Upgrading your skills: How business owners can keep their expertise sharp

February 20, 2019
5 minutes read

It’s a new year, and many of us will sit down and create some goal for 2019 (if you haven’t already). But the concept of New Year’s resolutions has all but become a cliché—after all, studies show that over half of people who make the goals at the beginning of each year quickly fall off the bandwagon.

But there are certain goals worth setting (and keeping), particularly when it comes to your small business. One of the most popular resolutions that regularly makes the top 10 list each year is to learn a new skill. According to results of a survey published in Inc., just under 30% of people said they want to hone a new expertise in 2019.

Beefing up your skillset isn’t just satisfying—it’s also a way to learn new ways to run your business better. So, if you’re looking for ideas on what you can learn to benefit your business and how to do it, then read on.

New year, new skills: Ways entrepreneurs can invest in themselves

While it’s wise to build skills related to your niche, there are also quite a few areas where an entrepreneur in almost any industry will gain an advantage.

To get you started, here are a few ideas that can positively impact your business.

Personal branding

Where to learn this: General Assembly, Udemy, Coursera

Even if you’re a low-key freelancer, personal branding has become important regardless of your industry. With around 16.5 million Americans working in “alternative arrangements” (i.e., contracting and/or freelancing), it’s crucial for freelancers to differentiate themselves from fellow members of the gig economy. And how can they do that? The answer is that a little personal branding can go a long way.

Potential clients and customers often form a first impression based on your personal brand. From your logo to your website or digital portfolio to your LinkedIn profile, creating and maintaining a personal brand online can impact your business. One study showed that consistent branding increased revenue by 23%.

Digital marketing

Where to learn this: Google Digital Garage, Hubspot Academy, BrainStation, Udemy, Coursera

You’re an expert on creating your product or serving your clients—but how well do you promote your expertise?

One of the most common ways to get the word out about your business online is through digital marketing. While that is an umbrella term for multiple facets of marketing (think social media, search engine optimization/marketing, email, and content), it’s possible to learn a bit about several of these specializations to help you increase your reach.

According to a recent Smart Insights report, digital marketing tactics (particularly content marketing and automation/email marketing) are expected to have the largest impact on businesses in 2019. And if you can’t outsource these tasks to a freelancer or contractor, try to gain some of this marketing knowledge for yourself.

Paid social advertising

Where to learn this: Buffer, Lynda, Udemy, Hubspot Academy

You’ve likely got your own personal profiles on Instagram, Snapchat, and other social media platforms. But when it comes to growing your business, paying for ads on these social sites can be a great way to reach different audiences. After all, there were 3.196 billion people using social media as of 2018.

A recent CMO survey said that social ad budgets are expected to almost double by 2023. That’s because businesses can target social ads to reach the right people at the right time. As a result, more than three-fourths of U.S. consumers buying a product they’ve seen on a social ad.

But with advertising rules that vary wildly between platforms, the prospect of creating and launching your own campaigns can be daunting for newbies. Fortunately, there are plenty of courses available to empower business owners with the knowledge they need to learn the basics of social ads.


Where to learn this: Bootcamps like BrainStation, HackerYou, General Assembly; Workshops like Ladies Learning Code; Courses like Coursera, Codecademy, Udacity

Learning any new language is a bit intimidating—especially when it’s a technical one. Whether you know the basics of HTML and CSS or you’re ready to tackle Ruby on Rails, coding is a skill that anyone can benefit from learning. According to Code.org, two-thirds of computing jobs are outside the tech sector.

The skill is in high demand, and it can help business owners create or maintain their own website or serve as a profitable skill as part of their portfolio of services

Basic bookkeeping and financial management

Where to learn this: OpenLearn, Coursera, Wave Plus

While you don’t need to be a full-blown accountant (especially with tools like Wave), a little bookkeeping knowledge can go a long way when it comes to keeping on top of your business’ financials.

The problem? Less than half of small business owners feel knowledgeable enough about accounting and finances.

A course or two can help familiarize you with the basics of bookkeeping and financial management so that you can gain deeper insights into the financial health of your business without requesting constant updates from your accountant.

Looking for one-on-one help from an accounting coach in Wave? See if Wave Plus is right for you.

Additional resources to help you hone your expertise

Not sure what you want to learn yet, or just want to browse? Here are a few other places you can peruse to upgrade your skills.

Free resources

Paid resources

Moving forward: Investing in yourself in 2019

For the most part, you’re better off trashing that New Year’s resolution list. Setting goals for yourself and your business is wise, as long as their achievable and specific. And there’s no better way to start a new year off right than to invest in yourself via professional development.

While there’s often an upfront cost, learning a new skill can help you run your business more efficiently or even grow it—which means the ROI for those courses will be returned in spades.

By Lindsey Peacock

The information and tips shared on this blog are meant to be used as learning and personal development tools as you launch, run and grow your business. While a good place to start, these articles should not take the place of personalized advice from professionals. As our lawyers would say: “All content on Wave’s blog is intended for informational purposes only. It should not be considered legal or financial advice.” Additionally, Wave is the legal copyright holder of all materials on the blog, and others cannot re-use or publish it without our written consent.

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