Starting a blog is one of the most popular side businesses these days.
The internet has become an amazing playground for people to share ideas, connect with loved ones, and yes, create income! However, while the process of starting a blog can be extremely exciting, it’s important to protect yourself.
That’s why we decided to write this article, which breaks down how forming a limited liability company (LLC) for your blog can protect you and your personal assets, like your car, house, and personal bank accounts.
Need Help Starting Your LLC?If you want to make sure your LLC is formed correctly, hire an LLC service. Below are the top two that will take care of all the legal paperwork:
ZenBusiness – $39: If getting the most value out of an LLC service is your priority, choose ZenBusiness. They charge one of the lowest rates online and include all the most important features when starting a business. IncFile – $0: If you're on a strict budget and prefer using the cheapest LLC service, choose IncFile. They will form an LLC for free (plus state filing fee) and give you great features along the way.
ZenBusiness – $39: If getting the most value out of an LLC service is your priority, choose ZenBusiness. They charge one of the lowest rates online and include all the most important features when starting a business.
IncFile – $0: If you're on a strict budget and prefer using the cheapest LLC service, choose IncFile. They will form an LLC for free (plus state filing fee) and give you great features along the way.
What Is an LLC?
First off, let’s quickly outline what an LLC is. A limited liability company mixes elements of sole proprietorships, general partnerships, and corporations, essentially giving entrepreneurs the best of these worlds.
LLCs are typically taxed similarly to sole proprietorships and general partnerships, in that the owners include any company profits or losses into their personal returns — the LLC itself does not owe income taxes. An LLC may also elect to be taxed like a corporation, although this is not a very common option.
There are similarities to corporations too, especially when it comes to financial responsibilities. In an LLC, the owners or members are not usually personally accountable for the financial status of the business. This means that if someone sues your LLC, your personal assets are not at risk.
In short, LLCs are so popular because they provide a variety of legal protections for your blog, while also enhancing its credibility. But is it really necessary for a blogger to form an LLC?
Why Protecting Your Blog and Yourself Is a Priority
There are plenty of legal considerations to think about when you’re deciding whether to protect your blog with an LLC. First off, there’s the issue of copyright law. Many bloggers aren’t aware of the ways copyright law affect their work, and violate them without even knowing they’re doing so.
If you use imagery from other websites in your blog, or if you use text from articles/blogs hosted elsewhere on your site, it’s entirely possible that you could find yourself in the crosshairs of a copyright claim.
In this situation, you certainly don’t want to be operating your blog as a sole proprietorship, because it would leave your personal assets unprotected in case of a lawsuit.
Another issue is the potential for libel or slander. If you write false information about someone in your blog — whether or not you intended to do so, or were even aware of doing so — you open yourself up to a defamation lawsuit. Again, this is another situation where an LLC can help protect you and your blog from a civil suit.
Overall, these are all good reasons why protecting your blog and yourself with an LLC business structure should be a priority for you.
Should You Form an LLC for Your Blog?
If you’re simply starting a blog for fun, and you have no plans to monetize it in any way, you can almost certainly get away with not forming an LLC.
If you’re not bringing in any money, there’s really no reason to waste the time, effort, and money to form an LLC. After all, if you’re not operating a business, you don’t need to form a business structure for your blog.
However, beyond the simple “friends and family” type of blog, or perhaps one that you’re only writing for your own enjoyment, it gets a bit trickier. For forming an LLC to make sense for your blog, you’ll need to monetize it in some way.
And, if you monetize your blog, you should certainly form an LLC to protect yourself and your blog. Here are a few of the most common ways of doing just that:
- Adding advertisements to your page: One common way to monetize a blog is to introduce advertising to your site. These ads are usually of the pay-per-click variety, and you can get them from programs like Google AdSense. With a setup like this, you can add banner and sidebar ads to your blog that target users who pursue the same type of content you write about on your blog. While this doesn’t typically generate much money right away, you might be surprised at how much it can add up over time.
- Affiliate links: In many different industries, affiliate marketing can be a great way to monetize your blog. In the interest of full disclosure, that’s the main way we’ve monetized this site! By partnering with businesses in fields related to your blog topics, you can earn money when readers click through and make purchases on the affiliated website. We can tell you from first-hand experience that this is a solid technique if you’re in the right field.
- Selling products: If the content of your blog is easily translated into products or services, this can be a great way to generate some extra cash. Depending on the nature of your posts, this could even be a relatively simple way to start a multifaceted business. For example, if you run a blog about knitting, perhaps you could start selling your own handmade goods.
- Sponsorships: This typically isn’t going to be something that happens right out of the gates, but once your blog starts gaining some traction, you could be able to get a company to agree to sponsor a blog post. This is when you write a blog specifically tailored to attract customers for that company, and in return they provide you with either a share of their profits or a flat fee.
If you decide to pursue any of these monetization techniques, you’re entering a situation where it would definitely be advisable to form an LLC. To be honest, we strongly advise forming an LLC before you ever start monetizing your blog. This is because if you wait until after you’ve already started transacting business, your initial transactions won’t be covered by personal asset protection.
Operating a business entity without a corporate veil protecting your assets is almost never advisable, unless you write about a topic that doesn’t present you with any liability whatsoever. Even then, it’s still a safer bet to protect yourself using the limited liability offered by the LLC.
How to Form an LLC for a Blog (3 Main Options)
There are three main ways you can go about forming an LLC for your blog. You can tackle the DIY approach, you can hire an attorney, or you can use an LLC formation service.
In this section, we’ll briefly outline some pros and cons of each option, and discuss what we think is the best option for your blog.
Do It Yourself
The main advantages of the DIY method are mostly related to cost. With this option, you don’t need to pay anyone to help you form your LLC, as you’re handling all of the preparation and filing aspects yourself.
The only money you’ll need to pay to get your business formed is the fee you pay to the state, which you’ll also need to pay if you hire a lawyer of an LLC formation service. The disadvantages stack up pretty quickly though.
First, there’s the issue of whether you actually know what you’re doing. The process for forming an LLC varies from state to state, so it’s not always easy to tell what your specific state will require. Furthermore, if you don’t have any experience forming businesses, it might be more complicated than you realize.
There’s a reason we don’t usually recommend this option, and that’s because you don’t receive the peace of mind that the other options provide. Additionally, it can be awfully time-consuming to form your own LLC, as you’ll need to draft and file all of the paperwork yourself.
If you do want to give the DIY option a try, we invite you to read through our comprehensive “How to Form an LLC” guide. However, we will also break down the basics here:
- Choose an LLC name
- Designate a registered agent
- File documentation with the state
- Get an EIN
- Create an operating agreement
- Create a financial infrastructure
- Handle taxes, licenses, and permits
Hire an Attorney
The advantages of hiring an attorney are mostly based around expertise. There’s obviously no better way to ensure that each step of the formation process is completed correctly than to hire an experienced business attorney.
In addition, hiring a lawyer takes a significant amount of hassle and effort off of your shoulders, allowing you to focus on actually building your business.
However, the disadvantage is equally as obvious: paying a lawyer’s fees can get incredibly expensive. If you hire an attorney to form your LLC, you could end up paying hundreds or even thousands of dollars, which can be quite the prohibitive factor for a blogger.
If you choose this route, you’ll want to start by finding a qualified business attorney in your area. You should then schedule a consultation to discuss their methods and determine if you think they’re a good fit for your business.
After that, all you really need to do is provide them with some basic information and let them handle the rest.
Use an LLC Formation Service (Recommended)
Our recommended route is to hire a reputable online business formation service. This option provides the best of both worlds, as it’s much cheaper than hiring an attorney, but you still receive the benefits of having true professionals handle your LLC formation.
There are some companies that offer LLC formation service for very low fees, and there’s even one company (IncFile) that will form your business free of charge (as long as you pay your own state fee).
The only real downside compared to hiring a lawyer is that you won’t receive the same level of personalized service, and also these companies have less expertise as well.
Still, many LLCs (especially those for blogs) don’t really need a heightened level of personal service or expert advice, so we think it’s entirely acceptable to use an LLC formation service instead of a lawyer.
How does this option work? First, you’ll need to choose which formation service you’d like to use. There are dozens of reputable online services that can save you a ton of time, while also costing far less than hiring a business lawyer to form your LLC. If you want to take a look at the top options, head on over to our guide to the seven best LLC services available.
In addition, we’ll briefly break down our top three options on this page. These are, in our opinion, the best LLC formation services:
ZenBusiness is an excellent deal. They provide complete LLC formation service along with a full year of registered agent service for one incredibly low rate, and they also have stellar customer feedback. It’s hard to go wrong with an offer like this.
Want to learn more? Read our ZenBusiness review.
IncFile has an LLC formation package that is free of charge, as long as you pay your state fee. That’s obviously an enticing offer, especially when you consider that they also provide a year of registered agent. Throw in their strong customer feedback, and IncFile is an excellent choice.
Want to learn more? Read our IncFile review.
Their pricing isn’t as low as IncFile’s, but Northwest has outstanding one-on-one personalized customer support, which is a big advantage in this industry. Like IncFile, Northwest includes a year of registered agent service, but they have an advantage here too as they’re the only major service provider that locally scans every document they receive, whereas most competitors only scan government docs.
Want to learn more? Read our Northwest review.
6 Other Things to Do to Protect Your Blog
Create These Important Pages for Your Site
If you collect personal data from your blog’s readers, you need to inform them of how this information will be used. Even if you’re just collecting your readers’ email addresses to send out a newsletter, you are obligated to inform them of this data collection, as well as what your intentions are with the information.
You should also have terms and conditions available on your blog for anyone to read. The terms and conditions don’t need to be terribly lengthy or complicated, but you should at least outline your rights to terminate a reader’s use of your material, explain what you consider to be allowable usage of your blog posts, etc.
Another issue could arise if you have any content that could be considered legal advice on your blog. As you probably know already, only attorneys are allowed to provide their clients with legal advice. Therefore, if you have anything that could be construed as legal advice in your blog, you should have a standard “I am not a lawyer and this is not legal advice” disclaimer.
Does your blog have affiliate links? In the interest of full disclosure, affiliate links are one way we’ve monetized the website you’re reading right now. If you click on a link that sends you to the website of one of our affiliates, and you make a purchase on that site, we receive a small portion of the purchase price.
That’s why you see the “By finding the best LLC service for you, we earn an affiliate commission to keep the lights on” message right at the top of our homepage. If you plan on having affiliate links for your blog, you will need to display a similar disclosure.
Create an LLC Operating Agreement
The operating agreement isn’t actually a legal requirement of LLC formation in most states, but it’s still a vital piece of the puzzle. An LLC operating agreement is a relatively simple document that outlines how your company will function.
This document should include the identities of your owners, whether there’s an even or uneven ownership split among those owners, and whether the company is managed by a manager or by its owner/members.
In addition, the operating agreement needs to outline a procedure for how your owners will vote on important business matters, as well as an explanation of how members should make financial contributions to the LLC. You will also want to include a description of how income will be distributed, how a member can be replaced, and how the company should be dissolved.
(Obviously, the hope is that your business will be successful enough to live on in perpetuity, but that’s unfortunately not always the case.)
It may sound like this step is only necessary for multi-member LLCs, but it’s equally important for single-member LLCs. Even if it’s just you operating your blog, having an LLC operating agreement indicates that your business is a separate entity from you as a person, which is a crucial part of maintaining your personal asset protection.
As a blogger, the last thing you want to do is commingle your business and personal assets.
If you do, you run the risk of losing your limited liability protection, which largely undermines the point of forming the LLC to begin with. Maintaining separate business and personal bank accounts is one of the key factors for maintaining your “corporate veil,” which is the level of separation between your own assets and those of your blog.
If you fail to keep your finances strictly separated, it becomes much easier for a court to say that your LLC is merely an extension of your personality, and that it is not a separate entity.
Again, this could have disastrous consequences, as you could see your corporate veil pierced, which would mean that your business creditors gain access to your personal assets.
Properly Hiring People
Hiring employees is probably the last thing on your mind when you’re operating a blog, but it’s likely that you will eventually need some sort of assistance from other professionals. When you do, it’s important that you understand the best way to go about this.
For the vast majority of things you’ll need as a blogger — such as web design, graphic design, writing assistance, etc. — UpWork is an awesome resource. You can connect with freelance professionals from across the world through this platform. You pay those individuals through UpWork’s platform as well, which prevents you from even needing to worry about tax forms like 1099s for your freelancers.
In addition, for any small business, hiring freelancers is much less of a hassle (and less of a commitment) than hiring employees.
Unless you know that you’ll have a consistently high volume of work that makes it worth hiring someone as an employee, hiring freelancers provides you with a far superior level of flexibility, and you can also save a bunch of money by not paying benefits as well.
Understanding Intellectual Property Laws
We mentioned earlier that violating copyright law is one of the biggest mistakes you can make as a blogger, but it bears repeating that you need to understand the nuances of intellectual property laws in general.
It should always be in the back of your mind that avoiding copyright or trademark infringement is vitally important, and that any form of plagiarism could put you and your business in some tremendously hot water from a legal standpoint.
If there’s ever any doubt about whether or not you’re violating IP laws, err on the side of extreme caution.
Privacy is a surprisingly important aspect of protecting yourself while blogging. We’ve already discussed how you should protect your readers’ privacy at all costs, but how about your own privacy?
We think that hiring an LLC formation service or attorney is a great way to protect your privacy as a blogger, as this enables you to keep your home address, phone number, and more out of the public record.
When you hire an LLC service, that company will act as your registered agent, which enables you to use their address as an official point of contact for your business. This means that you don’t have to enter your own address into the public record.
In addition, you should consider using a domain registrar like NameSilo, which protects your privacy when registering a domain name for your blog. You might be surprised by how much personal info can be involved with registering a domain name, and this information is often sold to the highest bidder, resulting in a ton of spam emails and phone calls.
It may seem like starting a blog is a simple pursuit that doesn’t have any legal responsibilities attached to it, but that’s not exactly the case.
You should view blogging as a business just like any other, and as such you will need to carefully consider how an LLC can help you protect your blog and yourself.
Clearly, there are several different elements at play here, and it’s not a simple cut-and-dried situation. Still, we think that the vast majority of bloggers should register an LLC before monetizing the blog, because you want every one of your business transactions to be fully protected by the LLC’s corporate veil.
If you still have questions about how an LLC can be used for a blog, read on as we discuss a few frequently asked questions on this topic.
Frequently Asked Questions
If I’m a Blogger, Can I Just Form an LLC in a State Like Delaware?
You certainly do have the option of forming your LLC in one of these states, but for most people, it’s still better to form your LLC in your home state.
This is because, if you register your LLC in another state like Delaware or Wyoming (which is typically done to take advantage of tax loopholes), you will still need to register the business as a foreign LLC in your own state.
This means that you would actually be operating two different LLCs, one domestic and one foreign.
You would also be required to pay two separate formation fees, you would need two registered agents, and you would need to keep up with two states’ worth of LLC maintenance requirements, such as annual reports. Long story short, you should probably just form your LLC in your own state.
Is LegalZoom the Best LLC Service?
While LegalZoom certainly is one of the most popular LLC services, we don’t think that translates into them being the “best” option.
Does Using an LLC Service Give Me More Privacy Protection?
Yes, it certainly does. We especially appreciate companies like ZenBusiness and Northwest that provide a full year of registered agent service for free with any LLC formation purchase, because this enables you to use their business address as your own registered agent address.
This one factor alone is enough to make LLC services far superior options than the DIY method when it comes to privacy, in our opinion.
I Blog From Home. Do I Need to List My Address on Stuff?
Typically, yes. This is one of the reasons we consistently advise using an LLC formation service, because then you’ll be able to use their address instead of your own.
Especially in today’s uber-connected world, privacy is more important than ever, and we would rather use another company’s address in place of our own home addresses whenever possible.
Are There Ongoing Things I Need to Do if I Form an LLC?
In most states, you’ll need to file an annual report which keeps the state updated regarding any noteworthy changes you’ve made to your business.
In addition, some states have a franchise tax document due each year, either in addition to or instead of an annual report.
While neither of these steps are particularly complicated in most states, it is important that you keep up with all relevant maintenance requirements, because failing to do so could see your business lose its good standing with the state.
Do I Have to Be an American Citizen to Set Up an LLC?
There are very few restrictions on who can own an LLC. You don’t need to be an American citizen or resident to register one, as the formation process is exactly the same no matter what your citizenship status is. This ownership flexibility is part of the reason LLCs are so popular to begin with.
Do Bloggers Really Get Sued, or Is This All a Bit of an Exaggeration?
While it might not be the most common lawsuit in the world, bloggers certainly do get sued. For examples of actual lawsuits involving bloggers, take a look at the “Lawsuits Involving Blogs” section on the Digital Media Law Project website.