Self-employment is a great choice for people who want more flexibility, autonomy, and control in their work. But with that added freedom comes added responsibility and risk. Many people just starting out ask themselves common questions like “What tax forms do I need to know about?” and “What legal risks do I face?”
If you don’t form a separate legal entity, the law and IRS will assume you’re acting as a “sole proprietor.” While this doesn’t require any work on your part to set up, it allows the government to assume that your business and personal assets are all one, which can put you at increased legal risk.
As a result, lots of self-employed people form a Limited Liability Company. An LLC gives you additional legal protection and reduces your liability. Here are of some LLC pros and cons that should help you decide.
What are some pros of forming an LLC?
1. Better legal protection. Forming an LLC creates a separate legal entity. So if a client or creditor tries to come after you, they will only be able to target the assets of the LLC (like your business bank account) and not your personal assets (like your home).
2. More choices for taxes. When you form an LLC, you can choose from a few different methods of taxation. Most individuals choose to be a “single member LLC,” meaning that the LLC’s activities are reflected on the owner’s federal tax return. However, you can also explore some more aggressive tax strategies, like electing to be taxed as an S Corporation, and taking part of your earnings as a salary and part as a distribution. The salary is subject to income tax and self-employment tax, but the distribution is only subject to income tax. There are some important limitations and other requirements, so discuss this option with a tax professional.
3. Benefits to your brand. Most customers associate LLCs with a higher sense of professionalism, which is great for your personal branding if you’re providing professional services.
And the cons?
1. Additional costs and paperwork. Setting up an LLC requires some initial paperwork. This can cost a few hundred dollars (more, if you hire an accountant or lawyer), plus any state filing fees. There are also annual renewal requirements and fees, as well as additional franchise taxes or capital values taxes.
2. Some unresolved legal issues. LLCs have only existed for a couple decades, so there isn’t a lot of case law yet. While this isn’t necessarily a con, it does mean there might be changes to this type of entity (for example, exactly what legal protection they provide, or in what cases individuals might be held liable at the personal level).
Is forming an LLC worth the trouble?
The answer, as it is with many tax and legal questions, is: it depends. It may be worth getting a professional to help, since the paperwork can be complex, and you might want to discuss the specifics of your situation (for example, which taxation method you should choose). A lawyer or accountant who is knowledgeable about LLC law might be a valuable resource, though costs can add up quickly.
The initial cost of forming an LLC is usually below $1,000. Again, this can vary widely by state (California, for example, requires LLCs to pay a franchise tax, which is typically a percentage of profits or $800—whichever is higher).
The pros and cons above are not an extensive list, but are a good starting point. But if you’re looking to reduce your liability, an LLC might be right for you. If you’re interested in learning more, we’ve made a tool to help determine if setting up an LLC makes sense for your business.
Even though every bit of news about climate change is, well, terrifying, it’s comforting and empowering to remember that small adjustments to our daily lives can make a big difference to Mother Nature. Each of these shoppable items (all created by WeWork members or sold at Made by We in New York City) make being green easy.
Ditch disposable to-go cups. For your next coffee run, bring along a collapsible cup by StoJo, a member at WeWork 81 Prospect St in New York. The Pocket Cup, which is made from recyclable materials, keeps your morning joe warm or cold, then stashes in your bag when you’re on the go. $15
Put your best foot forward. All of the cozy socks made by Conscious Step—a member at WeWork 109 S 5th St in New York—support farmers in India and are made sustainably and ethically with organic cotton. And depending on which pair you choose, like these Socks That Plant Trees, you can support a cause, like planting ten trees through nonprofit Trees for the Future. $15.
Follow the sun. These TwiLight solar-powered lights by Solight, a member at WeWork 123 E 23rd St in New York, are pretty genius. They’re lightweight, foldable, and waterproof luminaries, which means they’re perfect for patio parties and camping trips. And the best part? They require no electricity or batteries. $17
Bundle up. Save on heating bills (or protect yourself from aggressive office AC temps) with this chic Aria Topaz scarf from member Studio Variously. The cashmere scarf is hand-woven and dyed with chemical-free coloring by artisans in Nepal, and it comes in a natural canvas case—no bubble wrap here!—that you can reuse. $118
Fry right. Many nonstick pans are made with chemicals, but not Green Pan. The Venice Pro frying pan from Green Pan, a member at WeWork 1460 Broadway in New York, is made from upcycled stainless steel and aluminum and a trademarked Thermolon coating. The sand-based finish emits 60 percent less CO2 into the air compared with traditional nonstick coatings. How’s that for green eggs? $99
Drink all day. Make each trip to the water fountain a fun one with the Aurora bottle from S’well, a member at WeWork Medius House in London. Its sleek design makes it a breeze to take anywhere—and keep up with your daily water-intake goals. $32
Be totes amazing. Break your plastic-bag habit for good by toting one of these adorable Utility Canvas bags, available at Made by We. They’re just as handy at the farmers market as they are at the public library—and each one makes a serious style statement, too. $52
Send good word. Sure, email is technically zero-waste, but these pretty cards by member Miks Letterpress are printed on 100-percent-recycled paper and are an old school (and biodegradable) way to say “thank you” to clients, coworkers, and friends. They’re available at Made by We, too. $12
Get buzzed. Al Mokha makes it easy to get your caffeine fix without a guilt trip. Their socially and environmentally conscious beans, grown and harvested in Yemen, are conflict-free and handpicked by farmers who are fairly paid for their work. Try their Yemeni Medium roast for its subtle citrus and cocoa notes. $21.95
Make ’em work. We may be biased, but giving yourself (or a friend) a WeWork membership is a solid way (and is so much more personal than, say, a scented candle) to introduce them to sustainable workplace practices like being single-use-plastic-free, offering only meat-free menus, and committing to being carbon-neutral by 2023. Prices vary.
In 2017, Interface Carpet was relocating from Georgia’s horse country to a four-story cement building in central Atlanta. The world’s biggest producer of carpet tile had conceived its new headquarters with the intention of energizing young designers, wowing international buyers, and proclaiming its mission to grow without harming nature. To bring those goals to life, corporate VP Chip DeGrace knew just who to call: his old pal Bill Browning.
Browning, a design strategist and sustainability consultant, has been thinking about reviving buildings since 1973, when he published a key paper that helped define the “green building” industry. DeGrace knew him in those days for his work with the Rocky Mountain Institute, a research and engineering shop that pioneered hydrogen cars and other innovations.
In the decades since, Browning has advised the architects and owners who created the Bank of America Tower in New York, Google’s East Coast headquarters, and other global landmarks. His consulting firm, Terrapin Bright Green, which is a member at WeWork 25 Broadway in Lower Manhattan, guides real estate owners to implement an overarching idea that Browning, DeGrace, and hundreds of property specialists call biophilia.
By way of explaining the movement, Browning poses this fundamental question: “Can we build and operate a building that delivers the ecosystem that would have been here without the building?”
Biophilic design takes strong guidance from nature. Lights mimic the arc of the sun, growing brighter and dimmer over the day. Central artwork and corridors look like forests or valleys, at the very least using those ecosystems’ materials and colors. Sounds echo those that calm or orient people in a park or on a trail.
Clients call Terrapin when forming a strategy to reduce sick days, improve efficiency in limited space, or breathe life into a new headquarters. “Browning isn’t here to tell us what it should look like,” DeGrace explains. “He’s here to tell us how nature would do it.”
Interface moved into its new space in August 2018. A digital print wraps around the exterior of the building so that the view across West Peachtree Street evokes a Georgia Piedmont forest. Because it receives strong sunlight to the north and east, those sides of the building use less artificial light. The main workspace features green semicircular couches for meetings. Product samples and color swatches sit upstairs near a terrace. In the rear, workers can retreat to yoga rooms without windows or illumination where they can reset or stretch.
Biophilia honors the fact that workers use different settings to accomplish different goals. Interface no longer asks professionals to manage all of their workflow in a cube under bright lights. Just as you don’t try to drink from a rock or catch a fish from a field, you shouldn’t have to try to recharge your creative energies in a monotonous setting or drum up ideas in a cluttered one.
To Browning, sustainable living begins with paying attention to how human needs map to nature. His firm advises clients like Interface and Google throughout design projects. Most of its recommendations flow from three main strategies (which are outlined in the handbook Terrapin recently published). One places “nature in the space” by bringing in natural light or big windows. Another suggests “natural analogs,” like regional wood or bamboo for walls and floors. A third emphasizes “nature of the space,” in which designers lay out a floor plan so people see far-off beacons (such as) and find visually pleasing places where they can rest.
These patterns play out differently in different regions. In Twin Falls, Idaho, for instance, the Clif Bar bakery evokes nearby mountains with a jagged wooden exterior and fake snow painted on top. The hotel lobbies around midtown Manhattan that Terrapin has helped design showcase Hudson Valley wood and stone, and orient guests toward big windows.
Terrapin’s team also researches how seeing nature correlates with feelings of calm, focus and alertness in hospitals, schools, hotels, and offices. Browning is finalizing a hotel-based study that shows guests spend more time in biophilia-designed lobbies than in traditional ones.
Ink48, in far west Midtown Manhattan, is one such space. It’s in the same vicinity as a Holiday Inn Express and a Comfort Inn, both with lobbies filled with glaring light, competing televisions, and heated trays of uneaten food on a side table.
But Ink48 feels like a national park by comparison. The lobby lights are low. Cowhide chairs with deep, back-supporting curves face the broad avenue. Guests drink coffee behind a glass partition, set apart from the flow of people checking in and out. Behind the check-in desk, natural wood frames a wall of iris blue, yellow, and pea-green slats, recalling a horizon line. People linger.
The idea that natural cues foster effective work has spread to many companies, including WeWork. Devin Vermulen, WeWork’s senior creative director, says he and his team experimented with plants in workspaces a couple of years ago. Members enjoyed them so much, Vermulen recalls, that the plants “became ubiquitous” in more locations.
Next, “we want to start testing circadian lighting,” continues Vermulen, a longtime design leader in the company. “These lighting systems use LED bulbs to change their color temperature and mimic what’s happening outdoors, and that can improve your cognition.”
Terrapin’s next big project is an overhaul of the core the international airport in Portland, Oregon. The team of engineers, architects, and landscape architects is analyzing who’s likely to be in certain sections of the airport at a given time.
“A business traveler has probably already checked in on their phone and doesn’t typically get stressed until the gate,” Browning says. “A family with young kids is probably stressed all the way to the kids’ play area. Someone traveling for a funeral or to see a sick person is never stress-free.” Terrapin will recommend a mix of views, materials, lighting, and pathways to limit stress for every type of flier.
Going forward, Browning wants to go beyond making buildings that reflect the ecology around them—he wants to make them a measurable part of the ecosystem. “We’re assigning numbers to a building’s carbon balance, to how it uses water,” Browning says. “That’s a major area of focus for us.”
But for current clients like Interface, the main focus is helping creative professionals focus.
DeGrace says Interface staff flocked to the new zones created by Terrapin—though some employees needed a few days to acclimate to the freedoms.
“People feel guilty doing something other than sitting at a desk,” he says. “But if you’re open to being more effective and healthier rather than just sitting and drinking more coffee and more coffee, then try … and see what it does.”
Beginning the biophilic breakthrough
You don’t need a master’s degree to bring natural coherence into your workplace. Try these three simple steps:
Place a photo from nature on your desk or your phone wallpaper. Looking at natural settings sparks feelings of calm, alertness, and focus—even if those natural settings are just copies.
Bring a plant to work. Many studies support the link between the volume of flora in an office and the quality of air there. Higher air quality correlates with higher cognitive function and fewer sick days.
Come into the light. At peak work hours—roughly when the sun climbs highest in the sky—work in the brightest part of your office, even if it means toting your laptop to the kitchen or a common area. Cycling your tasks in tune with the course of the day can help limit procrastination (and later on, improve sleep).
It can feel hard to muster Earth Day cheer when the news is often bleak. Climate-change-driven extreme weather is starting to feel like the new normal at the same time global governments are retreating from significant coordinated action.
So how do We Work’s most sustainably-minded innovators manage to keep a bright outlook? They’re inspired by the changes they see happening at the frontlines of battles against climate change, ubiquitous waste, and fossil-fuel consumption. We spoke to members from four organizations—Global Green, Karma, Stojo, and Ubuntu—who collectively work in five countries about the most potentially world-changing ideas in sustainability in 2019.
Organization: Global Green
Mission: Advance solutions to climate change by building sustainable, resilient communities
Names:William Bridge, COO, and Emma Nault, head of strategic partnership and development
Location: WeWork 520 Broadway in Santa Monica, California, and funding projects around California, New Orleans, New York City and more
The next big thing? DIY green infrastructure
Why is this so important? According to Bridge, Global Green’s priorities for action in the many underserved communities in which it operates stem from a core belief: “We need to start taking initiative ourselves and not wait around for government,” he says. That means helping communities most susceptible to the effects of climate change prepare, whether fighting flooding in New Orleans by teaching people how to build a rain garden, or fire prevention in Southern California for families rebuilding after devastating blazes. “Current climate action at the national level is quite ineffective given our political situation,” says Nault.
What does that mean? Swarts’s brand of collapsible coffee cups has successfully capitalized on people’s desire not to waste a cup every time they order coffee—in just five years, the company has sold 1 million of them. But Swarts says coffee cups are just the beginning.“We think of our product as a gateway product to sustainability,” he says. “Once your eyes have been opened to the disposable-cup problem, over time it changes your overall behavior. It changes the way you relate to all single-use plastics.”
What he wants to see happen next: Swarts dreams of the day when cities integrate models for closed-loop systems around waste into their planning. “You could have a deposit system and collection system in infrastructure” similar to a bike-share program, he says. “It would take a combination of using app technology, scanners, barcodes, [and] payment systems to incentivize people to do the right thing to not create more trash.”
Mission: Fight global food waste.
Name: Elsa Bernadotte, co-founder and COO
Location: Based in Stockholm, and operating all over Sweden and in Paris and London, from where Bernadotte works at WeWork 41 Corsham St
Next big thing: Extremeyouth activism
How it’s playing out: “Right now, young generations are engaging to raise sustainability as a more important topic and actually express their views on what we need to do to solve the major global issues,” says Bernadotte. She points to the example of Greta Thunberg, the Swedish 16-year-old whose school strikes to protest climate change attracted more than 1 million students worldwide this March (and are scheduled to happen again May 24). “She has taken the lead in that sense, and there will be more after her,” adds Bernadotte.
How does that impact Karma’s work? Karma makes an app that helps restaurants and grocery stores reduce food waste by letting them sell it at half-price at the end of the day. She regards the youthful energy around sustainability as a signpost that her business is focused on the next generation of consumers. “They will be the future of customers,” she says.
Organization: Ubuntu Power
Mission: Provide power, internet, and other infrastructure to off-the-grid communities in sub-Saharan Africa
The next big thing? Following the lead of developing markets for energy solutions
How does that work, exactly? “There’s a general trend toward more renewable sources of energy and decentralizing that away from central coal, power stations, fracking, and all the fossil fuels—breaking [the system] up into hyperlocalized generation units,” explains Herrada. But as climate change forces economies in the developed world to reckon with the fragility of their power grids in the face of extreme events like hurricanes and persistent flooding, models like Ubuntu’s are becoming increasingly relevant in places like North America and Australia. “The greater innovation and rate of development is being done in the frontier markets in contexts that have been considered poorer,” he says. “And then those innovations are fed back into developed markets.” He compares the process to mobile payments, which took off in Africa and China well before in the U.S. or Europe.
Startup founders have infamously unpredictable daily schedules as they work to establish and grow their businesses. What does such an entrepreneur’s weekly, daily, or even hourly routine look like when sometimes there aren’t enough hours in a day? In The Startup Diaries, founders walk us through a week in their lives and show what it really takes to get a fledgling business off the ground.
Think about how much food you’ve unintentionally let go to waste in your refrigerator on your best week. Now imagine how much more must go to waste in the hands of a restaurant or grocery store on any given day. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, roughly one-third of the food produced for human consumption worldwide gets lost or wasted—that’s 1.3 billion metric tons.
Karma, an app launched in Sweden in 2016, is working to change that.
Its four co-founders initially launched the company as a sort of crowdsourced Groupon, where users uploaded photos of discount offers and earned “Karma points” (more discounts) in return. “We failed 100 percent in our first eight months,” co-founder and COO Elsa Bernadotte says.
But the flop prompted the partners to assess what about their platform was working: They noticed how eager users were to access discounted food—and that led them to research the food industry. “We learned that discounted food exists because if it’s not sold, it’s going to become food waste,” Bernadotte, a WeWork Labs member at WeWork 41 Corsham St in London, says. “And we realized that food waste is a massive environmental problem.”
Within three weeks, they retooled their platform to connect users with discounted surplus food from participating restaurants, cafes, and grocery stores—and convinced their initial investors to stay on board. “The response [from users and the food industry] was crazy,” Bernadotte says. “I was blown away.” Today, Karma works with 2,000 retailers, has half a million users (a number they expect to double by the end of the year), and reports “rescuing” 295 tons of food to date.
Below, Bernodette, who relocated to London to launch Karma’s UK market earlier this year (next up: Paris), shares a diary of a recent workweek.
6 a.m. Wake up confused about where I am, then remember I moved Airbnbs yesterday. I move around a lot. My motto is to be where I’m needed the most, and right now we’re very much focused on growing the business here in the U.K.
6:15 a.m. Out the door and to the gym. I’ve got a challenge going with a friend back home in Stockholm to work out three times a week, so I send her a text to brag that I made it. Loser buys dinner, and I’m super-competitive.
7:30 a.m. Back home and jump into the shower.
7:45 a.m. Daily 15-minute “micro” update call with the management team. We set the call just before working day in Sweden at 8:45 a.m., which means the U.K. office joins the call at 7:45 a.m. This almost always means I’m on the call while in the shower. I also fry a couple of eggs and put on my makeup before the call is even up. Sometimes it works, but this time I burn the eggs. Eat them anyway.
8:15 a.m. Out the door for an early start at WeWork. Make a coffee as the rest of the U.K. team filters in. There are 13 of us in the U.K. and about 40 in Sweden.
9 a.m. Join the Monday morning all-hands briefing on video chat (we’ve got a TV set up in our office).
10 a.m. Prep deck for a big retailer we’re trying to get on board.
12 p.m. Stop for lunch. Open the Karma app and pick out some sushi to rescue from one of our best-selling retailers in Shoreditch, only a 10-minute walk from our Old St office.
1 p.m. Head down. Back to work on deck and other tasks.
5:30 p.m. Gather the team to celebrate progress with drinks and cake. If we’re going to have radical candor, it’s also so important to make sure we have fun. We do one or two team trips every year with that in mind. Just a couple weeks ago we went skiing together in the north of Sweden.
7 p.m. Meet a friend for dinner. We go to Cay Tre for some amazing pho and catch up about life.
9 p.m. Back home. Try to unwind, watch Netflix, and switch off, but end up catching up with emails and Slack messages instead.
12 a.m. Fall asleep with my laptop open. Oops.
7 a.m. Wake up later than usual—it’s a no-gym day. Take my time and get on with my usual shower-management-call-eggs-and-makeup routine.
8:30 a.m. Get to the office and put out some fires before my day properly starts.
9 a.m. Coffee. Essential.
10 a.m.-6 p.m. Tuesday is the day when I have most of my staff one-on-ones, so I’m usually chatting back-to-back with my direct reports. We practice radical candor at Karma, so I’m having what I like to call “positive arguments” with some recent hires. I actually love it when the team has strong opinions and we disagree—it helps us grow faster.
My parents used radical candor with me early on, and I found it very painful, but also very helpful. It made me less uncomfortable with being quite blunt and direct about things, and it builds a lot of trust, which ultimately creates the most meaningful relationships.
7 p.m. Thinking about dinner. Decide to order a pizza at home.
8 p.m. Dig into pizza while catching up with the computer-science course I’m doing part-time at Harvard. Sounds fancy, but I’m just trying to speak the same language as the tech leads at Karma.
11 p.m. Get into bed to read. I’m usually juggling several business books at once, but I’m trying to read more fiction to switch off more.
7 a.m. Wake up and do my usual routine.
8:30 a.m. Breakfast meeting with the ex-founder of Hello Fresh, a recipe-box service, to learn about how they conquered the U.K. market. Part of my job is to meet a lot of people who can add different perspectives and values to the table. You never know what insights someone might have until you talk to them—in this case, I learned a ton.
11 a.m.-3 p.m. Back in the office. This week we’re setting our OKRs (objectives and key results) for the quarter, and it’s taking a lot of time to align everyone across the company as we’re onboarding a new tool. OKR drafting always takes time away from the day-to-day work of the team, but it’s for the greater good of the company and essential to goal-setting for each team member—or Karmeleon, as we say internally.
5 p.m. Why am I already hungry for dinner? Grab a decaf coffee outside the office to get some air.
6 p.m. Is it dinnertime yet?
7 p.m. Grab dinner from Tesco (a U.K. grocery store) and make a halloumi salad. Then devour some Ben & Jerry’s. Life is about balance, right?
8 p.m.-10 p.m. Catch up on work. I spent last week in Dubai with my fiancé, so I’m feeling behind.
11 p.m. Meditate for 15 minutes with the Calm app. Tell myself I’ll meditate more often because I feel so great afterward, but I never manage to make it a habit. Get an early night.
6 a.m. Wake up and hit the gym. I didn’t sleep well, so I’m a bit slower today.
8 a.m. Take a call with one of our investors. We have a close relationship—they’ve been behind us as we’ve grown internationally over the past two years.
8:30 a.m. Head to WeWork. Obligatory coffee.
9 a.m. Work as usual. Things are busy—everyone’s playing catchup on the time they lost on OKRs yesterday.
12 p.m. LUNCH! Stop by Pret for a salad. I’m trying to eat more vegetables.
12:30 p.m. Back to work. Big sales meetings happening this afternoon.
4 p.m. Sales meeting. It’s a huge success and could be totally game-changing for us. Can’t reveal any more than that, but I’m so excited that I can’t concentrate for the rest of the day.
5:30 p.m. Finally get my focus back and am deep into a spreadsheet tracking U.K. costs to date. Is it sad that I love a good spreadsheet? Because I totally do.
6:30 p.m. Dinner with the U.K. team. I’ve invited them over to my humble abode (the Airbnb flavor of the month) to host a “Working With” workshop, where everyone gets to discuss how they prefer to work. I love doing these sessions—there’s massive learning potential.
6 a.m. Wake up and hit the gym. Ping my friend that I’m two sessions ahead of her and it’s Friday… I’m loving this competition.
7 a.m. Back home for the usual shower-management-call-eggs-and-makeup routine.
8 a.m. Pack for Berlin. Surreal and dream-come-true moment: We’ve been invited by the Obama Foundation to meet former President Barack Obama for a roundtable discussion with other “future leaders” in Europe. Fingers crossed we get to work with them more.
10 a.m. I hate packing—it always takes longer than I expect.
10:15 a.m. Head to WeWork for a half-day before my flight. I’ll not see the U.K. team for a week while I’m away so I’ve put some meetings on my calendar to catch up with everyone.
12:30 p.m. Starving. In Sweden, lunch is usually no later than 12 p.m., but in London, everyone waits until 1. Rescue some Turkish food for lunch from the Karma app.
1 p.m. Back to work before leaving for the airport.
6 p.m. Fly to Berlin.
10 p.m. Get to my hotel for the next two nights. Room service. Crash. I love routines, so the traveling lifestyle doesn’t fit perfectly with my personality. But on the other hand, I believe in our mission, and right now there are a lot of things that need to be done. That challenge I love.