The adage “knowledge is power” rings very true in the world of entrepreneurship. Gaining new knowledge and skills can help you improve your products or services, serve your customer better, and run a more impressive business overall. That’s why if you haven’t been focusing on learning and development in your business, it may be time to invest in educational initiatives.
And the good news is, you have plenty of choices on how you can educate yourself. No matter what your budget or learning preferences are, you can effectively expand your knowledge through the following tools and resources:
1. Use online learning platforms
You don’t have to take night classes or enroll in a formal college or university to gain new knowledge and skills. There are a number of online learning platforms that give you access to expert-led lessons and courses in just about every field imaginable.
Whether you’re looking to learn a technical skill such as computer programming, or you’re yearning to be a better leader or project manager, you’ll find an array of courses waiting for you on these platforms.
The best part? Most of them are taught by professionals in the field, so you’ll have the benefit of learning from someone with first-hand experience.
Here are some of the platforms you can check out:
LinkedIn Learning – LinkedIn Learning is LinkedIn’s foray into the realm online courses. The platform currently has thousands of courses in the fields of business, technology, and creativity that you can access on-demand for a monthly fee.
The business category includes courses on online marketing, project management, Excel, and more, while the creative courses include lessons in graphic design, animation, and video, among others. Meanwhile, courses under the technology category include lessons in cloud computing, data science, and IT.
Another cool thing about LinkedIn Learning is that platform can personalize your course recommendations based on your current job, skills, and what professionals like you are taking.
LinkedIn Learning has two pricing options. You can go for the month-to-month plan that costs $29 a month or you can choose to pay annually, which costs $24.99 a month.
Skillshare – Like LinkedIn, Skillshare also offers courses in business, tech, and creativity. In addition to that, the platform offers lifestyle courses which include classes in arts and crafts, health and wellness, and even gaming.
In terms of pricing, Skillshare has a free version which gives you access to 2,000+ classes. The paid version, which costs $8.25 a month, opens up access to over 23,000 classes and offers features like offline access.
Udemy – If you’re looking for affordable online courses that don’t require a monthly membership, then Udemy could be a great option. Just like LinkedIn Learning and Skillshare, Udemy has thousands of courses in its catalog, many of which are priced at just $10.99.
Coursera – Coursera has a wide catalog of courses in categories like business, technology, personal development, and more. But one key differentiator is that Coursera also offers certifications and degrees. The company partners with universities and educational organizations to bring various courses online, allowing students to earn their degrees or certificates over the Internet.
2. Hire a coach or mentor
Courses are excellent sources of information. And since most of them can be consumed on-demand, you can take them on your own time and pace. But, a big downside of these self-guided courses is they lack interactivity and live conversations with your instructor.
When you take an online course, you don’t always have the opportunity to engage in back and forth conversations with your teachers. And while that may be fine for some people, others thrive more when they can ask questions in real-time and can bounce ideas off another individual.
This is where coaches and mentors can be beneficial. Live coaching provides you the advantage of learning straight from an expert who can tailor their lessons and content to your specific needs.
Coaches and mentors also offer another crucial benefit: accountability. If you’re working with a coach over a longer period of time (say you have a 3-month contract), then they can keep you accountable by ensuring you do your homework or take action on what you’ve learned. As such, coaches and mentors typically have higher success rates when it comes to students following through on what they’ve been taught.
That said, coaches and mentors are usually much pricier compared to many online courses. It’s not uncommon for coaches to charge hundreds, if not thousands of dollars per session or contract.
There’s no one “right” way to find a coach. Depending on your needs or business, you can start by asking your network to see if any of your contacts can recommend a mentor. You could also search for Clarity.fm, a site that allows you to request a call from various experts.
Another option is to do your own online research. Some entrepreneurs have found their coach by scouring Google, Yelp, and social media, so be sure to tap into these sites when searching for your mentor or coach.
3. Join a mastermind group
If you’re community-oriented and prefer learning through interactions with groups of people, then a mastermind group could be the best fit for you.
For the uninitiated, a mastermind group is “a peer-to-peer mentoring concept used to help members solve their problems with input and advice from the other group members.” Think of it a community dedicated to a particular topic or field.
Mastermind groups allow you to network with individuals who are going through similar experiences as you are. These groups provide a space to ask questions and share ideas, and they can be highly effective because you’re able to get different perspectives on any given topic.
Like mentors and coaches, masterminds can provide accountability. Members are often encouraged to share their goals and results with the rest of the group, and that notion of public accountability can really push you to act.
There a lot of free mastermind groups on social media. A simple Facebook search for “mastermind group [insert topic]” will likely return several results. Many coaches and thought leaders also organize their own masterminds, though these typically require a large financial investment and they are more selective with who they allow into the group.
Just like with coaches and mentors, there’s no single right way to find your mastermind group. The best thing to do is tap into your network to get recommendations. You can also follow experts and influencers in your field and see if they offer mastermind groups.
Remember, though, that the knowledge that you gain from masterminds are only as good as the members in them, so do your research. Get testimonials or learn more about a group’s members to see if you’ll be a good fit.
4. Read blogs and books
Learning doesn’t always have to involve videos or memberships. If you’re self-motivated and are hungry for knowledge, then you’ll find that free and inexpensive resources such as blogs and books provide a wealth of information that you can apply in your business.
And here’s the good news: there’s no shortage of blogs out there. No matter what business you’re in or what you want to learn, we can guarantee that there’s a website dedicated to it. The bad news? There’s no shortage of blogs out there. Searching for information can get overwhelming on the world wide web because there’s so much content.
If you’re looking for amazing blogs to follow, you may want to start with a handful (say 3 to 5) high-quality sites so you won’t drown in content. Take the time to vet the websites and ensure that they provide high-quality posts and are updated regularly. Here are few that we recommend:
CUE Small Business Blog – Not to tut our own horn, but the CUE Small Business Blog really is a great resource for entrepreneurs, particularly if you’re looking to learn more about small biz software. In addition to providing business advice, our blog also offers in-depth reviews and comparisons to help you figure out the best platforms and systems for your business.
Fit Small Business – Fit Small Business has a massive library of content that covers all the essential topics that you should care about as a business owner. From subjects like accounting and e-commerce to hiring and business management, Fit Small Business’ meaty, in-depth posts won’t let you down.
Small Business Trends – Small Business Trends provides both evergreen advice as well as timely and newsworthy content. So if you’re looking to keep up with the must-know events in the world of small biz while getting some age-old advice while you’re at it, this website is a great way to go.
Books, on the other hand, provide an inexpensive way to gain in-depth knowledge about any subject. And thanks to audiobooks, you can now learn and expand your knowledge on-the-go.
Again, there’s no shortage of books out there, and often the best place to start is your own network. Ask your colleagues and fellow entrepreneurs about any books that they suggest. You can also scour bestseller lists to see what other people are reading. Our recommendation? Check out Amazon’s Best Sellers in Business & Money.
Never stop learning
Learning is a lifelong process. No matter where you are in life or how successful your business is, there’s always something new to learn and develop. So, dive into the resources we mentioned in this article, see what resonates with you, and start learning!