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I'm planning to start a web/app development business - I want to operate as an LLC for the limited liability, but don't plan on taking on any other members or employees. I will really need to build up my portfolio if I want to succeed, and the plan was to work on freelance sites for cheap initially, then once I have a reputation and a good portfolio hopefully I will be able to move on from those sites.

So, if I work under my personal name on those sites, can I put the work that I did under my name into my LLC's portfolio (and vice versa)? It would make sense since I will be the only member of the LLC so anything that the LLC produces is developed by me, but on the other hand a LLC is considered a separate entity from myself, so I'm not sure how that would work?

I know I can work on some freelance sites like elance as a LLC, thus eliminating the problem, but other sites like upwork (and some local freelance sites) only allow individuals and not companies as freelancers.

Another thing: from what I understand, it's the norm for freelancers to sign over their app or website's IP to the client upon payment. Question is, is there a commonly-acceptable way to prove that you developed it? Perhaps in a website I could leave a small note in the footer saying 'Developed by ___', but what about in an app?

  • I dont think using reference should be issue - since you will be be using LLC invoice for all commercial reasons. Further I dont think using footer (developed) by may be a good idea - unless client has some incentive to retain it - like heavy discounts or bug fixes or future support if they display your "developed by" – alpa Jul 17 '15 at 9:40
  • Sorry, I'm not sure what you mean. Are you saying that it's okay to list projects that I made as a personal freelancer, in my LLC's portfolio? – misaochan Jul 17 '15 at 9:53
  • Definitely yes. So long you have developed projects - there is no reason you should be holding your work exhibits either personally or via LLC. But for brevity sake - you could specify some projects were developed at individual capacity then as Firm owner - if that really makes any difference – alpa Jul 17 '15 at 11:36
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What on earth would be wrong with using your personal portfolio for your LLC when your LLC is just you? I hope there is not a human alive that would take issue to that. Look at it from a different angle - would you discard your entire portfolio if you legally changed your name just because those items were developed "under a different name"?

You have to get the client's approval before putting a "site design by" type message in the footer. Depending on the client, you may need to offer a discount or other incentive. I'm not sure it needs to be a "heavy" discount if it's subtle.

For a mobile app, if the client is opposed to a credits page (it is bizarre to me that almost no apps have credits), you can ask the client if you can include an easter egg that people wouldn't activate on accident (e.g. long hold on the title graphic for 7 seconds to make your name appear). Keep in mind that if it's an iOS app, Apple demands to be notified of any and all easter eggs in an application.

  • Thanks! I guess I'm just inexperienced in the self-employed world in general, and I haven't seen any precedent for this. You make a very good point about the name change - I come from a culture where almost nobody legally changes their name, so I had no idea how people handle that either. I hope you don't mind another question - what prevents people from falsely claiming that they developed a certain app or website and putting it in their portfolio? If someone took something I made (hypothetically speaking) and claimed it as theirs, how would I resolve that and 'prove' that it is mine? – misaochan Jul 18 '15 at 4:15
  • @mélange : Sometimes there isn't much to prevent an individual from making false claims in their portfolio. It can take diligence on the part of the client or recruiter to investigate the claims (e.g. contact the owner of a website to verify that the individual actually developed it). I've caught freelancers showcasing unedited Bootstrap templates (that they didn't create) as their own work. – user45623 Jul 20 '15 at 19:04
  • If you call someone out on claiming false credit for your work, normally they'll back off. If not, you may need to prove your role, either by demonstrating that you have the original assets/source, or by contacting the client to have them verify that you did the work. – user45623 Jul 20 '15 at 19:05
  • Human's no, government agencies and the courts maybe. – cdkMoose Jul 20 '15 at 19:50
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It would make sense since I will be the only member of the LLC so anything that the LLC produces is developed by me, but on the other hand a LLC is considered a separate entity from myself, so I'm not sure how that would work?

IANAL and IANAA, but this is the crux of the protection you gain from the LLC. Every case is different, but you should be very careful of blurring the lines between you and your LLC. If you don't treat them as separate, the courts and the IRS may treate you as one also. Something like ownership of work is part of the definition of "separate entity". I would recommend you talk to a small-business lawyer or accountant just to make sure. Better safe than sorry.

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