A business owner's education never stops, but how do you squeeze in the time to learn?
Luckily, there are plenty of online courses from which to choose. Many of them are free, and all of them offer you the chance to explore topics you might not have thought about since college.
Use these 10 classes to improve your business skills, network with other business owners, enhance your marketing smarts, and think creatively about where you and your business are headed.
1. Developing Innovative Ideas for New Companies
If you're looking to start a new business, change the focus of your existing business or just want to be inspired to come up with new ideas, Coursera's Developing Innovative Ideas for New Companies: The First Step in Entrepreneurship might be just the ticket. This six-week course, taught by James V. Green of the University of Maryland, College Park, consists of video lectures, quizzes, writing assignments and peer response sessions. By the end of the course, you'll have at least one good idea for a business, along with detailed thoughts about how to start, market and sustain it.
2. How to Write a Business Plan
The Small Business Administration (SBA) offers many free online courses for business owners. If you're just starting out in the world of business, the SBA's short video course, How to Write a Business Plan, could be just what you need to launch your venture. It explains—in detail—what a business plan is, how it's structured and how it's used. It also provides you with access to sample plans to get you started on creating your own.
3. Small Business Taxes: The Virtual Workshop
The taxes associated with running a small business can be difficult to understand. Luckily, the IRS offers business owners a free video course, Small Business Taxes: The Virtual Workshop, which will help guide you through the thicket of tax rules and regulations.
4. Building Mobile Experiences
Building Mobile Experiences is a free course offered through edX and taught by Frank Bentley, a principal research scientist in mobile sensing and user behavior research at Yahoo Labs, and Ed Barrett, a senior lecturer in comparative media studies and writing at MIT. It offers business owners an introduction to creating engaging and creative apps and other mobile experiences.
5. Search and Online Marketing
Though not free, Mediabistro's courses offer in-depth training in a range of business and media topics. Search and Online Marketing is one course that business owners trying to gain a footing in the online marketing space might find useful. Taught by Christine Campbell, a search engine optimization and content strategist at Resolution Media, this course offers strategies for everything from improving your search rankings to using social media to drive traffic to your site.
6. Building a Business
Offered as a University of Oxford podcast, Building a Business is a lecture series geared toward business owners who want to improve their business practices. Although it's focused on science and technology entrepreneurship, this course can be useful to any business owner who wants to get a new perspective on building a brand.
7. Entrepreneurship Through the Lens of Venture Capital
The iTunes U course, Entrepreneurship Through the Lens of Venture Capital, offers an in-depth exploration of the process of funding, managing and growing a startup. Offered by Stanford's School of Engineering, this course consists of a series of free videos highlighting everything you need to know about the intersections between entrepreneurship and venture capital.
8. Operations Management
Offered through udemy, Operations Management is taught by Gad Allon, a professor of managerial economics and decision science at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. The free course offers an in-depth introduction to the theories and practice of operations management for business owners who want to enhance and improve their own managerial skills.
9. Accounting and Its Use in Business Decisions
Accounting and Its Use in Business Decisions, a free course offered through Alison, is the first in a series of courses on accounting topics. Whether you're just starting out in the world of entrepreneurship or are a seasoned business owner, this course will help teach you some of the skills you'll need to manage the financial side of your business.
10. Business Law and Ethics
It's always a good idea to be familiar with the legal and ethical issues specific to the world of business, and Saylor.org's free Business Law and Ethics course offers an introduction to some of these topics. Learning from both reading assignments and video lectures, you'll explore everything from the basics of civil law to business contracts.
Continuing education is a great way to keep both your mind and your business active and thriving. And once you sign up, you'll likely find they improve your overall outlook and your business's bottom line.
Vivian Wagner is a freelance writer in New Concord, Ohio.
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