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Does being self-employed affect your credit score?

Credit scores play a crucial role in your financial life, affecting the ability to borrow money, secure mortgages, and even influence rental and employment opportunities.


The shift towards self-employment has been significant over the past few years. As of now, millions of Britons have embraced self-employment, valuing the flexibility and autonomy it offers. However, this shift raises questions about the impact of self-employment on various financial aspects, particularly credit scores.

Understanding how self-employment affects credit scores is essential for anyone navigating the UK’s financial landscape independently.

What is a credit score?

Before delving into self-employment and its impact on credit scores, it’s crucial to understand what a credit score is and how it’s calculated.

In the UK, credit scores are numerical representations of your creditworthiness. They are determined based on your credit history, including your repayment history, the amount of credit you currently have, your use of credit, the length of your credit history, and the number of credit inquiries.

Credit reference agencies (CRAs) in the UK, such as Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion, compile this information and use it to calculate your credit score. Lenders then use these scores to assess the risk of lending to you. A higher score indicates a lower risk, potentially leading to more favourable borrowing terms.

The self-employed challenge

Being self-employed introduces a layer of complexity to the process of building and maintaining a good credit score. This complexity arises from the nature of self-employment income, which tends to be more variable than income from employment. Lenders often view this income variability as a risk, fearing that it might affect your ability to make regular payments.

Income fluctuation and proof of income

One of the primary challenges for the self-employed is providing a stable income. Lenders typically look for consistent income streams when assessing loan applications. For the self-employed, whose income may fluctuate from month to month or year to year, providing this proof can be challenging. This variability can make lenders cautious, potentially affecting the interest rates and credit limits offered.

Credit application processes

The credit application process can also be more demanding for the self-employed. Lenders might require additional documentation, such as tax returns or profit and loss statements, to assess financial stability. This need for more documentation can slow down the application process and make it more cumbersome for self-employed individuals.

How to improve your credit score when self-employed

Despite the challenges, being self-employed does not doom one to a poor credit score. Several strategies can mitigate the impact of self-employment on creditworthiness:

Maintaining accurate records

Keeping detailed and accurate financial records is crucial. This documentation can provide lenders with the necessary evidence of income stability and financial responsibility.

Building a strong credit history

Using credit wisely and responsibly can help build a strong credit history. This includes making credit payments on time, keeping credit utilisation low, and avoiding excessive credit applications.

Separating personal and business finances

Separating personal and business finances can help clarify your financial situation. This separation makes it easier for lenders to assess your personal creditworthiness without the complexities of business finances.

Establishing a good relationship with a bank

Building a strong relationship with a bank can also be beneficial. A bank that understands your financial history and business model may be more willing to consider your loan application favourably.

The bigger financial picture

It’s important to remember that credit scores are just one part of the financial picture. Lenders also consider other factors, such as your savings, investment income, and the stability of your business. Demonstrating financial responsibility across these areas can help offset concerns about income variability.

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Frequently asked questions

Can self-employed individuals get loans as easily as employed individuals?

Self-employed individuals might face more scrutiny when applying for loans due to the perceived unpredictability of their income. Lenders often require additional documentation from self-employed applicants, such as tax returns and business accounts, to assess financial stability. However, with thorough preparation and by demonstrating a steady income, self-employed individuals can successfully secure loans, albeit possibly with slightly more effort than employed individuals.

How do lenders view self-employed applicants with fluctuating incomes?

Lenders typically prefer stability and predictability in an applicant’s income. Fluctuating incomes common among the self-employed can be seen as a risk, potentially affecting the applicant’s ability to make consistent payments. Self-employed individuals may mitigate this by providing evidence of a stable average income, sufficient savings, or a solid track record of regular, on-time payments.

What can self-employed individuals do to improve their chances of getting approved for credit?

What can self-employed individuals do to improve their chances of getting approved for credit?

Do credit reference agencies treat self-employed people differently?

Credit reference agencies (CRAs) do not treat self-employed individuals differently in the way they compile credit reports. The CRAs assess an individual’s credit history based on the same criteria, such as repayment history and credit utilisation, regardless of employment status. However, the variability in self-employed incomes can indirectly affect the credit score if it leads to inconsistent credit behaviour.

What type of credit is most affected by being self-employed?

The impact of self-employment is generally felt more acutely when applying for personal loans and mortgages, where proof of stable income is crucial. Credit products that rely heavily on income verification and financial stability assessments may pose greater challenges for self-employed individuals due to the perceived income volatility associated with self-employment.

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