Applying for a Chicago Small Business Loan – Know the Important Facts
Getting any kind of loan for the first time is a big deal, but getting a small business loan can be an even bigger deal because it can be the start of an exciting new career. Getting through the application process can be a major milestone on its own. We’ve all heard it said that appearance is everything. When it comes to small business loans and the application process, being prepared is everything. Here are some tips on how to be adequately prepared so you’re in a position to get the Chicago small business loan you need.
Know Your Financial Needs
Prior to actually applying for a Chicago small business loan, go over your financial needs and research all your options. Although it may seem like the ideal solution to your business needs, small business loans may not be your only financial option. There may be other options worth checking into.
• Business credit cards
• Angel investors
• Private investors
• Lines of credit
• Invoice financing
Once you’ve laid out all possible options, go over the pros and cons of each to determine which one will work best for you both short and long-term.
Know Your Credit
Regardless of what type of financing you choose, your credit scores will play an important role in the process. Since your potential creditors probably know next to nothing about you, they’ll be using your credit history to determine if you’re a good credit risk. Take advantage of the free annual credit report available to your and get a copy of your credit report so you can see where you stand. You can access free copies from freecreditreport.com, Credit Karmaor Annual Credit Report.com.
Business credit vs. Personal Credit
Yes, there is a difference between a personal credit score and a business credit score. Some small business owners make the mistake of mixing their business finances with their personal finances. Allowing them to overlap can cause problems not only when applying for credit but also when it’s time to file taxes. Establish business accounts right off the bat, and keep them separate from your personal accounts. This will ensure your personal credit scores stay separate from your business credit scores.
Different companies rate business credit scores differently. Although they all give three-digit scores, they use different factors to determine these scores. While Equifax and Experian take collections and public records into account, Dun & Bradstreet PAYDEX only uses your payment history. Bottom line is to always pay your debts on time. You can also get copies of your business credit scores from Nav and CreditSignal.
Even with good business credit scores, you could be denied a small business loan if your personal credits scores are not good. Personal credit scores can range from 300-850. The higher your credit scores, the better your chances of being approved for a loan. Here are factors that can affect your personal credit scores.
• Payment history – how you pay your bills
• Utilization –how much of your available credit is used
• Length of credit history – how long you’ve had the accounts
• Recent inquiries into your credit – This is often a red flag to lenders that you are seeking credit elsewhere.
• Type of accounts – Lenders like seeing a variety of credit types, such as credit cards, mortgage, consumer loans, etc.
The two things that can affect scores the most is high utilization and not paying bills on time.
Improving Credit Prior to Applying for Chicago small business Loan
Once you’ve accessed your personal and business credit scores, you can determine what areas are good and which ones need improvement. Here are some things to look for on your credit report.
• Errors on your credit report – You’ll want to correct errors now rather than later. These may be paid accounts still listed as unpaid, wrong balance amounts or even accounts that don’t belong to you.
• Past due accounts – These are the first things you want to get paid. Your report will show you balances, payments, etc. Pay off credit card debts as soon as possible.
• Tax liens or judgements – These stay on your credit for several years and can be very harmful to your credit. Take care of them as soon as possible.
Clearing up mistakes on your credit report will help your scores just as much as eliminating late payments. Unfortunately, improving your scores may take long than you’d hoped. You’re not going to do it overnight. Exercising these practices can help you now and in the future, whether you’re applying for a small business loan, car loan or home loan.
• Keep your utilization rate down.
• Keep a low balance – Don’t close accounts that are paid off because they show that you have open credit that’s not being used.
• Use a variety of credit.
• Consider utilizing a credit monitoring service.
Know What You Want & Need
When you’re visiting a potential lender for a small business loan, it’s important that you know what you want in terms of dollar amount. The lender wants to know that you know what you’re doing and are not wishy washy regarding the loan amount and your business needs. Make a business proposal listing what you need the money for and how you plan to spend the loan proceeds. Showing the lender a proposed budget as well as a potential profit and loss statement show the amount of revenue you expect can be very beneficial.
Getting Financial Documentation in Order
Your financial documentation can be just as important as your credit scores when applying for a small business loan. If you have an accountant, as him or her to prepare you a balance sheet, profit and loss statement and cash flow statement. These will help you and the potential lender determine that you know what you’re doing and can answer these important questions.
• What is your revenue and where is it coming from?
• What are your expenses?
• How much profit will you make?
If you’re just starting out as a small business owner, most of the documentation is going to be proposals and projections, and the lender will understand that. If you’ve already had a small business, the lender may require further documentation to prove your success up to this point. You may need to provide at least one year of tax returns and an accounts payable and receivable form showing what your business has coming in and going out in the form of money.
Know What You’re Being Offered
Once you’ve turned in your application and all your financial documentation, the lender will go over everything and, most likely, may you an offer. The offer will be based on your business needs, financial needs and on what the lender determines will best meet those needs. Their offer will include important loan information, including both an interest rate and an APR. Both of these are based mostly on your credit scores.
Although, we all know that interest is what we’re required to pay on a loan, many don’t understand the difference between interest rates and APR (annual percentage rate). The interest rate is a percentage of the principal amount of the loan. The principal amount is the amount you are asking for from the lender. If you are trying to borrow $20,000 and the interest rate is 8%, you are required to pay back the principal amount of $20,000 plus 8% of the $20,000.
The APR is something entirely different. The APR includes not just the amount you will pay in interest each year but also the amount for services changes and additional fees. When going over your paperwork, it’s important to look closely at these numbers and the final figures. Your small business loan may offer a low interest rates but have high fees, which would be more costly overall than one with a higher interest rate and a lower APR. If you have questions, don’t hesitate to question the lender. They’re there to serve you and want you to be a happy customer.