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Working under a "company" name, but not as a company...
Thread poster: Brandon Wood

Brandon Wood  Identity Verified
Japan
Local time: 18:52
Japanese to English
+ ...
Nov 24, 2008

I have a question for you all today. I have developed a really wonderful website to use for my freelance translation business. It handles the delivery and ordering process all completely automated and online so clients can order translations, pay, and receive their translations all through the website with no hassle.

That aside, I would like for the website and my translation services through it to operate under a sort of "company-like" name, instead of just my name. For example, something like "Global Translations" (just an example) instead of "Brandon Wood Freelance Translations". However, I do not want to have to go through the hassle of registering as an actual company as this costs time and money, and really does not suit my needs at the moment. If I see substantial growth through this endeavor I may look into registering as a company, but until then I prefer the freedom of being fully freelance.

Does anyone know the legality of putting up a website and working under a more company-like name without actually being registered as a company? Can I simply refer to my freelance operations as a different name other than my real name? Thanks!


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Kaiya J. Diannen  Identity Verified
Australia
Member (2008)
German to English
Where are you? Nov 24, 2008

You need to check the laws where you live. It goes without saying (or should) that what is legal in one location is not necessarily legal in another. Ditto for the steps involved.

Check here for some information for the US:
http://www.business.gov/guides/business-law/business-name/dba.html


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Karen Stokes  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 09:52
Member (2003)
French to English
Business names Nov 24, 2008

In the UK you can operate as a sole trader and trade either under your own name or a business one - I trade as KES_Translate, for example. There are rules about the names you can use, though - lots of info that might be of interest on the Business Link website: http://www.businesslink.gov.uk/bdotg/action/detail?type=RESOURCES&itemId=1073788944

That said, I agree with Janet that if you're staying in Japan you need to check the rules there.

Best,

Karen


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Claudio Nasso  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 10:52
Member (2003)
English to Italian
+ ...
I act as a freelance professional studio with a "company-like" name Nov 24, 2008

Hi Brandon,

here in Italy I trade as a freelance professional studio with a "brand name" without any sort of registering as an actual company and without any problem. Obviously, at least in Italy, I pay taxes, social security contribution, etc. as a natural person and not as a juridical person.

But this is a condition allowed in Italy and I don't know which are the rules abroad.

The only problem could be the payments to you bank c/a (and subject to money laundering and local fiscal rules) that must be addressed to your natural real name and surname. Here in Italy, as a professional, and not as a registered company, the bank c/a holder must be a physical person (i.e. my name and surname and tax data) and not the "company-like" name (as, in fact, it is simply a "brand-name").

Claudio


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Brandon Wood  Identity Verified
Japan
Local time: 18:52
Japanese to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thanks everyone! Nov 24, 2008

Thanks to all who replied to my question. I figured there was some sort of legal stipulation for this type of naming, but I did not know what it was called in Japanese and I couldn't find out any information about it. After reading your descriptions of how it is done if different countries I did some Googling and found out that it is possible by just submitting some forms here in Japan to the tax office.

The term for such a name here in Japan is 屋号 in case anybody else stumbles upon this and has the same question. Thanks all!


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Astrid Elke Witte  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 10:52
Member (2002)
German to English
+ ...
Here in Germany I think it would not be possible Nov 24, 2008

When I started my business a friend who is a lawyer told me that I would have to use my own name, and could add to it "Translation Services" or anything similar, as long as my own name was contained in it. That is because I am a freelancer.

To start a business under a fictitious name, I would have to be a company. There is a big distinction here between a freelancer and a company, and freelancers do not usually want to change over to being a company, because there are too many disadvantages.


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Nicole Schnell  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 01:52
English to German
+ ...
Hm... Nov 24, 2008

Astrid Elke Johnson wrote:

freelancers do not usually want to change over to being a company, because there are too many disadvantages.



What disadvantages?

- As a company, outsourcers are less likely to disrespect you. They won't even dare to mess with you.

- As a company you can set your own terms which MUST be taken seriously.

- As a company, your arm is awfully long, legally.

- As a nobody-freelancer, everybody can treat and smash you like a bug, claiming that you failed to do your job, got fresh on them, and that you are nothing but a louse.

- As a company you have the legal means. Think about it.


What are the disadvantages? Paying 40 Euro or similar to have your business registered? Brandon is located in Japan, so I will not go into any details. I was self-employed back in Germany and here in the US, any advice will be useless to him.

If sitting around for a few hours at whatever public office is uncomfy and proves to be an obstacle, oh well..



Hope I don't sound cranky.. sometimes it's tough to make facts sound nice and entertaining.


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Mervyn Henderson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 10:52
Member
Spanish to English
+ ...
Why not? Nov 25, 2008

Hi Brandon,

Like Claudio, I use an unofficial company name. When I start an e-mail it pops up with my real name, phone details etc., but it doesn't appear on any official forms, because I always assumed this would mean bureaucracy and bother.

The laws will certainly differ between Japan, Italy and the Spanish State, but it's never occurred to me to check, and I can't see why they would be bothered. Of course, if you walk into a government office and say, Can I do this?, there's always the chance someone will say, I don't know, but meanwhile fill in these endless forms and start signing cheques. Check it out if you're the patient type.

And hey Nicole, don't worry - I'm sure nobody thinks you're cranky. Like me, they'll rush to read your posts.


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Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 10:52
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
Depends on where you are Nov 25, 2008

Brandon Wood wrote:
However, I do not want to have to go through the hassle of registering as an actual company as this costs time and money, and really does not suit my needs at the moment. ... Does anyone know the legality of putting up a website and working under a more company-like name without actually being registered as a company?


I think it would depend on your country. In my coutry, you don't have to trade under your business name, although some types of businesses must also mention their real business name in correspondence etc. It is also possible in my country to get the bank to honour cheques made out to your trade-as name (or multiple trade-as names) even though your real business name is something else. Speak to the bank about it. In my country, you don't have to register a business name or a trade name, but if you don't, you don't have the legal protection it offers.


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Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 10:52
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
This may also be country-specific, you know... Nov 25, 2008

Nicole Schnell wrote:
- As a company, outsourcers are less likely to disrespect you. They won't even dare to mess with you.


Only if you can play the bluffing game well.

- As a company you can set your own terms which MUST be taken seriously.


You can do the same as a freelancer.

- As a company, your arm is awfully long, legally.
- As a company you have the legal means. Think about it.


This may be country-specific. In my country, a company has no extra legal means compared to a freelancer (unless the company has many directors). What means are you talking about?


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QUOI  Identity Verified

Chinese to English
+ ...
If you don't want to lose your house... Nov 25, 2008

Registering a business name (or a "brand name") is quite different from registering a company.

When talking about a company, we usually refer to a private company limited by shares or a limited liability company.

A company is an independent legal entity, just like a natural person, can sue and be sued. In many ways a company is no different to a sole trader (a natural person conducting business).

People form companies to conduct business for various reasons, one of which is to legitimately minimize tax. For example, company tax rate is 30% in Australia comparing to 49% top marginal personal tax rate. So if your income is over a certain level, you are better off trading under a company.

As well, owners of a company is usually shielded from personal liability (with some exceptions) when the company fails. So if you don't want to lose your house, hide yourself behind a company


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Brandon Wood  Identity Verified
Japan
Local time: 18:52
Japanese to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Very true, but... Nov 25, 2008

... at large wrote:

Registering a business name (or a "brand name") is quite different from registering a company.

When talking about a company, we usually refer to a private company limited by shares or a limited liability company.

A company is an independent legal entity, just like a natural person, can sue and be sued. In many ways a company is no different to a sole trader (a natural person conducting business).

People form companies to conduct business for various reasons, one of which is to legitimately minimize tax. For example, company tax rate is 30% in Australia comparing to 49% top marginal personal tax rate. So if your income is over a certain level, you are better off trading under a company.

As well, owners of a company is usually shielded from personal liability (with some exceptions) when the company fails. So if you don't want to lose your house, hide yourself behind a company


Very true, although here in Japan the advantages of starting a company as opposed to operating under a business name are minimal if you are fairly small in scale. It costs about $3000 to register as a company here, and then you have the hassle of having to have enough money in the company account to keep up payroll for yourself, even if you're the only employee. That's my main concern because I don't have much money to throw at starting a company to keep myself afloat should I find myself in a slow month.

The difference in taxes here is minimal as well, with around 30% being the company tax and the highest tax bracket something like 35% (maybe 40% max... I forget). Sure, can be a big difference but I think it will be easier to switch over to a company once I am sure I am making that much through my business.

Because I will be the only employee of my business, not counting outsourcing to other translators, and I will not need any loans to get started (cost of web hosting is so cheap these days, and the site I have developed all myself) I just don't see the advantages of trading under a company yet. Perhaps in a couple of years if my business grows... but we shall see.

[Edited at 2008-11-25 12:02 GMT]


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Rod Walters  Identity Verified
Japan
Local time: 18:52
Japanese to English
Waste of time, essentially Nov 25, 2008

My situation is much the same as yours.

If your clients think you're a company, they'll probably expect you to have staff who answer the phone even on Saturdays, and an accounting department that they can talk to when a billing issue arises. You'll then have to disabuse them of the false impression they've formed, with your own encouragement.

I find that being a trusted, honest, professional freelancer is worth more than a creaky company façade that anybody can see straight through after a little to and fro.

By all means make a logo for branding purposes, but there are lots of ronin in business in Japan who are very effective as a one-man brand.


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Nicole Schnell  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 01:52
English to German
+ ...
Misconception? Nov 30, 2008

Samuel Murray wrote:

Nicole Schnell wrote:
- As a company, outsourcers are less likely to disrespect you. They won't even dare to mess with you.

Samuel Murray wrote:
Only if you can play the bluffing game well.


What bluffing game? Either you are a company or you are not. Having a name registered is not sufficient. My company was founded years before I even considered translating, BTW.

This may be country-specific. In my country, a company has no extra legal means compared to a freelancer (unless the company has many directors). What means are you talking about?


You will find more specialized attorneys who are willing to take on a case as a company than as a private person. Makes sense?

@Rod:

If your clients think you're a company, they'll probably expect you to have staff who answer the phone even on Saturdays, and an accounting department that they can talk to when a billing issue arises. You'll then have to disabuse them of the false impression they've formed, with your own encouragement.


Why would anyone be so naive? I know several translation agencies that have accountants coming in once a week, and that's it. Nobody needs a "department". Our accountant does payroll and taxes. She works from her own office.

False impression / bluffing game?

Wow.



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Rod Walters  Identity Verified
Japan
Local time: 18:52
Japanese to English
Companies have more respect for individuals than other companies Nov 30, 2008

Nicole, I sometimes wonder what sort of environment you operate in where you need lawyers to protect you. I've never had anybody try to cheat me in any way, and everybody that I've dealt with has been scrupulous in maintaining their reputation by paying properly. Many of my clients have mistaken me for a company at first because I have a logo, and have not then tried to swallow me whole when I told them that I wasn't.

And I rather think that companies have more to fear from an enraged individual than an enraged company. There are restraints on companies that there aren't on individuals ... especially in Japan where a company of any size wouldn't want an angry foreigner dressed in a suit standing in the lobby brandishing disputed invoices...

At least in my situation, which may well be different from yours, pretending to be a company, or even being a company when you don't need to be, looks naive.

[Edited at 2008-11-30 13:33 GMT]


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