Freelance vs LLC: Everything You Need to Know
As a freelancer, you might wonder whether forming an LLC or continuing your current business structure is beneficial. Both options have pros and cons, and it’s essential to understand the differences to make an informed decision.
Freelancing often involves working on multiple projects, setting your own rates, and managing your self-employment taxes independently, all while maintaining a flexible schedule.
On the other hand, forming an LLC can offer benefits such as limiting your personal liability and providing potential tax savings, but it does come with added complexity and record-keeping requirements.
In this article, we’ll delve deeper into the freelance vs. LLC debate, examining the advantages and disadvantages of each option, and providing valuable insights to help you determine the best path forward for your freelancing career.
What is Freelancing?
Freelancing refers to working as a nonpermanent, self-employed professional who provides services or products to multiple organizations or clients.
As a freelancer, you can take on several projects and work for various clients depending on your schedule and capacity. You have the freedom to set your rates, process your tax payments independently, and choose your workplace.
Pros of Freelancing
There are several advantages to freelancing:
- Flexibility: You can choose when, where, and how much you work, making it easier to balance your personal and professional life.
- Independence: You have control over the projects you take on and the clients you work with, allowing you to shape your career based on your interests and skills.
- Income potential: With the ability to set your rates and take on multiple projects, you can have greater control over your income.
- Lower overhead costs: There’s typically no need for an office space, which can save on rent and other expenses.
Cons of Freelancing
However, there are some drawbacks to freelancing:
- Inconsistent income: As your workload may ebb and flow, your income can be less stable than that of a traditional employee.
- Greater responsibility: You must manage your taxes, track expenses, market yourself, and negotiate contracts without an employer’s support.
- Lack of benefits: You are responsible for obtaining your own health insurance, retirement savings plan, and other benefits typically provided by an employer.
- Isolation: Depending on the nature of your work, freelancing may involve working alone with limited opportunities for social interaction.
Related: Freelance Writing Rates: How Much to Charge
What is an LLC?
An LLC, for Limited Liability Company, is a U.S. legal entity used to own, operate, and protect a business. It provides the same legal and financial protections as corporations while offering some advantages for small businesses and freelancers.
This section will explore the pros and cons of forming an LLC for your freelance work to help you decide if it’s the right choice for you.
Pros of an LLC
One of the main benefits of forming an LLC is that it separates your business assets from your personal assets, protecting them from lawsuits and business debts. If someone sues your LLC, your personal assets aren’t on the line, and business creditors can’t go after them either.
Another advantage is the tax flexibility offered by an LLC. As a “pass-through” entity, an LLC’s profits and losses flow directly to the owner’s personal tax returns, which may be preferable to some freelancers compared to the double taxation corporations face.
Cons of an LLC
While there are benefits to forming an LLC, there are also some disadvantages. One of the main drawbacks is the additional cost and administrative work involved in setting up and maintaining an LLC. You’ll need to file paperwork, pay fees, and keep up with annual reporting requirements depending on the state where your LLC is formed.
Additionally, while an LLC offers protection is a significant advantage, it isn’t absolute. In certain situations, your personal assets may still be at risk, especially if you haven’t taken the necessary steps to separate your personal and business finances.
As you consider whether to form an LLC for your freelance work, weigh the pros and cons for your business situation. Remember, it’s essential to consult with a legal or financial professional to determine the best option for your unique circumstances.
Legal and Tax Implications
Freelancer Tax Considerations
As a freelancer, your default freelance business structure is a sole proprietorship. This means you’ll report your income and expenses on your personal tax return, and your Social Security number is your tax ID for tax purposes.
You’re responsible for paying regular income tax and self-employment tax, which is 15.3% in 2022. This tax represents the Social Security and Medicare taxes that businesses pay and that employees have automatically taken out of their paychecks. As a self-employed freelancer, you’re considered both the employee and the employer.
LLC Tax Advantages
On the other hand, forming an LLC for your freelancing work can provide a layer of legal protection by limiting your liability. However, it’s essential to understand that having an LLC won’t automatically limit your tax liability.
For tax purposes, the IRS will treat a single-member LLC just like a sole proprietorship by default, and you’ll still receive a 1099 and need to deal with self-employment tax.
However, depending on your financial situation and specific circumstances, electing for your LLC to be taxed as an S-Corporation could provide tax benefits.
Consult a tax advisor for personalized advice regarding your business’s tax implications with regards to your LLC structure.
Choosing the Right Business Structure
As a freelancer, you may wonder whether you should continue operating as a sole proprietor or consider forming a Limited Liability Company (LLC). To make an informed decision, you should evaluate various factors and understand when it might be time to transition from freelance to an LLC.
Factors to Consider
Choosing the right freelancing business structure depends upon your unique situation and goals. Here are some factors to consider when evaluating your options:
- Personal liability: One of the benefits of forming an LLC is that it helps protect your personal assets from any business-related debts or obligations. As a sole proprietor, you may have more exposure to personal liability (Keeper Tax).
- Tax flexibility: LLCs provide more control over your tax structure, allowing you to choose the taxation method that best suits your financial situation (Rocket Lawyer).
- Professional appearance: Having an LLC can make your business appear more professional and credible to clients and potential partners.
- Costs and paperwork: Creating and maintaining an LLC requires more paperwork and upfront costs than operating as a sole proprietor. Therefore, you need to weigh the benefits against the increased time and financial investment.
Related: How to Become a Writer: 15 Proven Ways for Success
When to Transition from Freelance to LLC
There isn’t a one-size-fits-all answer for when you should transition from freelance work to an LLC. However, several factors can indicate that it may be time to make the change:
- Growth in business: If your business is growing rapidly and generating more revenue, it might be the ideal time to consider an LLC structure to protect your personal assets and take advantage of potential tax benefits.
- Partnerships or investments: When you start working with partners or investors, establishing an LLC can help create a more formal business structure that clarifies roles, responsibilities, and ownership.
- Risk exposure: If your freelance work involves a higher risk of legal action or financial liabilities, transitioning to an LLC can provide you with more personal protection (SBA).
Ultimately, you should consult with a professional, such as a lawyer or accountant, before making any decisions regarding your business structure. They can provide you with tailored advice that considers your unique circumstances.
Related: How to Get Freelance Clients: Proven Strategies in 2023
Does freelancing count as owning a business?
According to the sources, freelancing can be considered owning a business if it is treated as such. For example, treating freelancing as a business by setting up a website, investing in software tools, hiring subcontractors, and setting up processes can turn freelancing into a business.
Additionally, the Internal Revenue Service considers freelancers to be self-employed business owners, and freelancers must file their taxes as such (source: TurboTax). However, owning a business is generally considered more sustainable than freelancing (source: SmallBizClub).
What is an independent contractor?
An independent contractor is a self-employed person or entity that is contracted to perform work for, or provide services to, another entity as a non-employee.
Independent contractors are not considered employees of the company they work for and are responsible for paying their own taxes, insurance, and other expenses related to their work (source: Investopedia).
The IRS considers an individual to be an independent contractor if the payer has the right to control or direct only the result of the work and not what will be done and how it will be done.
Independent contractors are often hired for short-term projects or specialized work and are typically paid per-project or hourly (source: Indeed).
What is an S Corporation?
An S Corporation or S Corp is a type of legal business structure that allows business owners to receive the benefits of pass-through income, losses, deductions, and credits while being treated as a corporation (source: The Balance). S corporations are named after subchapter S of the Internal Revenue Code, which outlines the requirements for an S corporation.
To qualify for S corporation status, a corporation must meet certain requirements such as being a domestic corporation, having only allowable shareholders, and meeting certain restrictions on the types of stock it issues (source: IRS).
Should freelancers form an LLC or S Corp?
The choice between forming an LLC or S Corp as a freelancer depends on various factors such as the freelancer’s income level, tax situation, and personal preferences.
Forming an LLC as a freelancer can provide personal liability protection, flexibility in tax treatment, and a simple structure for a single owner business (source: QuickBooks).
On the other hand, forming an S Corp can offer significant tax savings for freelancers who earn a substantial amount of business income, but it requires more complex tax preparation and compliance requirements (source: CPA for Freelancers).
Ultimately, freelancers should consult with a tax professional or business attorney to determine which business structure suits their specific situation (source: Forbes).
Do I need an EIN as a freelancer?
As a freelancer, you are not required to obtain an Employer Identification Number (EIN) unless you have employees or operate your business as a partnership or corporation (source: IRS).
However, obtaining an EIN can be beneficial for freelancers as it can help establish a separate business identity, protect against identity theft, and make it easier to open a business bank account or apply for business loans (source: NerdWallet).
Ultimately, whether or not to obtain an EIN as a freelancer is a personal decision that depends on your business needs and goals.
Related: How to Become a Freelance Writer (with No Experience)
How much do you get taxed as a freelancer?
As a freelancer, you are responsible for paying self-employment tax on your net earnings, which includes both Social Security and Medicare taxes.
The self-employment tax rate is 15.3% of your net earnings, which is higher than the rate paid by employees and their employers (source: TurboTax). Also, freelance income is subject to federal and state income taxes, varying depending on your income level and tax bracket.
Freelancers may also be required to pay estimated taxes throughout the year to avoid underpayment penalties (source: Ramsey Solutions). The exact amount of taxes a freelancer pays depends on their income, expenses, deductions, and other factors, so it is important to consult with a tax professional or use tax software to accurately calculate and file taxes (source: NerdWallet).
You should have a separate business bank account for tax filing purposes. This helps you separate your business income from your personal finances, making your bookkeeping much more streamlined.
After weighing the pros and cons of both freelancing and setting up an LLC, the decision ultimately depends on your specific situation and goals. Both options have their advantages and drawbacks, and it’s essential to consider those factors in relation to your business before deciding.
As a freelancer, you enjoy flexibility and control over your work, but may face higher liability and less professional credibility. If you’re comfortable with these aspects and feel that the benefits of freelancing outweigh its drawbacks, then continuing as a freelancer might be the best option for you. Remember that according to Keeper Tax, you don’t necessarily need an LLC to freelance or deduct business expenses.
On the other hand, if you’re looking for increased legal and financial protection and a more formalized and professional appearance for your business, you should consider forming an LLC. An LLC can provide a valuable shield for your personal assets against business liabilities and may help you establish more credibility with potential clients.
Regardless of your choice, always remember to weigh the trade-offs and seek professional advice when necessary. By making an informed decision, you’ll be better equipped to grow and succeed in freelancing or running an LLC.