28 June, 2022
PO Box Alternatives in the UK: Cheap Options For a Small Business
A common question we’re asked by modern business owners and startup SMEs is whether it’s worth investing in a traditional PO Box alongside a virtual office suite. We typically say no - you’re better off with a mail-handling solution that dovetails more conveniently with your virtual business address package. Here’s why.
Are You Sure That a PO Box Is Right for Your Business?
Let’s start by comparing a business address with a PO box. Here are the main reasons to go for the latter option:
- Privacy - People won’t know where you live or work; they only need to know the address to which your post gets sent.
- Mobility - You don’t have to wait for a physical postal service to deliver your package.
- Flexibility - If you want to move your mailing address to a different city or even country, you can do so online without having to actually move your office.
The interesting thing is that most of these reasons also apply to alternatives to a PO box in the UK. So before you opt for a PO box, consider the following:
- Does it create just the right image you’re hoping to convey to clients and customers?
- Are buyers likely to be put off by the fact that you don’t give them a traditional street address as a contact point?
- Can you source a PO Box service within conveniently close proximity of your actual physical location?
- Will you be able to make time to collect your mail from a PO Box frequently?
- How often will the service need to be renewed, and what happens if you forget?
- Will you use it often enough to make it worthwhile?
Why Might I Need a PO Box or Virtual Mailbox for My Business?
The main reasons companies (or sole traders) tend to want a UK PO Box alternative are:
- To keep things running smoothly and efficiently, while saving your business money on excessive admin or HR costs
- To help manage incoming post - including important official documents and small packages - without any physical, geographical or storage-based restrictions
- To increase and maintain privacy, particularly in situations where you’re working remotely or from home
Unfortunately, standard PO Box cost in the UK can be prohibitive - so in terms of the reasons outlined above, this solution pretty much falls at the first hurdle.
However, you still want a credible UK mailing address that clients and customers can use to contact your business by post, without necessarily having to reveal your actual physical location directly.
In short, you want a cheaper alternative to a PO box - and a virtual office mailbox fits the bill perfectly. Let’s talk about how, and why.
All PO Box Alternatives
Now that you know that PO boxes may not be suitable for your business needs, you’re probably looking for an alternative to a PO box in the UK. We narrowed down the options to the following list:
- Official address registration with Companies House;
- Redirection Service from Royal Mail (and other Royal Mail PO box alternatives);
- UK mail forwarding;
- Directors Service Address;
- London residential address generator.
What Exactly Is a Virtual Mailbox?
Virtual mailboxes in the UK typically work much like any other mailing address would. The key difference is that all the post your business receives has been sent to your virtual business address, instead of to the actual street address you’re located at.
In our case, virtual mailboxes hired through The Hoxton Mix provide you with the same Shoreditch-based central London office address as your entire virtual office solution operates under. A virtual mailbox is normally used as an add-on service for an existing package providing you with a virtual office address in London, although many types of virtual mailbox services can also be purchased cheaply as a standalone option. Let us know that you’re considering this option so that we can help you get started!
We offer various convenient approaches to business mail handling, including:
- Our full virtual Mailroom service, operated off-site as an all-encompassing end-to-end virtual mailroom solution for business
- Virtual Office Collect, in which we receive and store your incoming letters and small parcels, then notify you immediately of their arrival and arrange a convenient time for you to collect them from us
- Virtual Office Forward, in which we receive and log your mail, then send it immediately on to you at any other physical address you’d like to receive it at
- Virtual Office Scan Lite, in which we receive your incoming mail as physical documents and scan them to create PDF digital copies that can be fully searched by keyword or topic, then send these ‘paperless’ versions on to you by secure email. The hard copies can also be forwarded by post (Virtual Office Scan Pro), or safely shredded offsite by us if you prefer.
PO Box vs Virtual Mailbox: Pros and Cons
The most obvious downside of a traditional UK PO Box is the expense of running one. Currently, PO Boxes cost UK businesses a minimum of £283.50 per year - and that’s for the most basic manual collection service if you choose to pay for a whole year in advance.
In addition to their considerable expense, standard UK PO Boxes come with some other serious disadvantages you may need to bear in mind. These include:
- Not being permitted as your publicly registered business address during company formation. You’ll have to provide Companies House and HMRC with an actual physical street address for legal company formation - which our virtual mailing address services give you, based right in the heart of London.
- A less professional image than a virtual business address. PO Box addresses are a potential turn-off for many clients and customers - to some, a PO Box might tend to imply that you won’t check or receive your incoming mail as promptly as they’d like, or that you could have less scrupulous reasons for wanting to conceal your physical location. A virtual office package from The Hoxton Mix gives your business a reassuring, instantly recognisable street address.
- Potential issues with some mail-handlers and couriers. Depending on the type of post you’re receiving, and the service providing the delivery, you may not always be able to arrange redirection to a PO Box address.
- General inconvenience. If you want the most affordable service while maintaining a prompt and efficient pattern of contact and reply, you’re going to be travelling to your PO Box location very frequently. If it’s not especially close to your actual location, this could take up a significant chunk of your weekly work time.
- On the other hand, our virtual mailboxes sidestep all these downsides - your incoming mail from clients, customers and official bodies is always sent to and received at a recognisable UK street address. From there, you can choose whether to collect it yourself, or have it forwarded on to you in physical or digital format.
Moreover, virtual mailroom services bring with them various other important advantages, such as:
- Convenience and flexibility. You’re free to decide which type of mail handling solution best suits you and your company, and put together a package that ideally meets your needs.
- Increased privacy. If you’re working remotely - and particularly if you’re running a business from home - a virtual business address is an ideal way to avoid having to reveal your personal information to clients and customers without needing to resort to an off-putting PO Box address.
- Better efficiency. Opting for a service such as our Virtual Scan Lite package saves you so much time, money and energy - everything arrives with you in fully searchable digital format, enabling you to run your remote office in a tidy, sustainable paperless format.
- Enhanced security, reliability and consistency. Because your virtual mailbox address is based at our Shoreditch head office, there’s always someone on hand during business hours to receive and log your mail as soon as it arrives. There’s no risk of letters and packages being left anywhere unattended, or returned to sender because you weren’t around to sign for them.
Paying monthly for a more comprehensive PO Box service can easily result in an annual bill of over £500. This is dramatically more expensive than many virtual mailroom services. Virtual business address options at The Hoxton Mix, for example, start from as little as £150 per year, or £0.41p per day (+VAT).
Renting a virtual mailbox from a provider also requires a monthly or annual subscription but is much more affordable. The combined virtual office, mail handling, and forwarding service with The Hoxton Mix costs £25.00 per month (+ VAT). Luckily for clients, we don’t charge postage fees. So, you won’t come across any hidden expenses - you’ll only pay for the services you sign up for.
Want to learn more? Check out our recent articles on the numerous advantages of virtual business address mail forwarding and how to obtain a virtual address.
If you’re already convinced that a virtual mailbox service would be a better alternative to a UK PO Box for your company, you can contact a member of our team any time. Whether you’re an established existing brand or a new startup looking to get registered, we can help you set up your virtual office suite in just a few minutes, from as little as £15 per month +VAT.
Is there an alternative to a PO box?
Yes, you can set up a virtual mailbox, which is a kind of virtual PO box. This option provides you with a secure mailing address where others will receive and store post on behalf of the addressee. Normally, such services also include mail forwarding, which is when packages are sent to the address where the addressee is physically located.
What are the best alternatives to a letterbox?
Two of the most widely used alternatives are the Royal Mail Redirection Address and Directors Service Address. The first is suitable for shipping packages of all kinds, whereas the latter is meant for correspondence with HMRC, Companies House, the courts, the Insolvency Service, and other government agencies.
How much does a PO box cost?
PO box mail forwarding from Royal Mail costs £35.10 per month or £283.50 per year. However, if you forward mail to an EU destination or other places in the world, the price jumps up. Mail handling can become more affordable if you combine it with other packages from a full-service provider; for example, you also get a cheap registered office address.
Do I need a separate newsletter address?
If you want to include a physical address in your email newsletter, you can use the same virtual mailbox that you have for all types of mail.
Can everyone set up a virtual mailbox?
Yes, everyone can run a virtual mailbox as long as they have a valid subscription. But if you want to make changes to your business with legal implications, check out our guides on how to register as a sole trader and change a registered business address.
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