A guide to business loans

Whether you're starting a new business or looking to grow an existing one, a business loan could provide you with the capital you need to move forward with confidence. Business loans come in a range of types, including secured and unsecured. The loan you choose will depend on your business’ circumstances and needs.

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A guide to business loans

What is a business loan?

A business loan is a sum of money issued to a business owner exclusively for use in their company. The borrowed money is repaid – with interest – over an agreed loan term. From buying stock ahead of a seasonal peak to accessing new plant and machinery, business loans can be used for operational and growth purposes.

How much can I borrow?

Your business could be eligible for anywhere between £1,000 and £15M. Loan terms can vary from a one-month repayment up to 15 years. A business loan calculator can help you determine the cost of the finance you’re looking to borrow. 

Enter the amount you plan to borrow, the quoted annual interest rates, and the term length (e.g. two years) to see how much a loan could cost your business. 

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Types of business loan

The business finance market is becoming increasingly broad and diverse. Traditionally, a business would’ve consulted its bank for a loan. Nowadays, there are lots of specialist and alternative finance lenders and products to choose from.  

Eligibility can depend on a number of factors, including your demonstrable trading history, balance sheet assets, cash flow position and credit history. It also depends on the lender and the type of business loan you’re applying for. 

Secured business loans

Sometimes referred to as asset-backed lending, a secured business loan will require your business to provide assets – such as property or plant and machinery – as security for the loan. Security lowers the risk to the lender, and secured loans often have lower interest rates and better repayment terms. If you opt for a secured business loan you are less likely to be required to provide a personal guarantee

Benefits of a secured business loan include:

  • Less stringent focus on credit scores

  • Fixed interest rates

  • Potential for early repayment 

  • Often cheaper than unsecured loans

Unsecured business loans

Unsecured loans don’t require security. They can be an attractive option for asset-light businesses or companies that are growing fast and need quick access to capital. Unsecured loans of up to £250,000 can help with everything from working capital to business expansion. Lenders almost always ask for a personal guarantee.

Benefits of an unsecured business loan include:

  • Quicker to arrange

  • Access to growth capital for your business

  • Faster to get funding 

  • Manage market uncertainty

  • Funding for unexpected bills

Merchant cash advances

If your business accepts debit and credit card payments from customers, you could explore the benefits of a merchant cash advance. The lender will issue your company an upfront cash payment, which you repay as a fixed percentage of your customer's card payments via a card terminal. 

Benefits of merchant cash advances include:

  • Flexible repayments that fluctuate in line with earnings

  • Speed of approval 

  • Secured against your future earnings

  • Fast and simple application process

Asset finance

Asset finance lets you lease equipment or machinery for your business, or pay for it over a set period of time in instalments. Whichever industry you operate in and whatever equipment you need, there’s probably an asset finance option out there to match– from vehicles for delivery companies to kitchen equipment for restaurants.

Benefits of asset finance include:

  • Small or no upfront costs 

  • Faster access to business assets

  • The value of the asset is spread over the term 

  • The asset acts as security for the finance

Invoice finance

If your business regularly invoices for work, it could be eligible for invoice finance. Designed to ease cash flow problems and enable businesses to get paid faster for completed work, invoice financing can be a great way to ensure you can continue to trade and grow without being held back by cash locked up in unpaid invoices.

Benefits of invoice finance include:

  • Quick cash injection

  • Fast turnaround

  • Boosts cash flow

  • No risk to assets

Revolving credit facilities

Revolving credit facilities are a type of working capital credit that can be viewed as a flexible and open-ended business loan. Your business can borrow, repay, borrow again (and so on) over the course of the agreed term. As such, they can be useful if you need to dip in and out of business finance on an ad hoc basis. 

Benefits revolving credit facilities include:

  • Flexible access to funds

  • Quick application and drawdown

  • Interest is fixed and paid on borrowed funds

Improve your chances of getting a business loan

Your credit rating is a valuable indicator of what interest rate you'll pay for a business loan. Risk is determined by the term length and the security you can provide, as well as aspects such as your business credit rating. While a bad credit rating won’t necessarily rule you out, you could be rejected or have to pay higher interest. 

1. Check your credit report

All lenders will check your credit history when you apply for a business loan. Get a copy of your report and ensure it accurately reflects your recent transactions and lending history. Those with the most favourable credit scores will get the best lending terms, so it's worth trying to improve your credit score before applying.

2. Organise your finances

Before you apply for a new loan make sure you settle all outstanding debt. 

Good cash flow also helps. A demonstrable positive cash flow means a company's liquid assets are increasing, enabling it to cover liabilities, grow the business, pay expenses and provide a buffer for unexpected situations. 

If you already have a business loan you could explore debt refinancing; this is when you apply for a new loan or debt product with better terms than a previous agreement, and it can be used to pay down an existing obligation.

3. Check your business accounts

Most lenders will review your most recently prepared financial accounts. Accounts filed over two years ago may not be accepted, so ensure that you have accurate and up-to-date accounts filed. This should include a detailed P&L and a balance sheet.

4. Create a plan

At a minimum, you will need to explain how you intend to spend the loaned capital. If the money is for working capital, expect to be asked for more details about why you need it. Ensure that you can explain why you have arrived at the sum of money you applied for and that you can meet the planned repayments. 

Are you ready to apply for a business loan?

Funding Options helps UK SMEs access business loans, working directly with businesses and their trusted advisors. We’ll match you with a number of business loan options, with all quotes being subject to status and income.

Our award-winning platform, Funding Cloud(™), accurately and quickly matches businesses with the right lender and finance option for their needs. From unsecured business loans to revolving credit facilities and merchant cash advances, we work with over 120 lenders offering dozens of lending products. 

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Joe Morley

Joe Morley

Head of Unsecured Lending

Joe has worked in the alternative lending space since 2015. During this time he has helped hundreds of SMEs access millions in essential funding ranging from long-term asset-backed lending to short-term unsecured revolving credit lines and beyond. In his role, Joe manages and supports a large team of Credit Finance specialists.

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