How to Apply for a Personal Loan if You’re Self-Employed

Be prepared with past tax returns, bank statements and other documents that prove your income.
Sara Rathner
Nicole Dow
By Nicole Dow and  Sara Rathner 
Edited by Kim Lowe

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Qualifying for a personal loan can be a bit complicated if you’re self-employed. Lenders may ask for documents proving your income, which typically means providing W-2s. If you’re self-employed, you don’t have W-2s.

Still, applying for a personal loan if you’re self-employed is possible. You’ll just need to have different documents ready to send if the lender asks for them.

How to get a personal loan as a self-employed borrower

Being self-employed doesn’t have much impact on the process of applying for a personal loan. What’s different is the documents you’ll submit to prove you earn enough income to repay the loan.

A personal loan application typically requires:

  • Personal information including your home contact information, birthdate, Social Security number and citizenship status.

  • Financial information including annual income, income sources, and monthly housing expenses and debt obligations.

  • Employment information including your employment status, current employer and length of time working there.

  • Loan request information including the reason for the loan and the amount you seek to borrow.

Some lenders allow you to pre-qualify for a personal loan, meaning you can see your potential loan rate and terms without a hard credit inquiry. That can spare you a temporary ding to your credit score while you weigh your options.

How to prove self-employment income

Have these documents on hand to prove your self-employment income:

  • Federal tax returns for the past two years, including all schedules, like a Schedule C and Schedule SE.

  • 1099s for the past two years.

  • Bank statements.

  • Profit and loss statements, if you run your own business.

Not all lenders ask for proof of income, but it pays to be prepared, especially if you make money from more than one source, like contract or freelance work for multiple clients.

Other forms of income lenders accept

Lenders often consider other sources of regular income such as:

  • Retirement income.

  • Alimony.

  • Child support.

  • Rental income.

  • Social Security benefits.

  • Disability benefits.

Include all your income sources on a loan application to increase your likelihood of approval.

Lenders that accept self-employment income

The following lenders accept documents such as tax returns, 1099s and bank statements as proof of income from self-employed loan applicants.



Loan amount

Acceptable proof of income

11.29% - 21.34%.

$7,000 - $50,000.

  • Most recent tax return.

  • Recent bank statement.

8.98% - 35.99%.

$1,000 - $40,000.

  • Most recent tax return.

  • W-2 or 1099 forms.

  • Recent bank statements.

8.99% - 29.99%.

$5,000 - $100,000.

  • Most recent two years’ tax returns, including applicable schedules.

  • Most recent two years’ W-2 or 1099 forms.

  • Most recent pay stub, if applicable.

8.49% - 35.99%.

$1,000 - $50,000.

  • Most recent two years’ tax returns, including applicable schedules.

  • Most recent bank statement showing relevant income within the past 40 days.

7.80% - 35.99%.

$1,000 - $50,000.

  • Most recent tax return.

  • Most recent bank statement showing proof of income.

  • Digital deposited check images, invoices or pay stubs.

  • Offer letter for certain contractors with less than one year of verifiable income.

Tips to strengthen your loan application

Self-employed individuals can find themselves at a disadvantage if they can’t show lenders sufficient proof of income.

Sometimes, this is because income can fluctuate when you work for yourself, which means your recent bank statements may not be representative of your annual income. Claiming many business expenses can also lower your taxable income, which may be a barrier to qualifying for a personal loan.

If you can’t prove that your income is high enough to qualify for a personal loan, consider adding a co-signer or putting down collateral to strengthen your loan application.

Co-signed loans

Adding a co-signer can boost a personal loan application, because it provides the lender with an additional person who’s legally obligated to repay the loan if you’re not able to make payments.

Choose a co-signer with stable income, a low debt-to-income ratio and a high credit score. A co-signer with a strong financial profile may even help you get a lower annual percentage rate than if you tried to get the loan on your own.

Not all lenders allow co-signers, but some offer joint loans where both individuals get access to the money and are responsible for making payments.

Secured loans

Some lenders offer secured loans, which requires the borrower to pledge something of value that they own — usually a car or savings account — as collateral. You may have a better chance of qualifying for a secured loan than an unsecured one, because lenders know they can take the collateral if you stop making loan payments.

Alternatives to personal loans

If you don't qualify for a personal loan, there may be other options available for you to get the money you need.

Small business financing

If you run your own business, you might qualify for a small business loan, small business grant or business credit card — even if you are a solopreneur. Keep in mind that business loans can usually only be used for business purposes.

Credit card cash advance

There is no application process to get a cash advance from your credit card, so no proof of income will be required to borrow up to a few thousand dollars. However, credit card cash advances may come with cash advance fees and bank or ATM fees. APRs on cash advances are also typically higher than the rate you’d pay on credit card purchases.

Home equity financing

If you’re a homeowner, you might be able to borrow against your home’s equity, which is its value minus what you owe on the mortgage. It can be easier to qualify for a home equity loan or home equity line of credit, because your home serves as collateral. However, the lender could foreclose on your home if you don’t make payments on time.

Loans from family or friends

Though it may be uncomfortable to ask people you know for money, a loan from a family member or friend can be a quick, low-cost borrowing option that doesn’t require proof of income. Make sure both parties agree to a repayment plan, put it in writing, and get it signed and notarized.

Frequently asked questions

You’re unlikely to qualify for a loan without any proof of income, because lenders consider income when determining a borrower’s ability to repay a loan.

Having bad credit (a score under 630) won’t necessarily prevent you from getting a loan, but you may have a smaller pool of lenders to choose from. Consider credit unions, which tend to have looser lending requirements for members, or online lenders that provide loans for bad-credit borrowers. Keep in mind that your loan will likely come with a higher APR.

See if you pre-qualify for a personal loan – without affecting your credit score
Just answer a few questions to get personalized rate estimates from multiple lenders.

on NerdWallet

Comparing options? See if you pre-qualify for a personal loan - without affecting your credit score
Just answer a few questions to get personalized rate estimates from multiple lenders.

on NerdWallet

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