LLC vs Sole Proprietorship: What’s Right For You? [With Worksheet]

LLC vs Sole Proprietorship What's Right For You
This page was originally published May 20, 2022 and updated July 4, 2024.

Choosing the right business structure is critical to your success. If you’re on the fence between forming an LLC or operating as a Sole Proprietorship, you’re not alone. This decision can significantly impact your legal liabilities, taxes, and ability to grow your business.

In this guide, we’ll break down the essentials of LLCs and Sole Proprietorships to help you understand which option might be the best fit for you. Whether you’re a freelancer dipping your toes into entrepreneurship or a small business owner planning to expand, navigating this choice is your first step towards establishing a solid foundation for your online business.

What is a sole proprietorship?

A sole proprietorship is the simplest form of business you can run. Basically, it’s just you conducting business under your name or a name you choose. There’s no need to file any special paperwork to get started — you’re automatically considered a sole proprietorship the moment you start doing business.

This means you get to keep all the profits, but it also means you’re personally responsible for any debts or legal issues your business encounters. Think of it as you being the business; everything from the earnings to the obligations are all on you.

What is an LLC?

An LLC, or Limited Liability Company, is like a protective bubble for your business adventures. Imagine you’re setting up a space where you can run your business with a safety net underneath. By choosing an LLC, you create a separate legal entity for your business.

This means if your business hits a rough patch, your personal assets (like your house or car) are much safer from business debts and legal troubles than they would be if you were a sole proprietor. It’s a way of putting your business out there without putting everything you own on the line.

Setting up an LLC involves filing some paperwork with your state and there might be some fees, but once it’s done, you get the peace of mind knowing that your personal assets have a layer of protection from your business’s ups and downs.

5 Differences Between LLC vs. Sole Proprietorship

In this section, we’re going to break down the key differences between an LLC and a sole proprietorship. Understanding these differences is crucial in deciding which business structure best fits your needs. Think of it as choosing the right gear for an adventure; depending on the path you envision for your business, one option may offer better protection and advantages than the other.

Keep reading to learn about the implications for taxes, legal liability, and operational flexibility of each option, so you can make the most informed decision for your business.

#1 Formation: LLC vs. Sole Proprietorship

Setting up an LLC versus becoming a sole proprietor involves different steps. For an LLC, you need to file official paperwork with your state, which usually includes a filing fee. This process officially registers your business as its own legal entity, separate from yourself.

Becoming a sole proprietor is much simpler vs an LLC. In many cases, you start your business and you’re automatically considered a sole proprietor. There’s no need for any formal registration to become one, though you may still need to obtain certain licenses or permits depending on what type of business you’re running.

Forming an LLC requires more steps and a bit of money upfront, but it gives your personal assets more protection. Becoming a sole proprietor is quicker and costs less upfront, but doesn’t offer the same level of protection for your personal assets.

#2 Cost: LLC vs. Sole Proprietorship

When you’re considering the costs of starting an LLC compared to a sole proprietorship, you’ll find that the LLC generally requires a higher initial investment. This is because you have to pay filing fees to your state, which can vary widely but often run into hundreds of dollars. You might also need to pay for the services of an attorney or an online legal service to help you with the paperwork.

On the other hand, starting as a sole proprietor could cost you very little upfront. Since there’s no formal registration required to become a sole proprietor, you avoid those initial filing fees. However, you might still need to spend some money on necessary licenses or permits for the type of business you want to run.

Keep in mind that while the initial cost might be lower for a sole proprietorship, the lack of legal separation between your personal and business assets could potentially cost you more in the long run if your business faces lawsuits or debts.

#3 Taxes: LLC vs. Sole Proprietorship

When you’re navigating the tax implications of an LLC versus a sole proprietorship, the differences can significantly affect your decision. If you choose to form an LLC, one of the primary benefits you gain is the flexibility in how you’re taxed.

By default, LLCs are treated as pass-through entities for tax purposes, meaning the business’s income passes through to your personal tax return, and you pay taxes at your personal income tax rate. However, an LLC offers you the choice to be taxed as a corporation if that suits your financial situation better.

On the other hand, as a sole proprietor, your business income and expenses are reported directly on your personal income tax return using a Schedule C form. You’ll pay income tax on all profits at your personal tax rate. Additionally, you’re responsible for paying self-employment taxes, which cover your Medicare and Social Security contributions. This simplicity in tax filing comes with the caveat that you might not enjoy the same tax benefits and options available to LLCs.

#4 Legal Protection: LLC vs. Sole Proprietorship

When it comes to protecting yourself legally, choosing between an LLC and a sole proprietorship means understanding how each affects your personal liability. If you opt for an LLC, you’re creating a separate legal entity. This separation means your personal assets—like your house, car, and savings—are protected if your business is sued or incurs debts. In short, creditors and legal actions target the company’s assets, not your personal belongings.

As a sole proprietor, there’s no distinction between you and your business. If someone sues your business, your personal assets are on the line. This includes everything you own, not just the money you’ve put into the business. That’s a big risk, especially if you’re in a field where lawsuits are more common. It’s like walking a tightrope without a safety net. The simplicity of starting a sole proprietorship might be appealing, but remember, it doesn’t offer you the legal shield an LLC does.

#5 Credit Opportunities: LLC vs. Sole Proprietorship

Whether you choose an LLC or a sole proprietorship can significantly impact your ability to build business credit. If you form an LLC, you’re setting up a separate legal entity. This separation allows you to build a credit history that is distinct from your personal credit. Over time, having a strong business credit score can help you qualify for loans, credit lines, and better terms with suppliers, all in the name of your LLC. 

On the other hand, as a sole proprietor, your business and personal finances aren’t separated. This means your business credit and personal credit are one and the same. When you apply for credit, lenders will look at your personal credit score to make decisions. While this might be simpler at the start, it limits your ability to build a credit profile for your business. Plus, if your business runs into financial trouble, it could directly impact your personal credit score. 

Sole Proprietor vs LLC: A Quick Comparison Chart

When you’re deciding between setting up an LLC or a sole proprietorship, think about what matters most to you. If protecting your personal assets and having flexible tax options sounds appealing, an LLC might be the way to go.

Sole ProprietorLLC
Formation:SimpleState Filing
Cost:Free or DBA Filing Fee$50-$200
Taxes:On Personal ReturnPersonal or LLC
Legal Protection:NoneCan Shield Assets
Credit:Only in Personal NameIn Business Name

If you’re after simplicity and are okay with directly linking your personal assets to your business, then a sole proprietorship could work well. Remember, your choice will shape your business’s legal and financial future, so choose wisely based on which structure aligns best with your goals and risk tolerance.

Advantages of a Sole Proprietorship

Starting and running your business as a sole proprietorship carries several advantages that make it a compelling option for many entrepreneurs. First off, it’s straightforward to set up—you can begin operations under your own name without the need for complex paperwork or formalities. This simplicity extends to tax filing time, where you report your business income and expenses directly on your personal tax return, using just a Schedule C form.

You retain complete control over your business decisions, without the need to consult with partners or shareholders. This direct oversight allows you to pivot quickly, make decisions on the fly, and steer your business in the direction you see fit. Additionally, the cost of maintaining a sole proprietorship is minimal compared to other business structures, leaving more money in your pocket to invest back into your business or save for the future.

It’s crucial to weigh these benefits against the potential risks, especially concerning legal liability and the protection of your personal assets.

Advantages of an LLC

When you choose to form an LLC, or Limited Liability Company, you’re giving yourself a safety net. Think of it as having a protective shield around your personal assets. If your business faces a lawsuit or debt, your personal belongings like your house, car, and personal bank accounts are usually protected. This means you can take business risks without the fear of losing everything you own.

Another big plus is the flexibility in how you get taxed. With an LLC, you can opt to be taxed as a sole proprietor, partnership, or corporation, depending on what’s most beneficial for you tax-wise. You’re not stuck in one taxing framework.

You may also get more credibility with customers, suppliers, and partners. Having “LLC” after your business name can make your business appear more legitimate and trustworthy. This can open doors to more opportunities and potentially attract more business your way.

Lastly, running an LLC means you’re not on your own in making decisions; you can have co-owners (or “members”) to contribute capital and share the decision-making process. This can provide you with support and additional resources to help manage and grow your business.

How to Decide What’s Right For You: Sole Proprietorship or LLC

Deciding whether a sole proprietorship or an LLC is the right choice for you boils down to understanding your business needs, your financial goals, and how much risk you’re willing to take on. If you’re someone who’s just starting out with minimal risk and want to keep things simple, a sole proprietorship might be the way to go. It’s straightforward, with less paperwork, and it gives you full control over decision-making.

If you’re concerned about protecting your personal assets from business liabilities, or if you’re planning to expand and want the flexibility in taxation options, forming an LLC could be a smart move. It offers a layer of protection for your personal assets and can give your business more credibility.

Take a moment to consider where you see your business in the future and how much personal financial risk you can tolerate. This reflection can guide you toward the choice that best aligns with your professional desires and personal needs.

Use Our Worksheet to Help You Decide

Use our Sole Proprietor vs LLC worksheet to help you decide.  This worksheet includes a checklist with a simple point system to help you determine what’s best for you and your business. It quickly covers investment, taxes, risk tolerance, and more to aid you in your decision-making process. 

If you’re starting new or thinking of changing how your business is set up, this guide is here to help you make a clear decision that fits just right for you. Review your responses to identify which business structure most aligns with your current needs, risk tolerance, financial goals, and future growth plans. Consider consulting a business advisor or attorney to discuss your specific situation and get professional advice on making the best choice for your business.

Bizee LLC Formation Service

If you’ve decided that an LLC is the best fit, Bizee LLC Formation Service is here to guide you through the process. Their comprehensive service is designed to streamline the formation of your LLC, making it as straightforward and stress-free as possible.

Bizee LLC Formation Service has established itself as a trusted partner in the business formation industry since its establishment in 2010. With an impressive Trustpilot rating of 4.8 out of 5 and over 18,000 revoews, they’ve demonstrated a consistent commitment to excellence and customer satisfaction. Their expertise and user-friendly services have already assisted over one million people in successfully navigating the complexities of starting their LLCs. This track record is a testament to their reliability, professionalism, and the positive impact they’ve had on the entrepreneurial community.

They definitely understand the importance of getting your business off to a great start, and with Bizee, you can do just that, with a team of experts backing you every step of the way.

  • Fast and Efficient Processing: Bizee ensures your LLC is up and running quickly, with most applications processed within days.
  • Personalized Support: Receive one-on-one guidance from our team of knowledgeable advisors who understand your business needs.
  • Compliance Assurance: Stay compliant with state regulations without the hassle, as Bizee manages all necessary filings and renewals.
  • Cost-Effective Solutions: Enjoy competitive pricing with no hidden fees, ensuring you get maximum value for your investment.
  • Access to Essential Resources: Gain exclusive access to our library of business tools and resources designed to support the growth of your LLC.

Choosing Bizee LLC Formation Service means you’re not just starting a business; you’re setting it up for success from day one. They take pride in our commitment to customer satisfaction and their role in helping entrepreneurs realize their dreams. With Bizee, you can focus more on what you do best — growing your business — while we handle the intricacies of forming your LLC. Get started today and experience the peace of mind that comes with knowing your business foundation is solid and secure.

Wrapping Up

The decision between forming an LLC or remaining as a Sole Proprietorship hinges on your unique business needs, financial goals, and risk tolerance. If you prioritize personal asset protection, potential tax benefits, and a professional image, an LLC might be your best path forward.

On the other hand, if simplicity, lower startup costs, and direct control over decisions are your top concerns, operating as a Sole Proprietor could suit you better. Remember, your choice now shapes your business’s future growth and security.

Carefully weigh the pros and cons, use our worksheet, and consider consulting with a business advisor to make an informed decision that aligns with your aspirations and circumstances. Visit our blog for more help to launch and grow a business you love. We have the tools, templates, and resources to help you thrive online. ♥

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