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Thinking About Starting a Small Business? Now Could be the Most Opportune Time
Author: Rob Gross

You've been freelancing for some time now and you're getting good at it. You've got dependable clients that you can count on for work and you've been thinking for a long time that maybe you should take the next step. Maybe it's time to take everything you've learned and make the transition from freelancer to entrepreneur/small business owner.

If this scenario sounds familiar, now could be an excellent time to follow through on your entrepreneurial aspirations. The financial markets are struggling and consumer confidence is lagging but there's still plenty of capital out there for up and coming entrepreneurs. By most accounts the economy will be back on track by the end of the year and if you're ever going to take your operation to the next level you can get that start-up loan now at a bargain interest rate and it may be easier than you think.

The best place to start is the Small Business Administration(SBA). They've got a wealth of information and resources for the new small businessperson. After browsing through the site you'll discover a one-page loan application called the SBALowDoc. This application was created to speed up the small business loan process. It's set up so that the borrower completes the front and the lender completes the back and the SBA promises an answer within 36 hours. For a loan of less than $25,000 with maturity in 7 years the maximum interest rate is 4.25% above the prime rate. You can get a lower interest rate for larger loans and in all likelihood the lender you go to will not be operating at the maximum rate set forth by the SBA. To further help you find a lender the SBA has published a list of what they call "Micro-Business-Friendly Banks in the United States." These are banks whose business loans of less than $100,000 represent a greater percentage of all business loans than the average bank. The 46-page report lists banks by state and includes many useful facts and figures. (link below)

In addition to the SBA other resources for capital to get you started are plentiful. American Express makes it extremely easy to apply for a business line of credit on-line. They offer many options but generally it's free to apply, there are no fees for the first year and you can get away without paying interest if you pay off your account in full each month. BankOne, Citibank and others also offer very user-friendly small business centers where you can apply for a line of credit on-line.

So why is money available now? One reason is that there is a consensus that the lull in the economy will be short-lived and the not too distant future will be bright. In the statement accompanying their most recent 50 basis points rate cut the Federal Reserve Board proclaimed on March 20, "Although current developments do not appear to have materially diminished the prospects for long-term growth in productivity, excess productive capacity has emerged recently." In other words, the economy will improve; so don't count on further interest rate reductions.

Additionally, investors large and small are becoming weary of investing in the financial markets. While it is no doubt a temporary state of affairs, the growing consensus is that the markets at present are not the place to grow your wealth as even the most fundamentally sound securities continue to falter. The small business entrepreneur with low overhead and positive cash flow is the best bet in town.

Regardless of the favorable climate, however, it still behooves the business loan applicant to put together a strong case. This would include writing a good business plan, having a separate bank account for your business, supplying a large part of the investment with your own money and compiling any evidence you can that points to your past business and personal fiscal responsibility.

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