The internet and digital technology is disproving the old adage that nothing comes for free. In fact, there’s a lot of free information out there, especially about businesses and how to run them. Business networks, local councils, state governments and internationally respected universities are all offering free courses that you can take online to improve your business skills – here are four learning opportunities for business owners that won’t cost you a cent.
1. Entrepreneurship and Family Business at RMIT
Melbourne’s RMIT offers this free online course that helps you “discover the tools and techniques that will enable you to succeed in business.” The course is run by an academic with a business background who is also experienced in raising venture capital. Emphasis is on what an entrepreneur is, the process of starting up a business, leadership versus management, business plans and how to manage a family business. The course consists of watching videos, takes between two and four hours per week and is not accredited. But it may spark your interest in taking an accredited course if you feel you need to go that far.
2. Business webinars delivered by government
It makes sense that state governments would want to stimulate business growth, since small businesses are key drivers of the economy and employment. The Queensland Government, for example, has a schedule of free webinars that allow you to learn specific skills from guest panellists. Upcoming webinars include how to use Facebook to boost your marketing, learning about the basics of payroll tax and how to develop a business plan. The advantage of webinars over video-based courses is that in a webinar you get to ask questions via the mediator. If you miss a webinar, there is an archive of recordings on the web.
3. Coursera: University-level courses for free
Coursera is an online service that offers university-level courses for free. Top universities contribute to the line-up, one of them, the University of Virginia, offers a Business Growth Strategy course which is similar to the course offered to fee-paying students. There’s a brand management course from the University of London that even requires you to get involved in a number of practical exercises, and a Social Entrepreneurship course from the Copenhagen Business School. Coursera is part of the Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) movement founded by academics that is providing open access to education via the internet.
4. Join your local chamber of commerce
If you’re serious about business networking, you are probably already a member of your local business network or chamber of commerce. But did you know that many of them offer free workshops?
A quick look at the NSW Business Chamber reveals free workshops in e-commerce and website planning. Another way to access information is through your local council. Brisbane City Council regularly holds Lord Mayor’s Business Forums where the mayor and business leaders from individual city districts meet to discuss better ways to do business in their area.
You may find that if you have to apply for courses or submit practical coursework exercises that you need to fax documents. If you don’t own a fax machine, there is a way to send a fax for free using cloud-based technology. Files are sent just like regular faxes but from your email browser. It’s a convenient, cheap way to get the power of a fax machine without actually owning one; and it will prove invaluable for all your business documents too.