ICBA Blog

The Independent Contractor’s Guide to Obtaining Job References

Here are some specific strategies you can use to get good references for your gig work

Rounding up job references can be especially difficult for independent contractors due to the fluctuating nature of gig work. Obtaining job references can be especially difficult for independent contractors due to the impermanence of gig economy work. We’ve put this guide together to improve your chances of receiving positive endorsements from former managers and fellow workers.

Choose references who know your strengths

Even for temporary gigs, be prepared to provide a list of references who can vouch for your qualifications. If you are successful in your contract work, managers and colleagues make excellent professional references. But if you have a gap in your employment history or have limited work experience, it’s acceptable to use personal references instead. Just be sure that your personal references know your strengths and can speak about your character genuinely. Employers want an understanding of your temperament and people skills.

References are people who can talk about your work accomplishments, work ethic, job skills, and character. When listing job references, you should be ready to provide their name, job title, company, relationship to you, and contact information. Your personal and professional references must also be reliable and able to respond promptly to the companies inquiring about you. For more information on whom to ask for a job reference, check out this article from The Balance Careers.

Prep your references

To ensure that you receive only positive work endorsements when applying for new or additional gig work:

  1. Ask potential references upfront if they feel they know your work well enough to provide you with a reference.
  2. Explain that it is okay if they need to decline. Keep in mind that for legal reasons, some companies do not allow employers to provide references.
  3. Make the process easy for those who agree to provide a reference for you. Once you’ve secured an endorsement, verify the reference’s contact information, job title, and company name. Share your current resume with them, and review the skills and experience you would like them to highlight. Coach your references on the information that they should provide, explaining how it pertains to the position. Be specific about your goals.
  4. Ask your references how they prefer to be contacted.

 Write a resume reference list

Companies ask for references at different points in the application process, depending on the job. Preparing a resume reference list in advance is helpful. Once you line up your endorsements, draft a document that matches the font and style of your resume and cover letter. This piece from Indeed shows how to write a resume reference list (with examples). It also details how to determine how many references to include.

Follow up with your references

It’s good form to send professional references a note thanking them for their time and effort after they’ve agreed to help you. Each time you submit a name as a reference, be sure to let that person know so that they can expect to be contacted. If you do land the freelance role you’re seeking, it’s a nice gesture to let your references know the outcome.