• Advice

Business school for freelancers: How to design your own education

Most freelancers are do-it-yourself types who learn by doing and haven’t had any formal business training. They may have college and advanced degrees in their chosen field, but when they take the leap into self-employment, they barely know an LLC from a C-corp.

First things first: No, you don’t need business school

Running a successful business does not require a business degree. It doesn’t require a college degree or even a high school diploma, as countless examples have shown.

However, knowing the fundamentals of how to start, operate, sustain, and grow a business, how to market yourself, how to test interest in your product or services -- there will come a time in your freelance career (and it may not be the start) when hearing the collected knowledge of other entrepreneurs on these topics will help you take your business to the next level or sustain you through tough times.

Learn from other solopreneurs

Here are a few ideas for other ways to learn the fundamentals listed above. I’ve picked action-oriented courses, not descriptive courses. Business school for busy people. Of course, most of these options only cover a few of these items, but we’re used to cobbling things together, right?

B-School by Marie Forleo

This 8-week video course is really for existing (offline) business owners who want to learn a thing or two about how to market their business online and build an online brand. Marie Forleo is a smart and passionate career coach who also has a very good blog and TV series. This woman is a powerhouse.

Cost: $1999 or an installment plan

Wharton: An introduction to marketing

Wharton Business School’s marketing department is consistently ranked #1 in the country, and now they’re sharing that know-how with the masses. A 9-week course features information on customer loyalty, branding, and attraction and is taught by 3 leading marketing experts. Starts on April 21, 2014, so get moving!

Cost: Free

The Modern Marketing Workshop by Seth Godin

Seth Godin’s popular Skillshare class has been taken by over 8,000 people and has rave reviews. “Learn how to spot opportunities, avoid pitfalls, and grow relevant metrics into meaningful action,” Godin claims.

Cost: $19

Get Stuff Done Like A Boss: Design Your Workflow and Double Your Productivity in 21 Days by Tiago Forte

This course by expert “workflow designer” Tiago Forte will help you unlock the full potential of your time. Using the Getting Things Done method and his own personal experience, these 15 video lessons taken by over 3,000 students will help busy freelancers budget their time wisely.

Cost: $29

Stress-free Selling with John Jantsch

This two day workshop focuses on selling physical products and taking advantage of word-of-mouth recommendations. He also talks about one of my favorite topics, specializing, and marketing yourself as a niche service provider. This is a LIVE class on May 5, 2014 and you can RSVP and watch for free.

Cost: Free on May 5, $79 afterwards

Wharton: Better Leader, Richer Life

This free 10-week course instructs you in “Total Leadership”: a method for “producing sustainable change in all parts of life.” The course claims to help you dentify your core values and implement them in your daily life at work, at home, in your community, and within yourself. We love this course’s emphasis on treating the whole you -- because we know from experience that sometimes if you strengthen your skills in one direction, other areas of your life may not keep up or fall back.

Cost: Free

On Strategy: What Managers Can Learn from Great Philosophers

Taught be Ecole Centrale Paris, this course teaches you how to think like an entrepreneur and understand what role creativity plays in your business. While the course claims to be for “managers,” it is also for anyone who wants to learn to think “outside the box” -- and how to create different boxes to structure your thinking once you’re out!

Cost: Free

Freelancers, how have you learned business skills? Just through experience?