25 Business Skills To Learn For Free Online This Year

One of the keys to success in business – and in life – is to keep on learning. Here are 25 skills that you might want to consider learning this year to boost your business:

1 Google+ For Business

Google+ may not have knocked Facebook on its head, but it has carved out something of a niche in enterprise and tech circles, and its increasingly strong integration with Google’s other, more popular services (such as Google Search) means that companies need to know how to leverage it for business. Inbound marketing gurus Hubspot have produced a free Introduction to Google+ For Business guide, containing all you need to know to set up and manage a page on this fast-growing platform.

2 Become Amazing at Excel

Despite competition from cloud-based competitors such as Google Sheets and Zoho, Microsoft Excel remains one of the most widely used software tools for a variety of business purposes. Key to its continued popularity is it’s incredibly strong feature set, but in order to get the best out of this powerful platform, you need to learn the tricks of the trade. There are millions of free Excel tutorials available online, but Skilledup.com has compiled a list of 40 of the best of them, complete with links and summaries.

3 Email Marketing

Although much of the business buzz is about social media marketing these days, it’s often forgotten just how effective email marketing can be, particularly in a B2B context. Copyblogger.com has put together a fairly comprehensive guide to the art of Email Marketing, including tips on titling, timing, and many other aspects of this often overlooked discipline.

4 Write Better Web Content

Getting the copy on your website right is key to giving off a good impression and increasing traffic and conversions, but writing good web content is trickier than it may first appear. Even if you are a good writer in other contexts, it has to be remembered that writing web content is a distinct discipline that requires a strong awareness of the way people consume content on the web. Websitetips.com has put together a highly comprehensive list of links to useful resources covering all aspects of writing better web content.

5 Get Inside the Head of Investors

Sourcing investment for a startup can be the key to growing beyond small beginnings into something more substantial, but it’s far from easy. Thankfully, there are many online guides to help you see things from the point of view of angel investors, such as Jeff Clavier of Softech VC’s guide to obtaining funding, published on Venturebeat, or Forbes’ guide to getting in front of investors and closing them.

6 Get Better at Asking

As the old saying goes, if you don’t ask, you don’t get. But if you don’t know how to ask, then you could benefit from a little tutoring on the subject. There are quite a few online courses on this subject, but one of the best guides I’ve seen is a Fast Company article somewhat hyperbolically entitled ‘One Conversational Tool That Will Make You Better At Absolutely Everything’

7 Become an HTML5 Wizard

HTML5 is fast becoming the new web standard, bringing multimedia features within the realm of one coding platform rather than relying on plugins such as the ever-unreliable Flash Player. Helpfully, one of the leading guides to the subject, Adam Freeman’s Definitive Guide to HTML5, is now available as a free ebook for download.

8 User Experience

User Experience, or UX, has become a vital link in the chain between software and web developers and the people that actually end up using their products or services. Despite being a relatively new discipline, there are a number of good free guides on the subjects, such as Justin Smith’s Basics of Great UX on Webdesign Tuts+.

9 Wikipedia

As one of the most trusted content sources on the web, Wikipedia is one of the first places that people go to when looking for impartial information on a subject. While it can’t be used for overt marketing ends, it is well worth knowing your way around this user-edited platform to ensure that any presence that your business has on it reflects your firm in a positive light – or at least keeps the negativity down to a minimum. IntelligentHQ’s Business Owner’s Guide to Wikipedia tells you everything you need to know to manage your presence on this highly-regarded platform.

10 Keyword Research For SEO

Finding out the best keywords to use to make your content perform well on search engines can be a tricky task, but it is by no means impossible. A good place to begin your journey would be SEO bible Moz.com, which offers a great introductory guide to Keyword Research and many other SEO-related subjects.

11 Making A Crowdfunding Video

Crowdfunding has emerged as a popular alternative route to funding all sorts of different projects, particularly those that are creative or involve niche technology. One of the keys to success with this is to create a great video pitch – this article on Banktothefuture.com can point you in the right direction.

12 Outsourcing

Sometimes, you just don’t have the specific skills that you need to grow your business in certain areas, which is where outsourcing can come in handy. VirtualDoneWell.com offers a range of free guides for those that are new to outsourcing, although you need to sign up to their website to obtain them.

13 Marketing on LinkedIn

Like Google+, LinkedIn offers a huge marketing opportunity for businesses across a wide range of sectors, and once again Hubspot have produced the definitive free guide to the subject.

14 Build a Better Landing Page

In most cases, the landing page is the most important page on a website, particularly in terms of conversions. KissMetrics provides a useful beginner’s guide to building landing pages that work harder for your business.

15 Develop World-Class Customer Service Skills

Amid the flurry of new business disciplines and skills that need to be learned, it can be easy to forget about the real fundamentals – and customer service is one of them. ‘How to Win Friends and Influence People’ author Dale Carnegie remains one of the most persuasive voices on this subject, and his insights are as applicable to today’s online world as they were back in 1936 – and you can download a free digest of his customer service tips from Dalecarnegie.com.

16 Boost Your Productivity

High productivity is one of the keys to success in any business, but in order to achieve this you have to make some changes to your routines and mindset. There are many great books on this subject, but this e-book by Nicholas Bate is one of the best free offerings out there.

17 Host a Great Webinar

Webinars can be a very effective way of bringing people from around the world together, but they can be a little hit or miss depending on who is hosting it. If you want yours to fall into the former category, it can be helpful to learn a little bit about what makes for a great webinar, and this guide from TNW is as good a place to start as any.

18 Negotiating

Like customer service, the art of negotiating remains one of the most important business skills around, and there are countless books, courses, and seminars on the topic. However, there are plenty of free resources as well, such as this very well-written guide from Inc.com.

19 Design a Logo

Ever noticed the white arrow between the E and the X in this logo?

If you have a modicum of artistic skill and a half-decent grasp of Photoshop or Illustrator, then it isn’t too hard to design an effective logo for your business or products. That being said, it’s worth learning a little about the process and what makes for a good logo before you dive in. This free guide to logo design from CreativeBloq is one of the best articles I’ve seen on the subject, giving lots of practical advice alongside the broader strokes.

20 Leadership

Unless you intend to be a sole trader for the rest of your life, you’re going to need some pretty handy leadership skills if you are to grow your business effectively. There are thousands of books, online courses, and articles on this subject, including several on this very website, while the Wall Street Journal has published a number of extracts from Alan Murray’s seminal “The Wall Street Journal Guide To Management” on their website to view for free.

21 Social CRM

At the other end of the spectrum from Dale Carnegie’s timeless prose on the subject of customer service is the latest mutation of this discipline – Social CRM. We recently published a Social CRM Masterclass series, which covers a number of topics such as marketing automation, social media strategy, online collaboration and customer service.

22 Community Management

Many larger businesses hire dedicated community managers to be the online voice of their company and foster engagement around the brand, but if you’re not quite at that stage, then you’re going to have to do it yourself. Thankfully, there is plenty of free advice out there, including our own six-part guide to community management.

23 Social Demand Generation

Generating a demand for your products or services online has been made easier in some respects by the emergence of social media, but harder in others. Eloqua’s Grande Guide to Social Demand Generation is one of the best free online guides to this subject, with case studies, interviews, and tutorials.

24 Lead Nurturing

Business is all about selling, and one of the key sales skills is lead nurturing – the process of turning prospective customers into paying ones. Marketo has produced a great e-book on this subject entitled The Definitive Guide to Lead Nurturing, which is available to view for free at their website.

25 Personal Branding

Everybody in business is a brand – it’s just that a lot of people aren’t aware of this, or don’t give it the attention it demands. This is especially true in today’s online-centric business world, so it is well worth spending a bit of time looking at how you can improve your own personal branding as well as that of your company and its products and services. Jayson DeMers’ Definitive Guide To Building Your Personal Brand (published on Forbes.com) not only does what it says on the tin, but it manages to do so in a concise and informative fashion – much like the following infographic: