Every entrepreneur knows how difficult it is to start your own business and get the first business loan. And most of them are aware of the fact that keeping that business afloat is an even more difficult task. Unfortunately, over half of new small businesses fail within the first 5 years, mostly due to the lack of funding.
If you don’t want to become a part of this statistic, you need to ensure you have the means to stay in business. The best way to do this is by applying for a small business loan.
Keep in mind that small business loans are nothing to be taken for granted, and you need to be very responsible and do your research before applying for them. So, take a look at this overview of small business loans to learn the fundamentals and stay in the know.
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What is a Small Business Loan?
If you’ve ever taken out a personal loan, a mortgage, or at least used a credit card, you probably have some basic understanding of how borrowing money works. You’ll need to (a) apply for a line of credit, (b) get approved, and (c) pay back the money within a specified time period. At their core, small business loans work essentially the same way.
If you and your business meet the lender’s requirements, you can quickly get the cash you need to keep your business afloat. The money can be used for any type of business expenses you have, payroll, inventory, equipment, even marketing.
Before applying for a small business loan, consider carefully how much money you need, what you will use it for, how much collateral you are willing to risk, and how much time it will take you to pay your loans back.
Secured Vs. Unsecured Small Business Loan
When opting for a small business loan, the first thing that you’ll need to consider is whether you’ll be applying for a secured or unsecured loan.
As always, unsecured business loans come with (a) stricter requirements, (b) higher fees, (c) higher interest rates, and (d) lower limits. This is all because unsecured loans are riskier for the lenders. There’s no collateral that they can seize in case you don’t pay off your loans nor security deposits that they can keep.
Secured business loans are typically better for both the lender and the borrower. The lenders can collect your deposit/collateral in case you’re not paying your loans back, so you will have (a) more flexibility, (b) lower rates and fees, (c) higher limits, and overall (d) better terms and conditions.
In case your business doesn’t have any assets or properties that can be listed as collateral, many lenders will allow you to use your personal property to secure the business loan. While this might not sound ideal, as long as you’re diligent with your loans and debts, you shouldn’t have anything to worry about.
Secured loans often come with more favorable terms and conditions, rates, and fees, and rewards and benefits, so they’re normally a better choice. It’s still important to compare secured loans from a few different lenders to find the best loan features for you and your business.
7 Types of Small Business Loan Offers
Depending on your current financial situation and business needs, you can choose from a variety of different types of small business loans. It’s crucial that you take enough time and consider your choices very carefully, as different loans come with different limits and overall terms and conditions.
Listed below are some of the most popular 7 types of small business loans.
Microloans can be ideal for new business owners, startups, and businesses in disadvantaged communities. As their name would suggest, these loans have very low limits and typically don’t go over $50,000. They’re not offered by banks or credit unions, but rather by non-profit organizations and individuals.
Microloans are a type of unsecured loan that comes at a lower cost. Your fees mostly depend on your credit score, previous borrowing behavior, and overall creditworthiness, and if you’re seen as a less risky borrower, your interest rates can be as low as 6%.
If you’re a new business owner, the best way to build your business credit history might be through microloans. They’re affordable, and their low limit will ensure that you can stay on top of your debts.
Another type of loan for a startup is a personal loan. Many banks and credit unions will reject loan applications from businesses with no operating history, so this might be your only option to get your new business off the ground.
Your loan limit, its rates, fees, and terms and conditions will depend entirely on your personal credit history and creditworthiness, and you’ll need to have a good or excellent credit score to be approved. The biggest downside is that you can harm your personal credit score if you don’t pay off your debts on time.
Businesses that are looking to expand can benefit from term loans. You can take a specific amount of money from a bank or credit union and agree to repay it within a specified time period. Your borrowing amount can be higher with term loans, although you will typically have to offer an asset such as a piece of real estate as collateral.
If your business has established a good credit history, you can get approved for a term loan in a matter of weeks, and immediately get your predetermined lump sum of money.
Related: Check Your Business Credit Score (Equifax)
Small Business Administration (SBA) is a government agency that can get you the funding that you need to keep your business operational. Your loan will be backed by the government, which means that you can expect lower interest rates and fees, and more favorable terms and conditions.
This also means that the requirements will be stricter and that your business has to have a good credit history.
If you’re approved for an SBA loan, you can get a high borrowing amount of up to $5 million, and an excellent repayment period that can go from less than 10 years to up to 25 years.
Keep in mind that you will have to be patient with this loan, as it can take up to a few months to find out about the status of your application.
Business Credit Cards
If you’re interested in a revolving line of credit for your business, you can apply for a business credit card. They operate the same way as personal credit cards. You will need to make minimum monthly payments. You’ll have a credit card limit, and you can collect rewards and bonuses, etc. Business credit cards can come with numerous fees, so always be sure to check the fine print of your credit card agreement before you sign.
These cards are the most beneficial if you have ongoing expenses such as utilities, travel, etc., and since they don’t require collateral – they can be a good option for business owners.
Business Line of Credit
If you need to deal with unexpected expenses or have short term financing needs, a business line of credit might be a good option for you. You will have a credit limit, but you’ll only be paying interest on the money that you’ve spent/drawn. It’s a similar option to term loans, but you’ll have more flexibility at a lower cost.
Speaking of the cost, there might be some unexpected fees with business lines of credit, so again, read the whole agreement and the pricing and information section before you sign anything.
The last type of small business loan that we’ll cover is the equipment loan. They serve to help new business owners buy the proper equipment they need. Normally, the expected lifespan of the equipment is what will set the loan term, and the equipment itself will serve as collateral in case you don’t pay your debts off in time. Your rates and fees for equipment loans will primarily depend on your business’s creditworthiness and the value of the equipment you’re buying.
This can be an excellent solution if you need to buy company cars, machineries, and or e.g. kitchen appliances for a restaurant, etc. Since you’ll own everything that you buy, you can build your business around the equipment.
As you can see, depending on your needs, you can find a wide variety of small business loan offers that can suit you.
Small Business Loan Lenders
Small business owners can find loans from a few different lenders:
- Banks/credit unions
- Alternative sources
A loan from a bank will normally carry a lower interest rate, and you’ll be able to find out pretty quickly whether or not you’ll get approved. Most business owners get an answer within 2 weeks. The problem here is that banks have higher requirements for their applicants and approve only about 20% of all applications.
An SBA loan has its own pros and cons. Being a government agency, SBA offers several loan programs, has favorable terms for the borrowers, and is a safer bet for the lenders. Of course, as with anything that’s government-related, you’ll need a lot of paperwork, and the whole approval process is much longer.
You can also try and apply for a small business loan online. These alternative lenders don’t require you to have an excellent credit score or an impeccable financial history. They do have a lower maximum amount that you can borrow and can come with some hefty fees and interest rates. Always read the fine print of your loan agreements before signing them.
Application Requirements for a Small Business Loan
Just as with any other type of loan or credit, the exact application requirements will vary from lender to lender. Some will allow you to get a small business loan with a poor credit history, and others will just require you to have a longer business financial history.
As a general rule of thumb, you’ll need to provide the following information when you’re applying for a small business loan:
- Personal credit history
- Income tax returns
- Business overview
- Profits and losses statements
- Proof of ownership
- Business financial statements
You might be required to provide additional information, so to stay on the safe side, it’s always best to keep all your financial documents on hand when you’re applying for your small business loan.