Best Books for Starting Online Business: Recommended by Those Who Succeeded

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To say that business books have become highly popular bestsellers means to say nothing at all. If you google books for starting an online business, you’ll get approximately 800–900 million search results.

No wonder that the demand for them has jumped up recently, as the percentage of businesses conducted on the Internet has grown from 9% to 25.4% in the past 20 years.

How do you know which books can be really helpful in starting business online and which of them can boast only of an attention-grabbing title that, in fact, works like a marketing gimmick, while the content itself has no value whatsoever?

Why not ask for experience-based book suggestions from those who have already succeeded?

I’ve done this interviewing part instead of you and prepared a list of the best reads (picked by professional leaders) that will help you begin your online business journey and nail digital entrepreneurship from top to bottom.

After adding those to your reading list, scroll further down to find out why reading is a habit of powerful and wealthy people and how many books away you are from achieving greatness in online business management.

Top 10 recommended books to start your business online

1. The Lean Startup: How Today’s Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses by Eric Ries

The Lean Startup How Today’s Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses

About the author

Eric Ries: Co-Founder of IMVU, online social network in the Metaverse of 3D virtual reality, which is his third startup

Why it’s worth reading

In his book, Eric Ries shares the fundamentals of framing your startup and testing a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) which is an essential element of your product roadmap.

“The Lean Startup is a Number One read for anyone wanting to launch a business, whether online or offline,” claims Revel Laughlin, Co-Founder of Qvolt Solar.

“It helped me understand that innovation is a beneficial force and a key factor that drives progress.

By embracing cutting-edge innovative solutions, constantly striving for improvement, and asking the why questions on the go, our company has been brought to the next level.

According to Eric Ries, questioning is like cool framing. And it really is,” Revel adds.

In The Lean Startup, the author offers the Five Whys technique, a problem-solving exercise to be used by a startup in its planning, development, or growth modes.

Revel Laughlin enumerates the steps his team usually takes to run a 5-why questioning process explained in the book:

  • Organize a team meeting
  • Address the main “Why?”
  • Ask the four other whys that arise from the answer in the chain-like manner
  • Assign responsibilities and tasks for solving the problem
  • Announce the outcomes to the team (via email or face-to-face)

2. Anything You Want: 40 Lessons for a New Kind of Entrepreneur by Derek Sivers

Anything You Want 40 Lessons for a New Kind of Entrepreneur

About the author

Derek Sivers: Founder of CD Baby, TED speaker, former musician

Why it’s worth reading

Here’s why, according to Stephanie Wilson, Chief Operating Officer at Policy Solver, this book on business is like honey for entrepreneur’s mind and soul:

“This book is amazing. It’s a reminder that the journey matters more than the final destination. This practical guide details exactly on how to operate business, work, and investment, as well as how to think clearly and set yourself apart.

My main takeaway from this book is that you should live your life doing things that make you happy. The author also helps you outline the aspects you should take into account when making decisions about your life, your career, and your finances.

It’s not only about making money in business. Derek Sivers reminds you that it’s about working hard and achieving your dreams.

Stephanie leaves me nothing else to add except the fact that Derek Sivers has put the ten years of experience (1998–2008) with his CD Baby company into a one-hour read. It can be virtually called one of the real-life inspirational stories of success.

3. The Personal MBA by Josh Kaufman

The Personal MBA by Josh Kaufman

About the author

Josh Kaufman: author of three bestsellers on productivity, skill acquisition, and entrepreneurship, featured speaker at Microconf, Stanford University, Google, BaconBiz, and IBM

Why it’s worth reading

“If you are like me and have never pursued a degree in Business Administration but want to learn more about it, The Personal MBA should be your first book ever in this field,” says Cody Crawford, Co-Founder at Low Offset.

“The author specializes in imparting real business knowledge and skills to professionals across various fields and specialties.

The book was a cornerstone that helped me turn a passion project into a day job: years working on cars and now I know how to run an online business and help others with their car modifications.

What stands out about this MBA-read is that you receive all the real deal, without having to sift through a ton of irrelevant information like you would have to do, if you completed a full university course.

It says a lot about the quality of content in this book. 

The subsections that are focused around specific concepts (value creation, marketing, sales, finance psychology, etc.) are bite-sized, so they can be consumed in a relatively short period of time,” Cody notes.

Being an excellent introduction to all the major areas in business, The Personal MBA teaches you the following how-tos:

  • Create and deliver value
  • Manage finances
  • Choose the best pricing method
  • Apply a winning negotiation strategy
  • Address marketing
  • Grasp how the human mind works and how the loss aversion phenomenon holds you back
  • Work with yourself and with others

A part of the book is dedicated to criticism of the modern MBA programs. Dwelling on their pros and cons, Kaufman argues that while they do offer significant benefits, the cost of enrollment has become too high to make the degree a good investment.

Why not participate in a free online business building course instead of spending $150,000 on an MBA degree?

4. Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead  by Sheryl Sandberg

Lean In Women, Work, and the Will to Lead

About the author

Sheryl Sandberg: COO of Meta (previously-known as Facebook) from 2008 and up till now

Why it’s worth reading

Have you ever thought about online business in terms of gender specificity?

If you take today’s era of digital transformation and its labor landscape, you’ll see that female leaders are slaying the online-entrepreneurship game.

There has been a considerable growth in the percentage of women running companies in the US – from 28% in 2019 to 49% in 2021.

Sandberg’s book shines a light on starting a business as a female entrepreneur and swimming well in the sea of gender discrepancies that still exist nowadays in the workplaces.

It also explains how women confront employment biases and social judgements.

“While Lean In is aimed more at women in the workplace in general than at aspiring or current business owners, many of the suggestions can be useful for women in either position.

This leadership book is a must-read for both female and male managers,” emphasizes Steve Pogson, Founder of First Pier.

It can also serve as a valuable resource for male business owners who want to better understand the challenges their female employees experience and work toward creating a more welcoming workplace for all.

Sandberg’s set of stories, personal anecdotes, and stats opened my eyes on gender and motherhood stereotypes and showed the path to improve the work mode and conditions for the female eCommerce specialists, designers, and developers on our team to help them feel safe and develop their potential and talent.”

5. Rework by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson

Rework by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson

About the authors

Jason Fried: President and Co-Founder of 37signals

David Heinemeier Hansson: creator of the Ruby on Rails web app framework and Co-Founder of Basecamp

Why it’s worth reading

In fact, Demi Yilmaz, Co-Founder at Colonist.io, believes that “A lot of times when people want to start an online business, they tend to think about it too much. They overthink the entire process and this leads them to do nothing at all.

This is where Rework comes in handy, as it tells you that you do not need an extensive business plan or an investor to get started with your business online.

Just get started with something small and work on it until you have established a good customer base.

The book further goes on to talk about various myths associated with businesses such as the importance of multitasking, working long hours, raising capital, and pivoting. It is an excellent read for people who tend to overthink and do nothing at all.”

In addition, the authors will help you avoid obstacles to your productivity. Rework is an unputdownable book with quotable insights on how to beat excuses and earn money instead.

6. The Startup Owner’s Manual: The Step-By-Step Guide for Building a Great Company by Steve Blank and Bob Dorf

The Startup Owner’s Manual The Step-By-Step Guide for Building a Great Company

About the authors

Steve Blank: innovator and management thinker on the “12 Masters of Innovation” and “Thinkers50” lists

Bob Dorf: an Adjunct Professor of Entrepreneurship at Columbia Business School who went entrepreneurial at the age of 12 and has founded seven startups ever since

Why it’s worth reading

“If you asked me to formulate the book’s message in one sentence, it would be as follows: if you don’t focus on your customers, your business is doomed,” highlights Jerry Han, CMO at PrizeRebel.“

In The Startup Owner’s Manual, Steve Blank and Bob Dorf make you reconsider everything you’ve heard about customer-centric approach.

The authors sort it all out for getting, keeping, and growing your customer base: from customer segmentation to recognition

This book actually pushed our marketing team forward to try-and-test a new rewards-based system at PrizeRebel that led to a 32% increase in user engagement,” Jerry shares.

The Startup Owner’s Manual is packed with practical wisdom, over 50 checklists, and more than 100 diagrams, tables, and graphs to help you gain profits focusing on customer-centricity as one of the key factors to make your business grow.

This guidebook arms you with the clear-cut tactics on how to build a web startup using a customer development model that presupposes four basic steps:

  • Customer discovery
  • Customer validation
  • Customer creation
  • Customer-building

Importantly, it explains the principles of both customer acquisition and retention.

7. Starting an Online Business: All-in-One for Dummies by Joel Elad and Shannon Belew

Starting an Online Business All-in-One for Dummies

About the authors

Joel Elad: creator of Real Method Consulting, author of numerous books on eCommerce and small business

Shannon Belew: Founder of OnlineMarketingToGo, digital marketing guru

Why it’s worth reading

Follow the piece of advice by Michael Nemeroff, CEO & Co-Founder of Rush Order Tees, and “Prepare to take notes and master the art of online sales with this guide for dummies.

This book is a long read (around 900 pages), though it’s totally worth the time spent on it, no matter whether you’re only seeing your online business in your mind’s eye or have already made the first steps in it.

I read it years ago, when I already had a company running, but it caused a pivotal growth wave in my business development, helping me harness online marketing, strategic selling on social media, and search engine optimization.”

Indeed, Joel Elad and Shannon Belew demonstrate how SEO can help you boost your online presence and drive better targeted traffic to your site.

On top of that, they also examine the significance of aesthetics in website design for brand’s credibility and perception.

8. The 10% Entrepreneur by Patrick J. McGinnis

The 10% Entrepreneur

About the author

Patrick J. McGinnis: Founder of Dirigo Advisors, author of two international bestsellers, “father” of the terms FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) and FOBO (Fear of a Better Option), creator of the FOMO Sapiens podcast

Why it’s worth reading

Patrick J. McGinnis names the five crucial reasons not to be a full-time entrepreneur and defines the five kinds of 10% entrepreneurs:

  • Advisor
  • Angel
  • Aficionado
  • Founder
  • 110% entrepreneur

“The 10% Entrepreneur gave me a life-changing experience, literally.

It turned me into a ten-percent entrepreneur, an aficionado, to be exact, someone who combines passion with wants and needs,” confesses Jesse Galanis, Content Manager at Switching2Mac.

“I was desperately in love with Apple products, so I created a profile, built my portfolio, and started working as a freelancer writing content about iPads, MacBooks, iPhones, etc., when I was still a college student.

Years have passed ever since, and I’m happy to be involved in ventures I know and love,” Jesse opens up.

Turns out you can easily make profit online while you study or become a part-time entrepreneur without quitting your day job.

9. How to Start an Online Business: Create a Business Around Your Lifestyle by Emilie Pelletier

How to Start an Online Business Create a Business Around Your Lifestyle

About the author

Emilie Pelletier: certified life coach, writer, spiritual entrepreneur

Why it’s worth reading

The CEO of Land Investing Online, Daniel Apke, outlines why this book is the best read, if you want to start your online business from scratch:

“This quickstart guide is a good primer for a budding businessperson who has an entrepreneurial spirit, in the first place. If you feel like working for yourself rather than for an employer, then you’ve got this potential freedom in you.

The first three key things to do are: tell yourself why you need it, choose a proper business model, and specify the niche.

As for the latter, for example, we were guided by this book to narrow our business down to only one in-depth education program on land investment (a land flipping bootcamp) to avoid scattering our energies and efforts on all of them at once.”

Explaining the ABCs of entrepreneurship, Emilie Pelletier coaches you on how to pick one of the topmost online business models and stick to it.

As a bonus at the end of the book, she also provides some materials which are specifically aimed for a WordPress website owner.

10. The Nuclear Effect: The 6 Pillars of Building a 7+ Figure Online Business by Scott Oldford

The Nuclear Effect The 6 Pillars of Building a 7+ Figure Online Business

About the author

Scott Oldford: creator of the Relevancy, Omnipresence, and Intimacy (ROI) Method in marketing, advisor, investor

Why it’s worth reading

Who wouldn’t want to hit a 7-figure goal and go beyond that?

“In this book, Scott Oldford becomes your personal mentor and helps you set milestones to create a business that makes money online in no time,” notes Kyle Zien, Director of Growth Marketing at Felix.

“Under his guidance, you can grow a multimillion-dollar company by activating the Nuclear Effect and using the 6-pillar framework even under high-pressure situations and stressful times.

According to the author, the six pillars are the same across various industries. They are: Marketing, Sales, Product Delivery, Team Operations, Finances, and Mindset.

Such an approach can help you achieve consistency and stability during any turbulence.

Like COVID-19, for instance, that made us all transfer our human-to-human communications from the physical to digital world of on-screen and in-app interactions,” as Kyle puts it.

This book will help you tackle all the challenges of online business, truly sustain your success, and keep revenues rising.

Why successful entrepreneurs read books and why you should do it too

Does reading lead to success?

Great leaders are avid readers.

For example:

  • Bill Gates, a Co-Founder of Microsoft and business magnate, grabs a new book every week and manages to read 50 books per year.
  • Elon Musk, Tesla’s CEO and Twitter owner, as of now, used to read two books every day, when he was a teenager.
  • Jun Li, Founder of Ontology, a blockchain company, reads 3 books daily.
  • Warren Buffet, one of the wealthiest people around the globe, reads 500 pages on a daily basis and spends 80% of his day reading and thinking.
  • Fabrice Grinda, Co-Founder of OLX and #1 Angel Investor on the Forbes’ list, reads roughly 100 books a year or eight books a week.

Have you ever wondered why they read so much?

Because reading is a beneficial hobby and habit that uplifts the chances of success and leads to it indirectly.

How to find your reading path to get online business going

The key point here is to choose the right books for launching your online business. Luckily, you’ve already got some expert recommendations, so there’s no need to look further.

Then, naturally, a logical question may occur: how many books on business should one read for becoming a productive entrepreneur on the Internet?

One, five, ten, or more?

There’s no math formula that explains the interdependence between the number of books on business and becoming a guru in entrepreneurship

However, the study shows that people who manage to read at least seven business books on a yearly basis tend to earn 2.3 times more than those who finish only one book a year.

Read the best business books and succeed in becoming an online entrepreneur

If you are pursuing entrepreneurship on the web and want to build a successful business scheme, the abovementioned books are must-reads.

Start reading them now and use the knowledge extracted from them to your benefit. They will help you create a wildly prosperous online business and make sure it runs smoothly.

Have you already read any of those? Were they helpful?

Don’t shy away from typing a few words in the comments section below.

About the author 

Peter Keszegh

Most people write this part in the third person but I won't. You're at the right place if you want to start or grow your online business. When I'm not busy scaling up my own or other people' businesses, you'll find me trying out new things and discovering new places. Connect with me on Facebook, just let me know how I can help.

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