Launch Your Business with Confidence

Launching your own business? Wow, that’s (take your pick): Exciting. Energizing. Creative. Cool. Satisfying. New.

Intimidating. Unnerving. Frantic. Confusing. Uncertain. Scary.

For most of us, the entrepreneurial path can be all that, and it can change by the hour.

It’s one thing to have a great idea. The other thing is, you’ve still got to set up a real business, with real customers, real accounting, real contracts, a real business address, real receptionist, real business phone.

That’s when it starts to get a little more complicated. You feel a little panicky, and wonder, “What do I know about running a virtual company?”

Glad you asked.

Too Much Information

If being an entrepreneur is your calling, you’ve probably already read some books and blogs, browsed a few magazines and joined a group or two. Good for you. Those are smart things to do.

Clearly, there’s no shortage of information for entrepreneurs, and that’s part of the problem. You have to do a lot of legwork to find all the basic information you need to get started.  What if everything you needed to know to start a virtual business was all collected for you, all in one place, all online so you could get at it any time you wanted?

That’s what we thought, too.

Go to the Guide

The advantage is this series captures the most essential advice in one place. And it comes to you from people who are experts at supporting — and surprising — self-employed, entrepreneurs, consultants and others who are trying to launch virtual businesses.

Start with “How to Run a Virtual Office” for advice and tools that will help lay a strong foundation for your virtual operation. From simple tips about to-do lists, to tackling the more complex tasks like legal business structures, the guides have you covered with topics like these:

  • Virtual Office Administration
  • Virtual Sales and Marketing
  • Virtual Finance and Accounting
  • Virtual Staffing and Outsourcing
  • Virtual Operations and Organization

“How to Run a Virtual Company” does so much of the legwork for you, you’ll feel like you’ve hired your own professional start-up guru.

That’s not too far from the truth. At Alliance Virtual Offices, we know a thing or two about starting a business. We’ve been through it ourselves, and our clients are people like you, just starting out or taking a fledgling business to the next level.

Who better than Alliance Virtual Offices to have your back?

We’ve done the research and found the resources. The “How to Run a Virtual Office” guide is packed with links to useful online resources for things you’ll need, like:

  • Calendars
  • Digital contracts
  • Team collaboration
  • Bookkeeping
  • Invoicing
  • Legal advice
  • Setting up a virtual office space
  • Using a receptionist

In the sections on marketing, you’ll learn about the virtue and value of email (yes, it still works,) the latest practices in online advertising, and social media tools. It’s all there, all in one place. You don’t have to spend hours or days chasing down this critical up-front information. Instead, you can use that time for something fun, like selling your stuff.

You’re welcome.

Hold the Phone and Shake Your Groove Thing…

Advice and Support,Start-up Guides,Support — Tags: , , — McDuffie @ 2:50 am on April 16, 2014

Check out Alliance Virtual's hold music

Hold the Phone!

Since when has being placed on hold actually been a GOOD thing? Since now, that’s when.

Thanks to the fabulous selection of premium hold music you get to choose from when you sign up for a virtual phone plan through Alliance Virtual, your callers will delight in being put on hold, rather than the typical reaction (yawwwwwwwn).

Sometimes its all about the little things in life, and while the hold music that you select for your business calls may rank low on your scale of important things, it can inject a little bit of fun into the days of anyone who calls you.

Rather than boring, hum-drum music that plays on a mind-numbing loop, your callers will be treated to something a bit more fun and fresh. A little Miles Davis perhaps? Or maybe you want The Beatles to serenade your callers. Whichever musical act you choose, you can rest assured that your clients and callers will be significantly more amused by them than by the typical, clichéd hold music that should only be reserved for torture chambers and maybe elevators.

How to Change Your Hold Music

To select or change your hold music, simply follow these instructions:

  • Login to your Alliance Virtual account (need help doing this?)
  • Click on the “My Virtual Phone” link from the Main Admin area.
  • You will see an option for selecting New Premium Hold Music (Click the button that says, “Add It Today”).
  • From this page, you can control your telephony features and set up which type of music you’d like for your held calls.
How to change your Alliance Virtual hold music

Simple and affordable at only $0.99 a month, this is one small choice that will make a big impact on your callers’ experiences.

Now, all you have to do is ask yourself the million-dollar question: are you a Springsteen kind of person, or is Daft Punk more your speed?

Image source: ImageryMajestic, freedigitalphotos.net

How to Change Your Alliance Virtual Offices Receptionist Greeting

Advice and Support,Start-up Guides,Support — Tags: , , , — joanna @ 10:17 am on April 3, 2014

Specify how our receptionists answer your calls

One of the best and most popular elements of Alliance Virtual Offices’ range of services is our live receptionist answering support.

It’s no surprise really. As a non-stop business owner working day and night to grow your enterprise, you can’t afford to miss a call or start things off on the wrong foot by answering the phone unprofessionally. Likewise, you’re busy – so those daily spam and sales calls are a distraction you would happily do without.

The answer? Alliance Virtual’s call answering service! Our very own team of trained, professional and über friendly receptionists will receive incoming telephone calls, answer them in your company name, filter out any spam, and forward the call according to your instructions. It’s like having your very own company secretary (without the budget-busting pay slip!)

How to Set Up Your Call Answering Instructions

Now, down to the nitty gritty. When you sign up to Alliance Virtual’s receptionist service, you can specify your call handling instructions through our online portal. Here’s how it works:

  • Log into your Alliance Virtual Offices account (need help doing this?)
  • On the main ‘Account Information’ page, under ‘Select an Option’, click ‘My Live Answering’
  • Next you will see a screen containing the following information:
  •      – Account Information (your name, address and contact details)
  •      – Company Name
  •      – Greeting
  •      – Information
  •      – Contact(s)
  • To update your ‘Account Information’, click on the link on the bottom left of your screen – ‘Update Account’
  • To add or make changes to the rest of the information on this screen, click the appropriate ‘Update Information’ button, as per the following instructions.

To Add or Edit a Receptionist Greeting:

  • Click the ‘Update this Information’ button located underneath the sub-headers Company Name, Greeting and Information.
  • In the first box, ‘Please tell us about your company’, add a short description about what product or service your business supplies. It’s designed to be a reference for our receptionists so it should be concise and straightforward.
  • Then add a greeting in the second box, ‘How would you like your calls answered?’ This is how our receptionists will answer your calls. We suggest, “Thank you for calling “Company Name”, how may I direct your call?”
  • When you’ve finished, click the ‘Update’ button.
  • You can return to this screen at any time to edit your description by following the above instructions.

How to Add or Amend Company Contacts
These are the people inside your company to whom calls will be redirected. You should add them in order of priority, so start with your main call handler and add more contacts as necessary.

  • Under the ‘Contact(s)’ sub-header, click the ‘Update this Information’ button.
  • Fill in all the fields with up-to-date contact information, including name, title and email.
  • You can add as many phone numbers per person as you like. Our receptionists will try these numbers when forwarding calls so if you have more than one contact number, be sure to include it (click the link ‘Add another name / number entry’ to add more numbers)
  • In the Name/Number section, you can type ‘Primary’ to indicate your top choice of contact number, and you can even add a ‘Voicemail’ number to allow our receptionists to send calls through to your voicemail system.
  • When you’ve finished, click the ‘Update’ button.
  • You can return to this screen at any time to edit your description by following the above instructions.
  • To add more people to your list of contacts, click the ‘Add a new contact’ button on the main ‘My Live Answering’ screen.
  • To delete contacts, click the ‘Delete this contact’ button.

We hope you found this advice useful! Have we missed anything? If you have any specific queries about using your virtual office phone, please contact us to let us know or send us a message via our Facebook page.

Call Options: How to Block Unwanted Callers

Advice and Support,Start-up Guides — Tags: , , , , , — joanna @ 8:07 am on March 6, 2014

How to block spam calls

There’s nothing more annoying than being interrupted by an unwanted call – especially when you’re knee-deep in stats and figures!

With Alliance Virtual Offices you have a number of ways to filter out unwanted calls. Here we explain how to block certain numbers and some additional security features that are available to you.

Call Blocking
You can block specific phone numbers to prevent unwanted sales or spam calls. The best way to do this is to log into your account and enter the full telephone number into the Spam Callers List, as follows:

How to Access the Spam Callers List:

  • Log into your Alliance Virtual Offices account (need help doing this?)
  • On the main ‘Account Information’ page, under ‘Select an Option’, click ‘My Virtual Phone’
  • On the ‘Telephony Information’ screen, click the ‘Call Blocking’ button
  • You will now have the ‘Call Blocking’ screen in front of you:

How to Block Callers:

  • On the ‘Call Blocking’ page, first scan the list of recent calls.
  • If the unwanted caller is listed, click the ‘Block’ button alongside the offending number.
  • OR
  • Click the orange ‘Add a Number to Block’ button
  • Enter the number in the text field
  • You can also add a note to help you remember why you want to block that number (optional)
  • Click the ‘Add’ icon to the right.

How to Block Whole Area Codes or Prefixes:

  • Click the orange ‘Add a Number to Block’ button
  • Check the box next to ‘Starts with’
  • Enter the area code (and prefix if needed) that you wish to block
  • You can also add a note to help you remember why you want to block that area code (optional)
  • Click the ‘Add’ icon to the right.

How to Unblock Callers:

  • In the Spam Callers list, simply click the Delete icon to the right of the number you wish to remove.

Call Logs
You can gain more information on individual calls by accessing your ‘Call Logs’ feature, and you can block numbers from here too.

How to Access Call Logs:

  • On the main ‘Account Information’ page, under ‘Select an Option’, click ‘My Virtual Phone’
  • Click the ‘Call Logs’ button

Call Logs: Features

  • On the ‘Call Logs’ screen you can perform a search and use filters to search for inbound or outbound calls on a specific date
  • You can also search for faxes, international calls, or a specific number
  • From the call logs list, you can block specific numbers by clicking the button to the right (‘Block calls from this number’)
  • Should you want to keep a record of received or outgoing calls, at the top of the list of calls, there is an option to download a CSV file. Click the icon and open or save the file according to the on-screen instructions.

If at any time you wish to return to the main menu, return to the top of the screen and click the blue button, ‘Return to Main Admin Area’.

We hope you found this advice useful! Have we missed anything? If you have any specific queries about using your virtual office phone, please contact us to let us know or send us a message via our Facebook page.

Image source: Stuart Miles

Sign Up for a Virtual Office, Get the Business Address Solution You Need

Advice and Support,Virtual Office — Tags: , , , , — McDuffie @ 4:31 am on February 21, 2014

The importance of a business address

The concept of “lender compliance” is something that often evades many an optimistic business loan applicant, and we’re hoping to shed a little light on it in this article.

In a nutshell, lender compliance is a series of approval guidelines selected by the lending agents, companies, banks, etc. that comprise part of the approval decision-making process. When a business loan application is submitted, the lender’s computer system checks these lender compliance items to verify whether or not the business will make it to the next level in the loan approval process.

Lender compliance items usually won’t get you approved on their own, however not having them all completed can absolutely get your loan application denied. In fact, missing just one item can get you declined.

While most lenders do not actually go through and check each of the twenty items on the traditional lenders compliance checklist, you don’t know for sure which ones they will check.

So, to be on the safe side, it is best to complete them all. Lenders will not tell you which factors were the cause of your application’s denial, and the lending agent with whom any applicant would work wouldn’t know anything about their compliance items. The compliance checklist would have been programmed into their system and never disclosed to them. As such, it is up to the applicant to get those items taken care of prior to the application process.

This begs the question: just how many lender compliance items are there?

We previously discussed the need to have a business phone number, and that is merely one of approximately twenty lender compliance items that your business must complete prior to having a loan application approved.

Take the need to have a business address, for example. Lenders will check the address on your loan application against the US postal service database in order to verify whether or not it is a residential address or a business address.

“About 80% of business lenders will decline ‘home based’ businesses, so if your application tests out as having a residential address you have a high probability of being declined,” says www.level4finance.com.

Luckily, when it comes to fulfilling everything on the lender compliance checklist, each of the items is easy to complete and most of them have a low cost or free solution. To obtain a commercial, deliverable business address, for example, simply signing up for a virtual office plan, such as those offered by Alliance Virtual Offices, is an affordable and immediate option that many people have found to be the perfect solution to their business address problems.

Whether your need is a business phone number or a commercial business address, obtaining an Alliance Virtual office stands as the ideal solution, with multiple packages and plans available.

From a simple virtual business address or phone number to meeting room availability and live reception services, the many options provided by virtual officing companies not only help attack several of the items on a lender compliance checklist, but they can make running your business a whole lot easier.

Image source: Fletcher6

Get A Business Phone Number and Get Approved!

A commercial phone number could help you secure business finance

“You’re approved!”

Like music to their money-making ears, these are two words every current business owner was undoubtedly thrilled to hear when applying for their business loan.

“Lender compliance.”

Like nails on a chalkboard, these are two words that any hopeful pre-business owner must face when trying to apply for that all too important loan.

In many cases, when a business applicant leaves a bank, after being shot down in the application process, they have no clue as to why they were not approved. You don’t always get a good reason why, rejections are not always explained. But chances are, said business hopefuls most likely failed the lender compliance test. For any of you wishful, soon-to-be business owners out there, working diligently toward gaining credit and/or loan approval, this article’s for you.

So what exactly is “lender compliance” and how do I go about achieving it?

Lender compliance is essentially a series of guidelines that have been established by the lender(s) as part of their approval decision-making process. These are usually items that can be easily verified in an automated environment. So, when you submit an application for a business loan, the lender’s computer system will vet these lender compliance items to see if your business will proceed to the next level in the process of approving the loan.

Generally, lender compliance factors will not get a business approved alone, however they will undoubtedly get a business declined if its entity has not completed or established them prior to applying.

One example of a crucial lender compliance item is whether or not a business is operated from a cellular or residential phone. The phone number you list on the loan application will be checked using the Federal Communications Commission database to verify it is a business phone line, cell or residentially registered phone number. In the majority of these cases, lenders will turn down an application for a business loan where the business does not have a business listed phone number.

Now, as for the second part of the question: how do I go about achieving it? This is where virtual offices come in. Obtaining a business phone number is both quick and easy via the usage of a virtual office, such as those offered by Alliance Virtual Offices. By signing up for any one of Alliance Virtual’s hundreds of global virtual offices, users typically get their choice of one of several affordable package plans that come with an array of “virtual” work solutions – one of them being a solid, lender approved business phone number.

So, if you are planning to start a business and hope to receive a loan, make sure you’ve got your lender compliance checklist taken care of … starting with your business phone number.

Image source

Updating Your Payment Information with Alliance Virtual Offices

Recently set up a virtual office with us? Hopefully you’re already well on your way to making the most of our top-notch services and call-answering support, reaping the rewards of higher productivity and professionalism. Good for you!

By now you should have already logged into your Alliance Virtual Offices account and had a look around. This is the back-end of your virtual office where all of your personal and business details are stored, along with full details of your virtual office services, so it’s well worth familiarizing yourself with the system.

You’ll also find invoices and payment details stored here, so in this guide we’re going to explain how to access, amend and save your payment information.

How to Access Your Payment Information

  • Go to the log-in page (the link is found at the top-right of the Alliance Virtual Offices homepage): www.alliancevirtualoffices.com/login.php
  • Log-in using the email address and password that you used when signing up. If you can’t remember your log-in details, first go back to your email inbox – we sent you an email with this information which should be headed: “Alliance Virtual Offices ORDER DETAILS”. Failing that, click on the ‘Recover password’ link.
  • You will now land on the main admin area of Alliance Virtual Offices.
  • Under the header section ‘Select an Option’, click ‘Update Account’
  • Your payment details will be shown under the header ‘Update your information’

This image shows the Alliance Virtual Offices payment screen:

Alliance Virtual Offices - payment screen

How to Amend Your Payment Information

  • Look for the header ‘Update Credit Card Information’
  • Enter your correct payment details into the fields provided, including Cardholder’s Name (as it appears on the card), Credit Card Number and Expiration Date
  • Check the details and click ‘Submit’
  • Your new payment details will be stored.

Of course if you have any questions about your services or if you experience problems using the system, feel free to contact us at any time!

How to Access Your Account Information with Alliance Virtual Offices

So you’ve signed up to one of our call answering or virtual office services. Welcome aboard! Hopefully by now you’ve begun to familiarize yourself with the system and you’re already enjoying your new virtual office or call answering services.

If you’re just getting started, it’s certainly worth logging in to the Alliance Virtual Office admin system to have a look around. This is where all of your account information is stored along with invoices, your business details, information on your chosen package, and more.

Here’s how to access your account information:

  • From the Alliance Virtual Offices homepage, click on the ‘Account Login’ link at the top-right of the page. You might as well bookmark the URL while you’re at it: www.alliancevirtualoffices.com/login.php

Alliance Virtual Offices log-in screen

  • Log-in using the email address and password that you used when signing up. If you can’t remember your log-in details, first go back to your email inbox – we sent you an email with this information which should be headed: “Alliance Virtual Offices ORDER DETAILS”. Failing that, click on the ‘Recover password’ link.
  • You will now land on the main admin area of Alliance Virtual Offices.

Here’s what you should expect to see:

  • Account Information: Your name, business name and address;
  • Main Admin Area: Upcoming invoices with a PDF download;
  • Important Dates: This will include a link to our Terms & Conditions, the date you signed up, your term length and renewal details.
  • Select an Option: Listed here are the services you selected with Alliance Virtual Offices along with options to ‘Update Account’ and ‘Log Out’.

We recommend that you check your account details on this page, and also click on your package details, such as ‘My Virtual Phone’ or ‘My Live Answering’, to check that all of your details and services are correct.

How to Change Your Personal Details

In the main admin area, click on the ‘Update Account’ link in the list headed ‘Select an Option’, bottom left of your screen.

Alliance Virtual Offices - update account information

Here you can amend any important information, including:

  • Your name and company name;
  • Address and phone number;
  • Payment information;
  • Password – you can change it to something more memorable, but don’t make it too easy! It’s worth including a combination of letters and numbers.

Once you’ve made any changes simply click the ‘Submit’ button and your changes will be saved.

If you have any questions about your services or if you experience problems using the system, feel free to contact us at any time!

Do Your Meetings Need a Little Pick-Me-Up? We’re at Your Service.

Meeting rooms from Alliance Virtual Offices

There is more to an Alliance Virtual meeting room than meets the eye! Sure, we take care of the furnishings, offer you hundreds of global locations to choose from, and make it easy to book your meeting room at any time. But the meeting room story doesn’t end there – not even close. With a great selection of supplementary service options, you get all those little “extras” that can help take a typical, humdrum meeting to a whole new level.

Some of the services vary depending upon the location of the meeting room, but all of that will be clear as day when you’re setting up your package. Some are already included with your meeting room booking and don’t require any additional fees. Full details of what’s included will be clearly displayed on your venue’s profile page prior to booking.

Who doesn’t love a little “extra” every now and then? We try to give you flexibility, freedom and the best functionality possible with our meeting room options, and we understand that no two meeting room users want the same things from their experience. So, here are a few “extras” to help make the most of your meetings:

Wi-Fi Internet: Most locations offer wireless internet access for free, or for a minimal charge.

Friendly welcome: All venues are staffed by a professional team who will be ready and waiting to welcome you and your guests. Many venues also offer additional receptionist and administrative support.

Presentation facilities: Most meeting room locations have presentation facilities available such as screens, projectors, wide-screen monitors and whiteboards.

Video conferencing: Many venues now have video or audio conferencing capabilities; perfect for long-distance meetings with remote teams or board members.

So, whether you’re looking to meet, greet, eat or Tweet in your meeting room, thanks to the awesome Alliance Virtual meeting room services, you will easily (and usually) land soundly on your feet.

Image: Henderson meeting room, NV

Putting the Virtual Office Spotlight on Moscow

Virtual Office — Tags: , , — joanna @ 9:59 am on January 30, 2014

Moscow virtual office

At Alliance Virtual Offices, we’re proud to say that we’re home to some of the very best virtual offices in the world. You can access them all, right here, and there are literally hundreds of them!

Have you been to our virtual office locations page recently? You’ll find a long list of virtual offices in soul-stirring locations right across the globe, from New York and London to Paris, Tokyo and Sydney – and virtually everywhere inbetween.

This month, we’re shining the virtual office spotlight on a very special city that’s been getting plenty of attention lately.

Moscow, capital of Russia, is an iconic global city, an economic powerhouse and the financial and political centre of Russia. Some of the city’s earliest references date back to the 12th century, and its status as capital of the Russian Federation has existed for over 860 years. The Kremlin carries enormous historic symbolism, as do many other key landmarks and architectural gems that are positioned throughout this fascinating city.

The city is a hub of trade and industry, and technology is one core strength that Moscow is keen to develop further. Various campaigns are afoot to create the so-called ‘Russian Silicon Valley’, and the Skolkovo Innovation Center near Moscow is one such hub that aims to foster local talent and fast-track promising young technology companies into the global spotlight.

And of course there’s so much more to Moscow than culture and business. Russia’s capital is famous for its sporting prowess, and although the town of Sochi might be over 1,000 miles away, Moscow is enjoying plenty of attention as this year’s hotly anticipated Winter Olympics rolls into Russia. Of course, Moscow hosted the 1980 Summer Olympics and is set to host soccer’s 2018 FIFA World Cup, along with 12 other host cities.

You might be thinking, what does all this have to do with virtual offices? The answer: everything!

When you sign up to a virtual office in Moscow, you don’t just get a professional business address and first-class receptionist services. You can also hire meeting rooms at your chosen virtual office and day offices on-demand, should you need to visit Moscow on business. While you’re there, it would only be fitting to get to know the city a little better by visiting the sights – perhaps by entertaining your business guests at the Tretyakov Gallery, the Bolshoi Theatre, or by catching a game at the Luzhniki Stadium.

Head over to our Moscow virtual office page to find out more about this incredible location, and you could soon be placing your own business under the spotlight in Russia’s effervescent capital.

Image source: Dmitry Azovtsev (via Wikimedia Commons)

Next Page »