Now that sites like eBay limit buyers from paying via checks and money orders, it’s tempting to forget snail mail, but regular postal mail still plays a part in any business. Not only will your business need to establish an official address for correspondence, forms and other paperwork, you’ll also still be accepting returns and exchanges through the physical mail. While the rest of the world increasingly goes digital, the government on both the national and state level is still maddeningly attached to paper and has been slow to adapt.

You may be fine with giving out your address, especially if you have a retail location with drop-off hours, but many sellers are uncomfortable letting their customers know their personal address when running a home-based business. Think about it: posting a message on your storefront that your store is on vacation right next to your home address is like asking for people to come and rob you!

Another concern is privacy. Your business will be getting a variety of very important documents, especially at tax time. Is your home address secure enough to ensure that none of these items are misplaced or stolen?

When you register your business, you’ll also be giving out your address on a variety of forms. Many of these forms will be public record. Wouldn’t you rather have a more private mail option with features for added convenience and professionalism rather than splash your home address everywhere?

The simplest solution is to get a locked mailbox. A Post Office Box, commonly abbreviated as PO Box, is a locked mailbox available at your local post office in a variety of sizes for a yearly fee. Your rental will include a key that ensures that you are the only person who can access your box. You can also opt to get an email or text message whenever you get new mail so you don’t need to waste a trip to an empty box.

But before you run down to the post office, also consider retail options such as Pakmail, Mail Boxes etc. and PostNet. These are just three of the many storefronts that rent mailboxes. They often offer additional features that the USPS does not and are sometimes cheaper. Most are also drop-off locations for not only USPS but also FedEx and UPS. If you frequently ship using these methods, a mailbox in a retail location such as these could save you a trip.

An added feature of nearly all locked mailboxes is that they offer street address shipping. In other words, they allow you to use the physical mailing address of the location where your box is housed instead of the PO Box 123 format. Not only is this handy when you want to look more professional and give a physical mailing address instead of a box number, it allows you to have items delivered by UPS, FedEx and others that otherwise cannot ship to a locked mailbox. Many will even let you keep a signature on file so they can sign for packages on your behalf.

That said, for all the advantages, locked mailboxes can be expensive. While there are advantages to going with a retail location over the USPS, will that retail location still be there in a year, after you’ve gone to the trouble of putting your new box address on all your business cards? For that matter, with the way the Postal Service is doing, is your post office any more or less likely to stay open?

You can run a SA business quite successfully without getting a private mailbox, but it’s a small expense I would recommend investing in. It’s certainly not a perfect option, but as it’s only one of the ways to protect your mail and home address, it’s worth looking into. I’ve had a PO Box through my local post office for years, and I’ve found be well worth the cost.

Photo by robertstinnett