Here’s a totally-weird, slightly dizzying fact:
Did you know that the moment you accept money in exchange for a service or product, you’ve automatically created a sole proprietorship in the eyes of the law?
You don’t have to file as a formal business entity—YOU JUST ARE ONE. Which is crazy, right? It’s like immaculate fucking conception. Which also means this: even if you’re just dipping your toe in the water, you still need to follow the rules. *cracks whip*
And so here’s the biggest rule of all, sole proprietors of the land: KEEP YOUR BUSINESS EXPENSES SEPARATE LIKE YOU'RE DIVIDING UP ITEMS IN A DIVORCE.
You don’t have to have a business bank account, per se, but you do have to make sure you’re labeling and categorizing all of your business expenses separate from your personal expenses. Because, come tax time, you’re going to have to file what’s called a Schedule C and your business expenses are going to have to be listed on it. So I recommend using a program like Mint.com or Quickbooks Self Employed where you can stream in all of your transactions and label your business expenses for what they are. (AKA jerky little necessities.)
Obviously it’s a different ball game if you’re an LLC or an S-Corp, in which case, VODKA HELP YOU if you don’t have a separate business bank account! (You need one.) (Like, non-negotiably need one.) But if you’re just a sole proprietor free ballin’ it, for the time being, you don’t need a separate bank account, since you and your business are viewed as one in the same. You just need to be able to identify, clearly, which expenses are your personal expenses and which are your business expenses. (Because, hi, your $300 highlights probably aren’t going to pass muster as a business expense, and then you will make the IRS very, very mad.)
That said, it’s never a terrible idea to open a separate business bank account for clarity—particularly if you want to do things like write off a portion of your home office expenses, in which case, it’ll be easier to show the distinction between “hi this is the $2,000/month apartment where my boyfriend and I live!” and “hi this is my actual office!”
Howevah, most banks require some formal business proof that your business is what you say it is (and not some fake mobster shit).
So if you’re a sole proprietor and your new business is not in your actual name—“Ashley Ambirge Consulting”—but rather, some other name you’ve invented—“The Middle Finger Project”—then you need to file a DBA with the state, first. A DBA stands for “doing business as,” and—HEY OH—this is not the same as a trademark. Not even close. Filing a DBA with the state offers you absolutely zero protection and doesn’t form any official business entity—it’s just your cute little alter ego that, more or less, is a nickname for you. Because if your customers know you that way, then that’s what you’re going to want to file.
And let me tell you what, folks: It might sound annoying, but it will not be even one seventh-ninth bit as annoying as being audited by the IRS and having them go, “Hmmmm…so you’ve been writing off YOUR ENTIRE LIFE. Nice try, scumbag!”
THAT WILL NOT END WELL FOR YOU.
So do your homework.
Be a good egg.
Listen to Mama Ash.
And let’s all hold hands and sing kumbaya into the sunrise.
Unless you really are into some fake mobster shit, in which case, I want in.
Update: The Unf*ckwithable Business Online Starter Kit, focused entirely on everything you need to know about legal, contracts & not totally f*cking it all up is now available!