Five Online Tools to Build Your Computer Skills

Content Equals Money’s content writers are a pretty tech-savvy group (especially Pat), and we love sharing tips with our clients. I’ve heard a lot of CEM clients say that they want to take a course to build their skills in social media for businesses, but don’t have the time or money. Many people also want to focus on a specific skill like learning to use their iPads, finding shortcuts in Excel, or designing a newsletter. While computer classes can be great for total beginners (if you’re reading this, you’re already past that stage), here are some free and user-friendly online tools that can help you build your computer skills.

For the basics: GCF Learn Free offers a lot of free tutorials that cover pretty basic material. Some of them are probably too basic for the business user (if you found your way to this blog, you probably don’t need the mouse tutorial), but others are really helpful. I went through the iPad Basics tutorial, since I haven’t used the iPad much, and I found that it made iOS seem a lot less confusing. I also liked the video format, which would make it easy to have the tutorials on while you are working on something else.

For social media: If you’re one of Facebook’s 1 billion users, you probably have some experience on social media. Some people think that social media should come naturally, but from the number of articles in our knowledge bank, it’s clear that there is a high level of skill involved. As this New York Times article points out, social media skills can come quickly once you get started. MediaBistro’s courses and online tutorials can help you navigate your different media options. Their online courses run around $350, so check out the free how-to videos. This one about Twitter is a great place to start, and when I was browsing the site, I noticed a few about freelancing that I’m excited to share with my fellow content writers.

For Excel: Many small business owners think that they need special software to organize their finances, but Excel, which most business owners already have, can be extremely useful when you know a few tricks. Microsoft offers a free Excel Skills Builder that shows you what you can do with Excel. Software tutorials have a reputation for being frustrating to use, but these tutorials cover reporting, data entry, and other specific skills in an easy to use, efficient format.

For communications: Most small business owners offer great customer service, which is why their customers keep coming back. However, customer service looks different online than it does in a brick and mortar store. MindTools has some great articles on how to write a professional email that still lets your personality come through, how to use instant messengers for professional communication, and how to communicate professionally when using social media for small businesses. I particularly like the way they break up the material with fun quizzes like this one.

For graphic design: CEM’s content writers love to see our work presented in an eye-catching design, since we know it will attract more readers. With fairly basic computer skills, you can design visually appealing newsletters, emails, and content marketing materials. Patrick Mann offers a fun exercise to get your creativity firing next time you need to use your design skills, and Tutorial Lounge has some great tutorials on design. This tutorial on how to design a newsletter covers color, text, segments, and other important design aspects that you for anything you need to design online.

Tutorials are available online for almost any computer skill you might need. Here is a fun series of tests so you can see where your skills are now. Try out some of these tools and see how you do!

Let us know what you think. Were there any that you loved? Any you wouldn’t recommend?  Are there others that you use regularly?

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Carolyn "Lynnie" Moore is a traveler, writer, and punster who lives in New Orleans. She focuses on tips to save you time and make your small business work in the real world. When she’s not working or studying, she spends her time running, eating, and reading books.

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