10 Free Online Courses That Can Benefit Every Entrepreneur Enrolling in an online course is always a good way to improve your knowledge and has never been easier or more affordable.

By Thomas Smale

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Every entrepreneur can benefit from continued education. Whether you are just starting out and handling multiple roles within your company or an experienced business owner -- enrolling in an online course is always a good way to improve your knowledge and has never been easier or more affordable.

Long gone are the days of taking evening classes at local colleges and paying tuition. You can now take excellent courses in the comfort of your own home for free.

Here are ten free online courses that every entrepreneur can benefit from.


21 Critical Lessons for Entrepreneurs

This two-hour video course by Docstoc CEO Jason Nazar takes his real-world experience and breaks it into several video lessons that discuss all the important steps of running a successful business, from vetting an idea and raising money from investors to scaling and growth strategies.

There are a lot of coaching and training programs online that are put together by individuals that don't have real business experience. They make their money by teaching and not by doing. Nazar's insight is truly valuable because he has been there. He has used the information he is sharing to grow Docstoc into a successful business.

More information about this course can be found here.

Related: 5 Podcasts That Will Get You Hooked on Digital Audio Content


New Venture Finance: Startup Funding for Entrepreneurs

Some entrepreneurs prefer not to seek outside funding, opting to bootstrap -- but the majority of startups would welcome funding with open arms if they knew how to secure it. This is what this online course from the University of Maryland covers, as professor Michael R. Pratt explains what you need to do in the early stages of your business to prepare for funding, where to source funding, how to pitch investors and venture capitalists, as well as how to close funding.

There is a lot more to the process than putting together a business plan and a pitch deck and firing it off to any investors or VC that you can find. Part of being successful is being prepared -- and this course helps entrepreneurs be prepared before going after funding.

More information about this course can be found here.


Introduction to Web Development: HTML

Every business has an online presence these days, meaning every business has a website. Some tech startup founders are very computer savvy and can write code in their sleep. Other business owners, such as a restaurateurs or retailers, might not have the same knowledge and experience. So what do entrepreneurs do that don't have a coding or programming expert on their team? They pay ridiculously high rates to companies to make simple website changes.

A lot of the small changes and tasks can be completed in-house with just a little HTML knowledge -- exactly what this course delivers. You aren't going to become a world-class developer after taking this, but you will have a thorough understanding of how to create HTML web pages and make changes and edits to existing pages.

More information about this course can be found here.


Scaling Operations: Linking Strategy and Execution

This course from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University is a five-week lesson that shows you how to correctly build an operation that is both stable and scalable. There isn't a single entrepreneur that starts a business hoping to stay small.

The two professors, Gad Allon and Jan Van Mieghem, cover everything from the correct framework, marketing, outsourcing and strategy required to scale efficiently and successfully.

More information about this course can be found here.

How to Make Money Online: The Passive Income Business Plan

My company brokers the sale of online businesses, so I understand firsthand how lucrative online-based businesses can be. This course lays out a simple, yet effective, way to make money online. The goal of the 12-hour video course is to explain how to execute a plan to make $5,000 in monthly passive income by creating 10 websites that each produce $500 in monthly revenue.

While this is a basic introduction to online business, it does provide helpful information for entrepreneurs that have contemplated starting an online business but weren't sure how to start. It's a good first step for those interested in making money online -- as are these online business models.

More information about this course can be found here.

Related: 4 Ways Technology Is Making Education More Affordable and Available

Successful Negotiation: Essential Strategies and Skills

Being able to negotiate is a skill that every entrepreneur should master. Business contracts, vendor contracts, lease agreements and employee contracts all require negotiation. George Siedel and the University of Michigan have put together a video course that consists of more than eight hours of practical education that breaks down the negotiation process into four parts.

This is also a great course to have your sales team complete -- there isn't a single sales professional that cannot benefit from additional negotiation education. The fundamentals taught in this course can be applied to virtually any sales scenario.

More information about this course can be found here.

Foundations of Business Strategy

Think you would gain a competitive advantage if you understood how to position your company to maximize your value creation? Professor Michael Lenox, from the University of Virginia's Darden School of Business, has created a seven-hour video course designed to help entrepreneurs understand competitive markets, analyze structure and capabilities, as well as how to determine competitive positioning.

More information about this course can be found here.

Fundamentals of Project Planning and Management

Look back at the last project you completed -- did it go as smoothly as you would have liked? You could have the best plan but if it isn't executed properly you could potentially miss a deadline or fail entirely. Not only does this course put together by the University of Virginia explain how to properly plan a project, but it also explains what to do when things don't go as planned.

Understanding how to react when things go wrong is equally as important as understanding how to execute a project that is going to plan. Have your project manager or department heads take this course with you and really increase your company's effectiveness.

More information about this course can be found here.


Entrepreneurship -- From Idea to Launch

If you are just starting a business or are thinking about becoming an entrepreneur, this course is for you. With nearly 40,000 individuals already completing this course, Dr. Jeff Cornwall explains practical steps to take an idea and turn it into a successful business.

Currently a professor of entrepreneurship at Belmont University in Nashville, Tenn., Cornwall walks the talk. He took a nine-year break from the education world to co-found Atlantic Behavioral Health Systems. This course is a great introduction to the world of entrepreneurship that is taught by someone who has actually launched a company.

More information about this course can be found here.


Every single business needs to have a digital footprint these days -- there are no exceptions. While you can always just hire a digital marketing firm to handle everything it is a good idea to have a full understanding of what a digital marketing campaign consists of.

Along with discussing digital promotion, this course also dives into the creation of digital products. Many businesses -- the publishing industry for example -- are converting to digital products. This is a four-week course by Aric Rindfleisch of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign that is a must for new entrepreneurs as well as seasoned business owners that haven't quite grasped digital promotion.

More information about this course can be found here.


Bonus: Guide to Buying an Online Business

Buying a business can be a shortcut to success online. Why start something from scratch when someone else has done all of the hard work for you?

This short guide by my company walks through the whole process of buying an online business from initial identification all the way through to successfully closing a sale. You can get free access to it here.

Have you taken any free online courses that you found to be highly valuable and might be of interest to other entrepreneurs? Share your favorites in the comments section below.

Related: The 5 Most Popular TED Talks of All Time

Thomas Smale

Entrepreneur Leadership Network® Contributor

Founder of FE International

Thomas Smale co-founded FE International in 2010. He has been interviewed on podcasts, blogs and also spoken at a number of industry events on online businesses, exit strategy and selling businesses.

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