Virtual businesses are on the rise. In the types of industries I am involved in (information technology and Internet businesses), they are even commonplace.
For instance, I run Small Business Trends as a virtual business. What I mean by virtual business is that “place” is more or less irrelevant. Nothing in the way of particular facilities are required to run the business. I myself work from home or from wherever I have to be on the road. My office is really a state of mind — as long as I have my gear and can get an Internet connection and make phone calls, I can work in my virtual office. The others who work with the company are independent contractors who work from their homes or offices in remote locations.
The real sign that virtual businesses have taken off is when they develop other businesses around them to serve their particular needs. In other words, when there is money to be made by serving the particular requirements of virtual businesses, then you know it is a significant force.
Penelope Trunk writes in a recent article in the Boston Globe that “… a whole economy has developed in which virtual companies do business with other virtual companies.” (Visit Penelope’s excellent blog, too.)
You have only to look at some of the players serving virtual businesses to realize there is big money in virtual businesses. A perfect case in point is eBay. You could almost say eBay is built on serving virtual businesses.
EBay provides a marketplace for 750,000 businesses that sell online, the majority of which are virtual businesses or home-based businesses. Its PayPal unit enables countless businesses to operate virtually by streamlining their accounts payables and receivables, and even their eCommerce functions. For instance, with PayPal you can purchase needed business services and goods electronically, and issue invoices and get paid for them completely electronically. You also can use PayPal as a plug-and-play shopping cart for processing online eCommerce transactions. And Skype, also owned by eBay, allows virtual business team members to communicate easily and for free.
I know there are many other companies out there that serve virtual businesses. What are some others? I’m collecting examples and would love to hear from you if you have a product or service designed to specifically meet the needs of virtual businesses. Please leave a comment with examples.
My two favorite virtual service providers are HQ and eFax.
HQ offers virtual offices.
They answer my phone with live operators, forward calls to my cell phone, and give me a conference room and an office in a class a building when I have to meet clients face-to-face, anywhere in the world.
EFax provides digital faxes, so I can be anywhere — home, client’s office, vacation, and still receive the faxes some clients insist on sending.
Very true. I think this trend will continue as we go more and more of an information based society.
Great post! As a virtual assistant who is constantly looking for new ways to expand my market, the best untapped market for my virtual business seems to be the non-virtual businesses. The roadblock there is always convincing the potential client that my “virtual office” is just as reliable as their brick and mortar one.
I count on other virtual businesses to help me build credibility to these “virtual” newcomers. I use WorkEasy to provide a very professional phone system that allows my clients to reach me wherever I am and give that appearance of my “office building” with multiple phone lines and departments!
I’m using the one of the virtual service called jAppointment-online. I’ve been using a little more than a year now and ROI is very impressive. My customers like it so much and so do I. It’s only $29.99 per month with free customer service and free upgrade for life time. Actually I don’t even have to be online at all. I also get an instant message to my wireless device so that I can connect to my customer if I am not available. My investment is $29.99 for jappointment-online service plus $10 extra for text message on my cell. phone and ROI is incredible. But you have to be very careful to choose. Some vendor don’t really have any customer service and very diffcult to use. I think I am so lucky to find the jAppointment-online.
Couple of month ago I was in search of the phone and fax service that I can manage myself and be able to forward all my customers calls to where I am. Now after I signed up with Ring Central http://deccod.com/RingCentral_Review.aspx I am forwarding my main business line to my house if i am at home, to my cell when I am on the road or I can transfer all calls to my assistant while on vacation. This staff works great! The cost is $24.99/month and I’ve got free 800 numbers plus free 866 fax number. Also if you sitting in front of computer it will notify you about who is calling through little applet and you can decide how to manage your call. This service has all the futures of fancy PBX for the fraction of the cost. They have a free trial and there is no obligation. I wrote a little review here http://deccod.com/RingCentral_Review.aspx
I too have used several virtual services ; (I remember an great online calendar I used a few years ago that others could share, forgot the name). But like Yurma (above) I have ‘virtual PBX’ accounts with both RingCentral and GotVMail. I prefer my GotVMail account because I have ‘marketing extensions’ that allow me to loop a message (say if a customer presses ‘3’ for rates, I can record a true looped marketing message) – so my GotVMail account is working for me even when I’m sleeping (clients call for my home services rates all the time). For what it’s worth, GotVMail has 24/7 support and RingCentral does not.