10 Books About Starting an Online Business

10 Great Books About Starting an Online Business

Starting an online business, or business in general, is a hell of a lot of work. But if you’re halfway decent at it, you can make yourself a whole lot of money and, on top of that, quit the dreaded corporate job and finally work for yourself.

Between the “a whole lot of money” part, though, and calling your boss to tell him that you quit, there’s a lot of work. A huge gap that requires a ton of work – planning your product, creating a store, advertising, doing support, making sure things don’t fall apart, etc.

“Where should I start?” is a common question few people have the right answer to. That’s why, according to recent reports, more than 20% of small businesses fail in the first year, 30% in their second year, and even more disturbingly, 50% of small businesses fail after five years in business.

But regardless of these shocking stats, more and more people are leaving their corporate cubicles to strike out on their own.

If you, too, dream of making a career change but if you don’t know where to start, the 10 books presented below will help you properly plan your new business idea and set yourself on the right path.

10 Great Books On Starting An Online Business

Book #1: Start With Why by Simon Sinek

start with why book cover

Start With Why

  • Author: Simon Sinek.
  • Year published: October 2009.
  • Pages: 256.

What’s the book about?

Figuring out why you want to start a business should be your main priority – even before creating a fancy site and thinking about the logo. Simon Sinek will help you clarify your message – understand why your company should exist, beyond making a profit. Start With Why is full of examples that explain the major difference between a good company and a great company. The framework presented in the book is a great place to kick off your new online venture.

Thought-Provoking (Tweetable) Quote:

“Leadership requires two things: a vision of the world that does not yet exist and the ability to communicate it.” Simon Sinek

Book #2: Will it Fly? by Pat Flynn

Will it Fly book cover

Will it Fly?

  • Author: Pat Flynn.
  • Year published: February 2016.
  • Pages: 336.

What’s the book about?

Pat Flynn can surely help when it comes down to starting an online business. He is, after all, one of the most successful online business owners. The book is essentially a guide that will show you how to research, plan, and test your idea before taking the leap. The steps presented in Will it Fly? will assist in testing your strategy instead of relying on assumptions or luck. A great read to examine your project before making an early, not properly calculated move.

Thought-Provoking (Tweetable) Quote:

“There are risks and costs to action. But they are far less than the long range risks of comfortable inaction.” Pat Flynn

Book #3: Subscribed by Tien Tzuo

Subscribed by Tien Tzuo book cover


  • Author: Tien Tzuo.
  • Year published: June 2018.
  • Pages: 256.

What’s the book about?

Subscription businesses are starting to dominate the world. Everyone around the world is trying to “make it” in the recurring revenue market for a good reason – you have a stable, predictable, income source. Few people expected this to happen though. But not Tien Tzuo. He predicted this when he wrote the book. In Subscribed, the author explains how the world is shifting from products to services and why you should adjust your business model to a subscription-based one. If you’re just getting started with your business, this book will help you plan a membership-based one.

Thought-Provoking (Tweetable) Quote:

“If you’re just managing expectations, instead of creating new opportunities, you’re not doing it right.” Tien Tzuo

Book #4: Company of One by Paul Jarvis


Company of One

  • Author: Paul Jarvis.
  • Year published: January 2019.
  • Pages: 272.

What’s the book about?

Daydreaming about starting the next Amazon, or the next Facebook, can motivate you to launch your own company. However, a lot of owners feel miserable because their businesses are not as big as the organizations listed on Fortune 500. But do you really need to be that big? Paul Jarvies says no. He questions traditional growth pursued by millions and advocates towards creating something small, something easily sustainable. A Company of One will show you how to run a business all by yourself and explain why this is, probably, the right path for you.

Thought-Provoking (Tweetable) Quote:

“In saying no to anything that doesn’t fit, you leave room to say yes to those rare opportunities that do fit—opportunities that align with the values and ideas of your business.” Paul Jarvis

Book #5: The Mom Test by Rob Fitzpatrick

The Mom Test book cover

The Mom Test

  • Author: Rob Fitzpatrick.
  • Year published: August 2019.
  • Pages: 138.

What’s the book about?

Not sure if your business idea is any good? Don’t ask your mom! Read The Mom Test. This book offers a framework that will help you evaluate your current or next business idea. Teach you what type of questions to ask when looking for feedback and allow you to improve your offering to the market. It’s a great read before you start investing heavily in your dreamy business.

Thought-Provoking (Tweetable) Quote:

“It boils down to this: you aren’t allowed to tell them what their problem is, and in return, they aren’t allowed to tell you what to build. They own the problem, you own the solution.” Rob Fitzpatrick

Book #6: Built to Last by James C. Collins & Jerry I. Porras

Built to Last book cover

Built to Last

  • Authors: James C. Collins & Jerry I. Porras.
  • Year published: November 2004.
  • Pages: 368.

What’s the book about?

Companies are like marriages. If you want to have a good relationship with your partner, you need to think long term while also making sure that the relationship is thriving. Similarly, when running a business, you need to make sure that what you’re creating will resist change. That you’ll have good foundations to properly built your online stronghold. Built to Last provides an in-depth overview of the best practices used by exceptional companies. By sharing the stories of 100-year old organizations, the authors will show you how to get the basics right from the get-go.

Thought-Provoking (Tweetable) Quote:

“Visionary companies are so clear about what they stand for and what they’re trying to achieve that they simply don’t have room for those unwilling or unable to fit their exacting standards.” Jim Collins

Book #7: Innovator’s Dilemma by Clayton M. Christensen

Innovator’s Dilemma book cover

Innovator’s Dilemma

  • Author: Clayton M. Christensen.
  • Year published: January 2003.
  • Pages: 286.

What’s the book about?

How do companies fail? A good question to ask yourself before starting your own venture. In The Innovator’s Dilemma, Harvard professor Clayton M. Christensen explains why most companies miss “the next big idea” and let smaller organizations take over the lead. This is a great read to instill a dose of innovation in your project and ensure that you’ll stay relevant on the market when the waves of change inevitably occur.

Thought-Provoking (Tweetable) Quote:

“To succeed consistently, good managers need to be skilled not just in choosing, training, and motivating the right people for the right job, but in choosing, building, and preparing the right organization for the job as well.” Clayton Christensen

Book #8: How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big by Scott Adams

How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big book cover

How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big

  • Author: Scott Adams.
  • Year published: October 2013.
  • Pages: 248.

What’s the book about?

Few people succeed online? Why? Because they quit after their first failure. To make it, you need to keep pushing. To keep making iterations on your idea. In How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big, Scott Adams shares personal elements of his life, the huge list of failed businesses, and what he learned along the way. This book will either instill a dose of optimism about your project or convince you to quit before even starting. In either case, a good starting point.

Thought-Provoking (Tweetable) Quote:

“Happiness has more to do with where you are heading than where you are.” Scott Adams

Book #9: The Hard Thing About Hard Things by Ben Horowitz

The Hard Thing About Hard Things book cover

The Hard Thing About Hard Things

  • Author: Ben Horowitz.
  • Year published: March 2014.
  • Pages: 304.

What’s the book about?

Another great book about failure. The Hard Things About The Hard Things will help you handle situations when things go south. This book is about the story of Ben Horowitz – businessman, investor, entrepreneur, among other things. We get a first-person view of his life as a CEO. The book explains how to handle hard, sometimes even impossible situations. How to motivate the staff and save your company from bankruptcy.

Thought-Provoking (Tweetable) Quote:

“Life is struggle.” I believe that within that quote lies the most important lesson in entrepreneurship: Embrace the struggle.” Ben Horowitz

Book #10: Rework by Jason Fried & David Hansson

rework book cover


  • Authors: Jason Fried & David Hansson.
  • Year published: March 2010.
  • Pages: 279.

What’s the book about?

The shortest, most straightforward, and inspiring book I’ve ever read about starting and running a business. Rework will equip you with the dose of motivation you need to start a company and also stuff your backpack with useful guidance for your long journey. The book is a combination of short, never heard before tips, from the two founders of the massively successful SaaS company Basecamp.

Thought-Provoking (Tweetable) Quote:

“Working without a plan may seem scary. But blindly following a plan that has no relationship with reality is even scarier.” Jason Fried & David Hansson

Some Closing Thoughts

Don’t let the titles distract you.

Books can help, yes. But starting and running a business requires different skills than flipping pages. The insights in the titles above can only navigate you and help in a certain situation, but they won’t solve all of your problems.

You need to hustle, constantly make adjustments, ensure your product is satisfying your target audience, prevent growth from sabotaging your progress while also taking care of your staff – or yourself, if you’re going to do this alone.

Often progress is slow, or even not occurring, and it might take years to see some good results.

That’s the ugly part of running a company.

But here’s the more beautiful aspect: You get to be your own boss and do things as you want.

Whatever you choose to do, I hope the books shared above can be of assistance.

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