scheduling access)
  • No access to a private office, office suite, or coworking space
  • No access to other coworking hardware and services (High-speed Wi-Fi, photocopying, printing, faxing services)

 

Virtual Office Examples

You may be wondering, how does a brand actually take advantage of a virtual office?

  1. Entrepreneurs use mail and conference services while continuing to work in the comfort of their own home office. We understand that it’s important for self-employed workers to keep their costs low. Virtual offices help keep the business legitimate and under budget.
  2. E-commerce websites. Online stores need to put on a professional face with a legitimate address, but they also don’t need a physical location since much of the work can be done online. They may also need mailboxes for receiving supplies or sending out packages.
  3. Multi-location businesses. Some businesses want to create the impression of a national presence, without spending the resources to put up offices in each one. For example, a telephone answering business can outsource services or have them all redirect to a single location, but a physical business address may still be necessary to comply with some laws.
  4. Freelancers. Many freelancers prefer to work from home but run into problems when they need to have a meeting with a client. Instead of touring a messy apartment, virtual offices allow freelancers to host clients in a professional conference environment, and even treat them to snacks, tea and (free!) coffee beverages provided in the kitchen.
  5. Startups. Some startups want to save on money in the initial phases, while also utilizing business locations for tax purposes, delivery of supplies, and privacy and security (no need to use their home address).

 

How Much is a Virtual Office?

Virtual offices are more cost-effective than coworking or private office plans, but rates may vary depending on the services needed.

At Novel Coworking, virtual office plans start at $50 per month, which covers the use of a business address and mail receiving. There are also plans for $75 per month (which includes mail scanning and forwarding), and $100 per month (which includes monthly conference room access).

To learn about other plans and services, visit Novel Coworking’s page on Virtual Offices.

 

Find a Virtual Office Near You

Virtual Offices have become a popular solution to saving money while maintaining a professional brand. Businesses from every industry rely on Virtual Offices to conduct important services while maintaining the comfort and luxury of being able to work remotely.

Are you interested in using a Virtual Office for your own professional needs? Novel Coworking has multiple locations across the United States, offering mail, conference, and address services at competitive rates.

Check out our locations page to see a map of over 20 locations across the country.

To learn more about our shared office spaces, read up on our blog about everything you need to know.

How to Hire Stellar Freelancers in the Modern Age

How to Hire Stellar Freelancers in the Modern Age

Running a business today is nothing like it was 20 years ago. If you wanted to hire someone, you had to take out an ad in the newspaper, print out flyers, or network through someone with connections.

The world of today is built on faster, more digital connections. Freelancers and contractors have grown in popularity. It’s not uncommon for a business to have a handful of dedicated team members, and hire a professional freelancer as needed. Our own coworking spaces are full of freelancers.

We present a few best practices for how to hire a professional freelancer today.

 

Best Practices for Hiring Professional Freelancers

Set goals and expectations

Everything you do should tie back to your overall business goals. Some stay fixed (like delivering high-quality consulting service to clients), while others change over time (like the need to revamp the website).

Before you go on a hiring spree, make sure you understand the position that needs to be filled and the purpose for bringing others onboard. Instead of “we need a new website”, how does a website help you achieve your business goals? Don’t just focus on “more blogs” but how they can bring more traffic.

You can also set expectations right from your first interview. Read our previous guide to conducting a good interview.

Create a brief

Once you’re ready to hire, create a brief. This simple document will help save your team and the freelancer hours of confusion and miscommunication. All it does is clearly outline the scope of your agreement. Including:

  • The type of work to be done
  • Project goals and objectives
  • Standard of quality
  • Deadlines and due dates
  • Rounds of revision
  • Logins and other permissions

For example, a brief for a freelance writer’s email campaign may include word count, the target audience, the brand’s tone and cadence, and access to any image assets.

A brief for a developer coding a new website may involve the expected layout, programming language, important pages to create, brand assets to include, and milestones along the way.

Briefs aren’t just requirements, they clarify the agreement between the contractor and the company. Check out this post on how to write an effective brief.

 

Communicate frequently

While email remains a staple in today’s business communication methods, new apps are taking the best features of email clients and streamlining them for the modern era.

Most popular is a web and mobile app called Slack. Similar to the instant messaging apps from the early days of the Internet, Slack has a user interface that emphasizes direct, real-time communication, with other features including:

  • Video and audio chat
  • Channels for each topic or team
  • File attachment support
  • Third-party integrations

The last one is key, as Slack supports connections to popular apps for file storage, project management, code repositories, and more. Some of the ones we recommend are:

Google Drive – Perhaps the most famous cloud storage app online, Drive is a great way to host your business’s documents, videos, images, and audio files. Business plans are cheap and reliable.

Salesforce – Companies around the world default to salesforce for their CRM solutions. It simply has every feature a company could need to track and analyze their customer database.

Github – For development teams and programmers, Github is essential. Repos are not only the best way to store and host code, but also encourage others to collaborate with you.

Gratify – Need to hire an expert on short notice? Hire a professional straight from Slack, and assign jobs, send payment, and leave reviews without ever having to leave the app.

 

Schedule check-ins

Once assignments and deadlines are set, agree on a day and time to frequently check back with your freelancer. Businesses can get overwhelmed with various initiatives, while freelancers can be sidetracked by other projects. Check-ins ensure both parties are accountable for the work and payment.

If both the freelancer and the client use Google Calendar, scheduling an event and sending an invite is a great way to receive an alert a few minutes before the check-in.

 

Final thoughts

Freelancers represent a shift in the new kind of business. No longer are teams tied down by their location or technology- we can connect with writers and developers from around the country and complete projects in half the time.

Modern technology and resources, such as co-working spaces and project collaboration apps, allow freelancers and businesses to collaborate more efficiently. It’s up to businesses to empower freelancers by following these new practices. Revisit your own tools, streamline your processes, and bring your business into the modern age.

Recruiting and managing new hires can be a major challenge. Fortunately, we’ve prepared a useful guide to help your company out. Be sure to read Talent Management: How Companies Can Attract and Retain Talent.

If you’re interested in how to hire the best talent for your team, read our post, Recruiting Top Talent.

Leaders vs Bosses: What’s the Difference?

Leaders vs Bosses: What’s the Difference?

Leaders and bosses- people often use the two titles interchangeably to describe someone who manages a group of individuals, typically in a business environment. But in reality, each title carries a different connotation. Without being conscious of it, we sometimes refer to some figures as bosses and others as leaders.

 

What are the qualities of a boss?

Boss

NOUN
informal
1A person who is in charge of a worker or organization.
‘her boss offered her a promotion’

1.1 A person in control of a group or situation.
‘does he see you as a partner, or is he already the boss?’”

Oxford English Dictionary

A boss is someone with authority and command over a person, group, or scenario. Usually, they are focused on achieving goals and creating results.

Bosses face similar challenges as managers- their ultimate goal is to achieve the best outcomes through the allocation of time, people, and company resources, which are often limited in supply.

The most important qualities of a boss include:

  • Efficiency – Bosses typically work with a time and budget constraint and attempt to get the most out of their capital. They value their employees based on how much they can do per hour.
  • Authority – Bosses exert control and power over their team through their position and title. Assigned tasks are typically enforced through fear of certain consequences, whether its demotion or severance.
  • Productivity – Bosses focus on getting things done and generating results- such as greater profits or new customers. Businesses are ultimately measured based on how much they can do in a single hour.

 

What are the qualities of a leader?

Leader

NOUN
1 The person who leads or commands a group, organization, or country.

‘the leader of a protest group’

Lead

VERB

1 Cause (a person or animal) to go with one by holding them by the hand, a halter, a rope, etc. while moving forward.

‘she emerged leading a bay horse’”

Oxford English Dictionary

While bosses manage, leaders lead. It may seem like a minor distinction, but it’s important. Leading involves guiding and directing others, usually taking the same journey alongside them. Instead of issuing orders, leaders are about empowerment.

Bosses and leaders are both concerned about getting results, but their approaches vary. Bosses will focus on improving the process, while leaders focus on developing the people.

The most important qualities of a leader include:

  • Teamwork – Leaders may sound like someone who tells people what to do, but they are actually great followers and listeners as well. Great leadership is as much about building a cohesive team.
  • Inspiration – Leaders don’t just demand action, they inspire action. The difference is that they coach and encourage team members to think and act independently. Leaders believe inspired team members have greater potential.
  • Courage – Leaders may be forced to make difficult decisions or take responsibility for others. They stand out from the crowd because they can make the choices no one else can.

 

What’s the difference between a leader and a boss?

Check out this video for the differences between a leader and a boss from Entrepreneur.

If you want to know how to be a leader instead of just a boss, take note of these key differences:

Giving Orders vs. Giving Directions – Bosses assign tasks and order people around. Leaders provide direction and inspiration for teams to act on their own.

Process vs. People – Bosses find efficiencies by improving processes. Leaders find efficiencies by developing teams of people and their unique skillset.

Short Term vs. Long Term – Bosses focus on daily or monthly results. Leaders focus on the yearly progress and long-term futures.

And browse through this infographic for more differences between the two titles.

 

Becoming a good leader

Leaders go beyond the organizational duties of a boss- they focus on how to work with real people. That isn’t always as easy as it sounds. Sometimes people can be rigid in changing their ways, or external situations and factors can have an unforeseeable impact on the team. When leaders can figure out how to best work with their people, the rewards can be far greater. When the brand starts with their people, everything else falls into place.

For more information and resources on developing leadership skills, visit Novel Coworking’s blog today.

9 Unique Productivity Gifts

9 Unique Productivity Gifts

Whether it’s a special holiday or someone’s birthday, finding a gift for a colleague can be tricky. You want something that’s not just thoughtful, but something with more utility than a simple tie.

We present some of the best gift ideas that your recipient will truly appreciate.

 

Gifts to improve your life/personal development

Gym membership gift card

If someone on the team is a fitness junkie, a gift card to a nearby gym could help save them a lot of money. Be careful with this idea though- if someone hasn’t explicitly shown their desire for working out, this gesture could come off more as an insult.

Blue Apron e-gift

We all wish we had more time to cook at home. That’s what Blue Apron is for. The popular home meal kit delivery service offers e-gift cards in values of $60, $120, and $240. For reference, $120 is enough to cover a 2-week delivery, with 2 recipes each week. There’s also the option to send wine instead of the meal plan, which features a fancy selection of world-class wine pairings.

The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment by Eckhart Tolle

Books will always be one of the best gifts to help someone improve themselves, and you can never go wrong with Eckhart Tolle. One of his most popular books, The Power of Now, teaches its readers to silence the “mind-consciousness” and the frantic nature of everyday life, and focus on the most important gift: the present moment.

 

Gifts for organization

Evernote Moleskine Notebook

Moleskine has developed a reputation for having some of the best-crafted notebooks, and also some of the priciest. There are several reasons they’re universally appealing: from the quality of the paper to the portability. You can get special edition notebooks too, from Star Wars to The Little Prince, but our favorite has to be the Evernote Moleskine. This notebook allows you to digitize your notes in the cloud, so you have a physical copy and a digital one too.

Beluga Cable Clips

They may not the most personal gift in the world, but we guarantee whoever receives these cable clips will be grateful. The Beluga Cable Clips are colorful, useful, and affordable gift options. Not only do they stick to most surfaces, but they can help keep any desk or home office neat and organized.

Personalized Calendar

Even though everyone has a calendar in their phones these days, nothing beats the practicality of a physical calendar. There’s something about writing down special days, flipping pages for every new month, and crossing out past days. On Shutterfly, you can create custom calendars with images and layouts of your choice.

 

Gifts for improving productivity and efficiency

Hamilton Beach Coffee Maker

Forget about Keurig, nothing beats a traditional coffee maker for that classic coffee taste. With the Hamilton Beach Coffee Maker, you don’t have to trade convenience for flavor either- this Amazon Best Seller lets you brew single-serve or full pots of coffee. Perfect for the caffeine addict in the office.

Noise-canceling headphones

Sometimes a coworking space or office can have distracting ambient sounds. Drown them out and stay productive with a pair of noise-canceling headphones. For budget, brand, and effect, few come close to the Bose QuietComfort 25 Noise-cancelling Headphones. These headphones are packed with features, such as an inline mic for taking phone calls, deep bass for great sounding music, and a lightweight profile for easy storage.

Philips Wake-Up Light Alarm Clock

Getting up early can be a struggle, especially when it’s still dark in your room. The Philips Wake-Up Light alarm clock overcomes this by simulating a sunrise synchronized to your alarm time. You can even simulate the sunset to help ease you into sleep.

 

Finding the perfect gift

Gifts are always difficult, especially for coworkers, where you need to be professional. These gifts are bound to be appreciated by anyone who receives them. After all, what can be a better gift than helping someone be more productive or organized?

Want to find other (free) resources for staying productive? Check out these 5 Chrome Extensions to download or 7 productivity blogs you should follow .

For more tips and ideas on staying productive, follow Novel Coworking’s blog today.

 

 

Small Business Accounting Tips and Tricks

Small Business Accounting Tips and Tricks

Accounting for Small Businesses

Small businesses are not only challenged by limited finances but lack of bookkeeping experience. Unless management has experience in accounting, it’s not out of the ordinary to see account managers or even the CEO double as the accountant and struggle to organize finances.

Fortunately, advances in technology have made it easier for the smallest of businesses to keep track of their revenue. But if a business wants to grow, it’s vital that it develops the correct habits for monitoring cash flow.

Here are a few tips and tricks for small business accounting.

Open a separate bank account

Starting out, some entrepreneurs and small business owners may use a single account for both personal and business expenses out of convenience. That might involve using the business card to buy their spouse a present, or pay for certain business expenses out of pocket.

Crossover spending can become a major pain to rectify later on, especially during tax season. Keeping your finances independent will also make it easier to track deductible expenses later on.

Check out Inc.’s guide on choosing a business bank account for a startup.

Monitor your expenses with accounting software

If you want to get your finances in order, start by accurately recording every expense your business makes. Every transaction should be recorded, whether it’s a networking lunch, business trip, or a new software subscription.

Quickbooks has become a favorite of many companies for its depth and design. The software is user-friendly and offers support for payroll and other add-ons. The only catch is it doesn’t have dedicated project tracking, but for small businesses, it’s more than enough to get the job done.

Organize your taxes early

No matter the size or industry, every business is subject to some tax regulation. If you work with customers overseas, you may have to deal with international customs. If you sell a product in a retail store, you’ll have to consider sales tax. And depending on the state you live in, taxes can vary significantly.

Don’t wait around until tax season. Consider consulting an accountant to ensure your business is fully compliant and saves as much money as possible. In particular, keep track of:

  • Meals and Entertainment: Meetups for coffee, company picnics, and networking events can all be fully deducted.
  • Travel and Business Trips: Hotel expenses, plane fares, and transit fares can be deducted.
  • Vehicle expenses: Gas used for a specific car trip can be expensed.
  • Home Office: If you work from home, depending on the size and space, you may be eligible to partially expense your rent as an office cost.

For a more in-depth guide to business taxes, check out this page from the IRS.

Keep your receipts

While this technically falls under tracking expenses, we believe it deserves a point of its own. If ever your business pays for anything, make sure to get a copy of the receipt. For transactions of $75 or less, it’s not necessary, but receipts help make a case for any deductions you plan on making later on. Some people tend to take advantage of the expense law but have no evidence to back their case.

Schedule time to do finances

Block off a time in your calendar every week (the earlier the better) to adhere to your company’s accounting needs. In Google Calendar, you can set an event that will automatically alert you ten minutes before it starts. Accounting tends to be one of the duties that entrepreneurs put off until the last minute. The sooner you get it out the way, the less stress you’ll feel.

Use the 3 golden rules of accounting

When it comes to business accounting, understanding the difference between debits and credits can become a chore. The three golden rules are applied to three different types of accounts:

  • Personal accounts refer to individual people that give to or receive from the business. This can apply to investors (givers) and employees (receivers). Transactions by givers are counted as credit, while something taken away is debited.
  • Real accounts refer to a business’s property, such as land, office space, furniture, and other physical assets. In these cases, debit the account of the property that comes in, and credit what goes out.
  • Nominal accounts refer to accounts that track income and expenses. In this scenario, expenses and losses should be debited, while, profits should be credited.

These rules should help make it easier to track the balance of your business, without feeling overwhelmed.

Keeping the books balanced

Small business accounting isn’t always easy. With so many rules to follow and so few people to assist you, the simplest bookkeeping can feel fruitless and tiring.

Regardless, it’s important to remain consistent and disciplined in your accounting duties. Money influences almost every business decision. As you learn how the business uses the money, you can make better judgments on which initiatives generate money and which

Check out Novel Coworking’s previous blog post on managing cash flow.

Follow Novel Coworking’s blog for more tips and guides on running a successful startup or small business.

How A Growth Mindset Can Lead Your Brand To Success

How A Growth Mindset Can Lead Your Brand To Success

What does it mean to have a growth mindset? Psychologists and business leaders should be familiar with the term, likely having first heard it in Carol Dweck’s 2006 book, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success.

In the book, Dweck synthesizes over a decade of research into failure, success, and effort, particularly how one’s mindset influences all three. As the book gained international prominence, the concept of a “growth mindset” began to influence teachers, coaches, and of course, business leaders.

However, while the concept continues to be influential, there are a few myths and misunderstandings that continue to circulate.

What is a growth mindset?

To understand how a growth mindset works, one also needs to understand how a fixed mindset works. Dweck defines the two in a 2012 interview:

In a fixed mindset students believe their basic abilities, their intelligence, their talents, are just fixed traits. They have a certain amount and that’s that, and then their goal becomes to look smart all the time and never look dumb.

In a growth mindset students understand that their talents and abilities can be developed through effort, good teaching and persistence. They don’t necessarily think everyone’s the same or anyone can be Einstein, but they believe everyone can get smarter if they work at it.”

Put more simply, people with a growth mindset believe in success through self-improvement and hard work.

Key benefits from a growth mindset

Think Tank Demos UK and social impact accelerator Big Change partnered to release Mind Over Matter, a report based on qualitative and quantitative research on growth mindsets. The report included several interesting findings:

Growth mindsets encourage superior learning habits. Much of the studies conducted on growth mindsets revolve around academic settings. One study involving over 300 students between the ages of 12-13 and 13-14 found that those with a growth mindset were, on average, more likely to improve their grades. Growth mindsets don’t just encourage effort, but successful strategies and learning habits.

Growth mindsets lead to positive mental wellbeing. Research suggested that growth mindsets also lead to positive development. Those praised for their intelligence tend to exhibit less perseverance and overall happiness than those praised for effort.

Growth mindset improves workplace and career skills. Dweck writes in Mindset that growth mindsets are linked to more productive management styles. A 2007 study also cited that growth mindsets had improved negotiation skills compared to their fixed mindset counterparts.

How to develop a growth mindset organization

Growth mindsets are clearly a better approach to learning, well-being, and self-development, so how can business leaders and entrepreneurs incorporate the principles into their own brand?

Add “not yet” to your vocabulary

Language is a powerful thing. Words can have a powerful effect on our behavior, even if they are said lightheartedly. In her talks, Dweck introduces the concept of “not yet.” The premise is simple- instead of saying “I can’t do it,” or “I’ll never get it right” or any variation of the sort, shift it to “not yet.” It’s a minor change with major influence on what the team can accomplish.

Reward risk and effort instead of results

Businesses tend to reward employees after hitting a certain sales mark or onboarding a new client and ignore all the work and strategy in between. Microsoft takes a different approach: they reward smart risks regardless of their success, as long as the projects yield some actionable insights. It’s the same kind of thinking that inevitably influenced the new HoloLens project. Be careful not to solely focus on effort, as process and strategy are equally important.

Prioritize people who can grow

GE CEO, Jack Welch, has become an iconic organizational leader for his management style, but also for his hiring philosophy. According to HBR, Welch prefers to hire military veterans and Big 10 graduates over Ivy Leaguers and spends “thousands of hours” training and selecting leaders. Those who embrace challenges and personal growth are likely to be happier and more productive than those fixed in their ways.

Source: Mindset Works

Promoting growth mindsets

It’s not enough to repeat growth mindset platitudes like “don’t give up!” or “practice makes perfect.” Nor is it enough to simply be open-minded and willing to change. Growth mindsets require constant reflection, discipline, and feedback.

Similarly, no one person is completely growth-oriented or fixed-oriented. In reality, everyone is a mixture of both, and tend to waver between the two depending on the area and practice. Only through experience and continual improvement can someone strive towards the benefits from a growth mindset.

Learn more about developing the skills to become a courageous leader in our previous post. On a similar note, read about how developing a strong company culture can also cultivate more growth mindsets.

To read other articles on self-improvement and entrepreneurship, read Novel Coworking’s blog.

Learn how to keep growing with Growth Hacking.