You’re gearing to start up your online business.

You’ve subscribed to more blogs than you can count and possibly checked out some podcasts about how to run a digital product business. If there's an article out there on side-hustles for creatives, you've read it.

But gathering information from all of these sources leads to information overload, so you turn to one of the oldest staples of learning: books.

Unfortunately, most of the books you find are geared towards brick-and-mortar businesses or giant corporations.

That’s where these 10 small-business-friendly books can help.

Not only are they born-and-bred with the entrepreneur in mind, but they encompass a vast area of subject domains, including mindset and motivation, product development and design, and marketing.

Today, we’ll go over each book in detail, look at how they can benefit your business, and tie it off with recommendations for specific types of creators who will benefit the most from picking up the book ASAP.

So whether you need a helping hand with selling your online courses, want to dig deep into the nuances of user testing and product validation, or just enjoy a good book as much as me, let’s dive in.

Mindset and motivation

Pick #1: Small is the New Big: And 183 Other Riffs, Rants, and Remarkable Business Ideas

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Author: Seth Godin

It would be marketing blasphemy for us to not start this list off with marketing great Seth Godin given how much value he condenses into each of his characteristically short anecdotes, riffs, and rants.

Small is the New Big proposes a seemingly controversial point: in lieu of constantly seeking out more growth, more employees, and generally more everything, entrepreneurs should instead opt for a small-and-sustainable business model.

And in true Seth Godin fashion, his recommendation has real-world merit. 78% of small businesses have said they’re profitable, and 53% of owners ranked their happiness as a nine or higher.

So if you need a little extra convincing that running a small business truly is the new big thing, Seth’s book is the perfect guide to achieve both.

While Seth’s advice applies to both aspiring and experienced entrepreneurs, Small is the New Big is perfect for newer business owners who want to grow small but mighty businesses, but who can only find advice targeted at large companies.

Why you need it:

Who it’s best for:

Pick #2: Company of One: Why Staying Small is the Next Big Thing for Business

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Author: Paul Jarvis

All of the small business gurus you’ve read want to teach you how to grow your profits year over year exponentially.

But what if running an infinitely-growing business doesn’t align with your goals or audience?

Then Paul Jarvis’ Company of One may be just what you’re looking for.

Company of One offers compelling reasons and examples of why today’s small businesses may want to limit their growth-- and why doing so is good for you, your audience, and your bottom line in the long haul.

Contrary to its title, Company of One doesn’t argue that entrepreneurs should forever remain solopreneurs, but rather that they maintain the adaptable and innovative small business mindset even as they bring on contractors and employees.

Why you need it:

Who it’s best for:

Pick #3: The War of Art: Winning the Inner Creative Battle

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Author: Steven Pressfield

So you want to launch an online business.

You do tons of research about starting a small business, answer important business questions before you take the dive, and map out your product ideas and marketing strategy.

Right at the eleventh hour, that little voice pops into your head.

It tells you that you don’t have enough experience, money, skills, or product ideas to launch your company.

According to Steven Pressfield, that’s the “resistance” talking, and The War of Art is the actionable and impactful antidote to kick it to the curb.

Though a short read, The War of Art gives thought-provoking reasons and tips for overcoming whatever’s holding you back from unleashing your creativity and potential, whether that’s self-doubt, perfectionism, procrastination, or feeling like a fraud.  

Why you need it:

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Product development and design

Pick #4: Will It Fly? How to Test Your Next Business Idea So You Don’t Waste Your Time and Money

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Author: Pat Flynn

You rarely think up a creative side hustle or digital product idea that you haven’t wanted to try on the spot.

However, by letting excitement rush you towards product implementation, you deliver half-developed products to your audience that seldom increase awareness of your brand.

If that sounds like you, Pat Flynn’s Will it Fly? is the resource you need to help bridge the gap between your product idea and product launch with thorough research and testing.

Far from being a dry, creativity-killing how-to, Will It Fly? teaches passionate entrepreneurs how to vet their ideas so that they can exercise their creative muscles more and pursue viable, profitable products rather than a series of unsustainable ideas.

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Pick #5: The Mom Test: How to talk to customers & learn if your business is a good idea when everyone is lying to you

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Author: Rob Fitzpatrick

You don’t know what your customers want.

Clarification: You’re reasonably certain you know what they want, and you’ve even gotten some feedback and insight from your audience members, but you have a hunch you’re not getting the full story about your customers’ needs and preferences.

Which is a problem.

Particularly when you consider 42% of businesses failed because there was no market need for their product, and 14% failed because they ignored their customers.

While you’re probably far from ignoring them, not getting the right feedback can lead to the same consequences.

And if you had the money to run a focus group, the solution would be simple, but chances are your expenditures needs to stay much smaller than that.

Which begs the question -- how are you supposed to get actionable feedback from your customer research without a big-box marketing budget?

That’s where The Mom Test comes in.

The Mom Test teaches readers how to transition from seeking immediate validation to getting answers to the questions that determine if your product idea is worth pursuing, and what you need to do to make your product irresistible.

Why you need it:

Who it’s best for:

Pick #6: Lean Customer Development: Building Products your Customers Will Buy

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Author: Cindy Alvarez

The great thing about product testing is that there’s a wealth of information out there about conducting market research and designing minimum viable products.

The not-so-great thing is that much of this advice is geared towards tech companies and those with venture capital funding. What if your company is neither?

Then you’ll want to give Cindy Alvarez’s Lean Customer Development a read.

The “lean” in the title refers to the “Lean” methodology, which seeks to continually give customers more value while minimizing waste, bloat, and unnecessary resources and processes for your business.

To that end, Alvarez’s book offers her readers actionable advice and scripts for conducting customer research so that companies can spend less time assessing different research methods and focus more on designing valuable products.

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Pick #7: The 1-Page Marketing Plan: Get New Customers, Make More Money, and Stand Out from the Crowd

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Author: Allan Dib

You haven’t had the success you’ve wanted with marketing.

You’ve tried a little bit of everything -- content marketing, email marketing, social media marketing, paid ads, and et cetera -- but nothing seems to resonate with your customers.

Maybe it’s time to go back to square one.

In The 1-Page Marketing Plan, Allan Dib goes over ways to create simple, one-page marketing plans that yield visible results for your bottom line.

Unlike other marketing how-tos, Allan’s book also teaches readers how to not only market to their audiences, but make sales without being overly aggressive or promotional.

In other words, if you’re looking to put together a short but sophisticated and targeted marketing plan that can finally get your promotional efforts on the right track, Allan’s book can be a big help.

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Pick #8: Epic Content Marketing: How to Tell a Different Story, Break through the Clutter, and Win More Customers by Marketing Less

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Author: Joe Pulizzi

You’ve heard for a while that “content” is a great way to increase awareness of your brand and attract more leads.

However, you don’t want to churn out 500-word blog posts day-in-and-day-out, and you aren’t interested in being the next Hemingway, either.

Written by the founder of the Content Marketing Institute, Epic Content Marketing gives ample advice on how entrepreneurs can create highly-valuable, lead-converting content in an age when your audience’s attention has never been shorter but more highly sought-after.

Need advice on how to create the perfect how-to? Or maybe you’re interested in how to develop a system that works for you to create the right kind of content at the right time?

In either case, Epic Content Marketing is sure to deliver results and meet your needs.

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Who it’s best for:

Pick #9: Platform: The Art and Science of Personal Branding

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Author: Cynthia Jackson

People buy from companies they like and trust.

62% of consumers have said a brand’s ethical values and authenticity affect their buying decisions, and 92% of Americans have said trust in a business plays a role in their decision when making a large purchase.

One way you can earn your customers’ trust is by creating a relatable and accessible personal brand so that when your customers interact with your brand on social media or email, they feel like they’re communicating with a real-life trustworthy person and not an anonymous company.

Especially if you’re in a field like travel blogging or life coaching where your persona is one of the key ways you can differentiate yourself from the competition, Platform guides you towards crafting a robust and unforgettable personal brand.

But even if you don’t plan to take up coaching or a high-publicity position as a travel blogger, the detailed why and how-tos behind personal branding can benefit your business.

After all, if you’re selling online courses, customers are as much purchasing an education as they are your skills and approach as a teacher, so anything you can to polish both is only a bonus, no?

Why you need it:

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Pick #10: How to Create, Sell, and Profit from an Online Course: A guide to everything you need to know about creating, launching, and selling an online course

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Author: Podia

Listen, I know putting our own book in this list may not be the most impartial review, but hear me out:

You have a super awesome online course idea -- or maybe several -- and want to launch your business around your online course.

But you have no idea on how to bring that course idea to life, let alone profit from it.

That’s what our How to Create Sell, and Profit from an Online Course solves for you, taking you from ground zero to selling your first online course.

Too many course creation guides focus on creating an education empire using a fat budget and lots of tech, but that’s now what this guide is about.

How to Create, Sell, and Profit from an Online Course is a start-to-finish guide for creators who want to bring their product ideas to life with minimal technical involvement, modest startup budgets, and a can-do attitude.

Even better, Podia’s book also shows coaches and freelancers how to generate more leads and digital content creators how to they can profit from their work without relying on ads or sponsorships.

Why you need it:

Who it’s best for:

Join a live demo to see why Podia is the best platform to sell your online course

See how Podia works and get all of your questions answered in an upcoming webinar on Tuesday at 4pm EST.

Register now →

Pivot and profit with these 10 business books

Making your own path is pretty much the first rule of the entrepreneur club.

It’s also a rule that can, more often than not, limit your ability to grow as a business. Broadening your perspective and reaping the rewards from the successful entrepreneurs who came before you doesn’t make your business any less yours.

But it does make it easier, and if it’s written by someone with a lick of charm, it can be as enjoyable as it is beneficial.

Here are 10 of the best business books to get you started:

For maximum effect, pairs these books with mentorship programs, podcasts, email newsletters, and good old-fashioned experience so that you can get the most out of your learning experiences and, as a result, become the best entrepreneur you can be.

Happy reading!

Written by

Taylor Barbieri

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