If you’re a self-employed individual who works alone, the single-member LLC (limited liability company) is a great alternative to the sole proprietorship.
With a single-member LLC, you can shield yourself from lawsuits with personal asset protection, and you can also benefit from the heightened professionalism that comes with a formal business structure.
One of the questions we often hear from single-member LLC owners is how you’re supposed to pay yourself. After all, as an LLC member/owner, you need to keep your business and personal finances strictly separated, so it makes sense that some people aren’t quite sure how they should pay themselves while still maintaining the corporate veil.
In this guide, we’ll discuss the best ways to pay yourself from your single-member LLC, while still maintaining your LLC’s personal asset protection.
What Is a Single-Member LLC?
To begin with, let’s quickly break down what the single-member LLC is. When it comes to ease of operation, the sole proprietorship can’t be beat. There’s no formal process to create one with the government, and no fees to be paid, so all you need to do is get to work. There’s a lot to like about this setup, but the sole proprietorship lacks some important benefits that you can only get with a formal business structure.
As we alluded to in the introduction, the single-member LLC’s most important function is providing limited liability protection. This means that if your business is sued, it keeps creditors from pursuing personal assets like your car, house, bank accounts, etc. They will be limited to business assets specifically related to the company itself, such as your business bank accounts and office equipment.
By forming a single-member LLC, you’re establishing the business as a separate entity from you as an individual with distinct assets and operations, taking any business-related liabilities off of yourself. You can either form it yourself or by hiring a cheap LLC service.
How Do I Pay Myself From a Single-Member LLC?
When it comes time to cut yourself a paycheck, you’ll need to do it in a way that preserves your personal liability protection. Otherwise, why did you bother forming the single-member LLC in the first place?
Especially in the early days of a business, you might not have much money coming in. But once you do receive an influx of cash, many entrepreneurs aren’t quite sure how they’re supposed to transfer those business funds into their personal accounts. In our experience, the best way to go about this is to pay yourself a regular salary, or a percentage of your LLC’s income.
For a young, growing LLC, it usually makes the most sense to pay yourself a percentage of your business income, while investing the rest of it back into your business. For example, let’s say you invest half of your income into growing your company, while paying yourself the other half.
Once you’ve reached a point where the business is generating a solid amount of income, you’ll probably want to shift to a salary model. This way, you have a consistent personal income stream, while also providing your business with plenty of funds to spur growth.
As for making sure you’re paying yourself in a way that maintains your single-member LLC’s compliant status, the main thing you’ll need to focus on is making sure you’re not overpaying yourself. If you do, this is an easy way for a court to say that your business is not a separate entity from you as a person, which could lead to having your personal asset protection revoked.
Thankfully, this situation is rather easily avoided. All you need to do is figure out what the industry norms are for your job, and make sure you don’t exceed those limits. In addition to your salary, you are also allowed to pay yourself bonuses, but again, these need to be reasonable if you don’t want any trouble with the Internal Revenue Service.
If you want to use a service to form your LLC, there are dozens of options. We invite you to check out our full list of the best available LLC formation services, but we’ll also share a couple of the most popular options below. ZenBusiness is the best LLC formation service available. That said, ZenBusiness receives outstanding customer feedback, with more than 9,800 reviews available online and very few negative reviews among them. For most people, LegalZoom is the first name that comes to mind for LLC services due to their massive advertising budget. LegalZoom’s pricing and features may not compete on an equal playing field with ZenBusiness, but its brand power is notable and it receives good customer reviews. For a side by side comparison, check out our LegalZoom vs ZenBusiness review.
Get The Best LLC Service
ZenBusiness (Starts at $0 + State Fee)
LegalZoom (Starts at $79 + State Fee)
If you want to use a service to form your LLC, there are dozens of options. We invite you to check out our full list of the best available LLC formation services, but we’ll also share a couple of the most popular options below.
ZenBusiness is the best LLC formation service available. That said, ZenBusiness receives outstanding customer feedback, with more than 9,800 reviews available online and very few negative reviews among them.
For most people, LegalZoom is the first name that comes to mind for LLC services due to their massive advertising budget. LegalZoom’s pricing and features may not compete on an equal playing field with ZenBusiness, but its brand power is notable and it receives good customer reviews.
For a side by side comparison, check out our LegalZoom vs ZenBusiness review.
Frequently Asked Questions
How Does the Formation Process Differ Between Single-Member and Multi-Member LLCs?
For the most part, the process of forming a single-member LLC is identical to that of a multi-member LLC. That said, multi-member LLCs do sometimes have to provide more information about the company’s ownership and managerial structure.
Should I Use an LLC Service, Hire an Attorney, or Form My Own LLC?
The answer to this question lies in your personal preferences, but we can give some general pointers. A reputable business attorney will cost the most by a mile, but also provides expertise you won’t find with the other options. The DIY route is free of charge but can require quite a bit of legwork and provides no peace of mind that the process is being completed correctly.
Using an LLC service means your business will be formed by professionals who know what they’re doing, while also costing significantly less than a lawyer. This “best of both worlds” attribute is what makes LLC services our preferred option.
How Do Online LLC Services Work?
Using an online LLC service removes much of the hassle from the business formation process. With these services, all you need to do is provide them with the name, location, and industry your business operates in, along with some info about yourself and your registered agent.
The service then creates your articles of organization and files them with your state to create your new LLC.
Are LLC Formation Websites Legit?
Absolutely. There are quite a few reputable companies offering LLC formation service these days, including the three best LLC services we discussed earlier.
In fact, while we certainly have our opinions about which ones offer the best pricing and features, every one of the incorporation services we discuss on this website is entirely legitimate and trustworthy.
Does Using an LLC Service Give Me More Legal Protection or Privacy?
In some ways, using an LLC service does protect your privacy, especially if you choose to also have that company serve as your registered agent.
This is due to the fact that, if you serve as your own registered agent, your personal address will often become part of the public record. Using a registered agent service not only provides the privacy of using the agent’s business address as your own, but it also significantly cuts down on junk mail.
Should I Form an LLC or Corporation?
This is an impossible question to answer in an across-the-board manner, as each business type has its own advantages and disadvantages. That said, the LLC is typically the more suitable option for small businesses and solo entrepreneurs, while the corporation is usually a better fit for large companies. For more info, check out our complete comparison guide between LLCs and corporations.
When Is the Best Time to Start an LLC?
We think you should start an LLC before you begin conducting business. While it is entirely legally acceptable to operate your business as a sole proprietorship or general partnership before forming an LLC, doing so subjects you to a number of risks that LLCs don’t have to worry about.
For example, informal business structures don’t have limited liability protection, so any lawsuit filed against the business can include the owner’s personal assets as well as the business assets.
The process of paying yourself from a single-member LLC isn’t too terribly complicated. In general, you just need to focus on paying yourself enough to pay your bills without too much trouble, while also making sure you aren’t overpaying yourself in a way that would raise any eyebrows at the IRS.
Whether you pay yourself a percentage of your business income or a regular salary, we recommend researching what your job typically pays. For example, if you’re a web designer who codes websites for business clients, it shouldn’t be difficult to find out what an average salary is for this role.
We hope this article helped you get a better grasp on how you should pay yourself from a single-member LLC!