As an entrepreneur, you likely have little time and even less money to invest in self-improvement. After all, you’re already dedicating every spare moment to building your business. Continuing education might be the last thing on your mind.
But, picking up a few business courses can not only keep you up-to-date on changes in the business world, but also help you learn new marketing strategies, better ways to manage your employees and how to streamline your business operations. Did we mention it can help you grow your business?
Unfortunately, business school is likely out of the question right now—at least in the traditional sense. But, what about online?
There are a number of great options available, many of which are free, that allow you to learn when your schedule permits. Let’s get started.
12 free online business courses
Even the most seasoned business owners can use a little refresher every now and then. The following cheap and free online courses can help you with business strategy, business management, financial accounting and everything in between. So, grab your learning cap and a cup of your favorite beverage, and move on to our list of courses that can benefit a variety of small business owners.
1. Entrepreneurial marketing
The Massachusetts Institute of Technology offers a variety of business courses through its MIT Open CourseWare.
Entrepreneurial Marketing is part of MIT’s graduate catalog, and is taught by professor Jin Gyo Kim.
The course is designed to clarify key marketing concepts, methods, and strategic issues relevant to startup and early-stage entrepreneurs, and help students develop a flexible way of thinking about marketing problems in general. Students who complete the course will be able to answer the question, “What and how am I selling to whom?,” and understand how to best leverage limited resources to overcome challenges.
2. Conducting a thorough market assessment
The University of California, Irvine, also offers business courses through its Open Education Consortium program. In its “Conducting a Thorough Market Assessment” lecture, Brant Cooper and Patrick Vlaskovits, entrepreneurs and co-authors of “The Entrepreneurs Guide to Customer Development: A Cheat Sheet to the Four Steps to Epiphany,” provide guidance in determining target customers and understanding what strategies will work in a given market.
According to the lecturers, most startups don’t fail because they can’t build a product, but rather because no one wanted the product. After watching the lecture, entrepreneurs will better understand how to gauge what will work in a market, even if they have to abandon their original business plans. Not only is the lecture informative, but you can also watch it in less than an hour.
3. Entrepreneurial behavior
The Open University, a U.K. nonprofit organization that offers a plethora of free online courses, also features a variety of courses aimed toward business owners and entrepreneurs.
Entrepreneurial Behavior consists of four units and covers such subjects as the economic function of the entrepreneur, entrepreneurial qualities and entrepreneurial work style. Students who complete the free course will get a better understanding of how to transform an innovative idea into an entrepreneurial product.
4. Transaction processing for e-commerce
Part of the University of Washington’s computer science and engineering program, Transaction Processing for E-Commerce is available free online through a series of lecture slides and video archives. It even includes four assignments to enhance students’ understanding.
The course offers students a deeper understanding of the engineering aspects of transaction processing, including how to implement and distribute a transaction system in Java or C++. Although there are no specific prerequisites to the advanced-level course, students should bring a general understanding of web programming and a basic knowledge of SQL.
5. Innovation, markets and industrial change
Also offered through The Open University, Innovation, Markets and Industrial Change is designed to help students examine the role of innovation in the development of industries and consider how production costs can change as sales increase or new technology is introduced.
Students who complete the course’s six units will also understand the relationship between consumer demand for a product and its price, as well as how output and production costs can affect industry structure, particularly for online businesses.
6. Supply chain management
Supply chain management is an important topic for every small business owner planning on scaling, as it allows you to understand the flow of goods and how to optimize your vendor and shipping operations.
If your business model involves growing to the point where supply chain management will be relevant, this series of free courses from Alison is just for you. There’s an introductory course that introduces supply chain management, as well as a course on risk management and assessment, and the evolution of modern supply chain management.
7. Corporate finance
Corporate finance may seem like an odd choice for small business owners, but it can help you in a number of ways. These free courses offered through edX are all verified and will help you understand corporate fund management, negotiations, corporate decision-making and financial management. If you have a business idea you’re looking to pitch, these courses could be just the thing to help you understand how corporations view investing.
8. Digital marketing
If you’re running a business with any online presence, you need to at least have a baseline understanding of digital marketing. (If you don’t have an online presence, you need one.)
Digital marketing involves everything from search engine optimization (SEO) to social media marketing. Because there’s such a wide breadth of topics housed under digital marketing, linking to a single course seemed disingenuous. Instead, refer to this list from ahrefs, a huge player in digital marketing and content optimization.
9. Small business administration
Whether you run a team of one or 50, small business administration is an important skill to have as a business owner. The U.S. Small Business Administration, or SBA, offers a wide variety of management courses that all speak to administration, operations management and similar skills worth having. These business classes are free and short, making them perfect for those rare breaks you get as a business owner.
10. Project management
Project management is an important part of virtually every business, as it involves carefully delegating tasks and properly planning a project before diving in. This project management professional course from Cybrary is free and does a great job introducing the topic. If you’re new to project management, this course will help you familiarize yourself with this skill set and determine whether it’s something you want to learn more about, or a position you want to hire for in the future.
11. Excel for beginners
Excel is a popular spreadsheet program, and for good reason: it’s powerful and can be a huge help when it comes to managing financial statements, running a proper balance sheet and more. Udemy offers a plethora of free courses on Excel, each suitable for various levels. Not only this, their courses focus on different aspects of Excel, allowing you to learn only the skills you think you need right now, picking up others as you become more familiar.
12. Business writing
No matter your industry or niche, business writing is an important skill that allows you to properly convey your ideas, present yourself in the best possible light and maybe even wow some people. This free course on business writing from edX does a great job introducing the topic and teaching you the foundational best practices.
Your free journey to success
There are more free online business courses than one could ever feasibly take. The above list should leave you well-rounded and likely hungry for more. Once you’ve knocked out the courses you’re most interested in, take some that feel a little out of left field and see what interests you. You can never have too much knowledge.
Once you’ve exhausted this list, let your cursor wander on the various course sites mentioned here and become a business guru. Your business will thank you, and you’ll have a prized set of skills that will make you more valuable in the long haul.