Business loans are often taken out to help with start-up costs, or to enable a business to grow.
Eligibility for a loan will depend on your personal financial situation as well as that of your business.
As with any other borrowing, a bank or other loan provider will look into your credit history, but in addition they may also want to see a business plan or business accounts. Depending on whether you're a start-up or an established business.
Before applying, make sure your finances are in order and that you're as prepared as possible.
Taking out a business loan with your current bank may seem like the simple solution. But any bank will ask whether or not you can manage the interest and repay the loan in the time set. It's always a good idea to shop around and keep your options open.
Depending on your needs and financial position, there are four main types of business loan to consider.
These loans can be secured against a number of different things. Depending on how much you want to borrow, and what for.
Security may include a personal guarantee, security over whatever's being purchased with the loan or over assets in the business. It may even be possible to put your own home up as security.
Remember that your home will be at risk if the business fails to keep up repayments, so think carefully about this option.
Generally speaking, secured loans allow businesses to borrow larger sums of money than unsecured loans.
An unsecured business loan is borrowing taken out from a bank, building society or peer-to-peer lender. Because the loan is unsecured, there's no collateral - like your existing assets - to back the loan.
The amount lent and interest rate will depend on the creditworthiness of you and your business.
Getting a loan for your business via a peer-to-peer (P2P) lending lending platform could be another way to finance your business. With P2P lending, you borrow from individuals rather than a bank or lender.
Access to lending depends on the platform you choose. For example, some may only offer borrowing to sole traders.
If your business is just getting started, it's worth looking into government-backed schemes too.
The Start Up Loans programme was created by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills in 2012 to help support people with a business idea but no access to finance.
Loans are low cost, unsecured and have a fixed rate of interest. But you must repay within five years.
The Bounce Back Loan Scheme (BBLS) and the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS) have now both closed.
But businesses of any size can still use the Recovery Loan scheme, even if they've used one of the two previous schemes.
You need to qualify for the loan with an individual lender and the government will guarantee 80% of the loan with the lender, making it more likely that they'll accept you. You'll still be 100% responsible for repaying the debt.
To qualify for the loan you need to show that your business:
If you don't think a business loan is for you, there are some other funding options available.
Getting a credit card for your business can be a quick way to access smaller sums of money.
Business credit cards generally offer an interest-free period on purchases, which can be helpful when trying to manage cash flow.
There's normally an annual fee. And you will be credit-checked.
Make sure you pay off the balance each month to avoid paying unnecessary interest charges or fees.
Cash-flow finance allows businesses to release the money trapped in invoices, in effect advancing themselves the cash.
Some banks offer cash-flow finance, but many others don't. There are a number of fees attached, such as an administration fee at the commencement of the arrangement, plus a monthly service charge.
There might also be a higher interest rate than that applied to a standard business loan.
Some business current accounts have interest-free overdrafts or charge a fairly low APR for them.
Using an overdraft responsibly could be helpful if you need to borrow small amounts for short periods.
Using crowdfunding investment to help start or grow your business is another way to access finance. Platforms such as Crowdcube allow anyone - individuals or professional investors - to invest in start-ups and growth businesses.
This is likely to involve giving away a stake of your business to investors.
Invoice finance means taking out a loan against money that your customers owe you.
For example, if you're waiting for customers to pay their invoices, this can be used as security to take out a loan that you can use immediately. Then once the invoices are paid, you repay the loan using that money.
You might be able to get a business loan with a poor credit rating. You're more likely to get approval for a secured loan, where you've put up an asset as collateral. Expect higher interest rates and lots of checks on your business for a lender to be comfortable though.
It depends slightly on how much you want to borrow and for how long. If you're borrowing from a lender you already bank with it might be a bit quicker. The key thing when applying for a loan is to have all your documents to hand. Things like bank statements, business accounts and forecasts. It'll speed up the process. Check with the lender beforehand so you know what information you'll need.
Gocompare.com introduces customers to Funding Options Limited, who help UK firms access business finance, working directly with businesses and their trusted advisors. Funding Options Limited are a credit broker and not a lender. Funding Options Limited are authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority. Gocompare.com's relationship with Funding Options Limited is limited to that of a business partnership, no common ownership or control rights exist between us.