Advertising
Advertising

15 Free And Really Useful Online Courses For Entrepreneurs

15 Free And Really Useful Online Courses For Entrepreneurs

Whether you’re just starting out with your new business idea or you’re a seasoned entrepreneurial professional, learning all about the intricate and artful ways of running your own business is an ongoing process that truly never ends.

And with so many other skilled and experienced professionals being generous enough to share what they know through online video lessons, forum discussions, case study exercises, and other forms of digital and interactive teaching, you’d have to be kind of crazy not to take the opportunity to learn from them.

Even if you’re short on cash, there are loads of online courses for entrepreneurs available out there that won’t cost you a penny. With a click of your mouse, you can start learning about website development, marketing, startup funding, leadership, and all sorts of other areas of business from topic-specific courses that provide you with all the necessary tools.

Have a look through the following free online entrepreneurial courses to see if you, your team, and your business could benefit from any of them.

1. Essentials of Entrepreneurship, University of California, Irvine via Coursera

Becoming an entrepreneur can be an exciting, yet risky, career move. To improve your chances of success, it would be wise to familiarize yourself with the fundamentals of entrepreneurship before diving right in, by enrolling in a free course like Essentials of Entrepreneurship – offered by the University of California, Irvine through Coursera.

The course is interactive, and includes roughly 4 to 8 hours of video lessons accompanied by suggested readings and quizzes. You’ll learn all the essentials, including how to identify opportunity, the skills and tools you need, marketing strategy implementation, the importance of having a business plan, and so much more.

2. How to Build a Startup, Udacity

For those of you who are building their businesses from the ground up, you’re going to want some practical advice. How to Build a Startup from Udacity is unlike any traditional course offered by an academic institution, and instead focuses on teaching entrepreneurs how to quickly come up with ideas to test against the gathering of large amounts of market feedback.

Advertising

This particular course can be completed at your own pace, including exercises and projects. Rather than blindly relying on an idea you think you might work for your business, you’ll be able to use this course to find out for sure by getting out in the real world and seeing if consumers are hungry enough for it.

3. Startup Funding for Entrepreneurs, University of Maryland via Coursera

Need funding, but don’t know where to start? An online course from Coursera offered by the University of Maryland can teach you all about how you can get your venture funded, even if you have no real background in business or finance.

The course is delivered in video lecture format and each session runs for four weeks, involving 3 to 5 hours of lectures per week. Designed for both beginners and active entrepreneurs, you’ll learn all about capital structure from new ventures, where to find investors, how to pitch them, and all the processes you need to successfully receive funding.

4. Ignite Your Everyday Creativity, State University of New York via Coursera

No matter what business you’re in, boosting your creativity can help you come up with new ideas, work better with your team, and even get an upper hand on the competition. A free course called Ignite Your Everyday Creativity offered by SUNY via Coursera helps you discover the creativity you already have hiding within you, and shows you how to use it in both your professional and personal life.

The course requires a time commitment of 3 to 4 hours per week and involves lessons delivered through videos, peer evaluations, and weekly forum discussions. In addition to learning how to recognize and harness your own creativity, you’ll also be able to do the same with other people, which may come in handy if you work closely with co-workers.

5. Business Ethics for the Real World, Santa Clara University via Canvas Network

As an entrepreneur, it’s important that you understand the role of ethics in business. Business Ethics for the Real World is a free online course offered by Santa Clara University through Canvas Network, and it’s geared toward every type of business professional including novices, experienced professionals, and even students.

The course allows participants to work at their own pace and focuses on teaching ethical theory that can be applied to real life situations and dilemmas that arise in business. Since it’s designed as an introductory course to business ethics, no prior business background or experience is required.

Advertising

6. 21 Critical Lessons for Entrepreneurs, Udemy

To avoid the pitfalls and struggles that come along with being an entrepreneur, learning from others who’ve been through it already can save you lots of time, energy and money. 21 Critical Lessons for Entrepreneurs is a five-star course rated by more than 450 of its students, offering you the best key insights to starting and succeeding with your own business.

The course is two hours in total, broken down into 23 online lectures. For real-world strategies that you can put into action during the early stages of your business development as well as farther down the line as you continue to grow, you’ll want to enroll in this one no matter what stage of business you’re in or what type of background you have.

7. Introduction to Marketing, Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania via Coursera

What’s the point of running your own business if you can’t sell anything? An Introduction to Marketing course from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania via Coursera will teach you how to dig down to the root of customers’ wants and needs.

Your course session runs for four weeks, and requires a commitment of roughly 5 to 6 hours of time per week. Find out all you need to know about brand positioning and communication, the customer decision-making process, new market entry, the marketing planning process and proven marketing strategies that work.

8. WordPress Quick Start Course, WP Apprentice

For brand new entrepreneurs or business owners who don’t have a website yet, understanding the basics of website management is important even if you plan to outsource its design and maintenance. You can start learning the ins and outs of WordPress – the internet’s most popular web platform – with free training provided by WP Apprentice.

The course offers 10 free videos that you can watch in under an hour to help you get started with setting up a simple self-hosted WordPress website.

There’s no need to be intimated by all the technical stuff with a course like this which walks you through everything, step by step. You’ll learn how to select the best web host provider, how to install the WordPress CMS, how to use the WordPress Dashboard, how to choose a design theme, how to create content, and lots more.

Advertising

9. Social Media Quickstarter, Constant Contact

It’s easy enough to set up a Facebook page or a Twitter profile with your business logo, but do you know how to actually market your business and build a targeted following of fans and customers online? Constant Contact’s Social Media Quickstarter training breaks down everything you need to know to properly market your product or service using social media, without wasting time and effort blasting posts into cyberspace where nobody’s listening.

Training includes step-by-step instructions on marketing techniques for Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Instagram, Google+, YouTube and even your own blog. Each social platform training section is broken down further into mini lessons, so you can focus on the areas you’re most interested in learning.

10. How to Reason and Argue, Duke University via Coursera

Being able to confidently communicate your message with your teammates, customers, partners, and everyone else you deal with as an entrepreneur is absolutely essential. Duke University offers a reasoning course called Think Again: How to Reason and Argue via Coursera, which you should consider taking if you have trouble making great arguments about the things that matter to you the most.

This is a free, 12 week long course that involves a 5 to 6 hour time commitment to watch video lectures and complete short exercises. By the end, you’ll have the knowledge to apply what you learned about analyzing arguments from other people and how to construct your own in the best way that serves your business goals.

11. Fundamentals of Project Planning and Management, University of Virginia via Coursera

Poor project planning and sloppy execution isn’t a habit you want to develop as a business owner, which is why learning the basics of project management could be just what you need to ensure your projects run smoothly from start to finish. To do that, you can enroll in the free Fundamentals of Project Planning and Management offered by the University of Virginia through Coursera.

This course is four weeks long and requires you to commit 2 to 4 hours of your time per week to follow the video lectures and participate in case studies, discussions, and quizzes.

From its teachings, you’ll learn exactly how to plan your projects, understand what makes a project unsuccessful, define and set clear project goals, prioritize objectives, and all sorts of other techniques and processes to ensure every project you initiate is always completed successfully.

Advertising

12. Marketing in a Digital World, University of Illinois via Coursera

Smart entrepreneurs know that the internet is playing an increasingly important role in marketing – even for small, local businesses that operate primarily offline. To dive into the world of online marketing, you should consider enrolling in a course called Marketing in the Digital World, offered by the University of Illinois through Coursera.

For this course, you’re expected to spend 6 to 8 hours per week watching the video lectures as well as participating in the exercises, readings, and quizzes – for a total of 12 weeks. Each week’s teachings is based on a case study from a real company, which you’ll use to learn the foundations of marketing and how they’ve shifted toward the digital world.

13. Better Leader, Richer Life, University of Pennsylvania via Coursera

Entrepreneurs often need to brush up on their leadership skills when the time comes to hire more employees, partner with more professionals, or inspire a larger audience. Offered by the University of Pennsylvania via Coursera, a free course called Better Leader, Richer Life can help you develop and fine tune those necessary leadership skills.

The course is 10 weeks long and requires 3 to 8 hours of your time every week to learn from video lectures and weekly assignments, along with a multiple choice exam to take at the end. You’ll learn practical and proven leadership methods that will help you express your core values and build trust among the people around you.

14. Introduction to Financial Accounting, Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania via Coursera

Wait, can’t you just hire an accountant for your business? Sure, but even if you do, being able to properly understand common financial documents like balance sheets and income statements should be a goal of yours as someone who runs their own business. You can get started for free with the Introduction to Financial Accounting course via Coursera, offered by the Wharton at the University of Pennsylvania.

You’ll need to commit 6 to 8 hours a week to the course’s video lectures, discussions, and quizzes for a total of four weeks. The course teaches you how to read the three most common types of financial statements and includes teachings on the key principles they’re based on, the vocabulary they use to describe them, and even how to create them yourself.

15. Introduction to Operations Management, Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania via Coursera

Anyone who wants to effectively run and manage a business of their own should have some basic knowledge of operations to oversee production. The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania offers a free Introduction to Operations Management course via Coursera.

The course runs for a total of four weeks, with 5 to 7 hours of study time per week involving video lectures, discussions, and quizzes. By the end of it, you’ll be able to identify bottlenecks in your own business, fix problems that are inhibiting productivity, and come up with new ways to improve business processes.

Being an entrepreneur might feel pretty overwhelming at times, but when you have the right training, it doesn’t have to feel that way at all. With so many useful resources that offer both academic and practical insights, and all for free, you can rest easy knowing that you have all the information you need right at your fingertips to make your business a real success.

More by this author

Elise Moreau

Elise helps desk workers lead healthier lifestyles. Visit her website on her profile to get a free list of health hacks.

The Benefits And Drawbacks To Your Preferred Sleep Position How Smartphones Are Affecting The Mind And Body Of Your Children Amazing Benefits Of Greek Yogurt (+5 Refreshing Recipes) 15 Free Resources To Get You More Organized In 2016 Amazing Benefits of Honey (+5 Refreshing Recipes)

Trending in Work

1 How to Write a Powerful Mission Statement for Your Business 2 20 Inspiring Vision Statement Examples (2019 Updated) 3 How to Quit Your Unfulfilling Job and Lead Your Dream Career 4 8 Critical Skills for Workplace Success and Career Advancement 5 How to Find Work Motivation When You’re Unfulfilled at Work

Read Next

Advertising
Advertising
Advertising

Published on March 20, 2019

How to Write a Powerful Mission Statement for Your Business

How to Write a Powerful Mission Statement for Your Business

Have you ever felt lost in the minutia of your job?

As a business owner, I can relate to getting bogged down in the day to day operations of my business. Things like inventory, payroll, scheduling, purchasing and employee management take up the bulk of my day.

While these things are important and need to get done, focusing too much on the details can make you lose sight of the big picture. This is why having a good mission statement comes in handy.

What is a Mission Statement?

Put simply, a mission statement is an internal document that provides a clear purpose for the organization. It provides a common reference point for everyone in the organization to start from.

In other words, after reading your company’s mission statement, managers and employees should be able to answer the question “What are company’s main objectives?” For example, Southwest Airlines mission statement reads:[1]

“Southwest Airlines is dedication to the highest quality of Customer Service delivered with a sense of warmth, friendliness, individual pride, and Company Spirit. We are committed to provide our Employees a stable work environment with equal opportunity for learning and personal growth.”

In this single statement, Southwest conveys the company’s goals of providing the highest level of customer service as well as providing a good working environment for their employees.

Mission Statement VS. Vision Statement

While the mission and vision statements are related, there are subtle but distinct differences the you should be aware of.

First of all, a mission statement is designed primarily as an internal company document. It provides clarity and direction for managers and employees.

While there’s nothing wrong with sharing your company’s mission statement with the outside world, its intended audience is within the company.

While a mission statement provides a general framework for the organization, the vision statement is usually a more inspirational statement designed to motivate employees and inspire customers. Going back to Southwest Airlines, their vision statement reads:[2]

“To become the world’s most loved, most flown, and most profitable airline.”

This statement inspires good feeling from the customer while motivating the employees to achieve that vision.

What Does a Good Mission Statement Look Like?

When coming up with a mission statement, it’s important to take your time and do it right. Too often, people (especially entrepreneurs) just write down the first thing that comes to mind and they end up with worthless or (worse yet) a generic mission statement that is utterly useless.

Advertising

Remember, a mission statement should provide a common framework for everyone in your organization.

When writing a mission statement, you should always try to incorporate the following;

  • What we do?
  • How we do it?
  • Whom do we do it for?
  • What value are we bringing?

Now, you can see how tempting it is to just come up with something generic that ticks off those four boxes. Something like “We provide the best widgets available online for the consumer.”

After all, that did check off all the boxes:

What we do? Provide widgets.

How we do it? Online.

Who do we do it for? The consumer.

What value we bring? The best widgets.

The problem with this mission statement is that it could apply to any number of companies producing the same widget. There is nothing to distinguish your company or its widgets from any of your competitors widgets.

Compare that mission statement to this one:

“We provide the highest quality widgets directly to the consumer at an affordable price backed up with a 100% satisfaction guarantee. If our clients aren’t 100% satisfied, we’ll make it right.”

What’s the difference?

Both mission statements answer all the same questions of what, how, whom and value. But in the second statement, they are differentiating their company from all other competitors by answering the question “what makes us unique”.

Another way to read that is, “Why you should buy from us.” In this example, it’s because our widgets are of the highest quality and we stand behind them 100%.

Advertising

You might have noticed the statement didn’t say that we sell widgets at the lowest possible price. That’s because we are emphasizing quality and satisfaction over price.

A different company’s mission statement may emphasize selling widgets at the lowest possible price with little to no mention of a guarantee.

Hallmarks of a Good Mission Statement

1. Keep It Brief

Your mission statement should be no longer than three sentences. This is not your company’s magnum opus.

You should be able to distill the what, how, who and why questions into a succinct message.

2. Have a Purpose

A company’s missions statement should include the reason it even exists.

Make clear exactly what the company does with statements like “We strive to provide our customers with …….”

3. Include a “How”

Take this as an opportunity to differentiate your company from its competitors.

How do you provide a product or service that’s different or better than how your competitor provides it?

4. Talk About the Value You Bring to the Table

This is where you can really set yourself apart from the competition. This is the “why” customers should buy from you.

Do you offer the lowest prices? Fastest delivery? Exceptional customer service? Whatever it is that sets you apart and gives your particular products, services or company an advantage talk about it in the mission statement.

5. Make Sure It’s Plausible

It’s okay to shoot for the stars just to settle for the moon, but not in a mission statement.

Being overly ambitious will only set you and your employees up for failure, hurt morale and make you lose credibility. You will also scare away potential investors if they think that you are not being realistic in your mission statement.

6. Make It Unique and Distinctive

Imagine if someone who knew nothing about your business walked in and saw how it was operating, then they read your mission statement. Would they be able to recognize that mission statement was attached to that business? If not re-work it.

7. Think Long Term

A mission statement should be narrow enough so that it provides a common framework for the existing business, but open enough to allow for longer term goals. It should be able to grow as the business grows.

Advertising

8. Get Feedback

This is very important, especially from managers and employees.

Getting their input can clarify how they currently see the company and their role within the organization. It’s also a good way to get people “on-board,” as studies show that people are more likely to go along with an idea if they feel included in the decision making process beforehand.

9. Review Often and Revise as Necessary

You should review the missions statement often for two reasons.

First, as a reminder of what the essence of the company is. It’s easy to forget when you are in the day to day grind of the business.

And two, to make sure that the mission statement is still relevant. Things change, and not everything can be anticipated at the time a mission statement was written.

For example, if a mission statement was written before the advent of the internet, a company that use to sell things door to door now probably has a website that people order from. You should always update the mission statement to reflect these changes.

The Value of Mission Statements: Why Go Through All of These in the First Place?

It may seem like a lot of work just for a few sentences that describe a company, but the value of a well written mission statement should not be discounted.

First of all, if you are an entrepreneur, crystallizing the what, how, whom and value questions will keep you focused on the core business and its values.

If you are a manager or other employee, knowing the company’s basic tenants will help inform your interactions with both customers and colleagues alike.

Strategic Planning

A relevant mission statement acts as a framework for strategic planning. It provides guidance and parameters for making strategic decisions for the future of the company.

Measuring Performance

By having the company’s mission in a concrete form, it also allows for an objective measurement of how well the organization is meeting its stated goals at any one time.

Management can identify strengths and weaknesses in the organization based on the criteria set forth in the mission statement and make decisions accordingly.

Solidifying the Company’s Goals and Values for Employees

Part of a well run organization is nurturing happy and productive employees.

As humans, we all have an innate need for both purpose and to be part of something larger than ourselves. Providing employees with a clearly defined mission statement helps to define their role in the larger organization. Thus, fulfilling both of these needs.

Advertising

Now I’m not saying that a mission statement can overcome low pay and poor working conditions, but with everything else being equal, it can contribute to a happier and more productive workforce.

To Hold Management Accountable

By creating a mission statement, a company is publicly stating its highest values and goals for the world to see. By doing so, you are inviting both the public and your employees to to scrutinize how well the company lives up to its ideals.

So if you state that you only provide the highest quality products, and then offer something less, it’s fair for both the public and the employees to question, and even call for a change in management.

If management doesn’t take the mission statement seriously, no one else will either; and the legitimate authority that management rely’s on will be diminished.

To Serve as an Example

This is the opposite side of the coin from the previous statement. If the highest levels of management are seen taking the mission statement seriously and actively managing within the framework of the statement, that attitude filters down throughout the organization.

After all, a good employee knows what’s important to their boss and will take the steps necessary to curry favor with them.

Finally, use the company’s mission statement as a way to define roles within the company. You can do this by giving each division in the company a copy of the mission statement and challenge the head of each division to create a mission statement for their respective departments.

Their individual mission statements should focus on how each department fits in and ultimately contributes to the success of the company’s overall mission statement. This serves as both a clarifying and a team building exercise for all parts of the organization.

Final Thoughts

Developing a mission statement is too often just an after-thought, especially for entrepreneurs. We tend to prioritize things that we perceive will give us the biggest “bang for our buck.”

Somehow, taking the time and effort to sit down and think seriously about the what, whom, how and value of our business seems like a waste of time. After all, we got in the business to make money and become successful, isn’t that all we need to know?

That mindset will probably get you started okay, but if you find yourself having any success at all, you’ll find that there really is such a thing as growing pains.

By putting in the time and effort to create a mission statement, you are laying the groundwork that will give you a path to follow in your growth. And isn’t building long term success what we are really after?

More Resources About Achieving Business Success

Featured photo credit: Fab Lentz via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Southwest Airlines: About Page
[2] Fit Small Business: 10 Vision Statement Examples To Spark Your Imagination

Read Next