Choosing the best online business course will depend entirely on your goals. That said there are certain facets of online business courses which make some better than others.
Because of the big time commitment required to take a course (and to start an online business!) it is important to make sure you’re taking the best online business course possible. In this blog article we’re going to see what makes a good online business course worthy of your time.
What are your goals?
First up, you need to be clear of your own goals.
Are you interested in learning about online business in order to start your own? Or perhaps you already have an online business I want to upskill in order to grow and scale further. Or potentially you work, or want to work, within an online business and need to know how to be an attractive job applicant.
Each of these different goals will mean different online business courses are better for you.
I’m going to assume that you want to start your own online business. This is what the majority of our readers, students and clients are interested in.
If you are looking to get skills in order to get a job I’d recommend checking out the Digital Marketing Institute. They aren’t cheap but their qualifications are respected – and that’s what you need to bag a job!
Personally I think that starting your own online business makes you extremely attractive as a job applicant. The reason for this is that online business is an extremely hands-on skill and book-learning and theory alone will not make you an effective employee.
For this reason even if you are looking to get a job in digital marketing and online business I would still recommend starting your own, albeit small, online business. Having your own online business up and running is a sure sign that you have the skills which will be required by an employer.
You might even find that you prefer owning you own business too! I’m biased here though! Read more about owning an online business vs. a job.
The first step in choosing an online business course is to make sure that the course actually teaches business fundamentals. Too many online business courses are actually digital marketing courses. This is entirely different.
Often online business courses will not actually teach you the fundamental business knowledge and skills that you require. Instead they mainly focus on certain digital marketing tools and tactics. For instance if you see a course about selling on Shopify this is not actually an online business course but instead a digital marketing course about a specific tool: in this case Shopify. It’s too specific.
Do not confuse tools of digital marketing with an actual online business. They are very different things.
Read more on this here: How Online Businesses Work.
As such you should look for an online business course that starts with helping you work out what your business actually is. Who are your customers? What products and services will you offer? How will you ensure product market fit?
Any course that teaches business in this way will give you a much stronger foundation for setting up any online business.
Make sure it’s practical
Second, make sure that it’s a practical course.
Learning for learning sake and not putting theory into practice is pointless in the world of online business. You need to be a practitioner and not simply a theoretician.
Look for an online business course that takes you step-by-step through the process of getting set up. Purely theoretical lectures about business will not be enough to get you started. Look specifically for a course with lots of exercises, checklists, and actionable steps to take you from just starting out to actually running a business.
Of course this is a two way street! Just because of course provides all of this practical material does not mean that you, the learner, can be lazy. You still need to put in the work and actually complete the exercises and practical steps required. Simply having a checklist is no use: you need to move through the steps and get the damn work done!
I also recommend using a live business. Simply working through exercises when there are no stakes means that you will not put in the required effort to master the material.
If you work through an online business course and immediately apply the knowledge and practical steps to a real working business you will learn much faster. Setting up an online business is a skill. I thought about this in previous blog articles and how important it is to have a low stake “burner” business just to get started. Read more about good online business ideas for beginners.
This way you can minimise the downside making sure very little money is at risk. But at the same time you have skin in the game because this is a real business not a purely theoretical exercise. Also if your first test business happens to go well you will have the foundations of your first online business. A nice bonus!
Flexible yet timeless
Third, recognise that the world of online business moves very fast. This means that traditional forms of learning such as a university or college classroom, complete with textbooks, and a retired businessman teacher is simply not going to be sufficient to give you the knowledge and practical skills required.
Think about textbooks. Textbooks take years to prepare and are only updated every couple of years; generally with minimal substantial changes. This might be fine in a slower-moving subject like archaeology or sociology but not in the world of online business due to the volatility of markets and the speed of change.
If you pick up a textbook from just 10 years ago on digital marketing you’ll find that many of the platforms and channels they mention no longer exist.
Equally: also don’t fall for the opposite impulse. Don’t learn something just because it is new. The allure of the novel is strong. But many of the new digital innovations of this year will likely not be around even next year and certainly not in five.
For this reason it is useful to focus your studies on the fundamentals. Again if you have a strong foundation in business fundamentals then the choice of tools and techniques can flex around this strong stable core of understanding.
How to get specific How To knowledge?
Once you know the general principles you can go out and find specifics on YouTube or Google.
For example when I used to prepare educational material about advertising on Facebook I used to have to keep redoing the videos. Facebook’s Ad interface kept changing.
If I went into too much detail explaining the ad interface the video would quickly become redundant and worthless due to – just six months later – Facebook completely overhauling the design and layout of the interface!
Instead now I tend to teach more general principles and then send people in the direction of how they can work out the specific technicalities. This is, I admit, in part because my own laziness!
But more importantly than this it is a vital skill for you, the learner, to be able to think on your toes and not rely on an expert for every scrap of knowledge.
Being able to google something and solve problems yourself is probably the most important skill you can have as an online business owner. This means you’ll always have access to the most up-to-date technical changes and updates – As long as you work out how to look up this information yourself!
Want to learn how to use Google really well? Here’s the best resource : How to Get Good At Google.
In terms of finding a good online business course this means don’t look for one that has overly specific instruction in the technical tools.
Instead look for a course that focuses on the fundamentals while still giving you a practical step-by-step pathway to building your own online business.
The teacher is a doer
Fourth, and most importantly: make sure that your teacher walks the walk as well as talks the talk.
Find an online business course that is taught by a practitioner. This means somebody who actually has started and runs their own online businesses.
There are too many gurus out there who teach online business but do not actually run any online businesses themselves. In fact the only online businesses they run is their teaching company!
Instead look for teachers who have practical experience running a variety of different online businesses. Or they have worked with clients across a broad spectrum of industries and markets. These teachers will best be able to give you actionable advice for whatever business it is that you are thinking about starting.
So what is the best online business course?
Well obviously I’m a little biased here because here at BBO.show we have put together our own online business course!
I saw how many poorly put together, inadequately researched, overly specific and badly taught online business courses are out there.
I thought “you know what? We can do better!”
Based off the back of this, we put together a free online business course that is available over on Udemy.com
The course has tens of thousands of happy students and is a good jumping off point if you are thinking of starting your own online business.
You can find the course page here: https://www.udemy.com/2510774/
If you are still wondering whether an online business is right for you I’d also recommend checking out this podcast over on Seekardo. In it Harms and I talk about the benefits of online business and the basic principles surrounding how to start and run one. Full episode + Notes here : Seekardo Show.