While most startup operations require owners to have, or develop, skills specific to their chosen industry, there is a core set of fundamental competencies that every aspiring entrepreneur should master before launching a business.
These skills are applicable to any sector, and a basic knowledge of them can save time and resources further down the line, as well as provide you with a better understanding of the crucial elements of your business.
Therefore, we've looked at a variety of the most suitable courses through which to obtain these skills, and selected a mixture of the best paid and free options from across a number of platforms.
So, if you're looking to expand your knowledge and your skillset, here are ten entrepreneurship certificate programmes that can help you take the next step.
Why Take a Course?
First, though, it's worth exploring how taking a course can benefit you and your business.
You may think that by outsourcing certain tasks and relying on the expertise of others, you can avoid making certain mistakes. However, a lack of understanding of specific systems and processes can result in a loss of value for services provided or, worse still, the performance and reputation of your business can suffer without you even realising it. Aspiring entrepreneurs don't need to be experts in every field of business – this would be impossible, after all – but you still need to have a well-rounded knowledge of the basics.
Even if you do possess a relevant qualification, such as a business degree or an MBA, there are still gaps that can be covered – especially in fast-moving, technology-driven sectors such as digital marketing or supply chain management. There are many practical aptitudes that an MBA's theory-based curriculum doesn't cover, for instance, so ongoing training and education can ensure that you remain ahead of the curve.
What Are the Best Courses for Entrepreneurs?
There are thousands of courses, certifications, and degrees that you can study online, all while learning at your own pace. We have compiled a list that covers the most essential elements of day-to-day business management, meaning that their completion will offer the maximum impact and return on your time investment.
For Accounting and Finance...
As a business owner, you don't necessarily need to be a qualified bookkeeper or accountant. You can either outsource your accounting needs to a trusted third-party, or, as is increasingly the case, adopt the use of an accounting software tool such as QuickBooks or Sage.
That said, some knowledge of core finance management tools is recommended, as you will possess a much clearer understanding of your company's position, and be able to build models that can help you understand how a particular decision may affect you going forward. Microsoft Excel is, therefore, a great place to start.
One of the most popular and widely distributed software programmes ever built, Excel is an invaluable tool that is used in many businesses – and not just by accountants. Hugely powerful and flexible, it can assist your business through financial forecasting, budgeting, data analysis, and bookkeeping, as well as provide records of transactions, customers, or any other form of database that you need to keep.
Although pricey in comparison to competitors, Udemy's Excel Essentials: The Complete Excel, promises to take you from a novice to a superuser fluent in all things Excel. This 28-hour course is said to be one of the highest-rated courses in this niche, with over 96,000 students from 198 countries having completed it, and over 9000 5-star reviews given.
Alternatively, if you're looking to save a few bucks (or you only want to learn how to manage finances with spreadsheets and formulas), then you could try out a free option such as the Free Excel Crash Course (Spreadsheet Tutorial for Finance).
QuickBooks, meanwhile, is a hugely popular accounting software system that can help small and medium-sized businesses manage their books. Mastering this system through a simple online course such as Udemy's Mastering Quickbooks Online can help you stay atop your books, as well as enable you to automate your business payments, such as bills and salaries.
This course will show you how to set up a QuickBooks account, enter and record business transactions, find and fix mistakes, and create and customise reports, saving you a wealth of time further down the line.
For Digital Marketing...
There is a broad range of skills that can fall under this category, including content marketing and search engine optimisation (SEO), social media marketing (SMM), branding, email marketing, affiliate marketing, AdWords, media buying, and more. However, while there are a range of useful certificates that cover each of these topics in vast detail, it may be more practical to settle for an overview. Luckily, many online platforms offer all-in-one courses that do just this, ranging from beginner-oriented short courses to more intermediate levels of training.
Google's Digital Garage is a good example of the former, offering a free 40-hour course and a certificate in the Fundamentals of Digital Marketing. In fact, Google's academy is a treasure trove of useful programmes, with free classes in how to use Google Analytics and Search Console, as well as in-depth tutorials (and certificates) on how to conduct paid advertising campaigns across a variety of mediums.
Alternatively, if you're happy to pay and would prefer a non-vendor-related digital marketing option, then Udacity's Become a Digital Marketer is well worth a look. Again, the course is a bit pricey, but if you are planning on launching an eCommerce venture, or you expect to generate the majority of your leads online, it can be invaluable. The course dives deep with real-world projects and guidance from industry experts, as well as mentor support.
For Public Relations and Public Speaking...
As an entrepreneur, you need to be able to network, as well as manage events for your business. There are plenty of free and low-priced resources to walk you through the art of networking, many of which you can search and find on LinkedIn Learning.
One such option that can help boost your confidence and self-awareness in public speaking situations is Body Language for Entrepreneurs. This is a fundamental skill that many business owners overlook or simply do not possess, yet it can be hugely important during conversations or presentations with employees, clients (potential and existing), and – most crucially – investors.
For Project Management...
Running a business also requires project management skills, whether you realise it or not. The ability to visualise a project from beginning to end, and map out all the steps and activities involved – including resources needed, budgeting restraints, and people involved – is key to achieving your company's goals.
Project management certificates are notoriously expensive – especially those offered under the Six Sigma, PRINCE2, and PMP umbrellas – and require the completion of authorised exams. Therefore, if you're looking for a more general overview, save a few bucks with Oxford Home Study's Project Management Short Course, a 20-hour look at the fundamental concepts of project management.
General Entrepreneurship Programmes
If instead, you are looking to complete a course that encompasses all these elements, then the Global Entrepreneurship Institute offers a variety of online solutions. Their Online Entrepreneurship Certificate Programme is not only free, but also promises to help connect you with investors, professional service providers, and other entrepreneurs. The course also offers a business plan review service, as well as customised assistance from mentors and experts.
Ultimately, the more you know about the world of business, the higher your chances of success. You don't necessarily need to spend large sums of money gaining a business education, but it is certainly worth filling in your knowledge gaps as and when they appear.
Indeed, with so many free and affordable opportunities online, there is no excuse or limit on what you can learn, although, of course, there is no substitute for rolling up your sleeves, getting out there and learning through experience. Through a combination of the two, you can put yourself in a strong position, and avoid mistakes that you would otherwise have made.
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