As an entrepreneurship consultant who assists startups and small businesses, I‘m constantly researching the most in-demand and lucrative skills entrepreneurs should develop. In our rapidly evolving digital landscape, honing your expertise in certain areas can dramatically increase your income potential and give your business an edge.
Based on my decade of experience advising hundreds of small business owners, here are 5 essential skills I recommend mastering in 2023 to future-proof your career or business:
1. Digital Marketing
Digital marketing is more crucial than ever, with 78% of small businesses reporting that their digital marketing efforts help generate sales. Mastering digital marketing channels is vital for connecting with customers online and driving revenue.
Social Media Marketing
- Get hands-on experience managing real social media accounts if possible. Understand each platform‘s unique features and audience.
- Facebook/Instagram – Create targeted ads, promote engagement with products. Use detailed targeting options.
- LinkedIn – Establish yourself as an industry thought leader. Share content and engage with your niche.
- TikTok – Create short videos showcasing your brand personality and offerings. Experiment with emerging formats.
SEO (Search Engine Optimization)
- Study your target keywords using Google‘s Keyword Planner and Ahrefs to identify optimization opportunities.
- Create SEO-optimized content focused on ranking for your target keywords. Include keywords in headers, content, URLs, alt text, etc.
- Build high-quality backlinks from reputable websites to boost domain authority. Guest post on industry blogs.
- Create a diverse content marketing strategy with blogs, videos, podcasts, infographics, and more.
- Promote content across all digital channels to boost brand awareness and traffic.
- Analyze performance to double down on highest converting content types and topics. Repurpose content for maximum ROI.
- Segment your subscriber list based on demographics, interests, and engagement. Create targeted campaigns.
- A/B test email subject lines, content formatting, calls-to-action, send times, and other variables.
- Offer incentives like discounts or free content to grow your list. Prioritize deliverability to reach the inbox.
According to Statista, digital marketing spending will reach $188 billion in 2025 as more sales move online. Investing in digital marketing skills can help you win market share in the digital economy.
2. Coding & Web Development
In the digital age, technical skills like coding and web development empower entrepreneurs to turn ideas into functioning online businesses. You don‘t need to become a full-stack developer, but basic proficiency can provide immense value.
Learn Basic HTML & CSS
Mastering HTML and CSS allows you to customize and optimize the design of your website and digital content without relying on expensive web developers.
- Start with HTML basics like tags, elements, formatting text, adding images/video, tables, forms, etc.
- Use CSS to control layout, colors, fonts, animations. Utilize common frameworks like Bootstrap.
I‘ve saved clients tens of thousands in developer fees by equipping them with basic HTML and CSS skills to maintain their own websites.
WordPress Site Building
WordPress powers over 40% of all websites, making it a versatile and accessible entry point for entrepreneurs with limited technical skills.
- Choose user-friendly hosting like Bluehost. Install WordPress with one click.
- Use drag-and-drop page builders like Elementor to easily customize your design.
- Add plugins to add ecommerce, email marketing, SEO and other features. Stay secure with backups.
You can quickly launch a professional website on WordPress without advanced coding. It empowers entrepreneurs to bring their visions to life online.
3. Graphic Design
Strong visual branding and design is key to attracting attention and conveying professionalism – critical for conversion and sales. Learning basic graphic design allows you to create on-brand assets without hiring a designer.
Graphic Design Theory
Understand essential graphic design principles like typography, color theory, design hierarchy, negative space, balance, contrast, etc. Study examples.
Adobe Creative Suite
Learn industry-standard tools like Illustrator for logos/graphics, Photoshop for image editing, InDesign for layouts.
- Start with beginner tutorials for your software of choice on sites like Skillshare or LinkedIn Learning
- Replicate real-world projects like flyers, social posts, and brochures to practice
- Consider investing in an Adobe license if you find it provides sufficient value
I recommend focusing your learning on a single graphics program suited to your needs. For example, mastering Photoshop can empower you to produce polished social media imagery and ads.
Canva provides an intuitive, drag-and-drop graphic design platform requiring no technical expertise. Make full use of its huge library of templates, fonts, and design elements.
While less robust than Adobe Creative Cloud, Canva enables business owners with no background in graphic design to produce professional, customized designs across formats like social posts, presentations, flyers, and more.
65% of consumers are visual learners, so honing your graphic design skills can significantly boost engagement and conversions.
4. Financial Skills
Understanding finances is a must for entrepreneurs. You don‘t need to be an accountant, but gaining financial literacy will ensure you make smart money decisions in your business.
Learn accounting basics like assets/liabilities, double-entry bookkeeping, financial statements, cash flow, profit/loss, etc.
- Use free educational resources to initially grasp concepts
- Eventually graduate to QuickBooks or Xero to manage real bookkeeping
- If scaling, work with an accountant or CFO, but maintain financial fluency
I can‘t tell you how many clients I‘ve seen make detrimental financial decisions by ignoring their numbers. Taking time to learn accounting basics is invaluable.
Analyzing Key Metrics
Identify the key metrics relevant to your revenue streams and business model. Analyze them regularly to inform strategic decisions.
For example, ecommerce businesses should track metrics like average order value, conversion rate, customer lifetime value, profit margins on products, etc. Understand which levers boost revenue and profit.
Budgeting & Cash Flow
Create budgets forecasting your expenses and revenue. Calculate your cash runway based on current burn rate.
- Build accurate budgets reflecting predictable and variable expenses
- Set revenue goals tied to key activities like marketing spend
- Preserve cash flow through lean startup practices like bootstrapping
Ongoing budgeting and monitoring cash flow prevents unexpected crises and gives you financial peace of mind.
Set optimal prices for your products/services by testing different price points, bundles, and discounts. Understand pricing psychology.
Raising prices can dramatically improve margins, but you risk losing customers. Lowering prices can boost conversions but hurt profits. Continually experiment to find the revenue-maximizing balance.
Taking time to learn key financial skills will pay dividends by keeping your business lean and profitable.
5. Project Management
From production to marketing to product launches, executing complex projects is central to operating a successful business. While often underestimated, developing project management skills can optimize workflows.
Adopt robust task management systems to track multiple moving parts and ensure nothing falls through the cracks.
- Tools like Asana, Trello, and Notion provide customizable kanban boards to organize tasks and workflows.
- Set notifications and reminders so team members complete tasks on time. Integrate calendars for scheduling.
Take an iterative approach to executing projects, collecting feedback, and incorporating improvements after each sprint.
- Break large initiatives into smaller 2-4 week sprints with clear objectives
- Conduct reviews after each sprint to identify issues and optimize processes for the next
- Adjust scope and methodology based on stakeholder feedback
This agile approach prevents wasted time from major pivots late in a project timeline.
Facilitate collaboration and accountability across teams and stakeholders through defined protocols.
- Document project requirements and plans in easily accessible shared drives like Google Drive
- Conduct standups for teams to align on blockers and prioritize tasks
- Send recaps and next steps after meetings to keep everyone looped in
Smooth collaboration ultimately leads to better project outcomes.
Sharpening your PM skills, even through free resources, helps you operate efficiently at scale. Don‘t wait until it‘s too late!
Start Building Your Skills Today
Learning highly marketable skills expands your capabilities and unlocks new professional opportunities. While the skills highlighted in this guide require dedication, they offer immense income potential.
I encourage you to:
- Take online courses – Utilize platforms like LinkedIn Learning, Coursera, and Udemy which offer affordable video courses for self-paced learning.
- Practice actively – The only way to truly master new skills is through hands-on practice. Challenge yourself with real projects that push your abilities.
- Expand your network – Connect with other entrepreneurs pursuing the same skills through online forums and communities. Share resources and advice.
- Be patient – Some skills have a steep initial learning curve. Stick with it, maintain discipline, and your expertise will gradually accumulate.
The right skills can be an incredible business differentiator, allowing you to tap into lucrative opportunities. Now is the time to invest in yourself and future-proof your career!