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What Percentage of My Small Business Income Should I Pay Myself?


Determining how much to pay yourself as a small business owner can be a complex decision, balancing between rewarding your hard work and ensuring the sustainability of your business. The answer varies depending on several factors, including your business’s profitability, growth stage, and financial needs. Proper management of your small business checking account can offer insights into how much you can afford to pay yourself without jeopardizing your business’s financial health. This guide explores strategies to help you decide what percentage of your small business income should go to your personal compensation.

Understanding Your Business’s Financial Health

Before deciding on your salary, it’s crucial to have a clear understanding of your business’s financial standing. This involves closely monitoring your small business checking account to track income, expenses, and cash flow.

Assess Profitability

Review your business’s profit margins to determine how much net income remains after covering all operating expenses. This profitability analysis is key to understanding how much your business can afford to pay you.

Evaluate Cash Flow

Cash flow—the amount of cash that flows in and out of your small business checking account—affects your ability to draw a consistent salary. Positive cash flow indicates that your business has enough liquidity to cover salaries, including your own, without affecting operational efficiency.

Factors Influencing Owner’s Salary

Several factors should influence your decision on how much to pay yourself, ensuring that your salary aligns with both personal needs and business goals.

Business Growth Stage

Startup Phase: In the early stages, you might need to reinvest most profits back into the business to fuel growth, often leading to a lower personal salary.

Established Business: Once your business is more established and generating steady profits, you can consider increasing your salary.

Industry Standards

Research typical salary ranges within your industry for a benchmark. However, remember that your business’s specific circumstances will also play a significant role in determining your salary.

Personal Financial Needs

Consider your personal financial obligations and goals. While it’s important to support the business, you also need to ensure you can meet your living expenses.

How Much Should You Pay Yourself?

The Percentage Method

One approach is to tie your salary to a percentage of the business’s profits. For many small business owners, paying themselves 30-50% of the business profits is a common practice. This method ensures that your salary adjusts with the financial performance of your business, promoting sustainability.

The Market Rate Method

Another method is to pay yourself what you would earn if you were doing a similar job for another company. This approach considers the value of your work in the marketplace, ensuring you receive fair compensation for your efforts.

The Fixed Amount Method

You might choose to pay yourself a fixed amount, based on your personal financial needs and the business’s ability to pay. This method offers consistency but requires regular review to ensure it remains aligned with the business’s financial situation.

Managing Payments Through Your Small Business Checking Account

Regardless of the method you choose, your small business checking account plays a crucial role in managing your salary. Use it to:

  • Separate personal and business finances, simplifying tax preparation and financial management.
  • Set up regular transfers to your personal account, ensuring consistent income.


Deciding how much to pay yourself for your small business involves careful consideration of your business’s financial health, industry standards, and personal financial needs. By closely managing your small business checking account and considering the factors outlined above, you can determine a compensation strategy that supports both your personal well-being and your business’s growth. Remember, the goal is to strike a balance that allows you to live comfortably while ensuring your business thrives.

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