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It’s back-to-school season. Good news: Even if you’re not heading back to a traditional school, today’s technological advances mean that anyone with Internet access can learn almost anything they want, any time they want.
The flexibility of online courses suits busy small business owners. Whether you only have half an hour once a week or a couple of hours every few days, these seven courses help you better understand some of the common issues facing many of today’s small business owners. Best of all? They’re free.
New or aspiring entrepreneurs can learn how to assess and evaluate new business opportunities through a free online course available through the online course marketplace Coursera. In the University of California’s Essentials of Entrepreneurship: Thinking & Action, instructor David Standen touches on what to watch for when considering new businesses, the importance of a business plan, and achieving entrepreneurial success.
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Social media marketing and branding
Today’s business owners should know their way around social media, and they should know how to harness the marketing and branding potential of this digital medium. Ohio State University has a free online course to help you do just that. Available through iTunes, Branding, Content & Social Media shows business owners how to grab the valuable attention of online audiences through branded content using a combination of video and reading material.
Available through the Udemy website, which offers both free and paid online courses, Accounting in 60 Minutes: A Brief Introduction has an enrollment of over 28,000 and enjoys a very respectable 4.5 out of 5 stars from students. Instructor Vince Turner walks you through about an hour of basic accounting principles using whiteboard illustrations, videos, and quizzes to reinforce the topics, including the accounting equation, balance sheets, income statements, debits and credits, and a discussion on profits.
Time management for small business owners
Most entrepreneurs are challenged by time management. If you’re looking for ways to get more done in less time, invest one hour of one day 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.
If you’re so busy that you need to hire new employees, this free 30-minute course from the U.S. Small Business Administration site could be just what you need. Titled Small Business Employee Recruitment and Retention, the course covers strategies to help you find, recruit, and keep employees. And if you do have some extra time, check out the other free, 30-minute courses offered through the SBA Learning Center.
Aspiring or struggling business owners in the fashion or food industries may need a hand with innovation. After all, coming up with new ideas in two of the oldest business sectors is 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 they take just a couple of hours for each course.
Business through the VC lens
Ever wondered how your business would stand up to scrutiny from an outside investor — someone like a venture capitalist? Take the free, self-paced online course called Entrepreneurship Through the Lens of Venture Capital, available through Stanford University, to learn how VCs evaluate startups when they’re considering investing. By learning the signs of a promising startup, you can better position your own business for growth.
To stay at the top of your entrepreneurial game, it’s important to keep learning. True, you may not have to take accredited courses to fulfill continuing education requirements like some professions do. Yet as a small business owner, the opportunity to learn valuable skills (free) to improve your business is as close as your laptop or tablet.