6 Things a P.O. Box Can Do For a Freelancer
Photo by mishahu.
When it comes to postal service, I really lucked out. The nearest post office is less than half a mile away. Every afternoon, when I reach the point in my day where staring at the computer screen any more is impossible, I walk over to the post office and collect my mail from my P.O. box.
As far as tools for freelancers go, I think a P.O. box is often overlooked: they’re useful and can even solve a few problems particularly for freelancers.
1. The Problem of Professionalism
It’s all well and good to work out of your home — or the nearest coffee shop — but there are just some clients that will see such an address and think that it automatically makes you unprofessional. Using a P.O. box is a fast way to avoid that discussion. Even large businesses use P.O. boxes as an easy way to manage mail, so seeing one listed as your address won’t bother even the snobbiest of clients. You can even choose an address in a different neighborhood if you feel that will up your professionalism even more.
And for those coffee shop-dwelling freelancers, it’s much easier to set up a P.O. box than trying to convince the postman to deliver your mail to your ‘place of business.’
2. Keeping Your Money Safe
I’ve lived in neighborhoods where it was crucial to get the mail out of the mailbox immediately. If I didn’t, I couldn’t be sure that I’d actually get all of my mail — and that includes the checks paying for my freelance work. And as incidents of identity theft have gone up, it’s not just checks that I worry about. Between contracts and tax forms, so much personal information passes through my mail box that I feel safest when no one without the right key can touch it. You might work primarily with online payments and contracts, but everyone runs into the occasional client who wants to handle details via post.
3. Protecting Your Packages
The same problems with receiving your mail are only intensified when it comes packages. With a P.O. box, the post office will just hold any packages that come your way (although they won’t accept packages for you from other carriers). With one simple step, you can eliminate the chance that the postman will just drop a box on your front step, out where anyone can grab it. You also don’t have to worry about having to sign for anything in your mail: if the post office needs confirmation on a certified letter or package, they’ll get you to sign while you’re picking up the rest of your mail.
4. Concealing Your Personal Address
I don’t know about you, but I don’t really want to hand out my home address to every potential client I find online. Considering how easy it is for an email containing a snail mail address to get passed around, I think it’s a pretty reasonable precaution to give out the address of my P.O. box, rather than my home. I haven’t had a problem yet, but I don’t particularly want to, either.
5. Eliminating changes of address
If you find that your home address is less than stable — maybe you move apartments every so often, maybe you take extended trips — a P.O. box can guarantee that you don’t have to try to update your contact information with each of your clients every time you move. And if you’re on the go regularly, you don’t have to worry about arranging for someone to pick up your mail — just let the post office know that you’ll be gone and they’ll just keep stacking the envelopes in your box.
6. Getting out of the house
While getting out of the house isn’t the biggest deal to all freelancers, it’s surprisingly easy to slip into the habit of staying at the computer for days at a time. Even if you can’t arrange for a P.O. box a short walk away, going and getting your mail can provide an incentive to leave home. After all, you don’t want to leave a check in your P.O. box when it could be in your bank account or your landlord’s hands.
Getting Your P.O. Box
In most countries, getting a P.O. box is just a matter of contacting your local post office or checking online. The U.S. Post Office, for instance, lets you do all the paperwork for setting up a P.O. box online. You’ll probably be asked to pay for six months or a full year at a time: for a small box, about $20 per six months is normal. Don’t forget to keep your receipts, by the way. A P.O. box is a business expense and deductible on your taxes.