How do you pay yourself as a business owner?

  • Pay & Benefits
Pay Yourself as a Small Business Owner
Peninsula Logo

Peninsula Group, HR and Health & Safety Experts

(Last updated )

As a small business owner, how do you pay yourself? It may seem like a strange question, but many SME owners simply don't know. Read our guide for the full lowdown.

As a small business owner, you’ll need (and, no doubt, want) to pay yourself a wage. But in the hectic rush of managing other aspects of your business, you may not know how to do this. So what are the allowable expenses to provide yourself? In this guide, we’ll point you towards the best option available.

What’s your business?

To take the first step, you’ll need to determine what your business is. This defines your payroll procedure, from your staff members through to yourself. For example, your business may be a sole trader, in a partnership, or a limited company. These all affect how you could pay yourself.

How to pay yourself

It’s important to remain realistic with your wage - especially if you run a small business and money is tight. If you overpay yourself, you could end up jeopardising your business. Conversely, if you underpay yourself, you may accidentally place yourself in financial hardship. When considering your wage, you must work out what your business can afford. Manage your expectations as, further down the venture, you’ll have the opportunity to advance your wage as you see fit. Remember, you should pay yourself out of your profits (as opposed to your revenue). Once you begin earning money, you have to consider tax, payroll for your staff, overheads, and various other fixed costs. You’ll need to separate personal and business expenses. You can do this easily through two different bank accounts. So, you’ll need to open up a business bank account. Through this, you can determine the profitability of your business. After this, maintaining detailed records of expenditure can help you to determine your wage. But consistency is the key. If you’re paying yourself £2,000 p/m for example (circa £25,000 p/a) then you’ll have to work on bringing in revenue to your business. But throughout this you must remember revenue isn’t outright profit—all your expenses should receive consideration before deciding on your worth to your business and then choosing your wage.

Tax efficiency

A small business owner salary can take time to reach its full potential, so you shouldn’t worry if it’s lower than expected to begin with. But there are some techniques you can use to improve your pay. With your salary decided, you can enhance your wage through tax efficiency tactics. Tax laws are, of course, complicated and there are various other ways to maximise how much you earn. The following pointers are an effective starting point.

  • Take a straight salary – This is your easiest option as it’s simple to manage.
  • Have a salary alongside dividend payments – If you have stocks or shares in your business then you could take a low salary and pay yourself with dividend payments. The latter receive less tax on an annual basis, which can save you more money. You’ll have to check this is a legal option for you first, though, so have a word with your tax office to make sure.
  • Payment through stock/stock options – Another tax efficient option. You should, again, talk to your tax office for advice.
  • Combine your salary with an annual bonus - The same as above.
  • Establish a business agreement and pay yourself at a later date – If you’re in a sound financial situation then it’s possible to make a business agreement to defer a payment.

Need more help?

Still wondering what the best way to pay yourself as a small business owner is? Call us today on 0800 028 2420.


Got a question? Check whether we’ve already answered it for you…

Related articles

  • a woman and a man high fiving by a window



    Read our guide on EAP’s. Discover what they are, what they include, and the benefits it can bring to your company.

    Peninsula GroupHR and Health & Safety Experts
    • Pay & Benefits
  • A woman typing into a calculator at a desk


    Salary Sacrifice

    In this guide, we'll discuss what a salary sacrifice is, the different salary sacrifice schemes, and its advantages and disadvantages.

    Peninsula TeamPeninsula Team
    • Pay & Benefits
  • a woman sat on her bed in loungewear - with her hands to her heart - facing a computer.


    Employee Mental Health Days

    In this guide, we'll discuss mental health days for employees, the pros and cons of implementing them, and how to offer them in your workplace.

    Peninsula GroupHR and Health & Safety Experts
    • Pay & Benefits
Back to resource hub

Try Brainbox for free today

When AI meets 40 years of Peninsula expertise... you get instant, expert answers to your HR and health & safety questions

Sign up to our newsletter

Get the latest news & tips that matter most to your business in our monthly newsletter.

International sites

© 2023 Peninsula Business Services Limited. Registered Office: The Peninsula, Victoria Place, Manchester, M4 4FB. Registered in England and Wales No: 1702759. Peninsula Business Services Limited is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority for the sale of non-investment insurance contracts.

ISO 27001 and 9001 accredited company.
The Sunday Times - Top Track 250.
Glassdoor 2018 Best Places To Work.