Nobody is born with the skills and knowledge to run a successful business. Even if you're an expert in your field, there are always new things a business owner must learn to grow and remain competitive. Fortunately, traditional universities and specialized organizations like the Small Business Administration (SBA) offer short, often free, online courses on business growth topics.
You can choose from a wide variety of online classes designed to help entrepreneurs succeed. Seasoned business industry professionals teach many of the courses.
Whether you're just starting or have been in business for years, you're likely to find a virtual course that will help you scale your business. Consider attending the following 16 free online entrepreneur courses.
How to Find Your Business Specialization
This course will guide you through creating your own business and is perfect for those just starting up. In How to Start Your Own Business Specialization, you'll learn planning, action, and strategies that lead to the creation of a successful business. The course will walk you through creating an actual business and give you the hands-on skills necessary to start your own company.
Michigan State University teaches the course through Coursera, an online education provider. Coursera charges a monthly subscription fee if you want an official certificate. However, you can audit their classes for free, which means you get full access to all course materials but don't get graded or certified. If you can live without that piece of paper, the classes are free to you.
How to Think Up New Business Ideas
If you want to think of new leading-edge business ideas, Developing Innovative Ideas for New Companies: The First Step in Entrepreneurship is the ideal course. Designed by the University of Maryland, this class covers a wide variety of topics to help guide aspiring entrepreneurs. These include developing entrepreneurial ideas destined for success, enhancing your entrepreneurial mindset, and learning strategic decision-making skills.
How to Write a Business Plan
The secret to success when it comes to running a company is having a solid business plan. The course How to Write a Business Plan is offered for free by the US Small Business Administration (SBA). It covers the basics of business planning, the components of a business plan, and how to develop your own. The class includes access to sample plans.
How to Start Up a Startup
Learn the key steps to creating a company in How to Build a Startup from Udacity. You'll find out how to develop and test ideas by gathering customer feedback. This includes how to discover and meet customer needs so you can be the one to fulfill them. The nine-lesson course includes topics such as business and revenue models, customer development, value proposition, and customer relationships.
How to Grow Your Company
Coursera's Structure: Building the Frame for Business Growth covers the foundational elements of starting a business. Taught by Michigan State University, the course focuses on how to build a strong company, including your business framework and business structure. You'll also learn to create and analyze your company's financial documents, protect your intellectual property, and develop your leadership teams.
How to Find Financing for Small Businesses
If you require funds to start a new business or need more capital to keep an existing one going, the SBA's Financing Options for Small Businesses will give you a good overview of how to fund your small business. This class covers various types of funding, including crowdfunding, venture capital, angel investors, loans, and grants. You'll also learn how to determine your company's funding needs.
How to Find and Attract Investors
If you want to fund your business with investors, the SBA course Finding and Attracting Investors will give you a solid introduction to the topic. You'll learn to determine if you need outside financing and how much. You'll also come to understand what an investor is and where you can find them. The course explains the investment process, and you'll find out what is expected of you when you are funded by an investor.
How to Keep Your Small Business Legally Compliant
It may not be the fun part of starting and maintaining your own business, but it's critical to understand your legal responsibilities. Provided by the SBA, Legal Requirements for Small Business teaches you local, state, and federal legal obligations. Find out what you need to do to remain compliant.
How to Make a Sales Plan and Maximize Sales
If you want to increase sales (and what small business owner doesn't?), Sales: A Guide for the Small Business Owner from the SBA is an excellent place to start. In the class, you'll get an overview of how to create a sales plan and take advantage of methods of getting people to buy your products.
How to Give Your Small Business a Competitive Advantage With Game Theory
Coursera's 6-lesson Competitive Strategy course teaches the basics of competitive strategy. Find out how you can strategize to gain a competitive advantage. The instructor teaches you how to use the basic tools of game theory to succeed.
How to Market to Customers
Learn the basics of marketing with the SBA's Marketing 101: A Guide to Winning Customers course. Discover why you want to expand your markets and how you can best go about doing so. You'll learn how to conduct market research, develop marketing strategies, and how to put all of this to good use.
How to Turn Your Business Idea Into Business Profit
Find out how ideas for business products and services go from ideas to reality. The class Innovation for Entrepreneurs: From Idea to Marketplace offers an overview of the innovation process. The course covers how innovations are successfully brought to the marketplace.
How to Understand Your Customers
It's vital that you know and understand your customers before you can successfully market your products to them. The course Understanding Your Customer teaches you how to familiarize yourself with your clients so you can better market to them. Understanding your customers and what motivates and inspires them leads to robust sales for your company.
How to Promote Your Business Through Social Media
These days, every small business absolutely needs to know how to use social media to increase visibility and sales. That's why Social Media Marketing is a vital class to take. In this SBA course, you'll learn the basics of how to take advantage of social media's marketing reach. Learn how to use social media to your advantage and how to exploit this avenue for marketing.
How to Set Prices
One of the biggest questions for any new business owner is, "Just what do I charge for this stuff, anyway?" When you're just starting out as a business owner, it can be a little overwhelming to figure out how much money to ask for. Too much and you'll turn customers away; too little and you're selling your hard work short.
The SBA course Introduction to Pricing teaches you how important it is to learn the ins and outs of pricing goods and services. You'll learn about pricing, pricing strategy, and how to use pricing to ensure successful sales.
How to Hire
So you've been making it as a single-person operation, and now you have more orders than you can handle on your own. Congratulations! It's a good problem to have.
When it's time to hire your first employees, it's good to have some training under your belt. The SBA's Small Business Employee Recruitment and Retention gives you a good overview of how to find, recruit, and retain employees. Talented employees can make or break your business, so it pays to learn how to keep them happy.
How Swyft Filings Can Help
Between taking these classes and actually running your business, your time is too precious to spend on paperwork. That's where Swyft Filings can help. While you work on growing your business, let the business experts at Swyft Filings handle the details and paperwork involved with starting your LLC. That'll free you up to take plenty of online entrepreneur classes.