Getting a small business loan can be a challenge under any circumstances. Here are some guidelines that can improve your chances of getting funded.

1. Have a Detailed Business Plan

Your business plan shows lenders that you’ve put thought and effort into your business, and that you have a vision. Pay particular attention to the executive summary, which condenses your vision into a few paragraphs. If it doesn’t impress lenders, they probably won’t read beyond it.

2. Be Ready to Provide Detailed Financial Information 

Be ready to disclose financial documents such as balance sheets, accounts, cash flow records, bank statements, and tax returns. These provide proof of fiscal stability, and are one way lenders decide who is a good risk.

3. Prepare to Succeed

 Be prepared to show personal financial records, too. Lenders want to see little or no debt, so pay off what you can. This will also improve your credit rating, which can be a factor in getting the small business loan.

4. Look at Different Lenders

It’s often wise to start with a lender you have a relationship with, but look elsewhere, too. You may find better rates from another lending institution, or you may want to spread your loan across more than one institution. This can be a good thing if you hit a financial rough spot.

5. Understand the Kind of Financing You Need

Learn about loans so you know what suits your needs. You may want a secured loan rather than an unsecured one, or long term rates rather than short term. Know whether you’re wiling to give a personal guarantee, as this can influence the lender.

6. Consider Investing Your Own Money 

Investing your own money before applying for a loan can put lenders at ease. It shows you’re serious. With your own money at stake, you’re not likely to take any crazy risks.

7. Think Locally

Small, local banks are often more likely to work with small businesses, and sometimes their different branches specialize in different areas. Research local banks. Make sure you meet with the right one for the best chance of financing.

8. Meet with Multiple Lenders

Different lenders can have differences in rates and options. Don’t be afraid to meet with multiple lenders to see what they have to offer.

9. Prepare Two Payment Plans

Prepare a primary payment plan and a backup payment plan. This shows the lender you’re serious, and may improve your chances of getting a loan.

10. Meet with Alternative Lenders

Alternative lenders can have different options and different criteria for approving small business loans. For example, they can offer emergency loans and invoice factoring, which allows you to borrow against invoices.

Keep your options open, be creative, and the financing should happen.