When seeking funding for your business, you’ll probably come across business loans. Offered by both government-backed banks and private lenders alike, business loans are among the most common type of funding vehicle used by businesses. You can get loans as small as $5,000 or as big as $500,000 — sometimes even larger. Not all business loans are the same, however, and it’s important to consider whether it’s secured or unsecured.
Unsecured Business Loans
An unsecured business loan is money loaned to a business that doesn’t require the business to use collateral. When you apply for an unsecured business loan, the lender will run a credit report to see if there are late payments or other delinquencies. Additionally, the lender may evaluate your business plan to further gauge your ability to pay back the loan. If you meet the necessary criteria, the lender will approve your application and give you the business loan.
Secured Business Loans
A secured business loan, on the other hand, is money loaned to a business that does require the business to use collateral. Some lenders are skeptical of loaning money to businesses, especially if those businesses have bad credit or no credit. Rather than rejecting their application for a loan altogether, lenders may require the use of collateral to secure the loan. Collateral is essentially something of value that the lender can use as a financial recourse in case the business is unable to pay back the loan. Common examples of collateral include real property, business equipment or even accounts receivables.
Which Should I Choose?
Now that you know the difference between unsecured and secured business loans, you might be wondering which funding vehicle is right for your business. There are advantages and disadvantages to both types of business loans. Unsecured loans don’t require the use of collateral, so you don’t have to worry about losing those assets if you fail to pay back the loan. On the other hand, unsecured loans are more difficult to obtain because they have a higher risk for lenders.
Secured loans are easier to obtain, and in many cases, they are the only option available for new businesses that are just getting off the ground. The problem with secured loans, however, is that you may lose any assets used as collateral if you don’t pay back the loan.
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Cash flow is an important metric to look for when analyzing your business’s finances. Defined as the movement of money — income and expenses — it provides an accurate overview of your business’s ability to pay liabilities. If you spend significantly more money what you make, this suggests that you won’t be able to cover debt and other liabilities. You can increase your business’s cash flow, however, by doing the following.
Explore Different Insurance Solutions
According to LegalZoom, insurance is the single biggest expense associated with running a business. Regardless of the type of business you operate, it probably needs insurance. Rather than choosing the first insurance company that offers you a deal, shop around and get quotes from multiple providers.
There are certain documents that can (and should) be stored in digital format instead of printed. U.S. businesses spend millions of dollars each year on printer paper, most of which is discarded in the trash. Before printing a document, ask yourself if you really need to print it. Perhaps you can save it on your computer to save money on stationary and increase your business’s cash flow.
Invest in Marketing
You have to think of marketing as an investment: It costs money, but like any smart investment, it can help your business make more money in the long run. A study conducted by Neilsen found that the average return on investment (ROI) for marketing was 9%. This means for every $1 you spend to promote your business, it will yield $1.09 in sales. Of course, certain marketing channels offer higher ROIs, and you can optimize your marketing campaigns so that they reach your business’s specific audience. The bottom line is that you should invest in marketing to increase your business’s cash flow.
Collect On Outstanding Invoices
Does your business have one or more customers who haven’t paid their bill? Outstanding invoices such as this are a common problem for businesses that accept post-service payments. By performing the service upfront, the business is counting on the customer to pay the bill. And if the customer doesn’t pay, the business will have to write off the bill as bad debt. To prevent this from happening, you should proactively contact customers with outstanding invoices to request payment. If a customer can’t pay the full bill, discuss a payment plan that can fit his or her budget.
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Regardless of what your business does or sells, you’ll probably need capital to fund its operations. While some business owners use their own personal money for business-related expenses, most seek loans or lines of credit from a lender. But if you’re thinking about applying for a loan or line of credit, you should focus on improving your business credit. Without good credit, you’ll struggle to get approved. So, consider the five following tips to improve your business credit.
#1) Check Credit With 3 Major Bureaus
First and foremost, you should check your business credit with the thee major reporting bureaus: Dun & Bradstreet, Equifax and Experian. These are three most commonly used bureaus for business credit. Go to each of their respective websites and create an account for your business to view your business credit. If you see any false information listed, file a dispute to have it removed.
#2) Use Credit to Pay for Expenses
Don’t use your business’s checking account to pay for business-related expenses. Rather, use a line of credit. Like personal credit, your business credit will grow the more you use it. If you use your business’s checking account, on the other hand, it won’t offer any benefit to your business credit. Always use credit to further build your credit.
#3) Pay on Time
Of course, it’s important that you pay your pills on time, every time. Some business owners neglect to pay their bills on time, believing they’ll incur nothing more than a late fee. While most lenders and creditors charge fees for late payments, they may also report these late payments to the three aforementioned credit bureaus, thereby hurting your business credit. If you can’t pay a bill on time, contact the creditor or lender to see if they’ll allow an extended grace period.
#4) Keep Balances Low
Try to keep your credit balances as low as possible. You want to have low revolving credit with high limits, as this indicates to other creditors and lenders that you pay your bills. Rather than paying the minimum amount due, make larger payments to keep balances low.
#5) Don’t Close Credit Accounts
Finally, avoid closing your credit accounts. Even if you rarely or ever use them, keeping them open will strengthen your business credit. When you close a credit account, other creditors and lenders will see that you have less open credit, which could hurt your efforts to get approved for a new credit account.
If you’re a self-employed worker, you should take advantage of certain tax write-offs. Since you aren’t classified as an employee, you won’t have access to federal and state-required benefits like minimum wage, overtime pay, paid vacation, etc. However, you will have access to tax write-offs. And taking advantage of these write-offs can save you big bucks on your income taxes.
#1) Home Office
Assuming you use a dedicated part of your home for business-related purposes at least 50% of the time, you are eligible for the home office tax deduction. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) offers a simplified and regular format for home office deductions. The former uses a fixed formula of $5 per square feet (up to 300 square feet maximum), whereas the latter uses an itemized formula that includes factors like mortgage/rent, electricity and more.
You can also deduct the cost of your phone from your federal income taxes, assuming you use it for business-related purposes. Of course, this is a smaller deduction compared to the home office, but it’s still extra money that you can save. Keep in mind, however, that the amount of which you are eligible to deduct varies depending on the cost of your bill and how much time you actually spend using your phone for business-related purposes.
Do you use your vehicle for business? If so, you can deduct this expense from your federal income taxes. It’s not uncommon for ride-hailing drivers to deduct their vehicle from their taxes, for instance. Because they rely on their vehicle to perform this work, they are eligible for this deduction. But even if you use your vehicle for other business-related purposes — driving to job sites, meeting with clients, etc. — you can still deduct it from your taxes.
#4) Health Insurance
With the average cost of health insurance now exceeding $321 per month, many self-employed workers struggle to cover their premiums. The good news is that you can deduct the cost of your health insurance premiums from your federal income taxes.
If you use your internet for business-related purposes, you can deduct it from your federal income taxes. According to Chron, eligible deduction amounts vary depending on the percentage of time that you spend using the internet for business-related purposes. If you use it half for business and half for personal purposes, you can deduct half the cost from your taxes. Of course, you should consult with tax professional to learn more about these and other deductions for self-employed workers.
With cyber crime at an all-time high, it’s important for business owners to take a proactive approach towards securing their data. According to Security Magazine, cyber crime costs businesses an average of $11.7 million a year. Regardless of the industry in which your business operates, you should follow the tips listed below to secure and safeguard your data from cyber threats.
#1) Strong Passwords
Don’t underestimate the importance of using strong passwords. Your login credentials are your first line of defense against cyber threats. Using a weak password will open the doors to hacking by making it easier for unauthorized individuals to access your data.
#2) Beware of Phishing Attempts
In addition to using strong passwords, you should also familiarize yourself with the signs of phishing attempts. Hackers, for instance, often send emails to business owners and employees that look like legitimate messages. As a result, the recipient clicks a link or downloads an attachment, only for this action to deploy malicious software on the user’s computer. To prevent this from happening, verify the sender’s identify before opening any links or downloading attachments.
#3) Update Operating System
One of the most common security vulnerabilities affecting businesses is the use of outdated operating systems. Whether your computer runs Windows or Apple iOS, you should update it as soon as a new version is released. When developers identify an exploitable vulnerability, they’ll release a new version to fix it. However, you’ll only be protected from such vulnerabilities if you update your operating system in a timely manner.
#4) Create Backups
Hopefully, your business’s data isn’t compromised, but if it is, you should have a backup copy ready to restore it. Creating regular backups of your data is an important step in protecting against cyber threats. Granted, it won’t stop someone from infiltrating your system and accessing your data. It will, however, allow you to get your business back up and running.
#5) Use Secure Accounting Software
Finally, you can protect your business’s data from cyber threats by using secure accounting software. Quickbooks Online, for instance, uses a variety of cybersecurity solutions to protect data from prying eyes. This includes security features like Audit Trail, Always-On and Activity Log, as well as multi-level permissions to store data. Quickbooks Desktop is also a highly secure accounting solution, featuring many of the same safeguards as its cloud-based counterpart. Whether you choose Quickbooks Online or Quickbooks Desktop, however, you can rest assured knowing that your business’s financial data is safe and secure.
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