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My question is...in the event that my earned income is less than the $18k Max allowed employee contribution, can I even contribute that amount or am I strictly reduced to only being able to contribute a percentage of my earnings after I figure out what it is end of year.

What year are you asking about? The 401(k) contribution limit for employee deferrals hasn't been $18k since 2017. In 2018, the limit was $18.5k and this year (2019), it's $19k. However, you should have long since made your 2017 and 2018 contributions, so, I'm confused about what year you are asking about.

That said, if your earned income is less than the limit, the amount that you can contribute to the 401(k) plan must be adjusted for self-employment taxes, so it will be less than your total earned income. Fidelity has a calculator here https://scs.fidelity.com/products/mobile/sepMobile.shtml that can help you figure out how much can be contributed.

What if I have a net loss?

No profit, no contribution. Also, no self-employment taxes.

AJ
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