How Can I Prove Income as a Freelancer?

You’ve found the apartment of your dreams: It’s got a gorgeous view, a modern kitchen, a fancy shower, and more than enough space to store your belongings and easily accommodate guests. Now, all you have to do to get your name on the lease is to submit an application demonstrating good credit, leasing history, and stable income. The latter of these requirements may be challenging to document If you work in the gig economy rather than at a full-time job – to prove income as a freelancer, you can’t rely on biweekly pay stubs, the preferred way to demonstrate income. With the gig economy set to keep growing, more apartment applicants will need to find alternatives to pay stubs that landlords will accept –  here’s how to prove income as a freelancer.

Tax returns

As a freelancer, your payment schedule is a far cry from the biweekly checks that most full-time jobs give their employees. Your clients might pay you at completely random, unpredictable points during the month, but that doesn’t always mean your annual income is any less than a full-time worker’s – and your tax returns can prove that.

Your tax return is firm proof of your annual income. It’s a far clearer way for a potential new landlord to see that you made $35,000 freelancing last year than to show them all of your checks and direct deposits for that year’s most profitable month. Of course, this logic assumes you were freelancing last year too – if you weren’t, you’ll need to prove income as a freelancer in other ways.

Bank statements

After tax returns, bank statements are your next best option. Including several months of bank statements with your tax returns can help show your potential new landlord how much money you’ll bring in per month, which can help them to better understand how easily you can afford the rent. That said, the first rule of freelancing is that your income will inevitably vary from month to month, so bank statements shouldn’t be your primary way to prove income as a freelancer unless you’re new to freelancing. If you don’t yet have a tax return to display from a full year’s worth of freelancing, you’ll need to turn to bank statements instead – but the buck doesn’t stop there.

Invoices, contracts, deal memos, and other payment paperwork

If you’re getting paid as a freelancer, then you’re likely invoicing your clients or signing deal memos that outline the amounts your clients owe you. Include these in your apartment application to prove not just that you’re working, but that you’re getting paid, too. You can also include signed freelance contracts and other letters from your clients to prove income as a freelancer.

Be upfront and consider all the options

With some landlords, you can explain that you’re freelance and that you’ve provided ample documentation of your income in one fell swoop. Just say something along the lines of, “I’m self-employed, so instead of my three most recent pay stubs, I’ve brought two years of tax returns and three months of bank statements to prove my income.” 

Before you start your application, you can also ask whether you’ll be able to pursue two of the more extreme, ideally last-resort options available: Getting a guarantor or paying your security deposit in cash. If you feel a guarantor is necessary, then gather all the information and documents needed from your guarantor before you start applying. If your potential new landlord agrees to take you on only if you pay your security deposit in cash, then make sure to get a written receipt of your cash deposit before you hand it over. Cash payments are extremely risky, but if you approach them with care and safety, they can prove helpful.

Do you have any advice on how to prove income as a freelancer? Share your tips in the comments!

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