LLC for bloggers? As a blogger, you are probably wondering whether you need an LLC for your website and blog.
As a lawyer, this is the most FAQ I get from bloggers: do I need to form an LLC for my blogging business?
Spend five minutes looking into how to form a business online and “LLC” will be one of the first keywords you come across.
LLC stands for Limited Liability Company and it’s just one step above sole proprietorship when it comes to its ease of forming, filing, and maintaining it.
Of course, LLCs aren’t the right solution for every business, although they do offer a number of protections beyond what you would have if you chose to blog as an individual (i.e., a sole proprietor).
If you did nothing, meaning you didn’t officially register your blogging business as an LLC, then you’d be considered a “sole proprietor.”
This means you and your business are considered the same in the eyes of the law. There’s no separation between you and your business.
Here’s everything you need to know about how an LLC could help you as a blogger.
What is an LLC and How Does it Work?
A Limited Liability Company, or LLC, combines some features of traditional corporations and partnerships together.
However, LLCs are simpler to manage when compared to a traditional corporation. They also offer more protection than individual ownership of a business (which is known as a sole proprietorship).
The owner, or owners, of an LLC are known as members of the LLC.
An LLC can opt to be controlled by its members or by managers that the members select.
How your LLC is controlled will be set forth in your LLC Operating Agreement, which is always good to have and sometimes required by the state when you form your LLC.
Typically, selecting one or two people to manage your LLC will work best. You can select members or non-members to be your LLC’s manager(s).
For example, if you are the sole owner of your blogging business then you’d be the sole member of your LLC.
Beyond explaining who will manage your LLC, your LLC Operating Agreement will also detail some other aspects of your LLC’s operation.
If you have a multi-member LLC, meaning someone other than yourself will be part of your LLC, you’ll definitely want to make sure that your LLC Operating Agreement covers certain things, like how you’ll handle a situation where one or more owners wants to exit the LLC.
LLC vs. Sole Proprietorship
Now let’s talk about the key differences between an LLC and sole proprietorship because as a business lawyer and blogger, many bloggers ask me this question in my Facebook group all the time!
If you start a blog and begin generating revenue from it, you must report that revenue to the IRS as part of your annual tax return.
That means you’re officially in business and, by default, you’re operating your blog as a sole proprietorship. You don’t need to register with anyone to be a sole proprietorship because it’s not a separate entity from yourself.
If you’re a sole proprietor, you are directly and personally responsible for everything to do with your blog/business. You even report your blog’s revenue on your personal income tax return. Because of this, there are no annual fees to become a sole proprietor, but you can’t have employees as a sole proprietor, either.
Per the IRS rules, as a sole proprietor, you’d need to obtain an Employer Identification Number (EIN) if you need to hire employees other than an independent contractor (freelancer).
With that said, those who operate as sole proprietors will sometimes establish a DBA (“doing business as”) with their county clerk’s office. This ensures no one else uses your name to do business in the county and lets you open bank accounts, credit cards, and even small business loans using your assumed name (i.e., the name of your blog).
However, even if you register and use a DBA, you are still personally responsible for everything you do.
A sole proprietorship offers absolutely no legal liability protections.
It also offers very little privacy. In contrast, just as “limited liability” implies, an LLC limits a member’s liability to the amount they have invested in the LLC. That means you’re not personally liable for the LLC’s debts.
As an example, if a sole proprietor takes out a small business loan and defaults on it, debtors can pursue the individual’s car, home, and other assets to satisfy their debts. If an LLC defaults on a loan, the members are not personally liable for repaying it.
So these key differences between an LLC for bloggers and sole proprietorship are crucial. Forming an LLC for your website and blogging business may be worth your time!
LLC for Bloggers: When should you form your LLC as a blogger?
Think of an LLC as a car or home insurance. We buy a car or home insurance as added security to protect ourselves from disasters and lawsuits.
Similarly, an LLC for your blog provides you that added layer of protection for your business.
It means when something goes wrong or if you get sued, your personal assets like home, car, or checking account are safe and protected.
There’s no “right time” for it. It comes down to your risk tolerance.
As you can already begin to imagine, establishing an LLC truly offers a great deal of confidence when it comes to running your blog as a business. Ultimately, it’s going to offer that extra layer of protection in case anyone ever tries to sue you.
Here are some examples:
- Any blog can be sued for copyright infringement
- Blogs that write about others can be sued for slander or libel
- Blogs need extra protection if they offer advice or courses (that’s one of the big reasons why you need a blog disclaimer too!)
- Blogs also need extra protection if they sell products or services
Ultimately, you’re at the highest risk if you give advice, offer courses, or sell/recommend products as you’re liable for every word you write.
However, any blog can be sued for copyright infringement, and copyright laws are complicated.
Some bloggers form an LLC right away when they start their online business while others choose to wait and see how their business will progress and make money before making this time and money investment.
I formed my LLC when I started making $10K months but that was in the first few months of my business (very early on) as you can see my blog growth here.
You don’t have to wait until you reach the $10K month.
So whenever you are ready, you should start thinking about forming an LLC for your blog to shield yourself from personal liability.
If you are serious about treating your blog as a business and it’s more than a hobby for you then you should consider forming an LLC as soon as you start making consistent income every month. The amount you make doesn’t matter.
This is because it doesn’t matter whether you are making $1,000 a month or $100,000 a month – you both are taking the same risk of being personally liable for your business losses, debts, and lawsuits!
It’s really a small investment in my eyes for that added peace of mind knowing your personal assets are safe and protected. But at the end of the day, forming an LLC for your blog is truly your preference.
Benefits of an LLC for bloggers
We’ve already touched on a number of benefits that come along with forming an LLC as a blogger, but here’s a quick summary of the primary advantages.
- You’re less likely to be audited than a sole proprietorship when you file your taxes.
- Your personal assets (home, personal checking account, car, etc) will be protected.
- Having a registered agent for your LLC gives you a business address and point of contact so you don’t have to publish your personal information.
- Forming an LLC helps you present yourself in a more professional manner. If your blog is your business, treat it like one!
Depending on the tax structure you use for your LLC (pass-through, S-corp, or C-corp), you may also enjoy certain tax advantages alongside its formation.
Consult your CPA or accountant for more specific tax advice because each blogger’s tax and financial situation will look different!
DBA vs. LLC for Bloggers
As we’ve covered, DBA stands for “Doing Business As.” You can register a DBA with your county clerk at any point, whether you have an LLC or not. Those with an LLC can also register additional DBAs under their LLC if your business name is different.
For instance, if you have an LLC by the name of Claire’s Creations, LLC and you’d like to also conduct business through your LLC as Claire’s Confections, you’d need to register that name with your county clerk. You’d then be legally presenting yourself as Claire’s Creations, LLC DBA Claire’s Confections.
Ultimately, if you’re trying to decide if you need a DBA or an LLC, you need to consider what your blog publishes and the potential liabilities you’re taking on. Selling or promoting products, reviewing other people’s products as an affiliate, discussing people and businesses, and so on can all get you in hot water.
If you think you could potentially be part of a lawsuit for something you post, you should definitely form an LLC.
How to Form an LLC for Your Blog
You will submit all of your forms with your state’s office, but these are the general steps to follow:
- Decide where to register. Many people don’t know it, but you actually don’t have to register your LLC in the state where you reside although it’s best to register where you live otherwise you end up paying a lot more fees like getting a registered agent service.
- Decide on a name. You can always change your name, but that usually incurs a filing fee. You need to choose a name and then check your Secretary of State’s business name database to make sure it’s available. Pro Tip: You’ll need to use “LLC” or “Limited Liability Company” at the end of your name.
- File your Article of Organization with your Secretary of State. You’ll be able to find this form online. Some states allow you to file it online, too, while others require you to mail it in. Pro Tip: State fees for filing vary. It’s $100 in places like South Dakota and $300 in places like Texas. You only have to pay this fee once and then annual fees afterward to keep your LLC.
- Create an LLC Operating Agreement. Some states require you to include a copy of your operating agreement with your filing, others do not. Grab my LLC Operating Agreement template here to make your life easy!
With these few steps, you have officially formed an LLC for your blog!
Now it’s time to do your due diligence. Every state has different requirements, so you should check with your state to find out if you have an annual report you need to file and if there is a fee associated with it.
Additionally, if you do not live in the state or if your state does not allow you to be your own registered agent, you’ll need to contract a registered agent service. Prices range from $39 to hundreds of dollars a year depending on the other services they offer (like mail forwarding).
A registered agent is a legal resident of the state where your LLC is registered. This agent has an address you will use on your correspondence and they should be at this address during normal business hours and able to accept legal documents on your behalf (including subpoenas).
Single Member vs. Multi-Member LLC’s For Bloggers
Most bloggers will form a single-member LLC because they operate their blog on their own. However, if you have someone who regularly contributes to your blog (like a spouse, friend, family member, or co-owner), they should be part of your LLC.
Whether you operate a single-member LLC or multi-member, you will need an LLC Operating Agreement for your business.
As a multi-member LLC, you will certainly need an Operating Agreement, and you’ll also need to choose a tax structure since you have more than one member.
A single-member LLC, on the other hand, can operate as a pass-through, where all income your LLC earns goes directly to the sole LLC member, who files taxes just like a sole proprietor would.
Of course, even as a single-member LLC, you may be able to register as an S-corp or C-corp for tax purposes. These structures require additional filing, but they may give you tax advantages, too.
It’s best to speak with your accountant to find out which option works best for you.
Do You Need a Business License for your blog?
Most bloggers don’t know it, but the majority of states require bloggers to obtain a general business license. However, most bloggers do not need to get a federal license to run their blogs.
You’ll need a business license if you rent, lease, or sell goods through your blog or if you provide a taxable service on your blog. If you’re selling goods or services, you may need a sales tax permit from your state as well.
Additionally, if you operate out of your own household, as most bloggers do, you’ll potentially need a Home Occupation Permit. You may also need to get an Employer Identification Number or EIN for your blog, depending on how you file your taxes.
Check your state’s business license requirements here to make sure you are complying with them.
LLC Operating Agreement Template For Blogs
Your LLC Operating Agreement is one of the primary pieces of paperwork you’ll need to put together in order to set up your LLC.
I offer a handy template here to get you started, which will ensure you include everything you should have in your agreement.
Without the LLC Operating Agreement, you cannot prove that your blogger LLC is indeed separate from your personal assets. It’s this agreement that serves as evidence should you get sued tomorrow. So it’s quite important and not something you should neglect even if your state doesn’t officially require you to file it.
You still need to have this Operating Agreement as part of your business records as proof.
Learn more about it here.
Lastly, here are 100+ 5 star reviews of my legal templates including this LLC Operating Agreement template on my Facebook page.
How to Make Sure You are Blogging Legally
There are so many complex laws regarding small businesses and blogging that it can be overwhelming.
That’s why I offer important legal templates for bloggers here, who are serious about treating their blog as a business and want to make sure they are within the law!
Aside from registering your blog as an LLC, you also need to make sure you have these 3 legal pages on your blog to comply with privacy laws and protect your blog from lawsuits.
Also, here are 3 important blog posts to help you learn about your legal requirements:
- You Must Have 3 Essential Legal Pages on Your Blog BEFORE you launch. Find out all about them here.
- You Must Use Proper Legal Contracts to Protect Your Blogging Business from ugly disputes. Confused about which legal contract you need and when? This blog post will help!
- Find out why 50+ Savvy Entrepreneurs and Bloggers Like You DON’T Trust the Free Legal Pages and Templates to Protect Their Blogs
Final Thoughts – LLC for Bloggers
Most bloggers are completely unaware of all the potential legal ramifications of what they do online.
The fact is, it’s not a quick way to make a buck. As you already know, blogging takes a great deal of work, so if you’re going to run it like a business, you need to establish it as one!
At the end of the day, bloggers who form an LLC typically end up breathing a BIG sigh of relief. Of course, there’s always more to consider. I suggest exploring some related posts on this blog like this one to help make sure you’re not blindsided by the laws or requirements that may impact how you blog.
Make sure to join my Facebook group here to get more blogging legal tips for free!
Related Blog Posts on LLC For Bloggers and Blogging Legally
If you are wondering what else you need to know about the legal side of blogging and how to protect yourself, then check out these helpful blog posts:
- What Is a Media Release Agreement and How to Use It?
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- 50+ Savvy Entrepreneurs Reveal How They Protect Their Business