If you’re a budding entrepreneur who is running a startup from a residential address, you might want to consider opening a PO Box for your business. It isn’t as expensive as you might think, and it’s a small price to pay for peace of mind and a professional-looking address.
What’s the Point in Opening a PO Box for a Business?
Not all businesses have physical addresses. This is especially common in a world where so many entrepreneurs launch their startups from home. While it’s fine to put your home address on your tax forms, it turns into a privacy and safety issue once it’s publicly listed on your company’s website.
Simply put: You probably don’t want customers mailing back goods to your actual address. You definitely don’t want a disgruntled customer to be able to go to your home. Whether you opt for a USPS or UPS PO Box, you can use the address as your business mailing address instead.
Not only does this present a more professional and credible image than using a residential address but it also keeps you safe. Plus, you don’t have to worry about packages being stolen from your front porch.
Choose the PO Box Brand
To pick the best place to rent a PO Box, follow the mail. Many mail carriers — from USPS to UPS to independent mail centers — offer PO Boxes or private mail box equivalents. All PO Boxes reside on the premises of a post office, so you’ll want to pick something close to where you actually conduct business.
USPS is the standard for PO Boxes and offers a variety of options. You can rent a box for three months, six months or a year, but the price is dependent on size and location. In some places, a six-month lease will cost you as little as $19.
UPS PO Boxes (or business mail boxes) are similar to USPS PO Boxes, but they’re located at UPS Stores rather than a post office. They offer a full street address instead of just a PO Box address and will even text you when a package arrives. The price of mailboxes vary from place to place, so check with your locale.
Choose Your PO Box Size
The size of a PO Box is important. Your mail might be returned to the sender if it doesn’t all fit in the box and you don’t upgrade. Remember that PO Boxes are a business, so you can’t cut corners by ordering a box that’s way too small without consequences.
USPS offers boxes in five sizes. These range from 3” x 5.5” x 14.75” to 22.5” x 12” x 14.75.” The smallest fits 10 to 15 letter-sized envelopes or two rolled-up magazines, and the largest fits flat-rate boxes. The UPS Store offers similar sizing options.
Have the Proper Documentation
If you’re opening a PO Box for a business — whether it’s a UPS PO Box or with USPS — you need two forms of identification. One of these must be a primary source of identification, which includes:
- U.S. government IDs (drivers' licenses, permanent resident cards or certificates of naturalization or citizenship)
- Corporate identification
- U.S. university identification
If you don’t have two forms of primary identification, you’ll also need a secondary form of identification. This includes:
- A lease, mortgage or deed of trust
- A voter or vehicle registration card
- A home or car insurance policy
- A utility bill
- Form 1-94, arrival and departure record
You can apply either in person or online and even pay with a credit card, but you’ll have to present your identification when you pick up your keys.
Redirect Your Mail
Once you have a PO Box, you’ll probably need to forward your mail. This is an easy process. Simply visit USPS.com/move to change your address. It costs $1, and you can pay online with a credit card.
Mariel Loveland is a small business owner, content strategist and writer from New Jersey. Throughout her career, she's worked with numerous startups creating content to help small business owners bridge the gap between technology and sales. Her work has been featured in publications like Business Insider and Vice.