Owning a business is expensive. After you make it past the initial hurdle of financing startup costs--from legal fees to logo design to equipment and supplies for you and your employees-you continue to incur monthly costs like rent, insurance, payroll, and inventory.
With all of these costs to consider, there will likely come a time when you need to seek out financing. When you think "financing," your mind may automatically jump to a bank, but there are lots of other financing options beyond traditional lenders, and many tips every business owner needs to know for finding the best product for their business.
We'll take a look at some of the financing options beyond the traditional, plus what business owners can do to get creative about keeping their company's bottom line looking healthy.
1. Apply for Interest-Free Money
That sounds like every business owner's dream, right? While you won't see banks handing out interest-free loans, grants are a form of financing that provide business owners with money that does not need to be repaid and incurs no interest. But that comes with a catch: the grant application process is highly competitive and the requirements for applying are often narrow and stringent.
However, there are grants out there that you may be eligible for based on criteria such as the type of work you do; the state you're located in; or your status as a woman, minority, or veteran. Check out this list of small business grants to see if any might be a good fit.
2. Consider Collateral-Backed Loans
When approving traditional term loans, financial institutions look to work with companies that are well-established, have strong cash flow, and are therefore most likely to be able to keep pace with the repayment schedule. But what if you're just starting out or have made some mistakes in the past that have tarnished your credit score?
Collateral-backed loans can be a great alternative. Invoice and equipment financing are two types of collateral-backed loans that offer win-win solutions for both business owners and lenders.
Business owners are able to get the cash they need to keep their business afloat while they wait for invoices to come in or to purchase necessary equipment, and lenders feel more secure doing business with a borrower who has less-than-stellar credit knowing that the loan is backed by something tangible.
3. Refinance Your Current Debt
If you already have business loans but are unhappy with the interest rate or repayment time frame, you may want to consider refinancing.
Refinancing a business loan means that you pay off your current debt in full with a new and improved business loan. Improved being the keyword. You should only refinance if the new loan offers better terms than your current loan. Whether that's lower monthly payments, a longer repayment term, or lower APR--the new loan should benefit you in some way.
Typically, businesses choose to refinance an expensive short-term loan with a more affordable long-term or SBA loan. But sometimes, business owners are able to graduate from a decent long-term loan into an even better one.
If your business has significantly increased its credit score or annual revenue or hit a big milestone like reaching two years in business, you might want to consider refinancing.
4. Business Credit Cards as a Loan Alternative
If you're just starting out or don't have stellar credit, it may be difficult for you to secure a loan. However, business credit cards act similarly to a revolving loan, while also generally having a lower threshold for qualification. In addition to an easier application process, business credit cards allow you to earn rewards on necessary business spending.
Even if your credit score is too low to allow you to apply for a traditional credit card, there are secured credit card options available, so that you can obtain a card backed by an initial deposit and strengthen your credit score with responsible repayment of your card each month.
5. Establish Some Savings
If you haven't done so already, now may be the time to think about setting aside savings for your business. While the cost of running a business can leave you with very little money left over each month, it's smart to save what you can so that you have cash reserves on hand for emergencies and meeting unexpected costs.
Most banks offer business savings accounts and business certificates of deposit. Each type of account comes with its own pros and cons, with business savings accounts offering lower interest earnings but greater access to your money when you need it, while certificates of deposit lock your money away for a given period of time but offer higher earnings. There are even plenty of free business checking accounts to choose from.
As a small business owner, you have a lot of financing options available to you. Knowing the ins and outs of the financial landscape and understanding your business's unique needs are the keys to finding the financing options that are the best fit for you.