Can 2 independent contractors present and market themselves as a team to clients without formally forming a partnership LLC?

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Can 2 independent contractors present and market themselves as a team to clients without formally forming a partnership LLC?

I work as an independent graphic design and communications contractor. I’ve recently connected with another local communications contractor and we have begun working together on projects for clients. We’ve found we work very well together and would like to begin presenting ourselves as a team to our clients, but we aren’t sure we want to make the leap into forming an LLC or formal partnership at this time. I’d like to develop a brand identity and marketing materials describing our services and was wondering if we can operate as a team of independent contractors using our last names and create a website using this name, as well as business cards and other collateral – but on the business side, we would track and bill for our hours separately, and manage our income and expenses separately as sole proprietors. Any joint expenses i.e. printing business cards would be split equally. Is this technically okay to do as an independent contractor or are there restrictions on marketing yourself as a team but managing the books as sole proprietors? We would prefer to operate this way because we’re unsure of how long we will want to be in business together.

Asked on November 21, 2016 under Business Law, Michigan

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 4 years ago | Contributor

Legally, you can work jointly and market yourself to customers as team without forming a partnership or LLC. The only restriction is, don't lie to customers. So present yourself as a team, but not as a single business; if customers ask about the arrangement, describe it honestly and accurately.
The above said, there are advantage to forming an LLC, chief of which is the liability protection it affords you. You may wish to consider forming an LLC to protect personal assets from business debts or liabiltiy. You can always include provisions for dissolving the LLC if either of you want out.


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