It’s all too easy for entrepreneurs to keep their noses down, focusing on the day-to-day grind. Heck, Michael Gerber made his millions speaking to this fact of working in a business rather than on it. But coming up for air once in a while can net major benefits, especially when it comes to expanding your knowledge and skills.
Here are 21 places you should be looking to learn new things about your industry, as well as different facets of running a business.
Blogs. You’ve gotta love blogs. They provide really insightful information most of the time, without charging a dime. You can learn everything from how to use social media, marketing your business, to the latest news in your industry.
Not every blog is awesome, so when you find one that delivers real value, bookmark it or add it to your RSS feed. Here are a few picks you might find useful:
1. Search Engine Land: One of the reasons I love contributing here is the diversity of entrepreneur-related content, as well as insightful, breaking news and analysis regarding search-engine marketing.
2. Small Business Trends: Aimed directly at small-business owners, this blog covers company spotlights and hands-on how-to advice.
3. Social Media Examiner: If it’s possible to do on social media, there’s already a blog post about it here. Useful if you’re doing your own marketing.
MOOCs. No, it’s not a derogatory term. MOOC stands for Massive Open Online Courses, which are free to take. Universities all over the globe offer online courses on every imaginable topic, including business. Try these sites to start:
4. Coursera: It offers more than 700 courses, including those on data analysis and mobile-cloud computing.
5. Udemy: Learn about Bitcoin, business strategy or 15,998 other topics.
6. MOOC List: Comprehensive list of all available MOOC courses across multiple platforms.
Whitepapers and ebooks. Looking for a little more knowledge than a blog post can provide? Whitepapers and ebooks go in-depth on a topic and can be consumed quickly. Some are free (just expect to have to provide your email address to access them), while others are pretty affordable.
7. QuickSprout: Here you'll find personal expertise from world-renowned marketing expert and extremely successful entrepreneur, Neil Patel.
8. HubSpot: The company’s giveaways might be more popular than their marketing software. Current offerings include ebooks on Facebook marketing, SEO and content marketing.
9. Kindle Unlimited: If you’re an avid reader, Amazon’s new service can help you digest more digital books without paying full price.
Webinars. Everyone learns differently. If you like videos and interacting with your teachers, look for online webinars, both live and recorded, as valuable teaching tools. Again, some of these will be free, but the real value will be found in the ones that charge even a nominal fee.
10. Google Hangouts: Search for whatever you want to learn more about and join a Hangout on Air. The Hangouts are recorded and posted to YouTube, in case you miss the live stream.
11. BizLaunch: This company hosts regular free webinars for entrepreneurs on topics such as email marketing, SEO and social media.
12. SCORE: Here you'll find excellent information on the basics, such as how to start a nonprofit or negotiate a commercial lease.
Twitter chats. If you’ve never participated in a Twitter chat, you’ll be surprised how quickly they go by and how much you can learn. But don’t worry if you can’t take it all in in real time. You can always scroll back through the participating tweets (designated with a specific hashtag) and take notes later.
13. #SmallBizChat: Held each Wednesday at 8 p.m. ET, this chat covers the gamut of topics relevant to small-business owners.
14. #BlogChat: One of the largest Twitter chats, this one has an impressive lineup of social media, content marketing and small-business experts Sundays at 9 p.m. ET.
15. #B2BChat: Learn from business-to-business experts and network on Thursdays at 8 p.m. ET.
LinkedIn groups. Another spot on social media that can provide plenty of fodder for your brain are LinkedIn groups. There’s one on every topic under the sun, so sign up for a few and start ingesting.
16. On Startups: Run by Dharmesh Shah of HubSpot, this group provides insightful articles from entrepreneurs.
17. Sales Best Practices: Beef up your sales skills by joining this group, filled with sales pros and business owners.
18. Succeed: Small Business Network, Powered by Staples: This group includes a nice mix of entrepreneurs with different sized businesses.
Videos. If you prefer video to written content, you’ve got plenty of educational content to watch on various video distribution channels.
20. Videolla: An up-and-comer, this site offers really specific advice, such as “how to pitch to investors in under two minutes.”
21. Justin.tv: With more than 10,000 live channels going on at a given moment, you’re sure to find business content you can use.
While I listed general small-business and entrepreneur resources, you can also look for Twitter chats, ebooks and webinars in your own industry. Look for industry associations and organizations that may offer free or for-a-fee educational content.
Don’t get overwhelmed with so many options, though. Put the resources you want to explore on your calendar, assess two or three a month, then dedicate time to really dive in and see what’s there. While it will require some time investment, you’ll be rewarded with knowledge.