Loans, overdrafts, credit cards, mortgages, micro-loans are all forms of ‘debt finance’: money is borrowed from a lender then repaid over a period of time, usually with interest. The total amount repaid is always more than what you originally borrowed.
Many artists borrow funds from friends, family and banks to fund their practice or development, and more lenders are starting to offer small loans from a few hundred pounds as well as mortgages for studio spaces.
Given that you have to repay a loan, why not just look for a grant instead?
- Grants are very competitive, and you have to follow the funder’s priorities which might not be same as yours. Lenders are usually only concerned with whether you can repay the loan and not what you use the money for, so they are more flexible.
- Lenders can often provide you with a quick decision instead of having to wait for grant deadlines to come up. If you need funds quickly, getting a loan can be faster.
Taking out a loan won’t be a suitable course of action in all cases. You will need to be confident about your finances to be able to calculate how you will repay. Make sure you calculate:
- How much the loan will cost: loans can have arrangement fees as well as interest charges – and penalties if you miss a repayment or pay it off too early. Make sure you’ve understood the full cost of any loan and the terms of repayment before proceeding.
- That you can afford the repayments: loans are useful when you need to pay for a course, an opportunity equipment or materials up front – providing you are confident that as a consequence you will be earning sufficient income to cover loan repayments over the whole life of the loan. You must have a realistic understanding of your future earnings and cash-flow.
- That you can convince a lender that I will be able to repay: depending on the lender and amount you ask for, you will be expected to show that you’ve planned how you will generate income to repay your loan – for example via a business plan, budget or a cash-flow projection.
Artists have used various types of loan to:
- Fund training and education, such as through student loans, overdrafts and credit cards. These debts are repaid once you start earning.
- Surviving on credit cards or loans from family during a ‘start-up’ phase of your career is common, but it’s important to avoid debts mounting up by being as frugal as you can be.
- Purchase studio space, live-work space through mortgages, or buy large-scale specialist equipment, such as darkroom facilities, through loans from High Street banks. Artist-led studio providers and collection V22 have used mortgages to purchase buildings and used studio rents to pay them off, creating permanent spaces for artists to work.
- Some arts organisations provide incubator or start-up loans. Cockpit Studios have run a Business Growth loan scheme as part of their ‘incubator package’ for several years that enables designer-makers to invest in new equipment, marketing or making larger batches of work. The Princes Trust Enterprise Programme offers start-up capital to small creative businesses.
Getting a loan needn’t mean going to a High Street Bank: community finance providers like credit unions are usually more accessible to social enterprises, freelancers and small businesses. There are also some online small loan providers such as Zopa and Funding Circle beginning to emerge that could be useful, and you can also invest money into these for them to lend to others.
If you find that you are having difficulty repaying your debts then it’s important to seek advice quickly so that steps can be taken to get things back under control. Start by contacting your local Citizen’s Advice Bureau.
addressAssociation of British Credit Unions, Holyoake House, Hanover Street, Manchester M60 OAStelephone0800 0015 3060fax0161 832 3706website
This is the web site to go to if you want to find a credit union in your area. In the 'Keyword' section type in North London for example, and 'list' by name. Not all credit unions have websites. It is advisable to ring the help line to get detailed information.
North London Chamber & Enterprise
telephone020 8886 8671addressCredit Union Ltd, DPK House, 186 Chase Side, London N14 5HN
websitetelephone020 7787 0770address79 Denmark Hill, Camberwell, London SE5 8RS
Co-operative & Community Finance
addressBrunswick Court, Brunswick Square, Bristol BS2 8PEtelephone01179 166 750fax01179 166 751website
Co-operative & Community Finance has been providing loan finance for co-operatives, employee owned businesses and social enterprises for 30 years. They raise money primarily by public share issue and lend it for social purpose and collective benefit, also managing loan funds for several other organisations providing co-operative and community finance. Authorised and regulated by the Financial Services Authority (FSA) in the conduct of investment business.
London Community Credit Union
websitefax020 7739 6690telephone020 7729 9218address473 Bethnal Green Road, London, E2 9QH
London Community Credit Union is a member owned and controlled community financial co-operative serving the residents of the London Boroughs of Hackney and Tower Hamlets
Social Lending is where people lend and borrow money with each other, sidestepping the banks. Interest rates are often lower than those charged by traditional lenders.
Big Society Capital
telephone020 7186 2500
Big Society Capital is an independent financial institution. They were established to develop and shape a sustainable social investment market in the UK. This gives organisations tackling major social issues access to new sources of finance to help them thrive and grow. They invest in social investment finance intermediaries (SIFIs) to grow and become more sustainable.