I'm a super noob when it comes to this stuff, so please bear with me...
I do a little freelance application development work on the side, and this has recently started to increase. I just took a job to develop a payment gateway for a client. This threw up some red flags and I wanted to make sure I am not personally liable for any damages.
Is it overkill for me to form an LLC? I'm never going to do this fulltime. Can I just sign agreements with my clients relieving me of any personal liability? Is a signed agreement as reliable/powerful as an LLC?
This is absolutely the type of question you want to talk to a lawyer about since everyone's personal circumstances are different. What's right for one person on this board may be drastically not for you. I'd highly recommend finding a good lawyer (and one that focuses on this area) and discussing it with them.
Personally, I've found it worthwhile to put together an LLC for myself as an insulation layer. I did mine in Delaware (like everyone) and the great part is that because so many people do LLCs there, its incredibly easy and inexpensive. You can pay a company $200 upfront and $100/year after that to file all of the paperwork and act as your registered agent in the state.
Again, talk to a lawyer about this as they will be able to give you the best advice for it. Also, they can help you draw up the best contracts for use with your clients - a good contract will go a lot farther (and save you a lot more money in the long run) than any kind of legal status will.
Depends where you live :)
In MA an LLC will run you several hundred dollars per year - I wish it was cheaper, but it ain't. If you only make several thousand, then that several hundred can be a painful yearly cost.
I own (2) LLC's and (2) S-corps and I end up paying around $2k per year just in filing fees. So annoying.