Best Books for Starting an Online Business

Aug 9, 2019

Janelle, creator of Hey J. Nicole, with a copy of the Ecommerce Evolved book.

There are so many free or low cost resources available out there. And although podcasts are my new favorite way to learn about the most up-to-date business thangs (you can read about my go to podcasts here), nothing can quite beat the depth of knowledge you can gain from books.

That being said, a bulk of the available business books are nothing more than mega-glorified sales tactics for whatever the author may be trying to sell, but if you’re willing to wade through some of that gunk, there are SO MANY amazing books to add to and sharpen your biz skill sets. Below are my top picks for books that I’ve read that made the greatest impact on the trajectory of this little baby startup of mine.

Best Books for Starting a Business

Inbound Marketing by Brian Halligan & Dharmesh Shah

Have you heard of Hubspot? I’m gonna be honest: until this book, I hadn’t either. To this day, I’m still slightly confused what exactly Hubspot sells, but what I do know is that my entrepreneur boyfriend is a SUPER FAN for this company. When I first, first started thinking about this whole side hustle thing, I would ask him a LOT of questions, and his first response was always “Did you look it up on Hubspot?”

Irrespective of whatever Hubspot actually sells, they have the BEST business resource blog on the planet. You can honestly type any business question you’ve ever had into Google following by “hubspot,” and they will have remarkably helpful content to get you on the right path.

When I finally spoke my side hustle idea into existence (i.e., I told Bae I wanted to put pen to paper and come up with a real plan), Bae bought me my very first business book: Inbound Marketing: Attract, Engage and Delight Customers Online by Brian Halligan & Dharmesh Shah, the cofounders of Hubspot, and to date, it’s been the most invaluable resource in this whole online marketing and sales space. I’m ready to argue it’s possibly one of the best books for anyone starting an online business. Period.

The authors walk you through (i) inbound marketing, what it is and why it’s important to any business in this day and age, (ii) how to use the internet and social media to attract and target your ideal audience, (iii) converting potential clients into actual customers and (iv) using metrics and analytics to measure and track your progress. Without hesitation, this book is a perfect educational launch pad for anyone starting from ground zero and starting a business in 2019. Definitely start here.

Will It Fly by Pat Flynn

I first heard Pat Flynn on my beloved Amy Porterfield’s podcastOnline Marketing Made Easy,” and I was instantly smitten with his candor and honesty. He was so willing and happy to share what felt like the secret sauce, to me, that I immediately liked, knew and trusted him enough to purchase his book “Will It Fly: How to Test Your Next Business Idea So You Don’t Waste Your Time and Money.”

In true, selfless Pat Flynn fashion, this book is COMPLETELY FREE on Kindle, but if I may make a suggestion, if you have Audible, I would 10000% recommend purchasing the Audible version of the book. Pat makes a number of v valuable asides while he is personally narrating, and I gained so much in those moments alone.

Like the title suggests, Will It Fly walks you through the stages of validating a business idea. But not some superficial, makes you feel better type of validation. We’re talking hard data, hard research, hard numbers, proven tests, fail proof validation methods. Pat literally holds your hand as he walks with you through (i) what makes you happy, (ii) if this idea/business is in-line with what would make you happiest and (iii) how to research the service area and the service providers in the space, and (iv) how to slow roll your idea out to market to make that business a reality.

Pat takes particular care to clarify that the book in no way suggests a fast and easy route to validating per his method, but if you make it through all the steps that he outlines in the book, you are certainly guaranteed that the idea is a winner. If you are looking for a book to validate your idea, your business and (honestly) your vision for your life, Will It Fly is the exact book you need for starting an online business.

Ecommerce Evolved by Tanner Larsson

Once you dip your toe in the entrepreneurial pool, you will meet and make friends with SO MANY other folks pursuing big dreams and making big moves (no? Maybe that’s just an ATL thing…) Anyway, this next read came on high recommendation from one such lady boss entrepreneur friend, Meagan, the owner and creator of GetFlawlessSkin, and boy, was she spot on.

I could not recommend Ecommerce Evolved by Tanner Larsson more for anyone looking to sell ANYTHING online!! The subtitle of the book is literally “The essential playbook to build, grow and scale a successful e-commerce business,” and I can’t think of a more accurate or appropriate title.

This book takes you. Step. By. Freaking. Step. Through the process of selling a product on the interwebs. I strugggggle with selling. Although I haven’t even released the beta stage of my product (I felt naseous even typing out that I have a beta version of a product to sell), I feel like this book was the equivalent of a college course to create the business I dream of. Although I’m not currently in the selling stage of my business now, I feel remarkably ready when that moment arrives.

If your business sells a digital or physical product, Ecommerce Evolved is a must read. I consider this one required reading for anyone interested wanting to dabble in the online sales world and in search for books for starting an online business.

And that’s it! Those are my top picks for ladies and gents looking for awesome books about starting an online business. I promise that reading these will open up a wealth of knowledge, lingo, additional resources, and maybe most importantly, confidence, for your new venture.

If you’ve found any of this helpful, I suggest heading over to the blog and checking out the section exclusively for folks looking for more info on starting an online business. Also, don’t be shy, and subscribe to my monthly newsletter exclusively for side hustlers where I share tips, tricks and resources once a month with the crew.

There are SOOO many free/low cost and crazy helpful resources out there. I know how overwhelming of an idea it can be to think about starting an entire business. Trust me. I vowed for a lifetime to never dabble in entrepreneurship. But if the idea feels especially too big right now, start small. Grab a book or listen to a podcast and just see where the knowledge, stories and inspiration takes you. Sometimes, taking that first step can be the hardest, but trust me when I say, it’s completely worth it, friend.


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