Do You Need a P.O. Box?

19 Comments

3132181395_ed2c387df7There are a lot of things that a web worker needs in order to be able to do his or her work: a computer, an Internet connection … a post office box? While it’s not absolutely required in order to get your online work done, having a P.O. box can make a lot of sense.

I originally got my P.O. box because I wasn’t comfortable handing out my home address online. Despite working primarily online, I still receive a lot of mail, like review copies of software and books or contracts. I still even have a few clients who send me everything for the work they need done in hard copy — some clients just aren’t ready to go to a paperless process for one reason or another. But since I started renting my post office box, I’ve found quite a few reasons why having one is a good idea.

Security

Having your mail sent to a P.O. box can be a matter of security. It’s a choice many people make because they don’t want to hand out their home address online, but the security questions that a P.O. box answers goes even beyond that. Many web workers still receive paper checks. A lot of home mailboxes don’t have locks, making it possible for anyone to pull your mail — no matter what it contains — out of your mailbox. In contrast, a post office box has a lock and is usually inside a post office, so your mail will be safe.

Packages

Because I don’t need much more than my laptop to work, I often spend my days in coffee shops. If a package comes while I’m not home, it’s possible that the apartment office will hold it for me. However, it’s just as possible that they’ll refuse to sign for it and I’ll wind up driving all over. Of course, that’s assuming that the delivery service doesn’t just drop my package in front of my door and hope that it doesn’t disappear before I make it home.

Professionalism

While a home address does not instantly mark you as unprofessional, a P.O. box can help a web worker seem a little more established. It depends on the companies and clients you’re working with, but some clients may just deem a post office box to be a more professional address than an apartment or another address that is obviously residential. In part, such judgments can be attributed to the fact that most beginning freelancers or other web workers don’t usually have a mailing address beyond their homes. If you’ve reached the point where you can have a separate mailing address for your work, you’re probably a little further along in your career.

Not everyone needs a post office box, of course. It’s worth considering how much mail you receive on a regular basis, as well as your own needs as far as factors like security go. Don’t let the price scare you off, though: it’s usually possible to rent a P.O. box inexpensively — and the cost is likely to be deductible for taxes.

Do you have a P.O. box? Why did you decide to get one?

Image by Flicker user mrarteest

19 Comments

Lenny

I have rented a PO Box for about 10 years, in a very small town. I thought it was kinda neat to have an address from a town that very few people have, something that wouldn’t happen if my mail was delivered to my house. Besides, my house is at the end of the carriers route, so if I were to have my mail delivered to my house, I wouldn’t get it until 5pm sometimes.

The boxes at the UPS store are okay, but the prices there are a lot more than the ones at the post office. I pay $44 a year for mine, and the ones at the UPS store are about $85- a big difference.

Business services

My mailbox is just right next to the sidewalk (People can steal anything easily) and alot of middle school students walks by it… (I don’t trust any of the walkers unless I know them) , I would like to know if there’s a trick on how to avoid getting stolen.
I was thinking of putting a “Please knock at the door, and drop package” sign. I’m receiving an item worth 250$ soon, and I want to know if it’s gonna be a package that’s gonna be dropped at my doorstep?

asd

I have had a UPS Store box for years. I use address… #123. I few years ago the post office threatened to stop delivering mail unless everybody used an address of the form … PMB 123 (Personal Mail Box). I guess they were concerned about mail fraud. I never switched and they seem to have backed down from this position.

Benifits include:

Convientent Packaging
Secure package delivery with email delivery notification.
They seem open to having multiple names attached to a box (company and personal).
The address is more acceptable than a P.O. address when placing orders.

Al

DR

The UPS Store is the way to go (as Hilary described above).. they allow you to use “Company Name, UPS Store Address, Suite ###”, instead of PO Box ###.

Great for any internet business.. been using them for years.

adventuresincolor

I’ve had a PO Box for about five years now that I use for selling/buying online, local and international pen pals, and as a catchall for direct mail marketing I receive. I couldn’t imagine life without it. It is much more secure than my apartment mailboxes (which I could open using an entirely different key) and has my mail by 10:00 a.m. Monday-Saturday, which is fantastic as my apartment doesn’t receive delivery until between 3:00-5:00 normally. Many retailers allow special accommodation to mail via USPS instead of another carrier. As you get to know your local postal office employees, the entire mailing process becomes much more streamlined, and I never have to worry about vacation mail hold or packages left out in the rain. PO Boxes are a great idea for anyone who does business on the internet that translates into direct mail.

it is located halfway between work and home, costs $46.00 a year,

Stephen McGehee

I started out with a PO Box, but went back to using my street address. Security really isn’t an issue since I live on a dirt road in a rural area. The idea of having to drive to pick up my mail each day just isn’t very appealing to me. That’s part of why I have worked from home for the past 14 years.

Part of the decision depends on the street name. If you live on “Melodie Lane”, it is clearly a residential street name. I live on “Bond Road” which has a less-residential sound to it.

Another point in favor of using a street address is that it implies that you are established with roots at that location. Customers want to know that I will be there for tech support, so it is important to me to demonstrate (in addition to the 14 years doing this) that I will be there when they need me. That’s why our web site includes a photo of me at my desk in our office – it adds to the impression of stability.

Jeff Yablon

Years ago, Brian Livingston (remember him?) wrote article about a piece of software that I had produced, call Uninstall for Windows. It was in . . . Windows Magazine, I think (now defunct).

When he asked for contact details so readers could reach me to order the software and I gave him my actual street address he about gave birth. The words were “Jeff, you aren’t going to like when my fans start ringing your doorbell”.

He was right. It was not fun.

Jeff Yablon
President & CEO
Virtual VIP Computer Care, Business Coaching and Virtual Assistant Services

wrdforwrd

I’ve had my PO box for many years. It’s important to me to keep business and personal mail separate. A PO box is more professional, and as indicated, more secure.

Another important point for me is that because I work from home, my PO box forces me to get out of the house; it’s a good daily break, a vital cabin fever reducer and excellent exercise (when I walk or bike to it).

infmom

I’ve had a PO Box since 1985, for the reasons you mention. It was a safe address to give out online (and the box is in a neighboring city rather than my own city of residence–easy to do in the Los Angeles megalopolis). It was a safe place to have packages delivered (no more coming home to find boxes left on the porch in the rain). Plus, the people who work at the post office are friendly and helpful, as opposed to our neighborhood mail carrier who never seems to be the same person two weeks in a row.

An added bonus is that I keep getting mailers from Publishers Clearing House showing the route they’ll take from a nearby florist to my “home.” :)

Julie

Security, in a word. The mail boxes along our street have been vandalized several times. One day I came home to find the mailbox off the post and laying open in the gutter. Water was running through my mail. That sort of thing is a federal offense, but just try to find the kids who did it.

Another word: Convenience. The mail is always delivered to the box by 10:00 in the morning. I can’t always guess when the mail truck will show up at my house, and if the neighbor’s car is blocking the box – no mail for me.

Alex Juel

Hilary makes some great points. Also, if you have a business that could do well on the internet locally, most sites will not accept a P.O. box as an address, for example Google Maps.

Get a mailbox with a real address so that you can market your website locally.

Hilary

I have a box with what used to be a Mail Boxes Etc. and is now a UPS store. There are a few reasons I prefer this over a P.O. Box (USPS owned that is.)

1) The address doesn’t have “P.O.” in it which is a dead giveaway that it’s not my physical address. Only once has this worked against me and a new client dropped by with their signed contract but the kind people at the store let them leave me their package without postage anyway (I’m guessing that that shouldn’t be done with regularity.)

2) I can get packages that are sent via USPS, UPS, FedEx … your choice. With a USPS PO Box you are limited to USPS deliveries.

3) I can quickly pick up my packages usually without a wait in line (sometimes there is a line but it’s never as long as the lines at the local USPS stores.)

I could maybe come up with a few more reasons but I had a PO Box way back in high school (my family kept losing my mail back then) and can say without a doubt that I much prefer the non-USPS box.

And one more reason a PO Box or private box is a good idea – rain. They don’t close my mailbox at the house when it rains and inevitably that’s when some important paper is delivered and gets soaked.

ralph

Where do u apply to have this private PO Box? (without the PO)

Thanks

Stuck In a Cubicle

I have a P.O. box and I use it for all the real spam mail I get. I always hate getting email that tells me that I have to register my domain with them because it’s against the law to have it with someone else. As a business plan, it’s quite solid to have one.

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