Using a Private Mailbox for Your Home Office

An illustration of an overflowing mailbox.
Photo: PeterBajohr / Getty Images

If you have a home office for your business, or if you're in an office space that doesn't have people there all the time during normal business hours, you may want to get a private mailbox. Having one can translate into better management of your mail and packages.

A private mailbox located at either a UPS Store, from PostNet or PakMail, or from a locally owned mailbox rental company is much different than just having a post office mailbox (P.O. box). A private mailbox offers you many advantages.

The Benefits

Reliability. No more missed deliveries because they required a signature from the receiver: When you have a private mailbox for your home business, there's always someone there during normal business hours to receive your packages and oversized mail on your behalf.

Privacy. Using a private mailbox allows you to keep your home address unpublished, which you may want if you don't have a business that requires customers to come to your home.

Security. Your mail and packages are kept safe and secure until you pick them up, rather than being subject to possible theft from an unprotected home mailbox. No more packages getting stolen by being left on your doorstep for too long. Also, if you're away from home for a few days, your mail won't stack up in your mailbox, letting people know that you're gone.

Mobility. If you move within the same part of town, your address can still say the same on all your printed materials, website, business cards, and elsewhere. Also, if you're traveling or working from another location for an extended period of time, you can have your mail and packages forwarded to you at that new location for a set duration of time from your private mailbox provider.

Advantages Over a Traditional Post Office Box

While a post office box is certainly a viable option for your home-based business, there are several reasons that you should go with a provider outside of the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) system.

Full-service package receiving. The U.S. Postal Service does not receive packages from other carriers (UPS, FedEx, etc.). Private mailboxes have no such restrictions.

An actual street address. You may find other situations in which you need an actual street address, not a P.O. box. A private mailbox uses the street address of the mailbox provider plus a "#" sign and your box number, e.g., "123 Main St. #123." The street address is also perceived by some as being more credible. One important note, though: you're allowed to use "#" for the designation of your box number, but don't try to pass it off as a "suite." The postal service prefers "PMB," but allows "#," which is recommended.

The private mailbox provider also can give you a variety of other products and services, such as packaging (USPS won't do that for you) and shipping. Most private mailbox providers offer at least one other shipping provider in addition to handling USPS services, which can save you money because of the options available to you from different carriers based on weight, dimensions, and destination. Private mailbox providers are typically much less crowded than the post office, so you can also get in and out of there more quickly.

Alternatively, the proliferation of affordable co-working spaces like WeWork and ImpactHub gives home-based business owners even more opportunities for setting up private mailboxes. Most co-working spaces, regardless of their size, offer private mailbox services in tandem with their monthly memberships. As a nice side benefit, you'll get access to a location where you can do some work outside of your home when you feel like it.

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