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Business loans vs. crowdfunding

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You might have heard of crowdfunding as a free alternative to business loans. And for some new or underperforming businesses, it can be a cheaper option with the bonus of raising brand awareness. But business loans might be a better choice if your company needs funding fast, doesn’t have the marketing resources to get the most out of crowdfunding or doesn’t want to give up equity.

Business loans vs. crowdfunding at a glance

Business loansCrowdfunding
How it worksApply to borrow a one-time amount of funds from a lender and pay it back plus interest and fees over a set period of time, usually five to 20 years.Set up a campaign on a crowdfunding platform to raise money from the public or investors, often in exchange for rewards or equity.
Typical eligibilityGood credit, at least one year in business, at least $100,000 in annual revenueFew to no restrictions
Cost4% to 99% APR
  • Rewards-based: Platform fee of 5% to 15% of the money raised, plus a payment processing fee of 3% to 6%
  • Equity: Platform fee varies, plus ownership stake in your business
Financing amounts$5,000 to $5 million
  • Rewards-based: Usually no limit
  • Equity: $50,000 to $10 million
How long it takesOne day to a few monthsA few weeks to a few months
Where you can get it
  • Banks
  • Online lenders
  • Credit unions
  • Community development financial institutions (CDFI)
Online crowdfunding platforms

How do business loans work?

Business loans are a type of credit where your business borrows money and pays it back in installments over a set period of time, plus interest and fees. Business loans can be useful for any one-time expense like expansion, a small project or buying new equipment. Businesses that have been around for a while, are cashflow positive and have owners with good credit typically can get the lowest rates.

Applying for a business loan involves submitting an application and documents like your business’s bank statements and tax returns. If you get approved, your lender sends you loan documents to sign and return before receiving your funds. The whole process can take as little as one day if you apply with an online lender and as long as three months if you apply with a bank. Smaller loan amounts typically get processed faster than larger loans.

LoanBuilder, A PayPal Service Business Loans

Our top pick: LoanBuilder, A PayPal Service

Customizable business loans with no hidden fees.

  • Min. Amount: $5,000
  • Max. Amount: $500,000
  • One-time fixed fee charged over the life of the loan
  • Acclaimed customer service
  • Requirements: $100,000+ annual revenue, 1+ years in business, 600+ personal credit score

    Should I consider a business loan?

    Not sure if a business loan is right for you? Here’s when a business loan could be a good idea — and when it might not be. While you can still get a business loan if you have bad credit or your company has only been around for six months, you likely won’t get the most competitive rates.

    Consider a business loan if…

    • Your business is at least one year old.
    • You have good credit.
    • Your business is profitable.
    • You need money fast.
    • Your business can afford to take on more debt.

    Try something else if…

    • You need seed money for a startup.
    • Your business is less than a year old.
    • You or another business owner have bad credit.
    • Your business has spotty cash flow.
    • Your business is already struggling to pay off debt.

    Top business loan providers to compare

    Rates last updated November 19th, 2018
    Unfortunately, none of the business loan providers currently offer loans for these criteria.
    Name Product Product Description Min Loan Amount Max. Loan Amount Requirements
    LoanBuilder, A PayPal Service Business Loans
    Customizable loans with no origination fee for business owners in a hurry.
    $5,000
    $500,000
    Annual business revenue of at least $42,000, at least 9 months in business, personal credit score of 550+.
    Credibly Business Loans
    Funding to cover business expenses with daily or weekly repayments.
    $5,000
    $250,000
    500+ personal credit score, 6+ months in business, $15,000+ average monthly deposits
    National Funding Small Business Loans
    Working capital loans and equipment financing, some high-risk industries may be eligible.
    $5,000
    $500,000
    Be in business at least one year and make at least $100,000 in annual sales. Other loan types have additional requirements.
    Lendio Business Loan Marketplace
    Submit one simple application to potentially get offers from a network of over 75 legit business lenders.
    $500
    $5,000,000
    Must operate a business in the US or Canada, have a business bank account and have a personal credit score of 560+.
    LendingClub Business Loans
    With loan terms that vary from 1 to 5 years, enjoy fixed monthly payments and no prepayment penalties through this award-winning lender.
    $5,000
    $300,000
    12+ months in business, $50,000+ in annual sales, no bankruptcies or tax liens, at least 20% ownership of the business, fair personal credit score or better
    OnDeck Small Business Loans
    A leading online business lender offering flexible financing at competitive fixed rates.
    $5,000
    $500,000
    500+ personal credit score, 1+ years in business, $100,000+ annual revenue
    Fora Financial Business Loans
    No minimum credit score requirement and early repayment discounts for qualifying borrowers.
    $5,000
    $500,000
    Business age 6+ months. Monthly revenue $12,000+. No open bankruptcies.
    LendingTree Business Loans
    Multiple business financing options in one place including: small business loans, lines of credit, SBA loans, equipment financing and more.
    Varies by lender and type of financing
    Varies by lender and type of financing
    Varies by lender, but you many require good personal credit, a minimum business age and minimum annual revenue.

    Compare up to 4 providers

    How does crowdfunding work?

    Crowdfunding is a way for your business to raise a one-time sum of money that it doesn’t need to repay. There are a few different types of crowdfunding, though rewards-based and equity crowdfunding are the most common. Both typically take around a month to raise the funds you need and are great for exciting projects.

    With rewards-based crowdfunding, your business sets up an online campaign to raise money from fans, family and friends and offers prizes in return for donations. With equity crowdfunding, your company raises money from investors in exchange for a share of ownership in your business.

    Rewards-based crowdfunding is usually better for small, creative projects with wide appeal that you can get across with a short video. Equity crowdfunding is typically better for businesses that want to expand or launch a project that they predict will be profitable. It can also be a good source of seed capital for startups, and it’s one of the more popular financing options for the cannabis industry.

    Should I consider crowdfunding?

    Crowdfunding is ideal for businesses that have an exciting or profitable project on the horizon. But there are some situations where you may want to think twice.

    Consider crowdfunding if…

    • Your business can’t qualify for a loan.
    • You need money to start a business.
    • You’re in a high-risk industry.
    • You don’t need money right away.
    • You have the resources to make a compelling campaign.

    Try something else if…

    • You offer a niche product or service.
    • You don’t have a marketing team.
    • You don’t have the time to spend making a strong campaign.
    • You need working capital.
    • You want funding fast.

    Peer-to-peer lenders: Business loan or crowdfunding?

    Peer-to-peer (P2P) lenders fall somewhere between a type of business loan provider and a crowdfunding platform. These lenders work like a crowdfunding platform to connect you with investors who want to profit from your business’s interest payments.

    But the actual process of applying, getting approved and repaying your loan works more like a business loan. You rarely need to submit a pitch deck or marketing video. And your credit score, time in business and revenue usually matter.

    Peer-to-peer business loans typically aren’t as fast as loans from direct online lenders, however, since you often have to wait for investors to fund your loan. With LendingClub, one of the top P2P lenders in the country, the whole process can take several days from the time you’re approved.

    6 business financing alternatives to consider

    Struggling to qualify for a business loan? Don’t have the time to invest in a crowdfunding campaign? Here are some other ways to get financing for your business.

    • Personal loans. While you might need good credit to qualify, a personal loan for business use could be an option if your business doesn’t meet most business lender requirements.
    • Lines of credit. Worried about over-borrowing with a term loan? A line of credit gives you access to a certain amount of funds that you can draw from as you need.
    • Credit cards. If you need to cover a small expense quickly that your business can pay off fast, a business credit card could be more manageable than a loan or crowdfunding.
    • Factoring. High-risk industries like trucking that rely on invoices might have an easier time qualifying for factoring. This involves selling your unpaid invoices to a factoring company at a discount to get access to the money you’re owed.
    • Merchant cash advances. This option gives retail businesses and other companies reliant on credit cards an advance on future sales. It’s typically more expensive than a loan or crowdfunding, but it’s also one of the easiest types of financing to qualify for.
    • Grants. Startups, nonprofits and businesses with a social mission might be able to qualify for a business grant, which you don’t need to repay.

    Bottom line

    Business loans can be a good financing option for businesses that have been around the block a few times, need money for run-of-the-mill expenses or need cash fast. But if you’re a startup, can’t qualify for a business loan or are working on a buzz-worthy project, crowdfunding could be the way to go.

    Don’t think either can give your business what it needs? Find even more financing options and compare lenders by reading our guide to business loans.

    Frequently asked questions

    Picture: Shutterstock

    Anna Serio

    Anna Serio is a staff writer untangling everything you need to know about personal loans, including student, car and business loans. She spent five years living in Beirut, where she was a news editor for The Daily Star and hung out with a lot of cats. She loves to eat, travel and save money.

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