If you’re thinking about getting a PO box, read this first.
I’m going to share the differences between a PO box and virtual mailboxes, and why you might want one over the other.
Hi, my name is Mei Pak and I help makers, artists and designers make a living from selling their handmade products online.
If you’re reading this post, you’re probably thinking about creating some privacy boundaries between your household and your small business.
Recently I signed up for a virtual mailbox for privacy and security purposes.
And today I want to talk to you about all the benefits of getting a virtual mailbox over a more traditional PO box or even using your home address for your online shop.
Which is something I’ve done for many years, but as I’ll explain in a little bit, I wish I had been using a virtual mailbox sooner.
What exactly is a virtual mailbox?
It’s a service that offers a real permanent street address, different from your personal home address, that you do not have to physically go to to retrieve mail.
The service digitizes all the mail going to that address and provides it to you virtually, so you can access it no matter where you are.
This can be a game changer for any of you who travel frequently, or if you just don’t want the hassle of running to the post office to get your mail.
Virtual mailboxes also provide some other really cool features that a PO box does not.
For example, you get real time notifications of mail received so you can answer or check mail while on the go.
You get mail scanning and opening services.
This can help you stay organized as mail comes in and you can view all your mail online, just like an email.
You can choose to forward mail and packages if you need to send them to your house or off to somewhere else.
You can also choose to shred or recycle unwanted mail which is really great for getting rid of all that junk mail.
You’ll also get storage if you need to keep your mail safe for a time.
Virtual mailboxes can even deposit checks for you.
I don’t know about you, but all of this is like getting a secretary or assistant that’s just dedicated to managing your mail.
So virtual mailbox services basically take a lot of the work out of receiving mail.
You can typically start using your address as soon as you sign up for a service.
And, most companies use the cloud so there’s unlimited digital storage, so you can keep track of everything online and stay organized.
Unlike a virtual mailbox, PO boxes can be a headache to deal with.
They may create a less permanent and less professional image to potential customers who still think a brick-and-mortar building is the standard for all companies.
With a virtual mailbox you get an actual street address so it seems like there’s a real physical presence, but with PO boxes, it will say PO box on the address.
People may not want to send sensitive materials to a PO Box, and what I think is worst of all, you actually have to travel to a post office to pick up your mail.
Not to mention, as a business, there are certain documents that CAN’T use a PO Box and require a physical address.
If you live in an area without 24/7 access to these boxes, you’ll have to work within the operating hours of the post office itself.
Setting up a PO box isn’t necessarily easier either.
You need to:
- fill out the right forms
- pay your fee
- hope you get the location and box size you requested
- and you might even have to be placed on a waiting list for one to become available
Pricing for a PO box varies by city and of course the size of the box as well.
Looking at PO box prices in Los Angeles, you can expect to pay between $15 to $50 a month.
I’ll talk more about the cost of virtual mailboxes, but you’ll find them to be comparable price wise.
You just can’t beat the value you’re getting with all the extra features of a virtual mailbox.
Now, what about using your home address as your business address?
That can get complicated.
Not only are you always sorting through personal and business mail, but what if someone’s upset with your product and wants retaliation of some kind?
It’s scary to think about, but there are a lot of people in the world, and you never know what thoughts are running through their minds.
We stopped using our own home address as it was really a matter of privacy, especially after we became more public with our business.
Because I so freely share all this information with you on here, we wanted to be proactive.
It sucks to say this but we’ve gotten threats over email, and it’s creepy and scary to think that anyone could just show up at our front door to hurt us!
Thankfully, our address isn’t public!
Your home address also makes you vulnerable to identity theft.
When you stop and think about it, how secure is the postal service anyway?
There are so many stories about porch pirates, or people who drive around looking for shipments to steal from people’s porches.
What if some private or valuable information is left sitting out where anyone could just grab it?
A virtual mailbox answers all these concerns with monitored staff being the ones handling all your mail.
I used to feel that the extra expense wasn’t worth it for a new business owner.
But now a virtual mailbox makes a lot of sense.
There will also be times when you need to specifically provide your business address such as when you buy a domain name for your online shop.
All domains’ WHOIS data can be looked up by anyone online and that shows people all your contact information like phone number, email address and mailing address.
You can choose to buy WHOIS privacy protection, which runs between $10-$40 annually, and that hides all that information from the public.
But using a virtual address adds a second layer of privacy and protection, not just from crooks but also from spammers who want to sell you business services you don’t need!
You also need to provide your address for legal documents like for registering your business or to get a business license in the state you sell in.
Any bank or credit card company will also need a permanent address for your business.
And if you do email marketing (and you should), you’re required to list a physical address at the bottom of your emails to be compliant with CAN-SPAM laws.
There are so many places you need to list your business address.
Can you imagine the administrative headache you have to go through to update your address in all these places if you ever move or sell your house?
Now, there are plenty of different companies providing virtual mailbox services.
Personally, I chose to use Anytime Mailbox.
It has over 1000 locations throughout the world.
Their pricing varies depending on location.
They have a wide range of package options and offer monthly or yearly payment plans, many starting below $10 per month.
Their app works great on all devices, so if you’re an Apple user and your partner is on Android, there’s no problem accessing shared mailbox info!
They also ship internationally making it so you can easily expand to more customers globally!
If you google search “virtual mailboxes”, you’ll get a variety of different options, so please do your research before settling on the right company and plan for you and your business.
I want you to be able to find peace-of-mind and security in whatever path you choose for yourself.
Do you have any experiences with Virtual Mailboxes to share?
Comment below and let me know your thoughts.
Don’t forget to check out my YouTube Channel for more handmade business tips!