Sole proprietors can use business loans to start a new business, purchase or expand an existing business, meet a sudden increase in demand or buy new equipment and inventory. However, lenders are sometimes hesitant to give business loans to sole proprietors because of the risks involved, which include smaller revenues and the possibility that sole proprietors may become unwilling or unable to continue operating their businesses.
But that doesn’t mean you’re out of options. Sole proprietors can still take advantage of a number of financing options including Canada Small Business Financing Program loans, business lines of credit, personal loans overdraft accounts and invoice financing.
SharpShooter Funding Business Loan
Min. Loan Amount: $500
Max. Loan Amount: $500,000
Interest Rate: Fee based, Prime pricing starting at 9.00%
Requirements: Annual business revenue of $120,000
Free online loan quote
Quick application process
SharpShooter Funding Business Loan
SharpShooter Funding offers loans up to $500,000 for small business owners who have been business for at least 2 years and can show a minimum of $10,000 in monthly deposits.
Min. Loan Amount: $500
Max. Loan Amount: $500,000
Interest Rate: Fee based, Prime pricing starting at 9.00%
Make sure your sole proprietorship meets the eligibility requirements for any loan in question – including any time in business and annual revenue minimums – before applying.
Why is it challenging for sole proprietors to get business loans?
Lenders often view sole proprietorships as risky investments, because sole proprietors have very little separation between their business and personal finances. If a sole proprietor loses an important contract, gets sick or can’t continue their business for some reason, lenders could easily go unpaid.
Sole proprietorships also often have lower annual revenues than larger enterprises, which means many small businesses may struggle to meet lenders’ minimum lending requirements to qualify for a loan. While getting a business loan may be a bit trickier, you still have multiple loan options including overdrafts, lines of credit and invoice financing.
Consider your business’s needs, financial position and the purpose of the funds when evaluating your options. Don’t be afraid to reach out to experts or other successful business owners in your industry for advice on using financial leverage to help your business succeed.
Pro tip! Improve your chances of getting approved by providing lenders with a detailed business plan, a description of your experience in the industry and financial forecasts to assure lenders that their money will be repaid in full.
6 types of loans for sole proprietors
How it works
Pros and Cons
Canada Small Business Financing Program (CSBFP)
Up to $1,000,000
These loans can be applied for through a chartered bank, credit union or a caisse populaire and are at least 75% backed by the Government of Canada. Your business must make under $10 million in revenue annually to be eligible for this program. You’ll need to use the loan funds for a certain purpose and be a for-profit business. Although these loans are government-backed, the approval decision ultimately lies with your financial institution.
Funds can only be used for certain purposes
Must meet eligibility criteria
A personal loan can be used for business expenses. While borrowing amounts are much lower than other types of financing and interest rates are high, you’ll find approval easier as a self-employed business owner.
Good for small, temporary cash flow shortages
Approval based off you, not your business
Exposes you to more personal risk than a business loan
Up to 80% of the invoice amount
Invoice financing gives you an advance on any unpaid invoices. Costs are typically a percentage of the invoiced amount, and you’re expected to pay the advance back quickly after your invoice is due.
A reasonably low-risk option for an established trader
Must have invoices due
Not usually an option for startups
Business line of credit
A line of credit allows you to draw from your credit limit whenever you need, and you only pay interest on the money you actually borrow.
Less risk and cost than a lump sum
Access your funds quickly
Requires good credit
A term loan allows you to borrow a single lump sum and pay it back over a specified term. You can usually borrow anywhere from $1,000 up to $1.25 million over the course of 3 months to seven years. Your business will need to meet minimum annual revenue and time in business requirements.
Can provide your business with a large amount of capital
Fixed monthly payments
Requires rigorous documentation
More stringent eligibility requirements
Several hundred dollars up to $10,000
A business overdraft is a revolving line of credit linked to your business chequing account. Typically, you don’t have to provide collateral or any form of security to get approval, and you only pay interest charges (plus a fee) on amounts you actually use. So, if you don’t dip into the funds, you don’t have to make payments.
You only pay for amounts you use
Usually doesn’t require any form of security
Doesn’t usually come in large amounts
Best for covering unexpected expenses or sudden increases in demand
Alternative funding for sole proprietors
Not all of your capital has to come in the form of loans. Although a sole proprietor won’t be able to sell stock like a corporation, you can still receive capital from other sources.
Angel investors. An angel investor can help you fund a startup or existing business. If your application is approved and you receive funds for your business, the angel investor will own equity in your company.
Business grants. Both the federal government and private organizations offer grants that can help business owners start or expand a business. This is a good option if you qualify because you won’t have to pay back your grant money.
Should I get a personal loan for my sole proprietorship?
As a sole proprietor, you could consider taking out a personal loan rather than a business loan to cover your costs. Both personal and business loans have their benefits, depending on the age of your business and the amount of revenue you generate. Consider the following points:
Depends largely on your personal credit. A lender will mainly consider your personal credit and income to make a loan decision.
Flexible. You can use funds from a personal loan for any legitimate personal or business expenses.
Stricter lending guidelines. You’ll generally have to provide financial documents related to your business.
Stricter spending rules. In most cases, you won’t be able to use a business loan for personal expenses.
What do I need to consider before applying for a loan?
The length of time your business has been operating and its annual revenue will help narrow down your options. Startups will have different needs than businesses that have been running for years. The more you know about your business plans, expenses and cash flow, the better equipped you’ll be to get the right loan.
Established sole proprietor
Your finances. As an established business, you should have records highlighting your profits and losses and at least two years of tax returns to show your lender. The state of your accounts has a big impact on your loan options.
Cash flow. How much cash will your business have on hand in the coming months? Do you have personal funds to use if you’re short? If you’re facing a temporary cash shortage, you might opt for a line of credit over a lump sum loan.
Business costs. Factor in your operating costs into your estimates for the future and work out how much you need to borrow.
Debts and assets. Debts may limit what you can borrow, but you can use assets (such as invoices or purchase orders) as collateral to secure a business loan.
Startup business owner
If you’re starting a new venture, you’ll face some challenges when looking for financing – most small business lenders won’t lend to businesses that have been operating for less than a year. Instead, you may need to consider startup financing. You’ll need the following to apply for a loan:
A solid business plan. A detailed, clear business plan is reassuring to a lender, and you shouldn’t think of becoming a sole proprietor without one. Be sure to include an analysis of your competition, your future plans and cash flow predictions.
Collateral. Having some form of collateral, like cash assets or a residential property, improves your chances of getting a loan since you don’t have a business history to fall back on.
Personal credit history. Lenders will want to see a good or excellent credit score of at least 650 from a potential borrower. This helps assure the lender that you’re financially responsible and unlikely to default on your loan.
Skills and experience. Your career experiences and skills are another metric lenders use to assess the strength of your proposed business. Fix up your resume and, if needed, brush up on the qualifications or skills essential to your trade.
Cost estimates. Try to estimate what your business costs will be. You need to compare existing businesses and do your research.
Documents you need to apply
Notices of Assessment from recent business tax returns. Having at least 2 years of tax returns gives lenders a clear idea of how your business looks financially.
Balance sheet. This simple financial statement sums up the total of your assets, liabilities and capital.
Profit and loss statement. Usually covering a fixed period or quarter, this statement measures your profits and losses by taking your gross profit and subtracting your operating expenses.
Cash flow statement. This statement accounts for all the money coming in and out of your business. This includes all purchases and expenses plus all money from sales, loans and investments.
What if I don’t have these financial documents?
It’ll be challenging to get a bank loan if you’re a startup and can’t provide all the required documentation. You might want to consider getting a personal loan, a secured business loan (which requires collateral) or a loan from an online lender instead. Online lenders often have less stringent requirements for business loans compared to banks, but you’ll still need to meet minimum requirements for annual revenue and time in business.
Representative example: Sarah’s landscaping service
Sarah is a self-employed landscaper who designs boutique gardens for wealthy homeowners and small businesses across Toronto. She hires landscapers on a project-by-project basis, but recently, a large hotel chain has contracted her to design and build a courtyard garden. This is a much bigger job than her usual projects and she realizes she needs $60,000 to hire more labourers and rent special equipment. Sarah will need $40,000 to pay wages and $20,000 to rent machinery.
She heads to her bank and is able to get approved for a higher loan amount with competitive terms since she has been in business for a long time and has strong personal credit.
Cost of labour/machinery
Interest rate (APR)
Origination fee of 1.00% ($700.00)
Total loan cost
*The information in this example, including rates, fees and terms, is provided as a representative transaction. The actual cost of the product may vary depending on the retailer, the product specs and other factors.
Although it can be more difficult to get a business loan as a sole proprietor, you still have options. Consider your business’s needs carefully, prepare all the relevant documents and don’t be afraid to compare and contact multiple lenders to find the right loan for your needs.
Frequently asked questions
Having bad personal credit can make it harder to get a loan. This is especially true if you’re a sole proprietor who’s trying to start a new business. You may need to consider the following options:
Borrowing from alternative lenders with looser lending rules
Many lenders only provide business loans to Canadian citizens or permanent residents. Temporary residents, who may only be in the country for a few years on specific visa types, should look for lenders who don’t have this restriction.
If your business is struggling and you can’t repay what you’ve borrowed, there are several things you can do:
Try to reduce your overhead costs and bring in more income.
Talk to your lender and try to refinance or renegotiate the terms of your loan.
Sell your car, home or other assets to pay off the loan.
Credit cards can be a good way to finance your business, especially if you foresee earning enough income to pay off the balance within a few weeks or months. You can use a business credit card for expenses up to a certain limit, however any unpaid balance after the grace period will accrue interest. Business credit cards won’t suit every type of sole proprietor, but it can be a good way to access credit when needed. You can also earn rewards such as points, miles or cash back, depending on the card.
Emma Balmforth is a producer at Finder. She is passionate about helping people make financial decisions that will benefit them now and in the future. She has written for a variety of publications including World Nomads, Trek Effect and Uncharted. Emma has a degree in Business and Psychology from the University of Waterloo. She enjoys backpacking, reading and taking long hikes and road trips with her adventurous dog.
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