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How to learn to be a digital entrepreneur

Here, we look at how you can acquire the key digital skills you need to start a business today.

 Digital skills are essential in today's business landscape

Digital skills are essential in today's business landscape

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Do you have the right stuff to be a digital entrepreneur?

In coffee shops, shared working spaces and spare bedrooms across the country, ambitious people are working on business plans and launching their own ventures.

The barriers to business and entrepreneurship are being broken down by technology. The internet has opened up a raft of opportunities to start-ups and small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).

Being online means that small businesses can market themselves around the world. Through social media you can be big in Bracknell, Baltimore and Bangkok without leaving your postcode.

The most digitally-savvy firms with clued-up digitally savvy staff stand to profit most from this digital age.

Almost every job now involves a range of digital skills, yet employers report a shortage in skilled candidates for jobs.

A digital skills shortage

A survey by the British Chamber of Commerce earlier this year found that three in four businesses reporting a digital skills shortage. For some businesses, the lack of skills is becoming critical.

So how do you make sure that you have the digital skills you need to help you start a business? Or if you have already taken the plunge and started your own business how do you find high quality free training for yourself and your staff?

Until now, access to business skills has traditionally been the preserve of MBA programmes, or years of on-the-job training.

Around the world, long, instructor-led courses which often inundate students with information are falling out of favour.

Modern day learning philosophies are seeing Executive MBAs getting shorter and more affordable, and offering evening courses to enable people to keep their day jobs. However, the cost and time commitment required to undertake formal business education prevents many entrepreneurs from going down this route.

Options in the market

Nowadays, people seeking skills and knowledge for their jobs – without needing the official qualification – have many other options. Online programmes with top tier academic institutions let people take just the courses they need, through providers such as Coursera and LearnDigital. This option fits in easily with the pressure of starting a business or an existing job.

Tech City UK, the organisation that promotes the growth of the UK’s digital tech sector, offers the Digital Business Academy (DBA), a free online college covering a range of topics including marketing, entrepreneurship, product development and financials. The programme was recently redesigned into 56 bitesize courses that are optimised for mobile and take 15 minutes to complete. Students can choose the exact skills they want for their particular business goals.

It was designed in partnership with Cambridge University Judge Business School, University College London, Foundercentric and ValuableContent.

Since the DBA was launched in 2014 some 25,000 people have undertaken its courses.

Simon Branston is a trainer who assists SMEs to digitise their businesses. He has completed several DBA courses and says, ‘I completed a number of courses to strengthen my digital knowledge and was surprised by the usability and quality of the courses.

‘I found myself working late into the night to finish courses or to develop my own startup digital ideas. What started out as a test ended up as an obsession that has had a really beneficial effect on both my own business and my clients’ development.’

An inspired alumni

In the three years that it has been running, more than 60 per cent of people who have taken DBA courses have started, joined or grown a digital business. One in five alumni go on to start a digital business of their own.

DBA was relaunched this month [Nov] to reflect key shifts in learning practice.

Time-pressed learners need to focus on acquiring smaller, tightly targeted skills that fit with their individual objectives.

Even when opportunities to learn are everywhere, it can be very hard to make time, find good-quality resources and avoid paying the earth. The DBA is free, trustworthy and focused on providing entrepreneurs, job changers and aspiring entrepreneurs with the skills they really need.

Better digital skills make firms more productive and a lack of digital skills holds them back. What’s stopping you?

Further reading on digital skills

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