How to set up a virtual office for your small business for under $50 per month

There are some basics that you need to cover to give stronger credibility to your small business. A business phone, email, fax, invoicing system and legal contracts. This can add up quickly but below I am offering some tips on how to do it all under $50 per month.

Here are five websites that can help you get organized and help you give your company a more professional look without breaking the bank. Mobile is one of the key factors to consider in these days of real-time customer service and 24/7 support and most of the websites mentioned below have that option.

1. Ringcentral

  • Ease of use: Easy
  • Cost: Low ($10 per month)
  • Mobile: Yes

Setup a virtual voice mail service for under $10 per month. Don’t have a fax machine to receive faxes? Really who sends faxes any more, but every once in a while you have the need to receive something via fax. RingCentral gives you a fax number for under $6 per month. All faxes are turned into PDFs so that you can look at them easily in your laptop, desktop, iPhone or blackberry.

2. Google for your domain

  • Ease of use: Way Easy
  • Cost: Free
  • Mobile: Yes

I believe that once you are running your own company or freelance business you should by default change your email to use your company’s domain name. There’s no bigger turn off than to receive a business email from bunny55@hotmail.com. Google Apps makes this extremely easy to do. All you need is to buy a domain name and change some settings in the Google Apps interface. Finding the information for the DNS settings is a little cumbersome but I took the time to link it here in case you need it.

3. Basecamp

  • Ease of use: Way Easy
  • Cost: Medium ($24 per month starter package)
  • Mobile: Yes for iPhone

Basecamp is the ultimate “do less with more” project management tool. You can setup to-do lists, milestones and share this with your team very easily. If you have been used to heavy corporate project management packages, it takes a couple of days hours to get used to it. If you are managing different portions of a huge project for several clients, then basecamp might fall short due to the lack of some basic features such as deadlines for the to-do items. Overall is a very good starter project management tool.

4. FreshBooks

  • Ease of use: Moderate (Easy for accounting software)
  • Cost: Medium (FREE for 3 clients. $19 per month starter package)
  • Mobile: Yes for iPhone but App is not fully developed

Make your invoices and estimates look sharp. Provide your clients with online payment. Track expenses, time and integrate with basecamp. The integration is a little jerky but it works OK as long as you have some time to edit the invoice by hand before sending it to the client. FreshBooks is simple and has enough features that can help you keep the financial pulse of your growing business

5. Rocketlawyer

  • Ease of use: Moderate
  • Cost: Free for many documents ($19.95 per month afterwards)
  • Mobile: No

Rocket Lawyer can save you a lot of money and time for basic legal contracts. There are a lot of free legal forms in there as well. There is no mobile component which is not really needed. If you want you can take advantage of the e-signature service. However, it really depends on your client base and market. Many people don’t feel comfortable signing a legal contract online yet.

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  6. Wow, this post is a fantastic resource – really. I live abroad and i’ve been looking for some way to get an office over that side without spending a fortune – especially as i may only be there a few times a year.

    Actually for anyone thinking of setting up a business office in Zimbabwe, we provide the same service this side – and if you’re looking at setting up a business (registration) in our side of the world, check out http://bizsetup.wordpress.com/2010/05/28/company-registration-zimbabwe-business-setup/

  7. Great article although personally I don’t think setting up an automated virtual voice mail service is the best idea – people tend to prefer a human touch which can also be acheived fairly cheaply by hiring a ‘virtual’ receptionist.

  8. Something to consider for phone options is that some computers also come with PC Telephony options for free faxing from your computer, a voice mail system, etc… (came with the installation CD for data/fax/voice modem), add distinctive ring to your existing phone line (mine was free) and there you have a completely free phone system.

    Another option is Google Voice which is free also, and will accept your calls and send them where you want them to go (home, cell, voice mail), and send you an email for your voice mails.

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