A Comprehensive List of Free or Cheap Online Courses for Small Business Owners

Updated on 12 April 2019

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Full List of Free or Inexpensive Online Courses for Small Business Owners

For entrepreneurs looking to up their knowledge, whether it’s their financial management or basic coding skills, online courses offer multiple opportunities. The biggest advantages of online courses are lower costs, flexibility and convenience. With just the cost of data to consider, free online courses offer access to a variety of programmes that can be of benefit to entrepreneurs.

How online learning works is registered learners are able to log on at any time and anywhere and can complete the course at their own pace. Course duration varies, typically from a few hours, up to a few months. While most online courses do not offer credits that count toward an academic degree, there are some online education platforms that offer accredited diploma or degree courses.

The need for skills development

Skills development has been identified as a key area of concern for South African entrepreneurs, according to the SME Landscape Report, An Assessment of South Africa’s SME Landscape: Challenges, Opportunities, Risks & Next Steps’ 2018/2019. When SME owners were asked what support they need, 27.4% referred to skills development.

Entrepreneurial skills in question include: financial management, business strategy, communication skills, marketing, leadership and sales skills and strategies.

Make that change. Here is a list of free or inexpensive online courses for entrepreneurs. 

1. Digital Skills for Africa – Google Digital Garage

Type of skills training: Online advertising, mobile advertising, content marketing, search engine marketing, productivity, coding, basics of machine learning, networking, business communication, etc.

About: Get free online marketing training from Google to gain the digital skills you need to grow your business or your employees’ careers. Some of the subjects you can learn more about are Google My Business and Search Engine Marketing. The course categories are Data and Tech, Digital Marketing, Career Development.

Courses: The Fundamentals of Digital Marketing,  Intro to Business Communication, Speaking in Public and Effective Networking.

Cost: Free

2. LinkedIn Learning

Type of skills training: Content marketing, SEO, social media marketing, email marketing, lead generation, project management, data analysis, accounting, etc.

About: LinkedIn Learning is an American massive open online course website offering video courses taught by industry experts. Course categories include Technology, Creative and Business Skills. You are also able to download LinkedIn Learning on your smartphone via the App Store.

Courses: Marketing on Instagram, Marketing on Facebook, Create a Brand Strategy, Managing Brand Reputation, Writing Ad Copy.

Cost: The platform offers a month’s free trial, thereafter you pay per month R201,24 for a basic plan or R287,49 for a premium plan. You also have the option of paying per annum.

3. Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI) Network

Type of skills training: Grant writing, effective communication, networking, public speaking, pitching, creating a business plan, developing a business model, etc.

About: The YALI Network invests in the next generation of African entrepreneurs, educators, activists, and innovators. Their platform offers free online courses on business and entrepreneurship, civic leadership, public management and social issues. You don’t have to be a member of the YALI Network to access their courses.

Type of courses include: Fundraising Concepts, Fundamentals of Grant Writing, Agripreneurship: A Path to the Future, Fundamentals of Business Expansion.

Cost: Free

4. FutureLearn

Type of skills training: Cyber security, hotel revenue management, machine learning, web analytics, digital marketing, digital media analytics, etc.

Use: FutureLearn is a social learning platform owned by The Open University. Registered learners are able to use its massive open online courses (MOOCs) to earn academic course credits for degrees and MBAs, professional qualifications and formal CPD accreditation. You can also find free online courses and online degrees from leading universities and organisations. Course categories include Business and Management and Teaching.

Courses: Business Fundamentals, Digital Media Analytics, Management and Leadership Essentials.

Cost: Joining is free and gives you access to short courses. In-depth programs and online degrees will cost you.

5. Hubspot Academy

Type of skills training: Social media marketing, inbound sales, inbound marketing, content marketing, video marketing, search engine optimization, brand engagement, business blogging, graphic design, etc.

About: The Hubspot Academy is well known for their insights on inbound marketing, sales, and customer service/support training. The academy offers a host of free certification courses for marketers, entrepreneurs, sales professionals, web designers, and HubSpot agencies.

Courses:  Content Marketing, HubSpot Marketing Software, Sales Software, Social Media, Inbound Marketing, Email Marketing, Sales Enablement.

Cost: Free

6. Coursera

Type of skills training: Machine learning, software development, data management, cloud computing, business administration, mobile and web development, etc.

Use: Coursera allows learners to learn online and earn valuable credentials from top universities like Yale, Michigan, Stanford, and leading companies like Google and IBM. You can download the Coursera App on your smartphone via Google Play. Course categories include Business, Personal Development, Information Technology, etc.

Courses: Successful Negotiation: Essential Strategies and Skills, Business Strategy.

Cost: Individuals you can learn a new skill from US$29 (R409,05). For teams Coursera for Business costs $400 per user per year (R 5642,08).

7. Udemy

Type of skills training: Cyber security, network hacking, programming, accounting, forex trading, analytics, data science, sales techniques, social media marketing, copywriting, Google ads, etc.

About: Udemy is an online learning platform aimed at professional adults. Udemy sources content from online content creators (industry leaders) to sell for profit and has over 100,000 courses and 24-million students. Course categories include programming, management, marketing, and data science. Udemy is not considered an accredited institution, but they do offer certificates of completion for both paid and free courses. Download the App to your smartphone via Google Play and the App Store.

Courses: The Most Effective Way to Sell Coaching/Consulting Services, SEO 2019: Complete SEO Training + SEO for WordPress Websites, Seth Godin on Presenting to Persuade.

Cost: Courses start from R130 each for an individual. Udemy for Business allows employers to upskill their employees. It’s free for a 14-day trial, thereafter prices start from US$240 (from R3407,84) per user per annum (price depends on the amount of users you want to include in the package).

8. Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) or Edx.org

Type of skills training: Accounting, corporate finance, risk management, cryptocurrency, pricing models, financial-decision making, etc.

About: These platforms offer free online courses available for anyone in key fields like Data Science, Business and Management, Computer Science – Python, etc.

Type of courses include: Corporate Finance, Risk Management, Pricing Models, Money Markets, Deal Structure, Economic Policy and Financial-Decision Making.

Cost: Free

9. Shaw Academy

Type of skills training: Financial trading, investment, digital marketing, photography, web development, web design, leadership, management, mobile app development, etc.

About: Shaw Academy provides online skill development courses that range from photography and financial trading to digital marketing and nutrition. All their courses are accredited by the CPD Certification Service, which is an independent body that ensures qualifications are in line with the most current professional standards. Their Professional Diploma courses are accreditated by the European Qualification Framework.

Courses: Professional Diploma in Leadership & Management.

Cost: You get a free trial, thereafter you pay per course module. You can also opt to pay a premium membership fee.

10. Hootsuite

Type of skills training: Social advertising, social media strategy, social media marketing

About: Hootsuite is a social media management tool. They offer digital marketing professionals a chance to master new social media skills by enrolling in online courses taught by industry pros.

Type of courses include: Learn How To Use Hootsuite (free), Learn to Succeed at Social Marketing (free), Advanced Social Advertising Training (from R 3628,83).

Cost: Sign up is free, but advanced courses start at US$99 (from R 1442,79)

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