a blog from CenturyLink

The best free online business courses to learn new skills

by | Nov 15, 2021


Are you trying to take your business to the next level? Or are you ready to take on something new? Learn new skills by taking free online business courses. Whether you need to understand how to operate a business, want to improve your financial literacy, or want to start digital marketing in 2022, there’s a free online business course for you.

General business

Whether you’re just starting a business, or want to learn how to manage, market, or grow it, stop by the U.S. Small Business Administration Learning Platform. The courses are easy to take and have both video and transcripts. You also don’t have to take all the lessons at once. Pause and pick up when you have a spare moment. The learning platform covers all the basics of starting a small business. Learn how to write a small business plan or how to understand your customers.

Kutztown University offers the Small Business Development Center with a resource center full of free online business courses. The Small Business Development Center sources its courses from several organizations including the IRS, American Express, and Hubspot. Perhaps the most helpful resource on the site is the video tutorials for microbusinesses. You can learn how to sell on eBay and Etsy and monetize YouTube videos. The resource center also has a couple of helpful downloads to help you plan.

A woman listens to an online business course from her couch and takes notes.

Accounting and financial literacy

Every small business needs to know how to balance its books, pay the proper amount in taxes and track the all-important cash flow. While there are accounting apps out there for small businesses, it’s still important to understand the basics.

Bookkeeping Training has a library of courses created by Harold Averkamp, a CPA and MBA who also taught university-level accounting for years. He provides in-depth yet highly understandable instruction on accounting basics. Learn how to fill out balance sheets and manage income statements. You can also dive into specialized topics like improving profits and evaluating business investments. Quizzes are part of the free plan, but flashcards and other enrichments require a paid Pro plan. To earn a certificate, you’ll need to sign up for a Pro Plus plan.

With over 1,000 courses available, OpenLearn has something for just about every need. The platform’s “Introduction to bookkeeping and accounting” is an eight-hour course that covers all of the basics. You can start and stop as needed, get a statement of participation when you’re done, and even download the course to PDF, Kindle, and other formats.

If your company plans to begin using QuickBooks or you just need a refresher on some topics, browse the Intuit how-to videos. Whether you need to set up QuickBooks, issue an invoice, or pay sales tax, you can get the information quickly. Nearly all videos are less than four minutes and get right to the point.

For general financial literacy, check out the FDIC’s Money Smart for Small Business course. The materials are free to download in either English or Spanish and cover banking for small businesses, organization types and time management.

A person watches an online business course on their laptop. The instructor refers to a white board.

Digital marketing and sales

Some companies still rely on traditional marketing methods like mailing flyers and running newspaper ads. But digital marketing has the potential to reach a much broader audience. It means having a digital presence, which may include having a top-notch website, using social media, and even implementing local SEO.

While digital marketing seems easy, many small businesses struggle to get it right. Taking small business courses online through HubSpot Academy and Google Skillshop can make that job easier. These courses also usually come with a certificate to prove your skills and mark your training.

HubSpot provides training for inbound sales and marketing. Their courses cover social media marketing and email marketing, website design and optimization. If you’re interested in digital ads, Google teaches you how to set them up. You can also learn about digital analytics and campaigns. While both companies’ training speaks to the capabilities of their specific platforms, there is also solid general information throughout.

Office productivity

Do you need help organizing your Outlook inbox? Tackling PivotTables in Excel? Managing meetings in Teams? Head to the Microsoft 365 Training site for high-quality video training. Microsoft covers all of the productivity apps, and includes training on SharePoint, Delve, Planner, Sway, and much more. The site also offers specific small business training, such as setting up Office on computers and mobile devices, setting up business apps, and securing your business.

MOOCs: free online courses for everything under the sun

The massive open online course (MOOC) model offers university courses for free to anyone. MOOC participants watch lectures and can take quizzes and complete optional assignments. Some courses may allow online students to interact with professors and teaching assistants. These are the same courses that tuition-paying students take; the difference is that MOOC participants don’t sit for the final exam or earn credits. MOOC participants “audit” courses purely for learning.

Because these are actual university courses, MOOCs come with a time commitment. But you can learn to program through the University of Toronto, take a business writing course from Berkeley, or gain social media marketing skills through Wharton. A few of the better MOOCs are Coursera and edX.

Alison and Udemy are also considered MOOCs but are not tied to traditional higher education institutions. Their course catalogs have plenty of free online business courses taught by professionals in their respective lines of work.

A young man asks a question on a webinar.

Honorable mention: free trial

LinkedIn Learning offers over 15,000 video-based courses geared toward business and helping you learn new skills online. Although the company charges a subscription fee, you can sign up for a 30-day free trial. Within those 30 days, take as many courses as you have time for.

Last words

Taking free online business courses is a smart way to get professional and career development. Learning important skills like financial literacy and digital marketing can also help you scale your small business. For more on small business, check out the Small Business section of the CenturyLink Discover blog.

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<a href="https://discover.centurylink.com/author/kim-lindros" target="_self">Kim Lindros</a>

Kim Lindros