How to set up a personal umbrella LLC.
a plan to organize your side gigs.
This article is for people who want to experiment with side gigs and stay primarily focused on their day job.
If you’re still reading, then I assume this is for you :)
Perhaps you want to sell things as a hobby. Perhaps you enjoy buying, fixing and selling cars. Perhaps you want to invest in real-estate.
Whatever it is, this is a how-to guide from a legal, financial, and organizational perspective.
Here are 5 things you’ll learn:
- Purpose of creating an LLC (as you)
- Setting up an umbrella entity with multiple DBAs
- Bank account(s) and credit card
- Web services infrastructure
- Outsourcing and automation
Purpose of creating an LLC (as you)
Here are three reasons to create a Limited Liability Company (LLC) for yourself.
- Easy accounting and tax preparation.
- More likely to succeed when you treat a side gig like a business.
- Create legal protection between your business and personal assets.
The first reason is more important if you have multiple side gigs and share personal finances with a spouse or partner. You and your family should only see a few transactions each month as “profit from XYZ side gig” or “investment into XYZ side gig”. When it’s time for taxes you’ll easily be able to report where money was spent and how much profit to be taxed on.
The second reason is self explanatory. If you’re spending or earning money from something, then it makes sense to treat it like a business. You’ll probably make better decisions and know when to keep investing or quit.
The last reason is less important, but smart to do. Imagine you offer a service and for whatever reason a customer sues you. Assuming you’re not grossly negligent, your personal assets will be protected in such a way that assets you own outside your LLC are untouchable.
ATB Enterprises, LLC is an umbrella entity to easily manage legal, finances and taxes for my side businesses. Each side business will be organized as a ‘Doing Business As’ (DBA) filing. The purpose is to invest in ideas and track progress and finances outside my family finances. When a side business involves other owners, then it becomes a separate legal entity.
Setting up an umbrella entity with multiple DBAs
An umbrella entity is simply your LLC.
Umbrella, or holding company, is a term used to describe a legal entity that only exists to manage multiple entities underneath it.
This is useful when you have, or plan, multiple side businesses.
The umbrella creates legal protection and a tax filing entity for everything under it.
Each side gig could become a simple ‘Doing Business As’ (DBA) filing with your State of residence, assuming you live in the United States.
It only takes several minutes to complete this through a service like BizFilings or you can find your state website and do it yourself. The filing cost depends on your State.
ATB Enterprises, LLC — umbrella corporation to manage separate DBAs listed below:
- AdamBouchard.com — personal blog.
- Momentum Coach — coaching and training business.
- Steady Momentum — journaling and peer accountability platform.
- Hillside farm — fresh produce, honey, eggs & a place to stay.
- SA Properties — rental properties.
I didn’t file a DBA for each entity above. Only the ones that I accept payments on behalf of that business name. For example, Momentum.Coach collects income and that’s why it’s a DBA in Vermont. My blog doesn’t make money. If it did, I might collect revenue under Momentum Coach or ATB Enterprises, LLC.
Bank account(s) and credit card
Find a bank or credit union that lets you operate business checking accounts with minimal expenses. Make sure they offer a great web interface, easy mobile check deposits, easily access to transfer money, and automatically syncs to your bookkeeping service (ie: Xero.com).
Create checking accounts for each DBA that earns money. For your recurring and other expenses — I recommend a single credit card for the umbrella corporation. As long as you pay it off each month, this strategy helps you improve credit ratings and lets you collect and redeem points. If you suck at paying off credit card balances, then don’t use this strategy.
Ensure expense allocations are properly documented across accounts and categories within your bookkeeping service.
Multiple business checking accounts with Citizens bank and a single credit card.
Web services infrastructure
Keep your side gigs simple.
Here is a list of the base web-based infrastructure I recommend. It costs $35 a month to run all your side gigs.
- *G Suite from Google for email, docs, calendar, and cloud based storage. $5 per user / per month.
- Xero.com for bookkeeping. $30 per month.
*If you don’t already own a domain name, then you can buy one through G Suite as you sign up.
With G Suite you’ll be able to configure multiple email accounts for all your side businesses within a single interface.
This makes it easy to send and receive emails from multiple domain names.
files and documents
Google Drive works well as a place to store any electronic files related to your business. I recommend it over Dropbox and other services because it’s bundled with email, calendar and other collaboration tools. Less tools the better.
bookkeeping and accounting
You could use a simple Google spreadsheet to track your income and expenses if you want to save $30 a month. See the next section on outsourcing to weigh pros/cons of that decision.
I prefer reducing my labor and automating transactions and categorization rules from my bank and credit card to an accounting platform. That is why I like Xero.com. The only thing I need to do is batch time once or twice a month to review and ensure all transactions are reported properly.
There are plenty of other options for accounting software. The key is making sure it’s easy to use, does what you want, and syncs with your bank and credit card.
running the business
Here is a simple spreadsheet template that you may use to manage and run each side gig as a business.
See the following two articles for more information on creating a vision and operating a business:
- How to communicate your idea in 30 seconds or less.
- How to work more ‘ON’ and less ‘IN’ a business during the age of automation.
Outsourcing and automation
Presumably, your side business is pretty simple. There may not be much to outsource or automate.
However, I encourage you to think about what makes the most sense for you to do well, and what makes sense to delegate.
Imagine you only have 5 hours a month to dedicate on your side business.
What is the most valuable thing for you to do?
What is important but could be done by a service or someone else?
How much is your time worth to you?
With the answer to the above questions in mind, make a list of activities to delegate via outsourcing or automation.
Look at your list of activities to delegate. If it matches one of the following criteria, then you know it’s the correct decision.
- you don’t want to do it
- it costs less to delegate than the value of your time
- someone else does it better and it’s worth it
My wife and I run a small farm on our property.
The farm collects income through the sale of fresh produce, eggs, honey and overnight guests via our cottage managed through Airbnb.
In the summer, it takes me about 8 hours a week, or 24 hours a month, to maintain the lawns and landscaping. While it’s sometimes enjoyable, it’s seldom worth my time. As my wife often says after I’m done mowing… “this looks terrible, can you please go back and make it look better?”.
So, we outsource landscaping and lawn care to a service provider who does it better and faster. It’s an expense item for Hillside Farms.
It’s not hard to set-up your umbrella LLC.
Benefits are better organization and easier financial and legal management.
If you treat your side gig as a real thing, then you have a better chance to make a real impact for yourself and others.
Good luck and enjoy the journey.