What type of person are you?
Would you rather work for someone else, do what you are told and earn a steady paycheck?
Or do you prefer taking risks, being your own boss and living a life that may be difficult, but is full of freedom?
If your answer to this last question is yes, congratulations: You are an entrepreneur.
But don’t worry. This doesn’t mean you need to start climbing mountains or parachuting out of planes.
It just means that you are looking for a more challenging, independent way to succeed in business.
You might be someone who has just launched their first start-up, or you might be in the process of launching one. Alternatively, you might be in a day job that you are planning to leave, in order to start your own business.
Or you may not even have a business model yet, but you are toying with the idea of becoming an “entrepreneur” and living life on your own terms.
No matter which category you belong to, you are going to need some resources to get started and improve your English skills to succeed.
And this is where I come in, to help you out.
How to Prepare Your English Skills for Being a Successful Entrepreneur
Before you head on to the resources below, it is important to understand what steps to take to follow through in your learning process.
- Polish your speaking skills. To be an entrepreneur, you need to be a confident and fluent speaker. Whether you are giving a presentation or trying to attract a potential investor, you need to communicate efficiently and clearly in business English.
- Polish your writing skills. You will have to do a fair amount of paperwork and writing out cover letters and business proposals. You have to come across in writing as articulate (able to express yourself clearly) and intelligent, as someone who knows what they are doing.
- Cultivate (develop) the right personality. As an entrepreneur, you can’t be passive and wait for others to give you orders. You have to be active, adventurous, open-minded and willing to take risks. Work on becoming more extroverted (talkative and outgoing), develop the English skills for confident speaking and leadership, and remain positive.
- Network with other entrepreneurs. Talking to other people in the same field will help break the “communication barrier” and lead you to better opportunities. Make sure you do your bit to support your fellow entrepreneurs, too.
- Have a dream and work hard to achieve it. You have to start with an idea, but you have to develop it to fruition (completeness). Work on your vision and fine-tune the details until it is perfect. You will have to learn and master the English vocabulary specific to your industry. But you will also have to remember to remain practical, and be ready to make compromises with others in order to turn your idea into reality.
English for Entrepreneurs: A Resource Guide for Risk-takers
Online courses are a wonderful way to build your business knowledge base and polish your language skills at the same time. Many of them are free or cheap, and you can learn at your own pace.
When it comes to MOOCs (Massive Online Open Courses), Coursera tops the list. The courses listed below are free and are taught by faculty from leading universities, so you get the best of both worlds (studying at home for free and being taught by experts).
- English for Business and Entrepreneurship. This course was created by the University of Pennsylvania and is especially for non-native English speakers “who are interested in learning more about the global business economy.” It is a beginner-level course that will only take 5 weeks to complete, and you only have to commit 2-4 hours of your time per week. It is divided into 4 units and covers what it means to be an entrepreneur, how to successfully conduct market research, how to create a business plan and how to attract the right kind of investors and monetary support.
- Business English: Management and Leadership. While the earlier course is focused entirely on the “business” part of entrepreneurship, this course will give you a rundown of all the skills that are required to be a successful entrepreneur, particularly the art of using language effectively to make a point and persuade others. This course was created by Arizona State University.
It has subtitles in Spanish, and is a 6-week course to which you only have to commit only 1-2 hours per week. As an entrepreneur, you cannot always work alone, and this course will guide you on how to create your own team, manage different projects, coach juniors or interns and delegate (assign) responsibilities. In short, you will develop the leadership and management skills that every entrepreneur has to cultivate to be successful.
FluentU takes real-world videos—like movie trailers, music videos, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language lessons. FluentU takes real-world videos—like business dialogues, inspiring speeches, news and more—and turns them into personalized English lessons.
FluentU has a huge collection of English videos that people in the English-speaking world actually watch.
More to the point, FluentU has an entire business category filled with authentic business-related videos covering six language levels.
To show the variety of videos even inside this single category, real-world business videos on FluentU include “Introducing Business Colleagues,” “Business Buzzwords,” “Control Your Inbox!” and “What Warren Buffet Thinks About Cash.”
An added bonus is that if you want to work on other topics later, simply use the same, familiar FluentU platform to learn with videos from other categories, such as “Science and Tech,” “Politics and Society” or mix it up with “Arts and Entertainment” or “Health and Lifestyle.”
Every spoken word is subtitled, complete with an in-context definition, image and multiple example sentences.
All you have to do is tap or click on one of the words in those subtitles to get more information. For example, if you tap on the word “brought,” you will see this:
Plus, these great videos are all accompanied by interactive features and active learning tools, like multimedia flashcards and fun games like “fill in the blank.”
If you are interested in watching fun, relevant videos and practicing language actively in the process, be sure to create a FluentU account and try it out on your computer, iOS or Android device!
Alison is similar to Coursera in providing free online courses by experts, but their courses tend to be more specific and short-term. So if there is a specific entrepreneurial skill you want to cultivate or you want to improve your entrepreneurial vocabulary, you are likely to find helpful resources here.
- For starters, you can check out Creating An Entrepreneur’s Checklist for Success, which is taught by Steve Blank, who has over 30 years of experience in the field.
- If you want to assess whether you have the right skills to be an entrepreneur, you can opt for Critical Skills for Entrepreneurs. This course is taught by Jerry Kaplan, who has experience being an entrepreneur in the computer industry.
Browse the website with the “entrepreneur” tag and you will find there are several other individual courses to choose from, for different needs and goals.
Language Intro is an online language training company, and they have a special course called English For Entrepreneurs.
Their website states that you will get one-on-one lessons from a trained mentor, but you can also opt for group classes. This class will particularly help you polish your public speaking skills to become an effective leader in your field.
Podcasts are a great learning resource, especially when you are short of time. You can listen to them while you are traveling and take notes.
Listening to podcasts about entrepreneurship will not only teach you how to run your own business, but also the kind of speaking required for doing so. You will learn how to use your voice and say the right words to get things done. If you listen daily, chances are that you will improve faster.
Seth Godin is a leader in marketing and business. In his podcast, he guides 30 entrepreneurs through building and running their own business. So if you want a step-by-step guide to being an entrepreneur, give this podcast a listen.
This podcast by Dan Andrews and Ian Schoen gives you an insider’s view on what the entrepreneur life is like. The hosts cover the stories of people who are motivated by their passions, rather than profits.
Websites and Blogs
The internet is rife with (full of) articles and guides on how to be an entrepreneur. As someone who is just starting out, you might be overwhelmed by the high amount of resources available. To make things easier on yourself, you can keep the websites below bookmarked and browse top-quality articles on them from time to time.
These sites will also help you get to know the jargon (talk) and vocabulary of business English—you will come to understand which tone and which words to use to get the best results.
If you want to make use of just one resource from this post, then simply head over to this website.
It is packed with interviews, inspiration and all the nitty-gritty (practical essentials) you need to know to start a business. Entrepreneur also contains informational videos and some fascinating podcasts.
This is the blog of Jason Cohen, a “four-time entrepreneur” who has been writing about start-ups for over a decade.
His website is full of helpful tips and advice on running your own start-ups. It also contains marketing wisdom and “geekery,” all written in a fun and easy-to-understand way.
As the name suggests, this website is packed with tips, advice and know-how from CEOs under 30.
If you are looking to develop the right habits to be an entrepreneur, or you are confused about which marketing approach you should use for your business, this site promises all the answers. They also have a free mini-course that will teach you how to build a $1000-a-month side business from scratch.
If you are someone who prefers a hands-on learning approach, you may want to sign up for an offline class on entrepreneurship at a local institution.
Most business, leadership and management schools have workshops, seminars and short-term courses running all the time, and you can sign up for them at your own convenience. Just keep your eyes open!
No matter what, if you want to succeed as an entrepreneur, you have to remain self-motivated and disciplined.
You have to take risks and learn to accept failure as a part of life.
It is a difficult road to take, but it will offer you independence, freedom and fulfillment.
So go out there and keep trying ’til you succeed!
Archita Mittra is a freelance writer, artist, educator and a self-taught Italian speaker. Feel free to check out her website or contact her for freelancing inquiries.
If you liked this post, something tells me that you'll love FluentU, the best way to learn English with real-world videos.