Whether you are an entrepreneur looking to get more clients or maybe you are looking to get hired back as an employee, references for self-employed can be tricky. If you’ve been in the self-employed business for years, chances are you can’t rely on your previous referees. Either they wouldn’t have any accurate information of your current affairs or perhaps some other reason, you can be stuck with how you can get employment references who can vouch for you.

Employment References for The Self-Employed

How Do You Get Employment References?

Before we jump in, the first thing is to know the best ways of getting employment references. One good way is actually through a person’s stomach such as taking them out to lunch. Of course during the invite mention you are looking for references but also that you’d like to catch up.

The reason this approach works is because as a self employed worker, the chances are you’ve worked closely with the person and they can get a good feel for you professionally. At the very least, the people you plan to use as referees should be people you’ve worked closely with for an extended period of time.

With this in mind, you can already get a pretty good idea of the kind of people you can use as employment reference referees.

Your Customers

Your first option is through your customers. As was suggested above, the customer option is viable if you are more service oriented. If so, the chances are you’ve engaged with the customer for an extended period of time. They can be used as a reference either on your site, leave reviews, or in the event where you do have to work for someone else they too can be used as a credible source as one of many employment references.

Clients are ideal for self-employed individuals in those cases because of their longer history that you have with them. If you mainly sell products, you may have to consider other people.

Professionals You’ve Worked With

Your next best option is professionals you’ve worked with. This suggests suppliers, sponsors, and other members in the industry you have worked with. Again you want to be able to have these people adequately represent you and describe you with familiarity. As such you want to focus your time on people you’ve been dealing with on the regular.

Again, suppliers can be great references for products, especially if you’ve worked closely with them to make something happen. Furthermore they can be a quality reference in the event you need to get back to job hunting as well.

Professionals Who Are Not Associated With Your Career

Your last option, which really shouldn’t be considered unless you have no other options is people who are professionals, but haven’t engaged with your business. That being said, they can still talk about your character as well as your work ethic. Examples of these are teachers, or perhaps other professionals in your industry that you’ve worked very little with. Perhaps they were part of the same group as you.

Again these individuals may not be directly associated to you, but they have a basic idea of who you are and what you are like professional. Again, I recommend using these employment referees as a last resort.


Understanding how to acquire employment references is a crucial step for self-employed individuals. The art of securing these references often begins with personal connections and extends to professional relationships. Starting by inviting colleagues to lunch, not only to discuss references but to reconnect, can be an effective strategy. The key is to identify individuals with whom you've had substantial professional interactions, allowing them to paint an accurate picture of your capabilities and character.

Your customers, particularly in service-oriented roles, can serve as valuable references due to the extended duration of your engagements. They can provide testimonials on your website or leave reviews, enhancing your credibility. For product-focused entrepreneurs, alternative sources may be necessary.

Professionals you've collaborated with, such as suppliers, sponsors, and industry peers, form another pool of potential references. Choose those with whom you've maintained regular interactions, as they can offer detailed insights into your work.

Lastly, consider professionals not directly associated with your business, such as teachers or peripheral industry contacts. While they may offer insights into your character and work ethic, it's advisable to resort to them only if other options are unavailable.

In summary, the process of securing employment references as a self-employed individual involves a combination of personal rapport and professional credibility. By strategically selecting references from your network, you can bolster your professional profile and enhance your prospects in various career endeavours.

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