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For most entrepreneurs, the early days of starting a business involve a massive learning curve. Whether you’ve graduated with an MBA or you’ve never taken a business class in your life, there will always be a new problem to face, and you’ll always need to recalibrate the processes that allow your business to function and grow. That’s when the best online business courses can come in handy.
Years ago, a struggling entrepreneur’s only options were to consult a mentor, enroll in a local college class, or figure things out as they went along. Fortunately, you now have access to a growing number of free or low-cost online courses for business owners—so no matter what your challenge is, you’ll be armed with the information you need to make the best possible decision for your company.
To keep navigation simple, we’ve come up with a list of the 11 best online business courses. They’ll help you take your business to the next level, no matter which aspect of your business you need to grow (or launch)—all without breaking your business bank account.
We’ve organized the best online business courses into four key pillars—business planning, finances, marketing, and operations—so you can find the perfect course for your business today.
Every successful small business starts with a clear business plan—but business planning isn’t a one-time event that wraps up as soon as you open your doors. Let these online courses for business owners be your guide to smart, strategic planning for every stage of your small business.
If you’re just getting started with your small business journey and are feeling overwhelmed by the legal processes involved, check out Startup & Small Business Law: Business Registration & More.
With just 2.5 hours of video and written material, you’ll quickly get the information you need about choosing and registering your business entity, understanding crucial legal issues concerning internet privacy and intellectual property, hiring a small business lawyer, and more.
Cost: Currently $10.99
Who it’s for: Any U.S. based, brand-new entrepreneur looking for guidance on how to choose the right corporate structure, register their business efficiently, and navigating other legal issues that may arise when starting a business.
If you’re brand new to the business world, you won’t find a more comprehensive training ground than How to Start Your Own Business, a specialized course available on Coursera and created by Michigan State University. This course includes trainings on developing an entrepreneurial mindset, business idea generation, creating a business plan and model, building your business structure, and prepping to launch your business.
But the most unique and valuable aspect of this online course is its last module, in which you’ll put all those lessons into action and literally launch your business—legal registration and all—right alongside your fellow learners.
The full program includes six courses that range from three to seven weeks in length, but you can also choose only to take the course that most interests you.
Cost: $49 per month, which you can cancel anytime
Who it’s for: Any aspiring entrepreneur who wants to learn foundational skills and practices of starting a business—then actually launching their business with the support of a community of learners.
Are you aware of the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats that are impacting how your business performs from day to day? If not, Understand SWOT Analysis is one of the best online business courses you can take.
In just 30 minutes of video training, you can quickly master the proven four-step strategy that thousands of businesses use to create effective strategic plans and assess the performance of their organizations.
Who it’s for: Entrepreneurs looking for a systematic way to analyze plans and performance within their business.
Generating a profit isn’t just about attracting customers and selling more of your product or service—you also need to know how to manage your finances properly.
Though financial management is rarely any entrepreneur’s favorite part of running a business, these courses will help you nail down the basics of financial planning then streamline your processes, so that you can make the most of every dollar your business earns. (Who knows? You might even learn to enjoy it.)
This 101 course is ideal for new business owners who need a working knowledge of financial and accounting concepts. True to its name, Finance and Accounting for Small Business & Entrepreneurs provides a foundation for new business owners—and even aspiring investors—to learn about accounting for labor and inventory costs, preparing financial statements, and even determining business valuation and raising capital when it’s time to grow your business.
Cost: Currently $10.99
Who it’s for: New small business owners who need to learn the concepts and skills necessary for managing their business finances.
In under an hour of written and video material, Financing Options for Small Businesses from the U.S. Small Business Administration will introduce you to the various financing options available to your small business.
From business loans to grants, venture capital, angel investors, and even crowdfunding options, learn the pros and cons of each potential source to make the best choice for your business.
Who it’s for: Any small business owner who anticipates needing outside financing from loans, investors, or another source in the short or long term.
Accounting software and reports can provide incredible insights into how your business is doing financially—if you know how to use them.
In this Fundamentals of Accounting course, small business owners will learn common principles and terminology used across financial sectors. After completing these few hours of video instruction, you’ll be better equipped to manage your own business finances, ask smarter questions of your bookkeeper or accountant, and become a better manager of your revenue.
Who it’s for: Entrepreneurs who want to learn skills for managing their own bookkeeping, review accounting documents created by bookkeepers or CPAs, or serve as a professional bookkeeper.
No matter how amazing your product or service may be, your business can’t succeed without a method of attracting customers. Through these best online business courses for small business marketing, you’ll develop the skills to grow your brand’s reach (and profit) through both digital and traditional marketing channels.
This free course from Hubspot Academy is a valuable starting point for anyone new to the world of content marketing. In just four hours, you’ll be ready to generate incredible content ideas, tell powerful stories that attract customers to your brand, and create and distribute your content in an informed and systematic way.
Who it’s for: Anyone who’s heard of “content marketing,” but needs clear education and instructions to apply the strategies to their business.
There are a ton of online courses for business owners about social media, but we love this low-cost course from Melyssa Griffin. Using 60 minutes of video material, a bonus 30-minute Q&A recording, and a written workbook, Griffin offers simple, approachable strategies to help you make social media work wonders for your small business.
Who it’s for: Online entrepreneurs struggling to grow their presence without spending all their time on social media channels.
To run a successful business, you’ll need strategies to establish your team, create internal processes, and execute production in an effective and repeatable manner. That’s why taking online courses for business owners that focus on operations in particular can be crucial to growing your business.
As your business grows, you’ll be charged with making increasingly complex decisions. If you’re a little intimidated by the prospect of such responsibility, Making Successful Decisions through the Strategy, Law & Ethics Model, designed by a University of Michigan Business Law professor, might quell those anxieties.
This course introduces students to this three-pillar model of successful decision-making, and how you can implement this strategy to improve your business operations. Among many other concepts, you’ll understand employment law, learn how to develop products while navigating liability risks, comply with government regulations, and ethically create business value to ensure that you make the decisions that’ll keep your business running smoothly (and aboveboard).
Cost: $79 to earn a certificate upon completion, or free for no certificate
Who it’s for: Business owners helming growing companies, who want to learn how to ethically manage a team and negotiate with stakeholders.
Whether your small business is a team of two or 200, at some point you’ll likely be responsible for managing, leading, and supporting a team of employees. In this Introduction to Human Resources course from the U.S. Small Business Administration, you’ll learn critical strategies for hiring employees, managing personnel, complying with federal and state employment regulations, and addressing the challenging-yet-inevitable aspects of heading a growing company.
Who it’s for: Any entrepreneur who plans to grow their business beyond a one-person operation.
No matter how creative your business idea might be, your success as an entrepreneur will ultimately depend on your team’s ability to deliver your product or service on time, on budget, and within your available resources. In Project Management Principles and Practices, a free project management course from UC Irvine, you’ll learn the keys to planning, budgeting, scheduling, and managing projects across every area of your business.
Who it’s for: Business owners who lack the processes to implement their ideas.
What new skills are you learning—or need to learn ASAP—as a small business owner? Whether you’re facing an urgent challenge, or you simply want to bolster yourself with better business knowledge, know that there’s a whole digital university out there for you to take advantage of—and you don’t need to pay a brick-and-mortar-sized tuition for access.