The Best Places to Find Free Business Training Online
If you’re like most small business owners, you didn’t spend years getting formal training in accounting, marketing, and sales before launching your business.
Instead, you saw an opportunity, and you went for it. You mustered up your courage and took a risk, assuming you’d be able to learn things as you went along.
Running a business is a constant learning process, which is part of what makes entrepreneurship so exciting.
But you don’t have to learn everything on your own.
As online learning becomes more and more popular, the number of sites offering quality, tried-and-tested business training – for free – continues to grow. Here are a few of my favorites.
You may have already heard of Khan Academy, a learning portal that offers educational videos on everything from kindergarten math to Renaissance art history.
It turns out Khan Academy also has several courses that can be useful for any businessperson, even if it’s just as a refresher. Their Finance section offers classes in Accounting and Taxes, as well as Investments, Insurance, and Retirement. Also of interest are their interviews with some of the country’s most successful entrepreneurs, like Elon Musk and Richard Branson.
That’s right, this is MIT as in the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. This site gives you access to the lecture notes and assignments of hundreds of actual courses taught at the university, including almost a hundred related to entrepreneurship.
Available courses include highly practical ones like “Nuts and Bolts of Business Plans” and “Pricing,” as well as more conceptual ones like “Designing and Leading the Entrepreneurial Organization” and “Managerial Psychology.”
The U.S. Small Business Administration
The Small Business Administration, or SBA, has plenty of free training resources for small business owners and budding entrepreneurs. Business owners can take courses divided into topic areas like “Starting a Business,” “Managing a Business,” and “Marketing,” among others.
You can learn almost anything on YouTube, from how to fix your washing machine to how to become a better business writer or create your first sales strategy.
YouTube is one of my favorite ways to learn new things, as well as to share what I’ve learned on my own entrepreneurial journey.
If you’ve only been using iTunes for music and movies, you’re missing out! iTunes U is a massive online resource of free educational content, from videos you can watch and digest in a matter of minutes, to full-length courses on marketing, economics, venture capital, accounting, and more.
Master Class Management
Expanding your business can be almost as challenging as starting it in the first place.
If you started as a one-person operation and need to bring on additional people, you’ll find that you’re suddenly having to manage employees. That’s not necessarily a skill that comes naturally to everyone.
Master Class Management offers extensive course options that can help you develop essential management and leadership skills like bringing your team together, effective business communication, and dealing with difficult employees. There are also many practical lessons about the day-to-day running of a company.
One of the largest repositories of online courses on the internet, Coursera offers university courses from some of the best schools in the country, such as Yale, Harvard, Johns Hopkins, and others.
While you do have to pay to access the entire course, which includes graded assignments and can help you work toward a certificate or other degree, you can access any course’s lectures and non-graded material for free.
Some of the best business courses currently on Coursera are:
- Business Analytics for Decision Making, from the University of Colorado at Boulder
- What is Social? from Northwestern University
- Business Strategy in Practice, from the University of Virginia
Like Coursera, ALISON offers a huge selection of free online courses that will allow you to develop both your hard skills – like writing a business plan or handling your business taxes – and soft skills, like leading with purpose or developing workplace culture.
There’s a whole section on entrepreneurial skills, and you can even earn a diploma in Business Management and Entrepreneurship.
And of course, there’s MasterCard Biz! This blog is a great resource for picking up quick tips on owning and operating a business.
Small business owners will always find themselves in situations where they have to learn something on the fly. But it never hurts to prepare yourself by taking advantage of some formal training – especially if it doesn’t cost you anything but time.