We are a tiny early-stage startup operating out of our own home. We would like to be able to give out our contact information to potential customers, but are not sure whether it's a good idea to share our physical address given that it's our home. What do people do in such situations?
Never use your home address, but not because it's so important to be "official."
I made the mistake of using home address. What happens is: You get tons of mail, forever, even when you no longer run your business there, even when you've sold your business or it no longer exists!
Get the cheapo mailbox. Some of them will forward your mail periodically; you could use that to get the mail home if you don't want to pick it up. Or use one of those on-line services that scan and email your mail so you're not dealing with so much paper.
When I first started out (and had a small cadre of developers working out of my dining room during the day), I used my home address as the primary address. It was on our business cards and everything... and I honestly don't think it negatively impacted our perception, etc. If it would have come up, I would have responded with the "that's right, it's a great way to save overhead." But it never did.
I'd like to say that, if I were to do it all over again, I'd get one of those corporate "rent-an-office" things (or a Mailboxes Etc address)... but, I'm frugal and the hassle of going there to check the mail and what not does not seem to outweigh the benefit of having an address that's not residential.
Question is if you need to have customers find you there? If not, I wouldn't recommend using your home address. There are a load of potential insurance / liability / safety and other issues. Why risk it? It costs very little to use a Mailboxes Etc. or one of those services. Then when you do need to meet someone in person give them your physical address.
Best of luck with your business!
Try Earth Class Mail
I think it's fine to use your home address when starting your business. It shouldn't hurt your perception, but do consider your own privacy.
When you're ready for a PO Box, I recommend Earth Class Mail. For a low monthly fee, they will receive your email, scan it, and make it available to you via the web. The address also looks like a physical address (instead of a PO Box). For anything that you require delivered physically (e.g. checks), they will forward it to you, but they also have the ability to deposit checks on your behalf.
In the end, this is really a personal decision depending on what level of privacy you're comfortable with. If you feel you need a PO Box, I recommend going virtual.
Another consideration is that anyone can find out A LOT about you based on having your home address, which will be public information if you use it in the formation of a company or getting a business license (in most jurisdictions). By searching your home address online, people will potentially be able to see photos (aerial or street) of your home, discover whether you're an owner or renter, what you paid for your home (if you're an owner), what kind of cars you drive (Google street view), and much more. And this is without really trying hard or paying for any "investigation" type searches.
So, I'm not saying what's best for you, but just letting you know of this consideration, which many people forget.