Getting a loan for your business today is a lot different than it was 20 years ago. Today, you have options beyond banks and other financial giants, but this means that finding a lender you can trust takes a bit more effort.
To save you time, we’ve narrowed down the different types of business loans on the market today and provided five tips to help you find the right business loan for your needs.
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Here are some of the most common types of business loan lenders.
Online direct lenders have become increasingly popular among businesses in recent years — especially as banks have stricter eligibility requirements. These lenders can sometimes provide funding in as little as 24 hours and don’t have nearly as tough qualification criteria.
Peer-to-peer lenders are similar to online lenders, except they don’t provide the funding themselves. Instead, they connect you to investors who will fund your loan through their online platform.
Bank loans are the Holy Grail of business lending: Everyone seems to want one, but most business owners can’t seem to find one.
Banks seem like an obvious place to go for a loan, especially if you’ve been borrowing for a long time. However, bank business loans aren’t always what they’re cracked up to be. They usually take more time to receive and sometimes require interviews or even site visits before you can even be considered for a loan.
Online lenders might come with higher interest rate and fees, but they also have higher acceptance rates and faster turnaround times. Online marketplaces are sometimes confused with peer-to-peer lenders, but they’re not quite the same. Rather than matching you with investors, online marketplaces match you with lenders. It’s an easy way to see a wide selection of lenders, but you’re typically limited to the marketplace’s partners, and therefore not exposed to all possible lenders and loans.
Five tips to get the best business loan
Increase your chances of approval and get the best rates and terms with these tips.
Check your credit report. It’s good to know your personal credit score to figure out which lenders you qualify for. Beyond that, your credit report might contain mistakes. Contact the credit bureaus, Equifax and TransUnion, to get these fixed before you apply for a loan. If your business is established, you may have a business credit score that lenders consider too.
Over-prepare. Know your business’s finances backwards and forwards. Get all of your documentation together ahead of time and have it on hand. Remember, you want to appear as qualified as possible, so being prepared is one way to accomplish that.
Have a business plan that tells your story. Even if your lender doesn’t require it, a solid business plan means you’re on top of your business’s finances and future projections. Business plans make it easier to understand the types of financing you need, how much and what you might qualify for.
Go for big lenders only if you need a big loan. Big banks are less likely to approve borrowers who need small amounts of financing. Its best to save banks and other big lenders for larger projects like real estate or buying large amounts of equipment. Nontraditional lenders, like online ones, usually provide more flexibility with loan amounts.
Take advantage of risk-free pre-approval. The best way to get an idea of what interest rates you might qualify for is by getting pre-approved or calling a lender. It’s not guaranteed that you’ll get those rates, but it’s a better indication than the advertised APR and term range. You can also more accurately weed out lenders that won’t accept you in the first place.
Top types of loans for small businesses
Click on one of the following loans to find out which type of financing might work best for your small business.
How it works: Your business takes out a lump sum to cover a one-time expense. Pay it back in monthly repayments plus interest and fees. Term loans typically don’t come with many restrictions as long as you use them for business purposes.
How much you can borrow: You can generally borrow up to $500,000 and pay it off between one and ten years — sometimes longer.
Best for: Covering one-time expenses like hiring new staff, buying office supplies or technology or other costs that your business doesn’t need to cover regularly.
How it works: Similar to a credit card, opening a line of credit gives your business access to cash when it needs money. You only pay interest on what you actually borrow and have a certain time frame to pay it off. You can borrow up to your credit limit and then pay it off and continuously borrow as long as the line of credit is open.
How much you can borrow: Your business can typically get access to between $2,000 and $500,000 with repayment periods of six months to a few years.
Best for: Covering recurring expenses, picking up the slack during an off season or paying for ongoing projects where costs are difficult to predict.
Finding a competitive deal on a business loan doesn’t just depend on finding a lender that offers low rates and the right type of financing. No matter where you apply, your business is more likely to qualify for competitive terms if you and your business meet the following criteria:
Your business is at least one year old. Lenders like to see that your business has a track record of steady revenue coming in to reassure them that you can afford to pay off your loan.
You have strong personal credit. While business credit scores do sometimes come into play, your personal credit score typically plays a more important role in your loan application, especially if your business isn’t very old.
You’re personally invested. Some lenders require that owners invest a certain amount of their personal funds in the business. Even if it doesn’t, a personal investment is a vote of confidence that many lenders take into account.
You’re willing to put up collateral. Some lenders require business owners to put personal assets up as collateral to secure the loan. This takes some of the risk off for the lender and can help you qualify for more competitive rates.
Business financing alternatives
Sometimes a business loan isn’t the best way to fund your business. If your business is new, you have low revenue or poor credit, you might not be able to get the most competitive rate. Instead, you might want to consider one of the following options:
Personal loans.A personal loan is a popular choice for entrepreneurs trying to fund a startup. Lenders usually offer up to $35,000 and require good credit, so they’re not right for all business owners and needs.
Crowdfunding. You might not need to take on debt or pay anyone back at all if your business needs to fund a project that’s easy to communicate in a short video. Crowdfunding can help you raise the money from your fans or investors.
Equity investments. Get funding for your business that you never have to pay back in exchange for partial ownership in your company by bringing on an investor. Keep in mind you lose partial control over your company by doing this.
Business credit cards. For small expenses or working capital, a business credit card is sometimes a lot easier to manage than a loan. Many business credit cards come with low annual fees and competitive APR’s.
There is no one “best” business loan for everyone, but there are better lenders and loan types for specific business needs.
The most common type of small business loan is a term loan, where a lender gives you a lump sum that you pay back plus interest and fees.
However, there are plenty of other small business loans that could better fit your business’s needs, so be sure to compare your options before signing for a loan.
Yes. While many business lenders ask for a lien on your business assets as collateral — especially those with more lenient credit requirements — it’s possible to find an unsecured business loan.
Collateral isn’t necessarily bad, however. You can often get lower rates when your loan is secured, since it’s less risky for the lender.
Getting a business loan to start a business can be difficult — and it’s not always a good idea. New businesses are extremely risky: If you can’t pay back your loan, which is a high possibility, it could ruin your personal finances.
That doesn’t mean you can’t get financing to launch your new business through other means. Sources like angel investors, venture capitalists and crowdfunding platforms might be better, less risky places to start.
The short answer: It depends on the type of loan you want and the lender you ultimately decide on.
Online lenders can get you funding as quickly as the next business day, while bank loans typically take at least a couple of weeks.
It can vary, but generally lenders will ask for the following documents:
A personal bank statement
A business bank statement
Your business’s most recent tax return
A business plan including financial projections
Your business’s license and information
If you apply through a bank, your business might ask for many more documents, including a schedule of your business’s debts, proof of collateral and even your personal resume.
Emma Balmforth is an Associate Editor at Finder. She is passionate about cryptocurrency, credit cards and loans, and enjoys helping people understand the often confusing world of finance. Emma has a degree in business and psychology from the University of Waterloo. She wants to help people make financial decisions that will benefit them now and in the future.
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