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Getting Business Loans: A Guide for Small Business Owners

As a small business owner, getting funding can be tricky. Bank loans are hard to qualify for, especially if your business is just starting out or doesn’t have strong cash flows yet. That’s why it’s important to understand all your options when it comes to financing. This guide will walk you through the major types of small business loans, their pros and cons, and tips for securing funding.

SBA Loans

One of the most popular loan programs for small businesses is the Small Business Administration (SBA) loan program. The SBA guarantees a portion of loans made by banks and other lenders to small businesses. This helps lenders mitigate their risk, allowing them to offer better terms to small business borrowers.

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There are several types of SBA loans, including:

  • 7(a) loans – The most common type of SBA loan. Can be used for working capital, equipment, real estate, and more. Loan amounts up to $5 million.
  • 504 loans – For purchasing real estate and equipment. Requires 10% borrower down payment. Loan amounts up to $5 million.
  • Microloans – Loans up to $50,000 from non-profit lenders, for startups and businesses in underserved communities.
  • Disaster loans – For businesses impacted by declared disasters. Loan amounts up to $2 million.

The main pros of SBA loans are the longer repayment terms of up to 25 years for real estate and equipment loans, and better interest rates compared to alternative financing options. The cons are the extensive paperwork and upfront time required to apply.

Term Loans

Term loans provide a lump sum of cash upfront, with fixed monthly payments over a set period of time (usually 3-5 years). They can be used for a variety of business purposes such as funding growth, renovations, new equipment, marketing campaigns, or inventory.

Banks are the most common providers of term loans but there are also alternative online lenders that offer them. The loan amounts, rates, and qualification requirements can vary dramatically between providers.

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The advantage of term loans is you get all the money you need upfront in a predictable package. The downside is they can be more difficult to qualify for, often requiring strong revenues, cash flows, and collateral.

Business Lines of Credit

Business lines of credit provide flexible access to funds that can be drawn down as needed. Only interest is paid on the outstanding balance, and principal payments are not required as long as you stay below the credit limit.

Lines of credit tend to offer lower rates than credit cards and other short-term financing options. They can be great for managing cash flow fluctuations and unexpected expenses.

On the downside, lines of credit usually require excellent business and personal credit to qualify. And they don’t provide lump sums for big investments like term loans do.

Invoice Factoring

Invoice factoring allows you to sell your accounts receivables (invoices owed to you) to a financing company for immediate cash. This can help solve cash flow issues caused by slow-paying customers.

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The factoring company advances you a percentage of the invoice value right away (often 70-90%), then pays the remaining balance minus their fees after the customer pays the invoice.

Factoring is quick and convenient compared to traditional loans, with flexible limits that grow alongside your business. The catch is the rates are quite high, ranging from 1-5% per month.

Equipment Financing

As the name suggests, equipment financing allows you to borrow money specifically to pay for business equipment like machinery, software, vehicles, and more. Payments are stretched over the useful lifespan of the equipment.

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The advantage here is you don’t need to put down large lump sums or deplete working capital for big equipment purchases. The con is that equipment financing tends to charge higher rates than secured loans.

Merchant Cash Advances

Merchant cash advances provide quick financing by purchasing a percentage of your future credit card sales. The amount borrowed is paid back automatically through fixed daily deductions from credit card receipts.

The convenience and speed of merchant advances come at a very steep price, often equivalent to 50-200% APR when annualized. They should only be used as a last resort financing option.

Tips for Getting Approved

While every lender has their own approval criteria, there are some common tips that apply across the board when seeking small business financing:

  • Put together a solid business plan with financial projections
  • Have detailed records of your business history, financials, tax returns
  • Improve your personal credit score rating as much as possible
  • Offer collateral to secure the loan and reduce the lender’s risk
  • Shop around with multiple lenders to compare rates and terms
  • Consider bringing on a cosigner with better credit to strengthen your application

The Bottom Line

At the end of the day, there are many financing options for small business owners beyond just bank loans. Taking the time to understand the pros, cons and qualifications of programs like SBA loans, merchant advances, term loans and more can pay off big time in helping you secure the funding you need.

Every business situation is different, so assess your needs, cash flow, risk tolerance and growth plans before deciding which type of financing fits best. And don’t be afraid to get proposals from multiple lenders to find the best rates and terms!

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