How Do Business Loans Work?

In this beginner’s guide, we show you how business loans work from top to bottom…

Updated: October 23, 2023
Matt Crabtree

Written By

Matt Crabtree


Obtaining a small company loan enables business owners to make necessary investments. 

Loans for small businesses typically include a lender providing capital in exchange for repayment plus interest over a certain period. Term loans, Small Business Administration loans, and company lines of credit are just a few options for financing a firm.

There are a wide variety of characteristics and qualifications that may be expected from a company loan.

The sort of business loan you may acquire depends on factors unique to your company, such as how long you've been in operation, how stable your finances are, your credit history, and the collateral you have to put up.

This manual explains in depth how a small company loan works, breaking down the various lending options in detail.

How Do Business Loans Work? A Definition

Let’s start out with a definition. Commercial funding in the form of small business loans is available from several sources, including brick-and-mortar banks, internet lenders, and credit unions, among others. Funds may be used for whatever a company needs, from day-to-day operations to investing in major assets like machinery and office space.

A business loan may be a lump sum payment or a line of credit that allows a company owner to access funds whenever needed.

Your firm's commitment to repay the loan principal plus interest and fees over time is required to secure this financing. You may be required to make payments to your lender on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis until you repay your business loan.

Furthermore, commercial loans might be secured or unsecured. All secured loans must be backed by some kind of collateral, such as real estate, machinery, cash, or assets, which the lender may take back if you default on your payments.

Nevertheless, unsecured loans don't need anything as security. Instead, you will be asked to sign a personal guarantee, in which you agree to be held personally liable in the event that the company defaults on its debt repayment obligations.

Uses Overviewed

Even internationally, during wars, loans can be essential to support mission-critical operations or growth. Depending on the specifics of your circumstance and the nature of your organisation, various solutions exist that might be the best course of action. 

There is an unlimited number of possible business loan structures due to the dynamic nature of the small company lending industry, which is affected by changes in technology, legislation, and consumer preferences.

To simplify things, let's talk about the many types of company loans and how they each function.

So, we will attempt to answer the question, “How does a business loan work?” by looking at how each form of business loan works, even though the types of business loans are always changing along with the industry they comprise. 

Steps Overviewed

The process of securing a business banking loan for a company, regardless of the kind, is often the same from one lender to the next:

  • Submit a loan application.
  • A bank or other lending organisation gives you money in exchange for interest and other payments over time.
  • What you give up in return is either collateral for the loan or your promise to repay it on time.
  • The money may be given to you as a lump sum or established as a line of credit.
  • All money you borrow must be paid back according to the agreed-upon terms.
  • You risk having your collateral or other assets seized by the lender if you fail to repay the loan on time.

In that light, let's answer how business loans work.

How Do Business Loans Work? (Types of Loans…)

Now that you know the strategy we'll use to explain small company loans, let's dive in.

You probably grasp how a company loan generally works: debt finance, which includes business loans, is one approach to getting the expansion capital your company may need.

Lenders provide access to capital for businesses.

Interest will be added to the loan amount (in the simplest loan structure, interest is calculated as a percentage of the loan's principle) in return for the money. Borrowers of business loans often make periodic payments back to the lender throughout the loan's term.

Yet, there are some distinctions between the various types of company loans, even if they all follow this fundamental framework. To explain the process of getting a company loan, it is necessary to address the specifics of each kind of business loan.

We'll examine the fundamentals of the most common sorts of business loans, beginning with the easiest to grasp and working our way up to the most complex that can let you tap into local and emerging market cash streams.

1. ★ Term Loan

As this is the kind of loan most people first think of when they hear “business loan”, we'll start with the classic term loan.

Not everyone has the asset stream to reinvest in starting or supporting new companies as Elon does. A term loan is a kind of debt financing in which a lending institution lends your firm a certain amount of money for a set period of time in exchange for regular interest payments from your company.

If you elect to finance your project with a term loan, you'll have access to a loan amount varying from £25,000 to £500,000.

In addition, the payback terms they give for loans are often rather generous, giving you anything from one to five years to pay back your money. 

However, the interest rates on term loans are often very reasonable, starting at 7% and going as low as 5%. Non-bank small company loans with interest rates in the single digits are also a great option for budget-conscious entrepreneurs.

2. ★ Short-Term Loans

The next kind of loan is the short-term business loan, which functions similarly to a streamlined term loan. Your decision to finance through a short-term loan will not alter the fact that you will get the whole agreed-upon quantity of money all at once, with the balance, plus interest, to be repaid over time.

As their name implies, short-term loans are repaid in a shorter length of time and at a greater interest rate than long-term loans.

Paying down short-term loans is more challenging than paying off longer-term loans because of the shorter durations and higher interest rates associated with the former. Small firms may find it challenging to manage their cash flow with increased weekly (or even daily) payments due to shorter durations.

Yet, the interest you pay on a loan will accrue faster with a shorter term. This means that the total cost of a short-term loan may be less than that of a longer-term loan, even though the interest rate on the former is greater.

Typical short-term loan amounts are from £2,500 to £250,000, with payback terms of anything from three to eighteen months. Furthermore, unlike long-term loans, their interest rates never exceed 10% and often start much higher.

Instead of annual percentage rates, factor rates (decimals multiplied by the loan amount to get the overall cost) are sometimes used to illustrate the cost of short-term loans. Know your actual cost of capital by converting your short-term loan factor rate to an APR.

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3. ★ Equipment Loans

Your extra savings not necessary for emergencies may not stretch far enough. For businesses that have strong cash flow and need to service the great demand better, equipment finance is the next form of company loan we'll discuss.

In the case of equipment financing, a company borrows money to buy necessary machinery. The equipment you purchase with the loan money serves as security, making equipment financing a sort of self-secured loan.

Equipment financing revolves around the piece of machinery or tool being purchased, thus naturally the loan's conditions will be tied to that item. With the help of finance for machinery and tools, a company may borrow up to the whole cost of acquisition.

In addition, the expected lifespan of the equipment you're financing will determine how long your loan term will be.

Also, the lender will take on less risk by lending to you since the equipment will serve as security for the loan. For this reason, the rates for financing your equipment will be reasonable, starting at only 8%.

4. ★ Invoicing Loans

Invoice finance is the next option on the list since it is also a kind of self-secured loan. For company owners waiting on invoice payments, this form of financing might be a lifesaver. Invoice financing allows businesses to borrow up to 90% of an invoice's value using the document itself as security.

After your client pays the invoice in full, the invoice factoring provider will release the reserve amount to you, minus any applicable costs.

In addition, you can get more favourable interest rates when you finance invoices. Factoring fees are the common form of pricing for invoice financing, and they are assessed as a percentage of the reserve amount kept by the financier.

The standard fees for factoring are 3% for the “origination” (or “advance”), plus 1% per week for the “delay” in payment (charged on the principal).

If you finance 90% of an invoice's worth, for example, and your client pays 90% of it, you'll be paid 90% less the origination charge and the factor cost, for a net payment of 10%.

5. ★ SBA Loans

Next up, we have a company loan that is both one of the most difficult to grasp and one of the cheapest to repay.

SBA loans are long-term bank loans with a government guarantee. The Small Business Administration (SBA) provides the guarantee.

Just what does this imply? To clarify, when the Small Business Administration (SBA) guarantees a portion of a loan made to a small firm, it indicates that the SBA is covering a proportionate percentage of the loan's principal. If a borrower defaults on an SBA loan, the SBA will reimburse the lending institution for the guaranteed amount.

The guarantee reduces the risk for the lender in providing a loan to the small firm, making them more likely to do so. And when they do, the conditions are more favourable, including lower interest rates, larger loan amounts, and longer payment periods.

Furthermore, because of this partial guarantee, SBA loans are the most cost-effective option available to small businesses. They may be as little as £5,000 or as much as £5 million, with payback durations from five years to 25 years.

What's even better? Low-interest rates available via the Small Business Administration (SBA) may save businesses significant sums of money over the life of the loan, particularly when considering the monthly payments. 

6. ★ Business Credit Line

Next to the final option on our list of business loans is the business line of credit. Another company loan that requires a little more mental effort to fully understand but is well worth it in the end.

If your company is approved for a line of credit, it will be given a credit limit from which it may make monthly withdrawals, much like a virtual credit card. Business lines of credit work similarly to business credit cards in that you only have to return the amount you actually use, rather than the whole amount you borrowed.

The main difference between a business line of credit and a business credit card is that you will be dealing with actual cash and not charged any additional fees for withdrawing cash.

Credit lines for companies may run anywhere from six months to five years and can be for any amount between £10,000 and over £1 million. In addition, rates of interest start as low as 7% and seldom reach over 25%.

Overall, with the UK downgraded to an AA rating, a business line of credit is an essential financial instrument for small business owners to have on hand in order to ride through the inevitable ups and downs of operating a company.

7. ★ Merchant Cash Advances

This list concludes with a merchant cash advance, the most complex kind of company financing. Lenders that provide merchant cash advances will look at your projected credit card sales as collateral. They provide your company with a quantity of money, called an “advance”, based on the value of this asset.

In principle, this seems straightforward enough. However, things become a little sticky when it comes time to make payments. Lenders need that you have a credit card processing system in place before they would provide you with a loan.

This might be a cash register, Square, or PayPal. The lender will then begin automatically deducting a certain percentage of your daily credit card sales as payback for the loan they provided you with.

This means that the money you owe on a merchant cash advance will never reach your hands; rather, it will be automatically transferred to the lender each day.

This arrangement is ideal not only because of the ease with which it can be implemented but also because on quiet days your daily payment will be little. Also, your daily payout will be zero dollars during holidays when business is non-existent.

You'll continue making these daily payments until you've paid off your merchant cash advance in full, plus all accrued interest.

But, you should know that merchant cash advances are often more costly. Prices often fall in a factor rate range of 1.14-1.48. If the business is sluggish, particularly as the UK recession builds, you may have to repay your merchant cash loan over a lengthy time.

Nevertheless, since factor rates are used instead of annual percentage rates (APRs) on merchant cash advances, you won't be penalised for paying the loan back over a longer period.

How Do Business Loans Work? Your Application Process Buying Guide… 

Now that we've reviewed the basics of each kind of business loan, let's take a look at how to actually acquire those loans. The eligibility criteria for applying for a loan vary depending on the loan sought.

Moreover, each has its list of required supporting materials for applications.

Let's go through the many forms of business loans and the conditions for applying for each one, including minimum credit score and list of references needed.

1. 📘 General Application Requirements

Regarding what you need to qualify for a business loan, your lender and your intended use of cash are two of the most important factors to consider. Lenders' requirements for new loan applications are often conditional on the specific loan type sought. The following standards are often expected:

Credit Score

Lenders often look at your credit history and your business when deciding. The needed credit rating is between 650 and 850, depending on the kind of loan being taken out.

A credit score of 680 or higher is required to get a Small Business Administration loan or a loan from a conventional bank, while a score of 630 or higher is required to obtain equipment financing or a company line of credit. Good business credit is another something we advocate.

Earnings per Year

Before approving a loan, certain financial institutions may require that your company generate a specific amount of money each year. This demonstrates your company's financial stability and capacity to make loan repayments in the future.

Time of Operation

Loans are more likely given to businesses that have been around longer. Lenders like to see a company with at least one to two years of track record before considering giving out money. To qualify for some forms of funding, a company must have existed for at least six months.

Debt-to-Income Ratio

Your debt-to-income (DTI) and debt-service coverage ratios may also be taken into account by potential lenders (DSCR). The debt service coverage ratio (DSCR) evaluates a company's ability to pay back its debt over a year based on the percentage of that year's net operating income that goes towards interest and principal payments.


When you take out a secured loan, the lender will demand you to put up an asset (collateral) they may sell off if you don't repay the loan.

Individual Guaranty

A personal guarantee is often necessary for certain loan types and lending institutions since it protects the lender in the event of failure. When a company defaults on a loan, the borrower may demand personal repayment from the firm owner.

In addition to researching the prerequisites for a company loan, it's smart to review the most prevalent issues that may keep you from being approved for a small business loan. Knowing what to avoid doing before applying for a business loan may be just as useful as knowing what to do.

2. 📘 Term Loan Application

Although it may be difficult to approve, a business term loan is among the best options for financing a company's operations. Your company and personal credit must both be over 650, and your yearly sales must be £250,000 or more before you can qualify for this form of business loan.

For a short-term loan, you'll need the following information to prove that you and your company match the very minimal requirements:

  • Driver’s License 
  • Business Void Check 
  • Possession Documentation
  • Financial Statements
  • Budget and Expenditure Record
  • Expense and Income Statements
  • Calculating Your Credit Rating
  • Statements of Income and Expenditure

3. 📘 Short-Term Loan Application

Yet, the short-term loan makes getting the money a little easier. One year in the company, a credit score of 550 or higher, and annual revenues of £50,000 or more are often required to qualify for a short-term loan.

There is documentation to gather if you and your company fulfil the minimal conditions for a short-term loan:

  • Driver’s license 
  • Business Void Check 
  • Financial Statements
  • Budget and Expenditure Record
  • Expense and Income Statements
  • Calculating Your Credit Rating
  • Statements of Income and Expenditures
  • Capital Investments in Machinery and Equipment

4. 📘 Equipment Loan Application

Equipment finance, on the other hand, often requires a minimum of 11 months in operation, a credit score of 600, and annual revenue of £100,000.

If you and your company meet these criteria, you may apply for equipment financing; the next step is to compile the following materials for submission:

  • Driver’s License 
  • Company Check that Has Been Returned as Null and Void
  • Financial Statements
  • Calculating Your Credit Rating
  • Corporate Income Tax Returns
  • Get a Quotation 

5. 📘 Invoicing Loan Application

Invoice financing differs from most other sorts of loans in that there are no minimum credit criteria for applicants; instead, you and your company only need to have been in operation for at least six months and have annual revenue of at least £50,000 to qualify.

The following materials are required to apply if your company satisfies the first two criteria:

  • Driver’s License 
  • Business Void Check 
  • Financial Statements
  • Calculating Your Credit Rating
  • Due Invoices

6. 📘 SBA Loan Application

To qualify for an SBA loan, your firm and you must have been in operation for at least two years, have a credit score of at least 620, and have annual revenues of at least £100,000. Because of the government agency involved in SBA loans, a substantial amount of documentation is also required.

When applying for a Small Business Administration loan, you'll need to have the following materials on hand:

  • Driver’s License 
  • Business Void Check 
  • Financial Reports
  • Money Balance
  • Financial Statements, Including Profit and Loss Accounts
  • Tax Filings for Individuals and Businesses
  • Marketing Strategy
  • Organizing a Company's Debt

7. 📘 Business Loan Application

There is no minimum credit score requirement for a company line of credit, just as for invoice financing. Business lines of credit are available to any company that has been operational for at least six months and has yearly revenue of fifty thousand pounds or more.

If you run a company that meets these basic criteria, then you need only compile the following documents to apply for a business line of credit:

  • Driver’s License 
  • Business Void Check 
  • Financial Reports
  • Money Balance
  • Financial Statements, Including Profit/Loss 
  • Credit Rating
  • Company Tax Reports 
  • Income Tax Forms

8. 📘 Merchant Advance Loan Application

Finally, merchant cash advances have one of the simplest application and approval processes among all forms of company finance. There aren't many prerequisites for a merchant cash loan, but at least five months in operation, a credit score of 400 or higher, and £50,000 in yearly sales will get you started.

You'll need to provide the following six pieces of documentation to a prospective lender to apply for a merchant cash advance:

  • Driver’s License 
  • Business Void Check
  • Financial Reports
  • Credit Rating
  • Company Tax Reports 
  • Income Tax Forms

Repaying Your Loan…

Just how does the process of paying back a business loan work?

Repayment terms will vary from loan to loan since it is one of the primary ways in which loans vary from one another. Businesses might benefit from the lower interest rates and more manageable monthly payments that term loans provide.

But, short-term loans often include weekly or daily payments, which may seriously impact your financial flexibility.

When you finance a piece of equipment, the loan terms are often as long as the expected life of the equipment you purchase. This means that the repayment schedule may not be static, but rather vary from one piece of equipment to the next. Invoice finance is another alternative to conventional loan repayment that exists.

When paid on the invoice, you effectively pay off the debt.

While SBA loans have a reputation for being a little difficult to understand and repay, that reputation is mostly undeserved. Repayment periods begin at five years and go up to twenty-five years, depending on the lender.

While business lines of credit may be as complex as Small Business Administration loans, they typically have a longer repayment period of anywhere from six months to five years.

Lastly, merchant cash loans are repaid by daily draws from future credit card transactions (if daily sales are made).

Remember that the terms of your company loan's repayment will vary based on the sort of loan you took out. Before agreeing to the terms of a loan, it's important to read the agreement carefully.

Our Conclusion…

This article addresses the question in every company owner's mind: “How do business loans work?” by removing the jargon and providing clear explanations.

What does this data ultimately mean?

Because of the size and complexity of this ecosystem, there are too many variables at play in the business loan process for there to be a universally applicable explanation of how they operate. Ultimately, only you can answer this question accurately since only you know the specifics of your company and the loan you're applying for.

Related Guides:

How Do Business Loans Work? FAQs…

How hard is it to get a business loan?

How big a business loan can I get?

How much collateral do you need for business loans?

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