10 Best Online Courses for Small Business Owners

by Jasmeet Singh

As an entrepreneur or a small business owner, you need to excel in the most diverse job roles.From Marketing to managing human resources to building a brand, you continuously need to learn new skills to grow and create a successful small business.

With the internet connecting you to the best of teachers across the globe, you can master the diverse job responsibilities roles by enrolling in online courses designed for small business owners.

But how do you find the right and the best online course for small business owners? With the internet flooded with online courses, it is not an easy decision to look for the right course.

Online Courses and Small business owners - Entrepreneurs

Online Courses and Small business owners – Entrepreneurs

Online Courses and Small business owners - Entrepreneurs

When I started my first small business 11 years back, I was a techie guy who learned marketing the hard way.

With little or no mentorship, the learning came at an expense — in the form of time and money.

One of the regrets I have from the past (as a struggling small business owner) is that I never spent enough time or money to upgrade my skill set.

And when I mention the above regret, trust me, I am not the only one who has that regret. Failure of a small business because of the lack of skill set in the small business owner is a widespread reason.

Quoting from Investopedia: ‘Another common reason small businesses fail involves the lack of business acumen held by a management team or business owner. In some instances, a business owner is the only senior-level personnel within a company, especially when a business is in its first year or two of operation. While a business owner may have the skills necessary to create and sell a viable product or service, he is often lacking the attributes of a strong manager and the time required to successfully manage other employees.’ (source: https://www.investopedia.com/articles/personal-finance/120815/4-most-common-reasons-small-business-fails.asp)

The above line holds true for entrepreneurs, small business owners and even freelancers / solopreneurs.

Whether you are a freelancer finding answers to – how to be an amazing freelancer or an entrepreneur looking to grow your business. You need to upgrade your skill set to succeed.

I understand that time is not a luxury small business owners have. 

However, the Internet today has made life more comfortable and allows us, the small business owners and entrepreneurs, to learn at our own pace.

We can subscribe to any of the online small business courses focused on improving our skill set and learn as and when required.

The secret to a successful business is continuously learning new skills. While enrolling in business school is an option for some, there are alternatives to an MBA that don’t require taking time off your current business, or taking on a large amount of debt for your education.

Many small business owners today are choosing alternative – online courses designed for small business owners. 

A study by Coursera, University of Pennsylvania, and the University of Washington revealed that 87% of people who took online classes found success, while 35% realised other benefits, such as starting a new career.[1]

Selecting an online course that works for you can be a challenge since there are scores of options to choose from!

We (the noble souls at lessons at startup) have put together a comprehensive list of basic and advanced courses for small business owners and entrepreneurs.

Comparison of Online Courses for Small Business Owners

In this table, we review all the essential courses required to kick start a business for a small business owner. The table lists all the key features of the online course including of duration, fees and the core area covered in each course.

Course Name


Core Areas




Steps to becoming an Entrepreneur


Marketing, Finance, 
Online Presence

6 days



Finance Essentials by Imperial College London


Business & Management

6 Weeks



Brand Management by London Business School


Brand Management

4 Weeks



Developing Yourself as a Leader by Harvard Business School


Leadership Skills

12 Weeks



Sustainable Business Strategy by Harvard Business School


Leadership Skills

3 Weeks



Foundations Specialization by The Wharton SchoolN/AEntrepreneurship, Marketing,
6 Weeks



Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Specialization by University of California


Search Engine Optimization

7 Months



THE 8 FACTORS: Gain Clarity & Grow Your Business by Udemy


Business & Management

1 Week



How To Come Up With The Killer Business Idea by Udemy


Business Ideas

7 Hours



Effective Time Management for Entrepreneurs by Udemy


Time Management

1 Hour




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Learn more about each online small business course:

Course 1. Steps to becoming an Entrepreneur – A Free Entrepreneurship Development Course by Lessons At Startup


steps to be an entrepreneur

 About the Course

Course Fee – Free

Everyday, we get hundred of requests from our website visitors on – how to start a business?

We wrote a lot of blogs around the topic but still found our readers asking for the same question.

Now from our experience, we know entrepreneurship can be a scary topic to approach for first time entrepreneurs. 

Hence, we decided to make it simple and fun!

Also, we worked hard on building a course that gives – practical advice minus all the B.S jargons you hear from all the entrepreneur gurus.

So we got our thought machines together and wrote a series of 6 + 1 blogs that takes you through the entrepreneurial process.

The course is simple – you enrol to the course and everyday you get one email with a link to the blog that explains you on topic in depth.

The course lay out is:

Step 1: Are you ready to be an entrepreneur? 

On day one, we teach you about the mental readiness of being an entrepreneur. It is a topic which is avoided by the majority of entrepreneurs as they focus more on fund raising, marketing, etc. We on the other hand have learned that it is all in the mind.

You also get introduced to the topic ‘How to assess your risk taking ability as an entrepreneur’

Step 2: Market Research

As a first time entrepreneur, Market research is a step that can get overwhelming for you. We teach you – how you can use internet to your advantage to do quick and smart market research using a few tools.

The step also introduces you to a few tips that you can use to quickly learn about your competitors.

Step 3: How to create a Business Plan for a small business

Failing to plan is planning to fail. We have used the line to the extent of being repetitive through out our blog.

I am a firm believer in starting a business with a proper plan and i know that small businesses do not need a 1000 page business plan. Instead, they need an easy to understand business plan that lays out their vision, team and financials.

Learn how to create a business plan using some amazing tools available online.

Day 4: What are the different types of Business Organisation

A quick introduction to different types of business entities (pvt ltd, proprietorship, limited, partnership, LLP) and which one is suitable for your business.

Day 5: How to take your Business Online

We live in an internet era where a business’s online presence is not a luxury but a necessity.

We take you through the steps of setting up an online business presence and then introduce you to the tools that can help you promote your business online.

Day 6: How to hire employees for a new Business

When it comes to hiring employees for a new business, you are pitched against established companies. It is an unfair battle between David and Goliath.

Our experience has taught us that it is difficult but not impossible to hire good employees for a new business.

It is a short yet important chapter that teaches you the steps to hire employees for a new business.

Bonus Step : Small Business Automation tools

You will love the step if you are a sucker for automation. At least, we are 🙂 and we encourage every small business owner to use SAAS tools to automate their business processes and rely less on human resource and human mistakes.

And the course is absolute – Free.

Cheers to that! 

It is a rare thing to find a decent ‘free’ course in the expensive world 🙂

This course is a starting point for you to get introduced to the world of bootstrapping. 

We have used our years of experience to put together something simple and easy to understand.e

Course 2. Finance Essentials by Imperial College, London

2. Finance Essentials by Imperial College, London

 About the Course

Course Fee – Free | Certification cost $80 USD

Are you struggling with the financial aspect of running a business?

Worry not! Financial Essentials is a basic course that introduces you to the financial aspect of running a business as an entrepreneur’s needs.

Be it is the numbers aspect of running a business or the theoretical understanding of finance that you need to excel at, the course has you covered. Facilitated by the Imperial College Business School, this course will cover financial topics across MBA and management contexts.

Structure of the course

Amongst the topics that you’ll learn, are:

– Capital budgeting for projects

– Valuing bonds

– Understanding risky cash flows

– How to conceptualise the time value of money to value assets

– Solving portfolio selection problems

– Understanding yield curves

This six-week program is completely free and covers essential concepts like capital budgeting, equity, bonds, diversification, and choice of portfolio, amongst many others.

For an additional cost of approximately $80 USD, you can get a verified certificate as well. 

This course also provides you with an expert online tutor who will help you through the online learning materials and activities and mentor you through the course.

Who should take this course?

Before I put you in the target audience, let me start by writing that the course caters to finance amateurs or beginners and does not require any previous training in finance.

The beginner-level course has a flexible schedule, which means you can learn on your own time and put in hours as and when you are free. If you can dedicate 2-4 hours per week, then this is the perfect course for you.

The course is anchored by Associate Professor of Finance, Robert Kosowski, who has been a research fellow at the Centre for Economic Policy Research and an associate member of the Institute of Qualitative Finance at Oxford University.

Prof Kosowski also has an MSc and Ph.D. from the London School of Economics and an MA in Economics from Trinity College, Cambridge University.

Course 3. Brand Management by London Business School 

Brand Management by London Business School

About the Course

Course Fee – Free

The success of corporations can be gauged very well by studying the history of their brand. Keeping that in mind, this course contrasts traditional approaches to branding as just a visual identity, and looks at the entire experience and journey of the customer as an asset worthy of scrutinizing.

A business must have proper brand management to succeed, especially in the digital age. One of the highest-rated courses on coursera, this one takes approximately 21 hours to complete and is completely free.

Taught by Nader Tavassoli, Professor of Marketing at the London Business School, this course will help you build a brand identity and, more importantly, ‘align business, brand, and behaviour.’

Professor Tavassoli is an established branding expert who has been an expert witness in international brand disputes, represented celebrities, multinationals, and countries and is currently an adviser for a leading French luxury group. Previously, he was faculty at the MIT Sloan School of Management.

Structure of the course

The course is divided into five chapters comprising of videos, readings, quizzes as well as reflection assignments at the end.

You can enroll for free and boost your business career.

Who should take this course?

The purpose of this course is not only to manage the external brand identity of your company but to allow the company’s behaviour and culture to align with the goal.

In effect, it will enable the perspectives of the management to seep down through the company’s structure and makes your company a cohesive enterprise. This course is for someone who is looking to evaluate brands, measure brand health, and focus on efficient human resource practices at the core of building the business.

For a small business that is slugging it out in a very competitive market, this course brings a lot of value to the table as brand management is a topic that helps small businesses help carve out an identity.

Enroll now and get hands-on experience to build on that momentum to succeed.

Course 4. Developing yourself as a Leader by Harvard Business School 

Developing yourself as a Leader by Harvard Business School

About the Course

Course Fee – $5200 USD

This interactive online class from Harvard Business school is a course taught by Ethan Berstein, Associate Professor of Business Administration in the Organizational Behavior Unit at HBS.

Professor Bernstein has previously taught the first-year MBA course on Leadership and Organizational Behaviour and currently teaches the second-year MBA course on Managing Human Capital.

His expertise lies in the area of workplace transparency – which relates employees’ behaviors to productivity levels.

Structure of the Course

At the end of 12 impactful weeks and three modules, you will thrive as a good leader as well as develop the skills to know yourself better.

Your learning will include goal setting, designing a leadership path that works uniquely for you, and learning how to negotiate and collaborate effectively with others.

You will receive eight virtual classroom sessions where you can engage in discussions with the faculty as well as your peers, and three one-on-one meetings with your coach, where you can get personalized learning and feedback.

In effect, it brings the entire classroom experience, colleagues, et al. into the virtual sphere.

Who should take this course?

 Employees are the bones of an organization, and happy employees are more productive and creative. As an entrepreneur, you have to be a good leader and, alongside business, skills, need to have people skills to be able to mentor your employees towards success.

If you have the strategies in place but need better management skills at your workplace, and have a more robust professional impact, enroll for this course.

The course is also perfect for employees of your organisation (note – if you send 3-4 participants, you are entitled to a discount).

The best part about this course is that the skills you learn are life long and will benefit your company in the short as well as the long run, all for the price of $5200 USD.

Moreover, if you find that peer motivation works best for you, this real-time interactive course will be a good fit for you. 

Course 5. Sustainable Business Strategy by Harvard Business School 

Sustainable Business Strategy by Harvard Business School

About the Course

Course Fee – $1050 USD

In today’s highly competitive market, you need to stand out. What if you could succeed, as well as contribute and make a change to society?

Harvard Business School’s online course on becoming a purpose-driven leader helps you do just that. As business ideas for social change are gaining momentum, they don’t have to be philanthropic endeavors anymore.

Corporations are talking about their responsibility, and the market is responding to products that value social change. Most importantly, sustainable business strategies are gaining traction amongst investors and can be very good for business.

Taught by Professor at Harvard University, Rebecca Henderson, this course can help you gain valuable insights into the environment that your business operates in and take strategic decisions towards making your business a success.

Professor Henderson also is a research fellow at the National Bureau of Economic Research.

Her work details – how organizations respond to large-scale technological shifts. Her course “Reimagining Capitalism” is one of the most popular electives at the HBS MBA program.

Structure of the course

This three-week course will help you understand businesses that are high impact and purpose-driven, which combine success with social change.

The three modules will analyze industry disruptions and business uncertainties and help you develop smart and strategic alternatives.

You will gain insight into why firms need to cooperate and why change is essential and how businesses can catalyse change. 

Most importantly, this course is designed to help you understand the interaction of the political, economic and social landscapes in which your company operates, and to evaluate the motivations of your stakeholders, and the role of investors, customers, and the government.

Learning “Systems Thinking” will help all facets of your business as a whole.

Who should take this course?

The course is perfect for an entrepreneur looking to create a high impact on social change, not-for-profit professional, or someone who wants to understand the larger picture of business and investment cycles.

It is also recommended for organisations that are working towards a change but need help to communicate the value of change to stakeholders.

The course starts every few months and costs a little short of 1600 AUD. Send in your application and participate in a cohort of driven, like-minded professionals looking to exact social change and business.

Course 6: Business Foundations Specialization by The Wharton School

Business Foundations Specialization by The Wharton School (1)

 About the Course

Course Fee – Free

The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania offers the Business Foundation Specialization course taught by eight prominent faculty members.

These experts in their fields bring in their specializations, ranging from digital marketing to fundraising, analytics to corporate investment.

And the course is absolute – Free.

Cheers to that! It is sporadic in this expensive world to find good things that are “free.”

This extensive course can be a starting point for an entrepreneur looking to learn the fundamentals of what drives a successful business.

What makes the course stand out from the crowd is the faculty (and obviously, the cost :)) – You learn from the best in the industry.

You will learn branding and go-to-market strategies that will help you make critical decisions that put the customer at the center; you will master financial accounting and other technical skills.

What else?

Well! Most importantly, you learn to manage people (the backbone of any business), and how to increase their work productivity.

Structure of the course

There are six courses in this specialisation:

  1. Introduction To Marketing
  2. Introduction To Financial Accounting
  3. Managing Social And Human Capital
  4. Introduction To Corporate Finance
  5. Introduction To Operations Management
  6. Wharton Business Foundations Capstone

You can choose to do them in any order of preference, or even start with one course that is of interest to you.

The Business Foundations Specialisation also includes a hands-on project that you can complete in each specialisation to earn your certificate.

Each course starts every two months and takes around six months to complete.

The best part about this course is that you can audit it for free.

Who should take this course?

The course is ideal for someone who is starting in the world of business and needs the right direction to get into the industry.

It is a comprehensive course that teaches you a bit of everything about running a business. Moreover, the course helps you self introspect your self as a future business owner. By the end, of course, you have seen the mirror and understand the next steps required to improve a specific skill set.

Think of the course as an MBA crash course from one of the best MBA Colleges in the world.

Wharton’s marketing department has earned the reputation of being the top marketing department in the world, and insights of their faculty will aid your business learning curve and help you get ahead.

Course 7. Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Specialization by University of California 

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Specialization by University of California

About the Course

Course Fee – Free

In today’s era, no one can ignore the power of internet marketing. When we talk about internet marketing – the first thought to come to our mind is ranking on google.

The course will help you learn the art of SEO – optimizing your web content for the search engine (Google).

Right – SEO means more visibility, more clicks, and more business.

Taught by the best instructors at UC Davis, Rebekah May, Eric Enge, and David Llyod, this course takes approximately four months to complete if you commit to 6 hours per week. It is flexible, which means you can create your deadlines.

Structure of the course

The six courses in this specialization are:

  • Introduction to Search Engine Optimization: You will learn about the history of search engines and their algorithms, and finally be able to answer the question – how do search results work? It will equip you to understand how organic search functions and help you create content that is valued by the search engine.
  • Search Engine Optimization Fundamentals: You will learn how to create an effective SEO strategy – the right keywords, keyword placements, how consumers search, as well as to conduct on-page analysis.
  • Optimizing a Website for Search: This will be a more practical, hands-on approach to learning SEO. At the end of the module, you will know precisely – how to optimize your website for a specific audience. You will get some management training as well – in learning how to manage client expectations, making reports, etc.
  • Advanced Content and Social Tactics to Optimize SEO: Next comes content and social media strategy. This course will help you find the inter-linkages and solidify your SEO strategy. It will help you with your influencer marketing, and bring your brand up to the top.
  • Advanced Search Engine Optimization Strategies: This includes mobile strategies, learning metrics, and building SEO for global standards as well as the local audience.
  • Website Optimization Client Project: This hands-on project brings all your skills to the table. This project will help you pitch your ideas to clients, manage your relationships, and build a business ground up. Moreover, the community of peers will help guide your approach to success.

Who is this course for?

Whether you are a website developer, content manager, or CEO of a business, the course has something for everyone.

SEO is a crucial element to outranking your competition and getting your website to the top of search engine results. If this is the skill you or your team are missing, then apply right away.

Course 8. The Eight Factors – Gain Clarity & Grow your Business by Udemy

The Eight Factors – Gain Clarity & Grow your Business by Udemy

About the Course

Course Fee- $46 USD

If you’re a hands-on, practical, and implementation-oriented entrepreneur, and all the above courses don’t feel like a match, then we can bet that this is the right course for you.

Also, if an academic MBA is not for you, and you want to get to the problem solving right away, we advise that you look no further.

Your coach, Micheal C. Bush, has a management degree from Stanford and developed this course with insights from his own fast-growing company.

He focuses on a solution-driven approach that has conceptualized these eight factors: Mission, Cash, Strategy, People, Culture, Processes, Structure, Leadership.

Micheal has over 30 years of experience in the country, and his business grew into the world’s biggest telecommunications infrastructure development provider.

If you have the ideas but need a structure to streamline the energy, his course will help you start or manage your business.

Structure of the course

The 8 Factors is covered in 28 lectures over 10 hours. You get access to on-demand video, 22 downloadable resources, and full-time access to the resources.

Micheal’s framework of the eight factors includes understanding your mission, vision and values, Cash management with low or high profitability, and the other values.

He works with the interconnections of these eight factors and how they affect each other.

Who should take this course?

If an MBA is not for you, if you have been looking for that guide who can help you reach your optimum potential, then this is the course for you.

Moreover, if you are looking for a course that allows you to apply your learnings to your business immediately and efficiently, then this is a highly appropriate option. Whether you are just starting or have been in the industry for a while, you can benefit from The Eight

Factors course.

Click here to know more about the instructor, Micheal C. Bush, and watch his TED Talk on ‘This is what makes employees happy at work.’

Course 9. How to come up with the killer business idea by Evan Kimbrell

How to come up with the killer business idea by Udemy

About the Course

Course Fee – $160 USD

They say the best inventions were an accident. The same is true for business ideas and startups. Facebook, Pinterest, and even Groupon started with a completely different approach from what their businesses ended up doing – and profited from.

From penicillin to Twitter (which started as a platform to find and list podcasts), the most brilliant creations have often been accidents.

But there are techniques and science behind creating useful ideas. Take this course to help you understand the background to business ideas – everything from the kinds of innovation, how to apply new business ideas, to analysing business value chains to get the optimum results.

The highest-rated professor on Udemy, Evan Kimbrell, is a five-year-old startup founder and has raised three rounds of the capital of millions of dollars.

Evan worked as a VC in Silicon Valley and oversaw significant investments in companies like Facebook, LinkedIn, and Tesla.

Structure of the course

Sign up for this course, and get access to 7 hours of video on demand, 13 articles, and 65 completely downloadable resources.

There are quizzes, worksheets, and you get access to an exclusive class of entrepreneurs and direct access to the instructor, who is the founder and director of a digital agency and an expert in his domain.

This course will equip you with the tools to find great insights, and develop your ideas from scratch, help you isolate and target the best aspects of your business, and teach you how to use a systematic approach in terms of the value chain, to get the best out of your business.

Who is this course for?

This course is for anyone who thinks out of the box or isn’t afraid of thinking differently.

Whether you want to become an entrepreneur, or are already a seasoned business owner, this course will help you become the master of idea creation.

Course 10. Effective Time Management for Entrepreneurs | Udemy

Effective Time Management for Entrepreneurs | Udemy

About the Course

Course Fee – $32 USD

While it might feel counter-intuitive to spend time studying how to manage your time better, time management is a problem that all business owners and employees face.

As they say in the business world, time equals money.

If you’re unable to manage your time and feel stressed out all the time, there are proven methods to improve productivity that can be learned by anybody.

This course is taught by Adebayo Adeseye, who is a lawyer, author, and business person. The author of 12 books, Adebayo, started his first business as a teenager and has 30 years of experience in the industry.

Structure of the course

This one hour course is for the entrepreneur who wants to work on improving their time management actively.

Get the best tips on how to follow your to-do-list, create and follow schedules, avoid all the distractions, and get the most out of your business hours. It’ll help you set goals for yourself, avoid procrastination, and more.

Learn how to build a strong foundation in time management, and find success in your business.

Who is this course for?

Sometimes the only skill an entrepreneur lacks is effective time management. If you have the ideas, creativity, and problem-solving at the tip of your fingers, but it doesn’t seem to be coming together, then we recommend that you spend some time working on your productivity levels.

Enrolling for an online course itself can help with self-discipline and motivation levels. It also gives you exposure to peers and other business owners, let alone the opportunity to learn from the best teachers and leaders around the globe, all from the comforts of your office or home.

This list covers all the essential skills you need to have to be a successful entrepreneur or small business owner. As an entrepreneur, you can never stop learning.

The markets and psychology of consumers and stakeholders is something that is continuously evolving, and if you put in the effort to keep up; then you can grow along with your business.

You can brush up your skills in supply chain management, finance, or even human resource management.

Any learning that you feel will be essential to your business is available out there as an online course. In this era of digital knowledge, we need trusted sources to help us select the course that has the best value for money as well as time.

Enroll now in the course of your choice, and make all your dreams a reality.

[1] https://bondstreet.com/online-courses-for-small-business-owners/

[2] https://www.allianz.com.au/business/business-insurance/news/small-businesses-in-australia

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1 comment

How to Start a Startup? – Startup – Small Business Resources, Advice & Growth hacks April 5, 2020 - 9:58 pm

[…] I lost a lot of time and money moving aimlessly in our initial years of business. We started with limited funds. Our business startup idea was abstract. if you want save your time you can join the best courses for small business owners. […]


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