Online upskilling in your downtime

There are many opportunities to hone your business expertise during lockdown, with online courses aimed at helping you to polish existing skills or learn new ones.

Pin down your PR vision

From PR to productivity, there are myriad online courses aimed at businesspeople who want to ensure they are firing on all cylinders. This roundup includes a variety of courses to help you stay sharp.

Lucy Werner, founder of The Wern, and author of Hype Yourself, says many business owners don’t focus on their long-term PR vision. “Left unchecked, [they] get distracted by competitors, what other businesses are doing and this can mean they lose sight of who their audience is and how to reach them,” she says.

“All of our courses always make you go back to your story and your ‘why’. This is the most important thing that should underpin any business and can be applied to your wider lifestyle.”

Werner’s courses cover writing PR plans, creating a communications strategy and raising your profile.

Unsurprisingly, content is key to effective PR. Claire Winter of Making Words Come Alive, runs online content bootcamps for entrepreneurs wishing to develop word skills and content strategy.

Winter says: “The main challenges entrepreneurs come across when it comes to content are based on a combination of things – being told at school they are rubbish at writing or coming from a corporate background where they had a team who did their marketing, content planning, and copywriting for them.

“If you don’t spend time growing an audience and telling people about what you do, they won’t be able to buy from you.”

Make your social media work harder

While the majority of people are casual about social media, business owners must ensure their posts are clear, actionable and profitable.

Anna Frapwell, who runs Neon Digital Clicks, specialises in teaching clients how Facebook and Instagram adverts can help them make more money by driving leads and sales to their business.

She says, “During the Covid-19 crisis, I have been supporting small businesses to gain more confidence online. I have been working with many entrepreneurs to guide and motivate on how to pivot business – and where this may not be possible, how to stay visible so that when this does pass they have maintained awareness of their services.

“Ads are performing brilliantly and they are a very cost effective way to grow your business with your ideal customer.”

So many small businesses get their websites built, think ‘job done’ and leave them to gather dust. Businesses change over time – your website needs to reflect not just where your business is now but where you want it to be

Marie Brown, Beyond the Kitchen Table

LinkedIn is another medium that can generate leads and income if used correctly, says Louise Brogan of Social Bee Academy. Her social media school helps with all aspects of building a business online – from Facebook and Instagram to email marketing, podcasts and live video.

She says: “There is a lot more to LinkedIn than simply creating a profile and clicking ‘like’ on other people’s posts. When you learn how to use it, and build the foundations of your profile, you can spend just 10 minutes a day on LinkedIn and have people reaching out to work with you every single day.”

Learn to speak body language

Carole Railton, of Life After Branding and author of The Future of Body Language, says some entrepreneurs make decisions based only on the spoken word, missing up to 75% of the message.

“Also, some believe that men and women react the same way, when in fact signals are different for each of the sexes,” she says. “Some believe that folding your arms always means the person is not listening to you when it can mean many more things.”

Railton offers courses on all aspects of body language as well as moving from physical interaction to virtual chats. The benefits to fully understanding body language include greater confidence, better sales, an insight into why people react to you in the way that they do and how to adapt this to get the outcome you want.

Master the art of visual working

Entrepreneurs who want to get their ideas or information out of their heads and into the world often approach Cara Holland, founder of Graphic Change and author of Draw a Better Business.

“So whether that’s a need to connect with new customers, explain an idea effectively to funders or to get clarity around an internal problem that’s slowing them down, working more visually can be really helpful,” says Holland.

“The most common barrier to working visually for most entrepreneurs is their own drawing confidence. If you haven’t drawn anything since school it can be daunting, so our foundation courses help people overcome the notion that working visually is for artists and has to be complex. It doesn’t: simple icons work more powerfully.”

Although drawing is often involved, Holland stresses that it’s not an artistic activity.

“So for example, we helped one small business to visualise their customer journey and identify areas to improve; once they’d put those into practice their sales increased.”

Understand what ‘good’ web design and SEO looks like

With the plethora of web design tools available, many people can cobble together a website, but it’s vital to include the right elements to convert clicks into action.

Marie Brown of Beyond the Kitchen Table says a well-designed website is vital. She adds: “I see so many websites that may look great but they miss out on some very obvious and easy tactics that would make a big difference to their ability to convert customers.

“So many small businesses get their websites built, think ‘job done’ and leave them to gather dust. Businesses change over time – your website needs to reflect not just where your business is now but where you want it to be.”

Your website needs to have great SEO, too. Jargon-hating Pamela Rae-Welsh’s company, Worsley Creative, helps entrepreneurs to boost their online presence.

“The online SEO basics workshop is very popular and has rave reviews about both the content provided and the results people can get from taking the course,” she says.

The six modules cover the main areas of SEO that an entrepreneur should know, even if it is outsourced, and gives them the resources to measure and assess any changes they make.

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