How to Pay for Virtual Offices with Bitcoin

Advice and Support,Start-up Guides,Support — Tags: , , , — joanna @ 6:37 am on August 21, 2014

How to pay for a virtual office with Bitcoin

Got Bitcoin?

Did you know you can use it to rent a business mailing address, book meeting rooms, and even have your very own receptionist answer calls for you? Alliance Virtual Offices has a global network of virtual offices and business services, with fantastic support packages on offer to help your business get off the ground – and stay there.

Allow us to explain.

Most fledgling and startup firms don’t need a physical office – but they do need an office address with a local area code. That’s where a virtual office comes in. Rather than paying extortionate fees for bricks and mortar, you can simply hire the address instead. When mail turns up at your chosen building address, it will be redirected to the destination of your choice. You can also add a local phone number, and have a receptionist answer calls in your company name. It’s all part of the service.

That’s what we do. Now back to Bitcoin.

As a virtual company, it’s only right that we accept a virtual currency. We’ve been accepting Bitcoin since 2013, and we offer it as an online payment option alongside the regular credit card method.

Here’s how to pay Alliance Virtual Offices with Bitcoin:

  • Checkout: Once you’re ready to checkout, you’ll see the option to pay with Bitcoin under the ‘Payment Information’ header. Click ‘Pay With Bitcoin’ and tick ‘I Agree to the Terms of Service’.

Paying for virtual offices with Bitcoin

  • Click ‘Continue’.
  • Review your information and booking on the following page. If you are satisfied with the information, click the Bitcoin payment button to complete your order.
  • When you click the Bitcoin payment button, you will be presented with an invoice which you can pay with your Bitcoin wallet. Note, you may need to send further documentation to Alliance Virtual Offices so that your Virtual Office services can be confirmed.

Bitcoin

As ever, if you have any questions, feel free to contact us and we’ll be happy to help out.

Happy (virtual) shopping!

Setting Up a Business? 5 Ways to Build a Support Network

Advice and Support,Start-up Guides — joanna @ 5:56 am on August 12, 2014

Why it's important to build a network

Since our early days as a humble startup, we’ve garnered all sorts of useful tips and tricks on how to setup and run a business.

One important rule we’ve learned is this: When you decide to go it alone, make sure you’re not completely alone.

It doesn’t matter who you are, how great your product is or whatever size of startup budget you’ve got. To be successful in business, you need people around you. We’re not just talking clients – we’re talking mentors, investors, partners, idea-generators, supporters, critics, and celebrators.

We’ve already put plenty of our homegrown knowledge into our Smart Guide, Business Setup Checklist (it’s yours for free, here).

Check out some of our top tips below. What would you add?

Meet like-minded people

Call it collaboration, business meetups, after-hours drinks, whatever you like. Try to hook up with a local business group for an informal gathering once in a while. You might find it in a coworking space (pay-as-you-go shared workspaces) or in your nearest coffee shop. Try meetup.com, look for get-togethers on EventBrite, or search for social media groups.

Do the networking thing

Check out your local business networking groups and get mingling. Networking always seems a bit awkward at first but trust us – the more you do, the easier it becomes.

Learn something new

Head to your nearest college or business school, or take seminars, and learn something new. While you’re at it, you’ll meet new people with shared interests.

Attend industry events

Sign up for events that are relevant to your industry. You’ll pick up valuable information and get to know people in your field, which could include competitors and key influencers.

Seek a mentor

You’ll often find mentor programmes from alumni groups, business-owner support groups, local government initiatives and trade associations. You could even search LinkedIn for role models, then contact that person to see if she or he will mentor you.

Why is it so important to create networks? Because there is safety and security in numbers, and the more people you have around you, the more support you will generate for your small business. Your network will give you advice, offer recommendations and share their experiences. That sort of person-to-person contact can’t be bought.

Check out other useful ideas and recommendations in our series of free Smart Guides.

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7 Ways to Be the Biggest and Best Startup Business (on a bootstrap)

Advice and Support,Start-up Guides — Tags: , , , , , — joanna @ 5:09 am on August 7, 2014

7 ways to improve your business on a budget

When you’re setting up a business, you’ve got 101 million things on your mind. Marketing, product development, sales, tax, revenue, client retention, cash flow… does it ever end?

Above all, you want to project the right image to clients and potential investors. Regardless of how fiercely your feet are paddling under the surface, to the outside world you want to appear cool, calm and professional.

Happily, there are scores of subtle ways to help complement your shiny professional exterior – and they don’t need to bust your startup-sized budget. Here are 7 ways to boost your business on a bootstrap:

1. Marketing with Freemiums:

There are tons of free platforms out there to help market your business. For instance rather than hiring a web designer, use a template-based website tool or look for website hosting and set-up packages. Wix is one example. For email marketing, try Mailchimp – they offer a good basic mailshot system with premium features. And tools like WooRank help you to understand how your website is ranking on search engines and how you can improve your SEO.

2. Branding:

Your branding sets you apart from other businesses. Once you’ve settled on a brand, including a logo, business name and colour scheme, be sure to use this across all company documentation. From your website theme to letterheads, business cards to email signatures, even the way you answer the phone – keep it uniform. It makes you look much more professional and established.

3. Customer Service:

If there’s one thing that demands investment, it’s customer service. Whether it’s just you, or a partnership, or a remote team, it’s essential that customer service is at the top of the agenda. After all, your customers keep you in business. Invest in training and establish a set of rules and regulations, including your own high expectations. Monitor performance and re-enforce your standards regularly.

4. Go Digital:

We live in a digital age. So why not consider using digital currency? Bitcoin users are very much in the minority, but as a currency it offers plenty of advantages for small businesses, including low costs. Find out more about the pros and cons of Bitcoin here.

5. Test Everything:

Not every marketing or sales strategy is right for your business, but you won’t know whether it’s working if you don’t test it. You could be throwing money away on worthless PPC campaigns, or an SEO agency, or cold-calling firms, for nothing. If you’re using a third party, request weekly reports demonstrating how their services are adding value. If it’s not achieving the right results in a realistic time-frame, it’s time to stop.

6. Don’t Discount, Add Value:

Don’t be too quick to cut prices. Discounts come straight out of your profits. Instead, focus on how you add value and hold your price wherever possible. Also analyze the way you communicate your strengths and value to ensure the ‘message’ is getting across. Adjust accordingly, or consider contracting a short-term sales marketer to help tweak your messages. Use freelancing ‘gig’ websites to post your requirements and hire help by-the-hour.

7. Go Virtual:

You probably don’t need a permanent office, but you will more than likely need a commercial address. You can rent a building address and use it as your official business address, without paying to use the facilities. Mail can be received there and forwarded to your home address. This is known as a virtual office, and means you get the advantage of a recognizable business address without the office overheads. You can also have receptionists answer calls in your company name, too. Find out more here.

Don’t forget to try our free Smart Guides for more savvy, sensible business advice.

What other boot-strapping business tips and tricks do you recommend?

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Should Your Business Accept Bitcoin?

Advice and Support,Support — Tags: , , , , — joanna @ 6:22 am on July 31, 2014

Is Bitcoin good or bad for business?

Bitcoin is never far from the headlines. You’ve probably seen it cropping up in the business and financial pages from time to time. You may even have wondered, should my business start accepting Bitcoin?

First let’s take a look at how it works.

Bitcoin is a digital currency based on an open source, peer-to-peer payment network. Think of it as cash for the Internet. It’s a synthetic currency kept in your own ‘digital wallet’, with payment taking place by transfers. Bitcoins can be bought and sold for real money at a Bitcoin exchange, although there is no central repository – it’s powered by its users.

To the uninitiated, Bitcoin seems quite complex. But there’s no denying that the concept of digital currency is quite a breakthrough.

Now let’s take a look at the reasons for, and against, using Bitcoin for business:

3 Reasons Bitcoin is Good For Business

  1. Low fees: Bitcoin’s complex cryptographic security infrastructure means it’s generally faster and cheaper to process transactions than standard methods. Payments can be made and received with virtually no fees – although they are recommended for faster confirmation of transactions. The cost and speed is considered an advantage, especially for small businesses with limited funding reserves.
  2. Anti-fraud security: Bitcoin payments are irreversible, which negates the problem of ‘chargeback fraud’. In addition to Bitcoin’s cryptographic security algorithm, users must also secure their own wallet and payment requests. Security is a concern for any business and while no system is infallible, Bitcoin is considered a relatively secure network.
  3. Fast payments: According to Bitcoin.org, bitcoins can be transferred from Africa to Canada in 10 minutes. As bitcoins have no physical location and no intermediate financial institutions to process transactions, there are virtually no delays. This is an advantage for smaller businesses, particularly if you are selling goods, as it means you should receive payments faster.

3 Reasons Against Using Bitcoin for Business

  1. Volatile investment: Bitcoin is perhaps best-known for its wildly changeable value, which can shift from a few dollars to hundreds of dollars in just a matter of days. Like any investment, you should bide your time and trade when conditions are most favorable.
  2. More legwork: As a new currency, it’s not necessarily easy to get to grips with Bitcoin. Plus you’ll need to monitor the value closely. You may need to adjust your pricing on a daily basis or use a pricing system that exchanges rates in real time. And what do you do with your stash of bitcoins? Do you spend, invest, or keep them in the hope that their value goes up? You’ll need to invest time and effort in understanding the process to ensure you don’t lose out financially.
  3. It’s an emerging concept: As yet, Bitcoin isn’t widely accepted so the amount of people who buy or sell goods using the digital currency is limited, so it shouldn’t be offered as a standalone payment method. Many people are buying bitcoins as an investment too, and are holding onto them rather than spending online or in shops, which further reduces the number of people using or trading them.

All things considered, Bitcoin is a young and emerging currency which, as we have seen, is by no means perfect. However, no financial system is flawless, and the concept of online currency is particularly fitting in today’s digital world.

As with any business investment, do your homework, weigh up the pros and cons, and enter the world of digital currency with as much information and foresight as possible.

The good news is, more and more reputable online vendors are beginning to accept Bitcoin, including WordPress, Reddit and yours truly – Alliance Virtual Offices. We started accepted Bitcoin in 2013 which made Alliance Virtual Offices the first virtual office provider to accept Bitcoin as a payment method (so if you’re wondering where to spend yours, now you know!)

Does your business accept Bitcoin? Or are you keeping clear of digital currency? Let us know – we’d love to hear your reasons.

Running a Virtual Company: The Importance of Being Contactable

Make sure new business contacts can find you

What’s one of the most obvious requirements when setting up a business?

Being contactable.

Putting your contact details out there, and making yourself readily available for incoming communication, is such an obvious requirement that it’s almost an afterthought. But imperative it is, and that’s where we can help.

Check out our free smart guide – How to Run a Virtual Company – and you’ll find a whole chapter dedicated to the business of setting up contact details. From hiring a business mailing address to having a real receptionist answer your calls, there are plenty of ways to improve the way you handle incoming communication, whilst ramping up your business image at the same time.

Here’s how it works, in a nutshell:

Business Address

You might find yourself working from anywhere, but you’ll still need a permanent, physical address for your company records.

Why? For one, it’s ‘expected’. New clients often like to see where you are, and a permanent address often instills confidence. You’ll also need one for postal correspondence, such as receiving checks or signed contracts. Plus, some lenders require an actual business address to process loan applications.

Of course you could use your home address. But do you really want to receive important mail at home? Or advertise your home address to the world? Or risk potential clients showing up on your doorstep?

Using a virtual office address is one way to get round it. Alliance Virtual Offices lists over 600 physical location addresses that include prestigious spots from San Diego to New York City, along with international locations in dozens of countries. It’s affordable too – some locations start from as little as $50 per month. Check out the full list here.

Business Phone Number

If you don’t want to use your personal cell or home phone for business, you can acquire a dedicated business or toll-free number for a low monthly fee.

You can also add slick business solutions such as a call handling service, with the help of trained receptionists, or set up specific rules such as forwarding unanswered calls to your cell phone. Check out Alliance Virtual’s call and receptionist options here.

Business Meeting Venue

There will come a time when you’ll need to meet people relevant to your business – which might be clients, suppliers, investors or new staff. You could meet at their offices, or for informal meetings a coffee shop sometimes works. For important or private meetings however, you’ll need to set the tone and make the right first impressions.

That’s where meeting room hire comes in. It allows you to rent a professional, private space with all the amenities of an established company. Check out Alliance Virtual’s list of online meeting rooms, which are located in hundreds of locations all over the world.

That’s just a handful of ways to improve your chances of new business success through the power of effective communication.

To dig deeper into some of the most important requirements when setting up a new business, be sure to check out Alliance Virtual’s free smart guide, here: How to Run a Virtual Company

Over and out…

3 Ways to Automate Your Admin And Breathe Easier

Automate your admin and take back your valuable time

As a startup, small business owner or freelancer, you know just how valuable your time is.

Yet the frustrating thing is, we seem to spend most of it on time-sapping things that don’t earn money. Yes, admin, we’re looking at YOU.

Admin is a productivity drain, but unfortunately, it’s a necessity. What small business owners need to realise is that there are smarter ways to deal with it. And those ways can help you take back your most valuable commodity: TIME.

With the help of our free Smart Guide, Optimizing & Automating Administration, we show you how to make the most of that prized strategy – Business Process Automation (BPA) – and save your business buckets of time and money.

Here’s a sneaky peek at some of the key procedures outlined in our guide:

Tip 1: Batch & Bundle
Firstly, list all the most common tasks involved in running your business. Then it’s time to batch and bundle.

What does that mean? Basically, stop dealing with things as they come in. Calls, emails, invoices, the lot. Instead, look at your list of tasks and strategize how to best batch and bundle each one. You might assign a specific task to a Friday, or the third Wednesday of every month, or every morning between 10.00 – 11.00am. The more batching and bundling you do, the better.

Tip 2: Don’t Beat Yourself Up
Remember, there’s no such thing as a perfect process. Sometimes things skitter off track so don’t beat yourself up if it doesn’t go to plan.

Still, it helps to have an outline of what you expect to get done on any given day. Smarter scheduling can help you to deal with the unexpected – it can help you to prioritize, understand what needs to happen when, and how much time each task will take. Book blocks of time into your calendar or whatever software tool you’re using, and be sure to allow for the unexpected.

Tip 3: Delegate
We’re not machines. There comes a time when you have to realise that you can’t do everything yourself. So delegate.

If you’ve already got a team onboard, think about what skills each person brings to the party. Ask each member of your team which tasks they would most like to do – but be sure to share out the grunt work fairly too (someone’s got to do it).

For everything else, outsource. Outsourcing is much better than it used to be, and thanks to the wonders of technology you now have a world of talent at your fingertips. Advertise tasks on freelancing sites to connect with the right talent, at the right price.

Tools to help you

Check out the guide for some top recommendations of online tools and apps to help you. The guide is free and there’s no lengthy sign-up process. Or try extending your virtual team by contacting Alliance Virtual Office. Our range of outsourcing services is quite extensive and specifically geared to entrepreneurs and small business owners.

Automate. Breathe. Aaaaand relax.

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How to Add a Greeting to Your Virtual Phone

Set up a greeting for your virtual phone

If you’re using a virtual office phone from Alliance Virtual Offices, you’re probably already aware that there are tons of useful features on offer. To help you navigate your way around the system, we’ve produced a series of ‘How-To’ guides to help you.

Here, we’re focusing on how to add greetings to your phoneline. This isn’t a voicemail message, it’s an introduction for your callers. For instance, you might want to use the recording to add options, such as ‘Click 1 for Customer Support’. Or you might want to briefly introduce callers to your company, or offer instructions for specific services.

We’ll walk you through the process and of course, if you get stuck or if you need any further help along the way, please contact us or send us a message via our Facebook page.

Let’s get started…

  • 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 next page, click the ‘Greetings’ button:
  • On the ‘Manage Greetings’ page, click the orange ‘Add a Greeting’ button

On the ‘Add a Greeting’ page, you can set up all the required features of your greeting.

  • Firstly, give your greeting a nickname – this could be ‘Company Intro’ or ‘Caller Options’
  • Under the ‘Restricted To’ dropdown, state which extension to which this greeting should be assigned. If you want it used across all phonelines, leave the option as ‘All’
  • If you want to play your new greeting while callers are on-hold, select ‘Yes’. Otherwise leave it as ‘No’.

Next, you need to record a message. There are 3 ways to do this:

1. Use an Automated System
Click ‘Text to Greeting’ and type your message into the field provided. Next, choose a “voice” from the ‘Select a voice’ dropdown list. To see how it sounds, click ‘Preview’ once you have chosen your voice (often with hilarious results!). You can even add sounds and special effects. Or if you prefer a standard response, click the ‘Use a template’ dropdown and choose one of the options.

2. Record From Your Phone
Click the “Click to Record a Greeting” button. A pop-up box will appear – enter your phone number, click “Call”, and begin recording your message after the prompt.

3. Upload an Existing Audio File
If you have pre-recorded a greeting, you can upload it by choosing the ‘Upload New File’ option. Ensure the file is saved on your computer, then click the ‘Browse’ button to search for the file (supported file formats include wav, mp3 and gsm). Once you have identified the file, select ‘Open’. Then click the ‘Upload’ button.

Be sure you have you have permission from the rightful owner before uploading copyrighted audio. See our Terms of Service for more info.

If you’re not confident recording your own voice files, you could purchase a premium greeting by clicking here.

How to Edit Your Virtual Office Phoneline Extension

Phoneline extensions

In this series of ‘How To’ guides we’re explaining how to navigate your way around the Alliance Virtual Offices system. We hope it will give you plenty of straightforward tips and tricks and help you to get the most out of your virtual office services.

If you’re using a virtual office phone, with or without a receptionist answering your calls, did you know that you can make changes to your extension number and user details anytime you wish? This is particularly useful if you have a team of people with their own private extensions, as it means you can quickly and easily edit settings or add/remove numbers as necessary.

It’s quick and easy to do. Here’s how:

  • 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 next page, click the ‘Users & Extensions’ button:

Here on the ‘Manage Users and Extensions’ page, you can add, edit and remove extension numbers.

To edit user settings: In the Users table, select the user you wish to configure by clicking the “Edit” icon to its right. This will take you to the settings page for that user. From there you can set a nickname for the extension, specify the extension number, state who it is assigned to, assign a greeting and choose a time zone.

You can also specify voicemail settings here.

To delete an extension: In the Users table, select the user you wish to delete by clicking the “Delete” icon to its right. This will delete the user from your account.

To add a new user: Click the orange “Add an Extension” button. The options are:

  • Virtual Extension: This allows you to route calls into your account to multiple destinations, such as a cell phone, home phone or work phone.
  • Communicator: This places telephone calls over the Internet using your computer, rather than a traditional phone.
  • Mobile Extension: This allows you to use your account with your personal mobile device (iPhone, iPad or Android) and the Bria app from CounterPath Corporation. Active device with cellular service is required.
  • An IP phone or analog telephone adapter (ATA): This enables you send and receive calls from your account wherever you have internet access.

Please note that some of these services may require an additional fee.

You can also view and listen to each user’s greetings, view messages and access the address book.

To view greetings for a user: In the Users table, select the “Greetings” icon to the right of the relevant user’s name. This will take you to the Manage Greetings section where you can view and edit their greetings.

To view messages for a user: In the Users table, select the user you wish to configure by clicking the “Inbox” icon to its right. This will take you to the inbox for that user. From there you can listen to messages and access other options like Call Blocking, from the list on the left-hand side.

To view the address book: In the Users table, select the user you wish to view and click the “Address Book” icon to its right. This will take you to the address book for that user. From there you can view contacts, add new ones, create ‘groups’ of contacts, and import or export contact details in bulk.

We hope you found this advice useful. If you have any specific queries about using your virtual office phone, please contact us for help or send us a message via our Facebook page.

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Setting Up a Business? Read This First

Alliance Virtual's Smart Guide - Business Setup Checklist

Congratulations!

You’ve taken a momentous and exciting decision: to start your own business. Your emotions are probably swinging from one extreme to the other right now. Uncontainable excitement. Total exhaustion. Mild panic. Happiness.

We get it, because we’ve been there, and we’ve got all sorts of stories and experiences to help you. Of course you’ll want to navigate your own path, and so you should. But it doesn’t hurt to listen to some sane, solid advice from time to time.

How do you find such a thing? Glad you asked.

We’ve produced a Smart Guide that gives you the ins-and-outs of setting up a business. It’s called ‘Business Setup Checklist‘ and it’s got everything you need to help turn your raw ideas into (profitable) reality.

It’s smart because it’s not like any other guide out there. It’s not a blog, it’s not a white paper, it’s not a PDF, it’s not a brochure. It’s a collection of some of the most important, tried-and-tested pieces of advice from people who’ve been there and lived it, and it’s presented to you in an online format that’s easily accessible and fully interactive.

The guide is available on any device, anytime, and it’s always up-to-date. YOU can help shape it too. Got a question? Simply post a comment and let our experts answer it for you.

Oh, and it’s completely free.

You see, we’re a small business too, and we know what it’s like to be in those early, buzzy, can’t sleep, head-might-explode days. You need free advice, but more to the point, you need valuable advice. So, give it a go.

And while you’re at it, check out our small business services. Alliance Virtual Offices helps startups like you save time and money with budget-friendly secretarial services. For a business address, local phone number, a call answering service or meeting room hire – we’ve got it. Check out www.alliancevirtualoffices.com to find out more.

Get the Guide >>

And good luck! These are exciting times, and you’re standing on the brink of a life-changing experience. Your ideas might just change the world someday. Go for it and enjoy the ride.

Hate Listening to Voicemails? Get a Transcription Instead

Advice and Support,Support — Tags: , , , , — joanna @ 5:56 am on May 21, 2014

Hate listening to voicemails? Try Alliance Virtual's transcription service instead

Voicemails are irritating.

First you’re distracted by the call at the worst possible time. Then when you ring your voicemail number, you have to listen to an automated voice slowly, oh so slowly, spelling out the caller’s number and informing you that you have a new message. YES, I KNOW!

And to top it off, most of the time, that voicemail message is simply the sound of someone putting the phone down. Or asking you to return their call. A quick and unobtrusive email would suffice, right?

Happily, Alliance Virtual Offices has something snazzy up its sleeve so you never have to listen to a voicemail again.

Voicemail transcription

When you sign up to one of our virtual office call handling services, whether it’s a basic virtual office phone or a live receptionist call answering package with all the trimmings, you’ll get access to a Voicemail Transcription service.

That means you can read your voicemail rather than having to listen to the actual message. You can choose to have the message transcribed automatically, or have a real person do it for you. There’s a small fee for each, which is just $0.25 per human transcription (first 4 are free) or $1.50 per month for unlimited automated transcriptions.*

What’s more, you can switch this feature on or off for each phoneline extension. Here’s how…

How to Activate Voicemail Transcription

Transcription settings can be found in each extension’s “General Settings”.

  • 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 next page, click the ‘Users & Extensions’ button:

  • In the list of extensions that are presented to you, look to the right and click the little ‘Edit’ button:

  • Here you can edit all the settings for that extension, including the actual extension number and the name of the person to whom it is assigned.
  • To set up voicemail transcription, scroll down the page until you see the ‘Voicemail’ header.
  • Alongside ‘Voicemail Transcription’, click the tick-box to ‘Transcribe voicemail messages to text’.
  • Choose from Human Assisted Transcriptions or Automated Transcriptions.
  • Further down the page under ‘Voicemail Notification Settings’ you can also decide how you want your voicemails to be sent to you, and in which format.
  • Once you’ve made your choices, click the ‘Save Changes’ button at the bottom.

Et voila! Pain-free voicemails that won’t ruin your day.

We hope you found this advice useful. If you have any specific queries about using your virtual office phone, please contact us for help or send us a message via our Facebook page.

*Please note prices may be subject to change. Correct as of 21st May 2014.

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