PO Box – for the Virtual Entrepreneur


The 21st Century offers many new opportunities for entrepreneurs. And as the world becomes smaller everyday due to advances in technology, small entrepreneurs can compete against established businesses in many ways that weren’t possible even 10 years ago. But small entrepreneurs still need some way to receive physical mail, i.e. snail mail – not just email.

You’ve likely heard the word "virtual" used before in the context of business. But what exactly does it mean to go "virtual?" For example, what’s a "virtual attorney" or "virtual businessperson?" In short, a virtual business is one that does not use a traditional store, i.e. brick and mortar building, to run its operations. In fact, many virtual businesses have absolutely no true office, except for the laptops or computers that they use. But what if you need to receive mail? Where should that mail go?

In this article, we’ll explore how to set up a PO Box for business purposes, the pros and cons of PO boxes, how to use your PO Box to enter the "virtual world," and some other considerations.

Next, we’ll go over how to set up a PO Box for business purposes.

PO Box Business Overview

A post office box, or PO Box for short, is a unique address and lockable box located at a post office. The United States Postal Service ("USPS") calls a PO Box the "safe and convenient way to get your mail." While many people don’t use PO boxes in the U.S., in other countries such as Africa, a PO Box is the only way to receive mail. This may sound surprising to most people, but many countries don’t have the adequate means of delivering mail door-to-door at people’s homes and businesses.

Now, we’ve all seen PO boxes at the post office. They’re usually located in a separate lobby from the customer service desk. In that separate lobby, there may be anywhere from under 100 to over 100,000 PO boxes available for use, depending on the size of the post office.

In the U.S., there are generally 5 different sizes of PO boxes that can usually be rented by the month, half-year, or year. It’s generally best to select the size that will suit the type of mail you expect to receive. For example, if you expect to receive larger envelopes and/or legal sized documents, you’ll naturally want to purchase a larger PO Box. If you receive a parcel that does not fit into your PO Box, the postmaster (i.e. person who delivers your mail into your PO Box) will (i) leave a note telling you to pick up the package at the service desk or (ii) leave you a marked key in your PO box to use to unlock a separate larger box with your package (you may want to ask where this larger box is located). Additionally, you’ll likely receive a letter to pick up registered mail, i.e. mail that you often have to sign for to receive.

With all of that said, using and setting up a PO Box for a business is just about identical as for setting it up for an individual. The only real difference is the paperwork involved.

Upon last check, to purchase a PO Box you’ll have to present 2 different forms of identification with at least 1 valid photo ID. You also have to fill out the address where you live (we’ll discuss why later). If you’re going to use the PO Box for business purposes, you’ll have to write down the name of your business and your affiliation with that business. For example, if you’re "partner," "CEO," or "member," you’ll have to state that on the form. That’s about the only difference in setting up the PO Box as a business, as opposed as an individual. So, it’s fairly straightforward.

Next, we’ll go over the pros and cons of setting up a PO Box.

PO Box – Pros and Cons

There are both pros and cons in setting up a PO Box for a business. But if you’re just starting off a new business, the pros will generally outweigh the cons.

Some of the benefits of setting up a PO Box include:

  • Separate business address
    • This is the main reason to obtain a PO Box. You can now receive mail in the name of your business.
  • 24/7 accessibility most of the time
    • In many post offices, there is a separate area for PO boxes which is generally accessible 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. However, some post offices do not allow 24/7 access. Make sure to ask your local post office for its accessibility hours.
  • Travel convenience
    • You can travel anywhere on short business trips knowing that your mail will be there when you get back.
  • Security
    • The U.S. Postal Service takes all reasonable precautions to make sure that your mail is secure.
  • Sizes for all
    • As previously mentioned, in the United States PO boxes generally come in 5 different sizes to suit your particular needs. For example, if you’ll be receiving lots of legal sized documents, you’ll likely want to purchase a bigger sized box.
  • Regular early morning delivery
    • Mail is usually delivered in the early morning (e.g. prior to 10 a.m.), which generally gives you the opportunity to take case of business early in the day.
NOTE: If you’ll be out of the country or traveling for an extended period of time, you’ll want to complete PS Form 8076, Authorization to Hold Mail, so the postmaster will collect and hold all your mail – without having to ask your neighbors (like everyone else).

Some of the drawbacks of setting up a PO Box include:

  • Distance from your house
    • The further away the post office the more time you’ll have to spend traveling to pick up your mail.
  • No brick and mortar address
    • This may be a stumbling block for certain types of industries where you may be expected to have a physical office. (We’ll explore this issue in more detail later.)
  • Residence location may be accessible to others for limited purposes
    • The U.S. Postal Service is authorized by law to obtain your resident address for your PO Box (which you’ll write down when you apply for the PO Box). Further, the U.S. Postal Service may also disclose your resident address to the following:
      • Persons authorized by law to serve judicial process (e.g. receiving a complaint)
      • In response to a court order or subpoena
      • To government agencies in the course of their duties
      • For other legal proceedings where the U.S. Postal Service may be involved
So, setting up a PO Box will not protect you from law enforcement officials that have a valid legal reason to locate your residency.

As you can see, there are both pros and cons to setting up a PO Box. The pros likely will outweigh the cons in the beginning of your new "virtual" business.

Next, we explore how to go "virtual" with your PO Box.

How to Go "Virtual" With Your PO Box

Ok, so you purchased your first PO Box. Now what? Well, you’ve taken a small step forward into the world of "virtual" business. But what does going "virtual" really mean?

A PO Box allows you to work from anywhere and gives you the peace of mind that your mail will be protected. A PO Box gives your business a physical address – without going to all the expense of leasing or buying office space. All of this allows you to go "virtual." But you should be aware of how others in your industry may view you.

Many people may think that your PO Box is not as "professional" as having a brick and mortar store. While operating without a dedicated physical office may not affect your products and/or service, it may affect your credibility in your industry. It’s therefore best to talk with professionals in your business industry that you can trust to see what they have to say.

Still, for many types of businesses and professionals going "virtual" with a PO Box is in the best interests of you and your customers or clients. Why? Because you’ll save a lot on the expenses you would have paid for leasing or purchasing an actual office. You can then take those savings and pass them onto your customers (or net a greater profit margin for your business). You’ll also save money which you can put into expanding your business, especially when you’re in the early stages of development. So, what if you have customers or clients that you need to meet in person?

When you have customers or clients that want to meet in person, offer to meet at their locations or find a neutral location where you both can meet. You may even be able to split rent with another business or use a particular office on an "as-needed" basis to meet your customers or clients. It’s really all about how you present the situation. If you act like you’re struggling to get by and just purchase the PO Box until something better comes along, that attitude will likely show through to your customers and clients – which you want to avoid.

Keep in mind that a "virtual" businessperson or professional doesn’t need a physical office. As long as your products and/or services meet or exceed your customers’ expectations, most people will likely not care if you work virtually or not. In fact, some may want to know how you went "virtual."

Finally, we’ll wrap up this article with some "virtual" PO Box thoughts to keep in mind.


In this article, we took a look at how to set up a PO Box for business purposes, the pros and cons of PO boxes, and how to use your PO Box to enter the "virtual world." You should now have a better idea about what it means to go "virtual" as an entrepreneur. You’ll likely want to look into the possibility of setting up a PO Box, at least in the beginning of your business, to create a physical address for your business.

Keep in mind that other businesses and individuals may look down upon your "virtual" business. However, setting up a PO Box for your business is often an early step for new entrepreneurs. And it takes time and money to build a successful business.

As a virtual business person you can work from anywhere – in a coffee shop, at home, at the library, or on a beach in Mexico. You set up your own hours and schedule. You’re not confined to a 10 x 10 cubicle or designated office space. So, what’s the appeal of going virtual? Probably the great sense of freedom that you’ll feel once you take the plunge into the virtual world. However, make sure you keep to your schedules like you would with a regular office – this is often a big downfall for many new "virtual" businesspeople.

Finally, many types of businesses can be run completely virtual, such as selling products online or offering professional services. In the end, your products and/or services and customer service and development will make or break your business. The PO Box is just one way to get you in the door of the "virtual" world of business. We hope you enjoy the ride!

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