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11 Free or Cheap Online Courses for Business Owners

Meredith Wood

Meredith Wood

Editor-in-Chief at Fundera
Meredith is Editor-in-Chief at Fundera. Specializing in financial advice for small business owners, Meredith is a current and past contributor to Yahoo!, Amex OPEN Forum, Fox Business, SCORE, AllBusiness and more.
Meredith Wood

For most entrepreneurs, the early days of starting a business involve a massive, never-ending learning curve. Whether you’ve graduated with an MBA or you’ve never taken a business class in your life, there is always a new problem to face, and you’ll always be learning how to improve the processes that allow your business to function and grow.

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 cheap online courses for business owners—so no matter what the challenge of the day might be, you’ll be armed with the information you need to make the best possible decision for your company.

But with so many online courses for business owners floating around, how do you know which ones can actually move your business forward? To keep things simple, we’ve come up with our list of the top 11 online courses for small business owners that will help you take your business to the next level.

Already know just what you need? We’ve organized our favorite online courses for business owners into four key pillars—business planning, finances, marketing, and operations—so you can find the perfect course for your business today.

The Top 11 Online Courses for Business Owners

online courses for business owners

Business Planning

Every successful small business starts with a clear plan—but business planning isn’t a one-time event that wraps up as soon as you open the doors to your first customers. Let these online courses for business owners be your guide to smart, strategic business planning for every stage of your small business.

1. Company Formation Law: How to Register Your Business by Udemy

If you’re just getting started with your business journey and feeling overwhelmed by the initial red-tape of formally registering your business, check out this quick and useful Udemy course.

With just an hour of video and written material, you’ll quickly get the information you need to choose your business entity, register, and get on with building your business into everything you’ve hoped it could be.

Cost: $50

Who it’s for: Any U.S. based, just-getting-started entrepreneur looking for guidance on how to choose the right corporate structure and register their business efficiently.

Main takeaways:

  • Understand the importance of registering your business as a formal entity.
  • Determine the right entity type (LLC vs. C-Corporation vs. S-Corporation) for your unique business needs.
  • Learn the steps you need to register your business correctly and efficiently, ensuring that you’ll start your business on the best possible legal footing.

2. Crafting a Business Plan by SmallBizU

If you’re searching for online courses for business owners, this is not one you want to miss. You’ve heard time and again that having a formalized business plan is so critical to your success as a small business owner—but what does that even mean? What is a business plan? What is it supposed to say? And how are you supposed to have all those answers when you’re just getting started with your new business?

These are the exactly the questions that the “Crafting a Business Plan” course from SmallBizU aims to answer. In under 2.5 hours of in-depth SlideShare and audio content, this online course will give you everything you need to check that ever-looming “write a business plan” task off your to-do list for good.

Cost: $29.99

Who it’s for: Any aspiring or current entrepreneur who wants to create a formalized business plan but isn’t sure how to go about it.

Main takeaways:

  • Discover why writing a formal business plan is such a powerful step in your entrepreneurship journey.
  • Identify the key questions that your business plan should address.
  • Access a simple, step-by-step approach to create your own comprehensive business plan.
  • Avoid the common mistakes that most entrepreneurs make during the business planning process.

3. Understanding SWOT Analysis

Are you aware of the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats that are impacting how your business performs from day to day? If not, this is one of the most helpful online courses for business owners that you could 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.

Cost: Free!

Who it’s for: Entrepreneurs looking for a systematic way to analyze plans and performance within their business.

Main takeaways:

  • Learn to perform a SWOT analysis for your business.
  • Apply the discoveries made in your SWOT analysis to goal setting and strategic planning processes.
  • Follow specific case studies to better understand the applications of SWOT to a variety of business scenarios.

Finances

No matter what industry you’re in, the end purpose of any business is to generate a profit. But profitability isn’t just about attracting customers and selling more of your product or service—you also have to manage your finances well!

Though financial management is rarely any entrepreneur’s favorite part of running a business, these courses will help you streamline your processes more efficiently so that you can make the most of every dollar your business earns.

4. Cashflow Management for Small Businesses: A How-To Guide

Did you know that poor management of cash flow is consistently cited as the single biggest reason that small businesses fail? With that fact in mind, this cash flow management course from Udemy might be the most important out of all of the online courses for business owners that you could take for your business this year.

Enroll in this short, valuable course today to learn how to properly and consistently manage your business’s cash flow, ensuring that you always have enough cash on hand to cover both projected expenses and the unexpected costs that every business eventually faces.

Cost: $25

Who it’s for: This course is relevant to any business that wants to maintain strong cash flow and avoid unnecessary business debt.

Main takeaways:

  • Master the formulas and theory behind business cashflow management.
  • Adopt consistent processes to make business decisions based on your real-time cash flow figures.
  • Learn the impact of tax savings and payments on your business’s cash flow.
  • Make accurate, relevant projections of your business’s future cash flow based on relevant data.

5. Financing Options for Small Businesses

In under an hour of written and video material, this self-paced course from the U.S. Small Business Administration will introduce you to the various financing options available to your small business. The SBA is a great resource to look for online courses for business owners.

From business loans to grants, venture capital, angel investors, and even crowdfunding options, learn the pros and cons of each potential source of funding to make the best choice for your business.

Cost: Free!

Who it’s for: Any small business owner who anticipates needing outside financing from loans, investors, or some other source in the short or long term.

Main takeaways:

  • Determine your business’s short-term and long-term financing needs.
  • Discover the various financing options available to your small business, and the pros and cons of each.
  • Identify the financing options that are most likely to fit within your business plan, and access resources to help you pursue those forms of funding.

6. Fundamentals of Accounting

Accounting software and reports can provide incredible insights into how your business is doing financially—if you know how to use them. In this course, small business owners can learn to follow along with common principles and terminology used across financial sectors. After completing these two to three 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 the revenue your business earns.

Cost: Free!

Who it’s for: Entrepreneurs who want to learn skills for managing their own bookkeeping, review accounting documents created by professional bookkeepers or CPA’s, or serve as a professional bookkeeper.

Main takeaways:

  • Master commonly used accounting principles and terminology.
  • Create your first balance sheet and income statement for your business, and understand what these reports reflect.
  • Learn to adjust discrepancies in your business’s daily bookkeeping through journal and ledger tools.

Marketing

No matter how amazing your product or service may be, your business can’t succeed without a clear path to gain the awareness and confidence of your target customers, then convert those relationships into sales. And no matter how many online courses for business owners you take, you’ll never regret taking a marketing course. 

In these three free or cheap marketing courses for small business owners, you’ll develop the skills to grow your brand’s reach with customers through digital and traditional marketing channels.

7. Content Marketing Certification from Hubspot

The term “content marketing” has become a popular buzzword among small business owners who want to grow their audiences and gain new customers without spending a lot of money on paid advertising. But do you actually know what content marketing is, and how to implement it in a strategic way?

This free course from Hubspot Academy is an incredibly valuable starting point for anyone new to the world of online 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 a systematic way.

Cost: Free!

Who it’s for: Anyone who’s heard the “content marketing” buzzword but needs clear education and instructions to apply the strategies to their business.

Main takeaways:

  • Understand how content marketing works and why it is such a powerful tool for your business.
  • Plan a long-term content strategy that aligns with your brand’s goals.
  • Master strategies to promote and repurpose your content in order to extend your reach.
  • Learn to analyze and measure your content marketing efforts so you always know exactly what’s working for your business.

8. Social Media Superhero by Melyssa Griffin

You already know the value of social media as a free and accessible avenue to share your brand’s message. But how do efficiently create a social media presence that actually brings in more revenue?

There are a ton of online courses for business owners about social media. But we love this one. Using 60 minutes of video material, a bonus 30-minute Q&A recording, and a written workbook, Melyssa Griffin offers simple, approachable strategies to help you make social media work for your small business.

Cost: $37

Who it’s for: Online entrepreneurs struggling to grow their presence without spending all their time on social media channels.

Main takeaways:

  • Create attractive, approachable social media profiles for your brand.
  • Discover specific strategies for use on Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest
  • Learn streamlined processes to save time with your social media efforts.

Operations

How does your business get things done? How do big ideas turn into actual, tangible products or services that meet your customers’ needs? To run a successful business, you’ll need clear strategies to grow your team, create clear processes, and execute every stage of the production process in an effective and repeatable manner. That why taking online courses for business owners that focus on operations in particular can be crucial to growing your business. 

If you have a head full of big ideas but struggle to make them happen, these three free online courses provide clear tools and strategies to get the right things done at the right time.

9. Fundamentals of Operations Management

Every day, creators and innovators just like you are designing incredible, attractive, useful products that customers would love. So, what determines which of those products actually make their way to market and become widely known and sold? The answer is operations management.

In this course, learn how to plan your capacity for producing your product, protect the supply chain of your raw materials and final offering, and effectively manage your inventory to have the right product available in the right location at the right time—without sacrificing the quality of your creation.

Cost: Free!

Who it’s for: Product-based business owners who need to improve the efficiency of their manufacturing and distribution processes.

Main takeaways:

  • Understand the relationship between operations, productivity, and the competitiveness of your business.
  • Improve inventory management and quality assurance processes for your product.
  • Master the strategic plans and decisions required to better manage the daily operations of your organization.

10. Introduction to Human Resources by Small Business Administration

Once again, the SBA can be a huge resource if you’re looking for online courses for business owners. Whether your small business is a team of one or one hundred, you’ll at some point be responsible for managing, leading, and getting the best work out of your team members.

In this short course from the U.S. Small Business Administration, learn critical strategies for hiring employees, managing personnel, complying with federal and state employment regulations, and addressing the challenging-yet-inevitable aspects of leading a growing company.

Cost: Free!

Who it’s for: Any entrepreneur who plans to grow their business beyond a one-person operation.

Main takeaways:

  • Understand the essentials of an effective hiring process, including defining roles for each team member, recruiting top talent, and interviewing candidates to make the best selection.
  • Prepare your business to comply with all relevant employment laws and maintain a safe work environment.
  • Develop policies and procedures for onboarding team members, providing feedback, and dealing with termination or separation of a team member as needs arise.

11. Project Management Principles & Practices

No matter how smart or 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 in a consistent manner.

In this free project management course from UC Irvine, learn keys to planning, budgeting, scheduling, and managing projects across every area of your business to turn those big ideas into reality.

Cost: Free!

Who it’s for: Business owners with big dreams who are lacking clear processes to implement their ideas.

Main takeaways:

  • Learn to set projects up for success through effective planning, including identifying project roles and defining success for each endeavor.
  • Master scheduling and budgeting techniques to complete projects at cost and within the predetermined time frame.
  • Develop tools to identify and manage changes in project scope and objectives so you’re prepared to manage priorities without allowing your projects to spin out of control.

What new skills are you learning as a small business owner? No matter the challenges you face today, we hope that these online courses for business owners point you in the right direction.

Editorial Note: Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.
Meredith Wood

Meredith Wood

Editor-in-Chief at Fundera
Meredith is Editor-in-Chief at Fundera. Specializing in financial advice for small business owners, Meredith is a current and past contributor to Yahoo!, Amex OPEN Forum, Fox Business, SCORE, AllBusiness and more.
Meredith Wood

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