Free Online Courses for Entrepreneurs

Looking to learn some new skills this summer? Good news: even if you’re not heading back to a traditional school, today’s technological advances mean that anyone with an internet connection access can learn anything they want, any time they want.

The flexibility of online courses suits the busy schedule of a small business owner. Whether you can spare half an hour each week or a couple of hours every day, we’ve found seven courses to help you increase your understanding of the issues facing many of today’s small businesses. Best of all? They’re free.

Entrepreneurship - Starting a Business: Vision and Opportunity

Aspiring entrepreneurs can learn how to uncover and evaluate new business opportunities with a free online course available through FutureLearn. This site hosts a wealth of university-backed short courses. In the University of Leeds’ Starting a Business: Vision and Opportunity, instructor Nigel Lockett examines what to look out for when considering new business ventures, the importance of a business plan and achieving entrepreneurial success.

What you’ll cover:

  • The entrepreneurial learning cycle
  • The importance of sharing your vision with others
  • What vision and opportunity look like in successful businesses
  • How to write a core value proposition
  • How to write a robust business plan

Digital marketing - Branding, Content & Social Media

Today’s small business owners need to know their way around social media so that they can harness its marketing and branding potential. Ohio State University has a free online course to help you do just that. Available through iTunes, Branding, Content & Social Media will show you how to grab the valuable attention of audiences across the web through branded content.

What you’ll cover:

  • The fundamentals of branding, social media and content
  • How traditional communication tools work in a non-traditional world
  • How to apply these learnings to event communications
  • Who’s already doing it well and what can be learnt from them
  • How to plan your own communications strategy

Accounting basics - Accounting in 60 Minutes: A Brief Introduction

Available through the Udemy website, which offers both free and paid online courses, Accounting in 60 Minutes: A Brief Introduction enrols over 28,000 users who give it a very respectable 4.5 out of 5 stars. Instructor Vince Turner walks you through about an hour of basic accounting principles using whiteboard illustrations, videos and quizzes to reinforce the topics. He covers the accounting equation, balance sheets, debits and credits, income statements and a discussion on profits.

What you’ll cover:

  • Understanding the basic accounting equation
  • Knowing the difference between a debit and a credit
  • How to prepare a balance sheet and income statement
  • Why profit does not equal cash

Time management for small business owners - Effective Time Management: Get 10X More Done in Less Time

All entrepreneurs come up against the challenge of time management. If you’re looking for ways to get more done in less time, invest just one hour in Effective Time Management: Get 10X More Done in Less Time. Covering everything from how to eliminate time killers to learning how to identify the top one percent of your business activities that generate the most revenue and profit, this course from the website Udemy has an average 4.2 stars from over 900 ratings.

What you’ll cover:

  • How to identify the 20% of tasks that bring 80% of results and the most important 1% of tasks that bring the most revenue and profit
  • Identify the 3 ways to ensure you get important things done
  • How Parkinson’s Law can be used to get more done in half the time
  • 7 ways to consistently get the most valuable things done
  • How to eliminate time killers and shave 8 hours off your working week

Employees - Management and Leadership: Well-being and Welfare at Work

Positive management is key to every business. Staff whose wellbeing is nurtured are more likely to be loyal, diligent and to reflect your brand in a positive light. Having a good relationship with them will also improve day-to-day operations for you. Management & Leadership: Well-being and Welfare at Work — offered by FutureLearn — is designed by the Open University to help you support the professional development and needs of your staff. This will help you retain the staff you have today and hire great people tomorrow.

What you’ll cover:

  • How to assess and plan for professional development
  • How to produce a plan for the resources required for professional development
  • How to identify, implement and evaluate a personal development plan
  • How to develop, support and promote staff welfare and wellbeing

Innovation - Innovation: The Fashion and Food Industries

Business owners in the fashion or food industries may need a hand with innovation. After all, coming up with new ideas in two traditional business sectors can be challenging. The University of Leeds’ inspiring and free online video courses Innovation: The Fashion Industry and Innovation: The Food Industry highlight how the big players in each field ideate and innovate to bring new products to market. These lessons are easily applicable to other industries as well and each course takes just a couple of hours to complete.

What you’ll cover:

  • Key innovation topics for both sectors
  • How innovation can drive an increase in customers
  • Case studies looking at how other companies overcame the challenge and embraced innovation
  • Innovation in advertising

Business beyond VC - How to Finance and Grow Your Startup – Without VC

Worried that you don’t have the skillset to help your business grow without a Venture Capital angel on your side? Take the free online course How to Finance and Grow Your Startup – Without VC created by London Business School. You’ll learn key skills and develop a toolkit of knowledge to help grow your business when you go it alone.

What you’ll cover:

  • The five models through which your customers can fund your business
  • Real-world stories of creative entrepreneurs who went it alone
  • Why business angels and VCs don’t necessarily need to be the first port of call for growth
  • How to put your course learnings to use in the real world

We never get too old to learn. Developing your knowledge and skill set as an entrepreneur will keep you at the top of your game. Because of the size and agility of your business, the impact of your personal growth will have a huge positive impact on day-to-day operations.

The great news is that with the free courses above (and all the thousands we couldn’t include on the list) this can be done for free.