If you are planning to set sail on your own, you might be wondering what the advantages and disadvantages of sole proprietorship are. It is worth setting up your own business structure, without bringing any other partners in the mix?
Sole proprietorships have their hiccups, but they also come with a few advantages. Read on to find out the advantages of a sole proprietorship, along with its drawbacks, to see whether it's up your alley or not.
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When someone is a sole proprietor, it means that they are linked as the only owner of the business. Among business structures, this one is the simplest type there is, as there is no need for federal registration.
Sole proprietors can be owners of a startup, freelancers, people with workshops or physical storefronts, creatives, and so on. A sole proprietor can hire as many people as they want, but they'll be the ones liable for paying wages, their taxes, or their benefits.
Being a sole proprietor has its advantages, which makes it a suitable option for those wanting to start up such a business structure. Here is why sole proprietorships are so convenient:
A sole proprietorship is very easy to establish, as you don't have to formally register your business entity, nor do you have to notify the state or federal offices. All you have to do is register the business fee, but without the formal roundabouts of an LLC, and then obtain the licenses and permits necessary.
This advantage makes it quite easy for you to create a startup that you are only using as a side gig. This allows you to only be partially committed to the business, without sacrificing any attention you'd have to give to your day job.
If there is anything that business owners know best, it's that paperwork can be a total pain. For example, the disadvantages of an LLC or a corporation is you will have to file documents every year. You'll have forms to handle, taxes to pay, and headaches to get over.
With a sole proprietorship, this is not the case. Filing these documents every year is not mandatory, and with other types of paperwork, the process is also simplified. One of the biggest advantages of a sole proprietorship is that you do not even have to pay a bookkeeper to make matters easy for you.
You may be a sole proprietor, but this does not mean that you will have to be alone. When considering the advantages and disadvantages of a sole proprietorship, most people give up simply because they believe they need to be the sole worker of the business.
This is by no means true. As a sole proprietor, you may hire just as many people as you want. As long as you can afford to cover their expenses, legally speaking, you are entitled to grow your reach and your business - all without formally turning into an LLC or incorporating the small business.
At first, there is a very good chance you will be by yourself with this type of business. However, when your sole proprietorship starts bringing a profit, you may hire as many people as you want. This should allow you to take a leap and grow your profits even more.
When going for a sole proprietorship, your name very often becomes your business name. However, there is also the option of operating under a specific business name. All you have to do is to register your trademark in the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.
You might want to check the search system first, to ensure there is no one else registered under the name that you want. They will be the ones having proprietorship of the name - so, choose something that no one else has. This way, you'll be more easily recognized.
The whole process won't take more than 90 minutes to get exclusivity to the name as a business owner. You won't even need a lawyer for this. Once it is done, you'll be able to differentiate yourself from your competition.
A sole proprietorship is tied to your legal name - so, you have complete control over your form of business and what its trajectory should be. You don't have any shareholders messing with your head and telling you what you should do, and you do not have any legal partners putting up conditions.
This freedom to make your own choices for the business also gives you the flexibility to experiment. If you have a crazy idea that you think may bring a lot of profit, you don't have to go past any other uncertain shareholders to test things out. You are free to do exactly what you want.
You have limited liability for the company that you are running. You aren't restricted to any strict or complicated regulations. Sole proprietors have the freedom to make any decision that they see fit.
When it comes to sole proprietorships compared to LLCs, think of it as a stepping stone for corporations in general. Take eBay, for example. Before Pierre Omidyar started eBay, he ran a platform called Auction We, where he was a sole proprietor. Only later did he incorporate the business under eBay, at which point he already had numerous employees and more than a million sales.
A sole proprietorship will show you the ropes of what it means to run a business - but without all the financial and governmental complications of an LLC. You will be a business owner with no strings attached so to speak. Sure, you will have limited liability, but it allows you to start a business that can, later on, succeed as an LLC or a corporation.
Compared to any other type of business structure, the owner of a sole proprietorship does not have to pay as many fees. For example, if you are a sole proprietor, you will not have to pay as many registration fees as you would for an incorporated form of business.
Since you are the owner of a sole business structure, you and your business have the same legal entity. This is why it is not necessary to register your business - mainly because you've already registered yourself as a sole proprietor.
The only exception here is if you use a name other than your own legal name for the business structure. In this case, you will have to register your business.
You can register your business name formally if you want to, as it may allow you to take a much bigger step in your professional career. However, if you don't have the funds to register now or you want to leave it for a later point, then sole proprietorship is at an advantage here.
With sole proprietorships, banking is quite straightforward. A sole proprietor does not have to open a business account, nor do you have to keep any promises to any financial institutions in regard to a business account. If it makes you feel any better, you may simply use your own bank account in order to handle your business expenses.
To make matters easier for you, you might still want to create a different checking account underneath your name. You don't even have to change your bank. Most banks allow you to open separate accounts online, so all you have to do is flip between them. This will make it much easier for you to keep track of your expenses, without too much of a headache.
When it comes to government regulations, sole proprietorships are less pressured. You must make sure that you have your trade license, and that you respect your local regulations. However, when it comes to government regulations and rules, you are not as constricted.
As the owner of a sole proprietorship business entity, you do not have to pay any corporate taxes. You can operate easily and quietly - something that you might not be able to do as the owner of a larger corporation.
While there are indeed many advantages of sole proprietorships, there are also a few drawbacks that you need to keep in mind. Here are the disadvantages of sole proprietorships:
One of the biggest disadvantages of sole proprietorships is heavily tied to the advantages these business owners reap. For instance, as a sole proprietor, you have full freedom to do what you want with your business, take any decision that you need or hire as many people as necessary.
However, with these types of business structures, you are also fully liable for everything you do. You are responsible for its financial aspects, and if your business goes south, you are also liable for the losses. Limited liability is one of the biggest benefits of incorporating.
As the owner of a sole proprietorship, you need to honor debt yourself, pay the contractors, pay wages, and cover insurance for your clients. All the legal contingencies are yours to handle.
For instance, if your small business gets sued for malpractice or you enter bankruptcy, your personal assets may be seized in order to cover the debt. This includes your car, your home, your bank account, or any other personal assets you may have.
This differentiates a sole proprietorship from the standard business structure, where the legal aspects are kept separate from your personal ones. As a result, if the company goes through difficulty, there's no risk that your personal assets will be seized.
Also, sole-proprietorship owners are liable for paying their own self-employment taxes. For instance, Social Security and Medicare - these are taxes that you will have to handle yourself.
The startup costs of this type of business are low, but one of the biggest disadvantages of a sole proprietorship is that raising money and capital can be difficult.
As you are liable for all the debt incurred by your business, you are responsible for paying everything else too. This includes suppliers, labor costs, overheads, and many more.
Since you'll have a lot to cover from your own business income, you may not have many chances to raise your capital. Your limited liability can make you vulnerable, and all your personal assets are tied to your business.
You may not want to think about the possibility of selling your business - but that doesn't mean it's not there. However, if you do have to sell your business, you might hit another wall: people may not be willing to buy sole proprietorships.
The reason behind this is simple. Sole proprietorships carry debt - and when someone buys this business from you, they buy your debt as well. If you have high debt or a high capital gains tax, it might be hard to sell the business.
Owners of sole proprietorships may find it more difficult than others to obtain business credit. This is because LLCs and corporations have a certain legal distinction that makes them more reliable. Sole proprietors don't have that, which makes them less trustworthy in the eyes of creditors.
The problem with a sole proprietorship is that most people use their personal accounts in order to make payments. On one side, it makes things easy, as you are using just one account.
On the other hand, your expenses get all mixed up. Whether you make a business or personal payment, everything will be listed on the same bank statement - and unless you have a clear description or receipt for that payment, you may not even know which is which.
With a sole proprietorship, you risk mixing your personal expenses with the business expenses, causing you to lose track. Also, when tax time comes, you might end up losing deductions (or deducting what you shouldn't) simply because you got confused.
Sole proprietors can indeed open a business account for this purpose, but very few of them actually do. This can cause financial troubles in the long run.
Sole proprietorships have their own tax advantages when they file. The main advantage is in their simplicity, as there are fewer requirements in terms of business taxes.
Business taxes do not have to be separated. You just have to report your business income along with your losses upon filing for a personal tax return.
As a sole proprietor, you will not be paying taxes for your entire business income. Instead, you will only pay taxes for any potential profit that you make. You won't be paying taxes for the income used on business expenses, which can actually help you cut down your losses.
Sole proprietorships have their advantages and drawbacks. If you find that the advantages outweigh the disadvantages, then this type of small business may be just the right thing for you. Just make sure you sit down and analyze the pros and cons carefully before making the decision.
A verbal contract (formally called an oral contract) refers to an agreement between two parties that's made —you guessed it— verbally.
Formal contracts, like those between an employee and an employer, are typically written down. However, some professional transactions take place based on verbally agreed terms.
Freelancers are a good example of this. Often, freelancers will take on projects having agreed on the terms and payment via the phone, or an email. Unfortunately, sometimes clients don't pull through on their agreements, and hardworking freelancers can find themselves out of pocket and wondering whether a legal battle is worth all the hassle.
The main differences between written and oral contracts are that the former is signed and documented, whereas the latter is solely attributed to verbal communication.
Verbal contracts are a bit of a gray area for most people unfamiliar with contract law —which is most of us, right?— due to the fact that there's no physical evidence to support the claims made by the implemented parties.
For any contract (written or verbal) to be binding, there are four major elements which need to be in place. The crucial elements of a contract are as follows:
Therefore, an oral agreement has legal validity if all of these elements are present. However, verbal contracts can be difficult to enforce in a court of law. In the next section, we take a look at how oral agreements hold up in court.
Most business professionals are wary of entering into contracts orally because they can difficult to enforce in the face of the law.
If an oral contract is brought in front of a court of law, there is increased risk of one party (or both!) lying about the initial terms of the agreement. This is problematic for the court, as there's no unbiased way to conclude the case; often, this will result in the case being disregarded. Moreover, it can be difficult to outline contract defects if it's not in writing.
That being said, there are plenty of situations where enforceable contracts do not need to be written or spoken, they're simply implied. For instance, when you buy milk from a store, you give something in exchange for something else and enter into an implied contract, in this case - money is exchanged for goods.
There are some types of contracts which must be in writing.
The Statute of Frauds is a legal statute which states that certain kinds of contracts must be executed in writing and signed by the parties involved. The Statute of Frauds has been adopted in almost all U.S states, and requires a written contract for the following purposes:
Typically, a court of law won't enforce an oral agreement in any of these circumstances under the statute. Instead, a written document is required to make the contract enforceable.
Contract law is generally doesn't favor contracts agreed upon verbally. A verbal agreement is difficult to prove, and can be used by those intent on committing fraud. For that reason, it's always best to put any agreements in writing and ensure all parties have fully understood and consented to signing.
Verbal agreements can be proven with actions in the absence of physical documentation. Any oral promise to provide the sale of goods or perform a service that you agreed to counts as a valid contract. So, when facing a court of law, what evidence can you provide to enforce a verbal agreement?
Unfortunately, without solid proof, it may be difficult to convince a court of the legality of an oral contract. Without witnesses to testify to the oral agreement taking place or other forms of evidence, oral contracts won't stand up in court. Instead, it becomes a matter of "he-said-she-said" - which legal professionals definitely don't have time for!
If you were to enter into a verbal contract, it's recommended to follow up with an email or a letter confirming the offer, the terms of the agreement , and payment conditions. The more you can document the elements of a contract, the better your chances of legally enforcing a oral contract.
Another option is to make a recording of the conversation where the agreement is verbalized. This can be used to support your claims in the absence of a written agreement. However, it's always best to gain the permission of the other involved parties before hitting record.
Fundamentally, most verbal agreements are legally valid as long as they meet all the requirements for a contract. However, if you were to go to court over one party not fulfilling the terms of the contract, proving that the interaction took place can be extremely taxing.
So, ultimately, the question is: written or verbal agreements?
Any good lawyer, contract law firm, or legal professional would advise you to make sure you formalize any professional agreement with a written agreement. Written contracts provide a secure testament to the conditions that were agreed and signed by the two parties involved. If it comes to it, a physical contract is much easier to eviden in legal circumstances.
Freelancers, in particular, should be aware of the extra security that digital contracts may provide. Many people choose to stick to executing contracts verbally because they're not sure how to write a contract, or they think writing out the contract terms is too complicated or requires expensive legal advice. However, this is no longer the case.
Today, we have a world of resources available at our fingertips. The internet is a treasure trove of invaluable information, platforms, and software that simplifies our lives. Creating, signing, and sending contracts has never been easier. What's more, you don't have to rely on a hiring a lawyer to explain all that legal jargon anymore.
There are plenty of tools available online for freelancers to use for guidance when drafting digital contracts. Tools like Bonsai provide a range of customizable, vetted contract templates for all kinds of freelance professionals. No matter what industry you're operating in, Bonsai has a professional template to offer.
A written contract makes the agreement much easier to prove the terms of the agreement in case something were to go awry. The two parties involved can rest assured that they're legal rights are protected, and the terms of the contract are sufficiently documented. Plus, it provides both parties with peace of mind to focus on the tasks at hand.
Bonsai's product suite for freelancers allows users to make contracts from scratch, or using professional templates, and sign them using an online signature maker.
With Bonsai, you can streamline and automate all of the boring back-office tasks that come with being a freelancer. From creating proposals that clients can't say no to, to sealing the deal with a professional contract - Bonsai will revolutionize the way you do business as a freelancer.
Why not secure your business today and sign up for a free trial?