This post has been updated to include newer books for 2023.
From time to time, I have students from my courses asking me if I have some recommendations for books to read if they want to start an online business or make some part-time income online.
Hence, I have listed down several books that I believe are the best books (that I have read so far) for starting an online business even in the upcoming year! Take note that this will be a long post, do bookmark it so you can return to read my reviews when you are available.
This post includes affiliate links. If you click and purchase, I may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. I only recommend books, tools, and resources I have personally used.
Everybody writes: Your New and Improved Go-To Guide to Creating Ridiculously Good Content By Ann Handley (2023 version)
The reason why I strongly recommend this book is because not only it is easy and light-hearted to read (compared to the gazillion how-to-write-web-content books out there), but it contains very practical tips that I can use immediately!
Depending on what type of online business you are starting, you will very much need this book if your online business involves writing such as writing for sales page, website pages, blog posts, social media posts, etc.
The first takeaway I got from this book is the 12-step writing process that I will be using in my future blog posts. This is how it goes:
– Setting a Goal (what are you trying to achieve with this piece of writing?).
– Reframe (put yourself in readers’ perspective on how this piece of writing benefits them).
– Find data and examples to use in the writing!
– Organize the flow of the content.
– Write to one person (using ‘you’).
– Produce the ugly first draft.
– Walk away (distance between first draft and the second, usually a day).
– Give it a great headline or title!
– Have someone edit!
– One final look for readability!
– Publish (include call to action – what now?)!
The book itself contains elaboration for each of the above steps.
Another useful section I like about this book is Part VI – 20 things marketers write. This section contains practical tips on how to write for emails, home page, about page, landing page, headlines, social media posts and many others! Just this section alone justifies the cost of the whole book in my opinion!
Unless you just want to start a podcasting or YouTube business, else, this book is a must for anyone who wants to or already starting some form of online business!
Launch (Updated & Expanded Edition): How to Sell Almost Anything Online, Build a Business You Love, and Live the Life of Your Dreams by Jeff Walker
I read the first edition of this book several years back and the main reason why I want to recommend this book to you is that the method covered in this book can be done by anyone who is new to online business!
Many people across the globe are using the information inside this book to launch their first product and make thousands of dollars without any existing client database. Hence, I believe you can do it too if you put in effort after reading this book.
This book contains the process and important elements on how one can launch a product (physical or digital) successfully making a good amount of profits. You can read many successful case studies in the book that people are making from thousands of dollars to millions of dollars with their launches!
The proven process of launching a product!
In order to have a successful product launch, it is not just sending out emails and hoping for the best to happen. There are a lot of preparations beforehand. The author name this process as the Product Launch Formula with the following sequence:
- Open cart (the day when you accept orders online)
The book goes into detail on each of the sequences and it is certainly enlightening even to people with quite a few years of online business experience. For example, the Pre-prelaunch focuses on building anticipation and also finding out how receptive is your target market.
Prelaunch is where you provide highly valuable content over a period of time to help to build trust with the market and get ready for the open cart.
As I don’t think I can accurately describe each of the sequences here in my short blog post, so I would suggest you read the book personally if you want to learn the process from the author.
My Takeaway number 1
There are several takeaways for me from the book. First, is the chapter about Mental Triggers. The author lists down 9 mental triggers which are factors that will influence buying decisions and how we can incorporate them into the launch process. The mental triggers are:
- Events and Ritual.
- Social Proof.
I believe that the above mental triggers also work well outside the Product Launch Formula. It can be applied to any business (online or physical) that you are starting or having right now.
My Takeaway number 2
My second takeaway is the concept of sideway sales letter. I believe you have seen those online super long sales letter and many people may not have the patience to read everything on it.
The author splits the long sales letter into several days of the email sequence, hence, breaking up the long sales letter format that people must read in a sitting.
This concept is implemented in the Prelaunch sequence when you prepare those valuable content to educate your target market over a span of several days.
I personally agree that shorter emails with valuable content are far more engaging than a long sales letter.
Different Types of Launches
The author also talks about different types of launches such as:
- Seed Launch – For people who do not have a mailing list to start with.
- JV Launch – For people who want to work with other partners to launch products.
- Business launch – Another whole new level of product launch!
For people who are new to online business, I would suggest you look into Seed Launch and JV launch for a start.
Updated & expanded edition vs the first edition
This review is based on the updated edition that was published this year. The author has added a few chapters like how to use social media and paid traffic to help boost the launch process.
I also noticed that there are some changes in naming conventions like Launch Day (first edition) has been changed to Open Cart (new edition). But these are not that significant. You can still get a copy of the first edition (blue color cover) if you can’t get hold of the newer edition.
Regardless if you get the first or updated edition, make sure you read the chapter titled – A Recipe for a Big Life. I was very contented when I read this chapter as the author talks about the bigger picture in why we want to start our own business and have control over our lives.
Besides the above, he also gives very good advice to the readers (especially if you aspire to be an online entrepreneur) and I very much agree and attest to them! Starting an online business is not all about business, it is also about the lifestyle that you want!
Areas to improve for this book
Maybe just one area to improve for this book is that it would be better if the author can consider adding more illustrations and diagrams to this book, it would be better.
The book currently has just text and some photos so adding more diagrams could help the readers to be more engaged, just my personal opinion!
40 Rules for Internet Success: Escape the 9 to 5, Do Work You Love, and Build a Profitable Online Business by Matthew D Paulson
In order to build a profitable online business, there are many fixed and old mindsets that we carried from our employees selves that we must eliminate. If not, those old mindsets will keep pulling us back from reaching new heights.
This book will help people who are new to online business to prepare, strengthen and build new mindsets and hopefully habits to achieve a profitable online business.
Let’s talk about some rules written inside the book!
Section 1 covers several rules about developing ourselves. I want to highlight two rules:
Rule 3: Relationship trump knowledge
If you are in the sales industry, you will understand the importance of relationships during the course of your work. But actually, relationships is as important in all kinds of industries.
What this rule means is that no matter how knowledgeable you are, always put humans and relationships first. Don’t ever sacrifice relationships for-profits especially when it comes to business matters. If you have good relationships with almost anyone you come across, then you will find new doors keep opening up for you when you hit obstacles.
In this book, the author also list sown several online communities that you can join and network with like-minded people. The author also provides you with templates on how to get to know others when it comes to online.
Rule 5: Don’t leave your family behind
I always believe in building a business to support your lifestyle (not changing your lifestyle to support your business) and this book echoes that as well.
As you build your online business, you will become busier (especially if you are still holding on to your full-time jobs) and this is the time when many people choose to sacrifice time with their families.
To be honest, yes, it is hard to balance between all these commitments but it kind of trains you to think differently about how you can make use of your time creativity to build your business while not sacrificing your time with family. In order to do this, you will need to learn the concept of leverage (leveraging people, technology & other resources). There are several rules that mention leverage in this book.
Rule 23: Don’t be an employee in your business
The rules in section 3 cover more about building your business. I would like to highlight rule 23. For me, I have some experience in coding, and I tend to spend more time doing myself when it comes to creating websites or some online tools. This may not be bad but it would be better if I can invest the same amount of time in revenue-generating activities and pay someone else to code it faster and better.
I have the same blind spot and I hope I can become better by working on the business rather than working in the business. Once you started an online business, always see if you can leverage or delegate tasks to others within your means, if you have no other choice, then do it yourself.
Nowadays, there are a lot of tools online that can help us speed up or accomplish more in lesser time. Integration software like Zapier is very useful if you perform repetitive tasks across several websites every day or frequently. For example, if you want to post your new blog post on various social media as soon as you publish it on your website, you can automate it using Zapier.
There are also many other tasks that can be automated, just keep your mind open and explore new tools when you come across it during your online business journey!
Rule 35: Own your customer list!
Section 4 of the book covers more on growing your business. I relate most to rule 35 where it writes “Own your customer list”.
Particularly in online business, customer or email list is the most important inventory to make or break the business. If you have a responsive customer or prospect email list, then you have a profitable business. Even if you do not have any business ideas, sometimes running surveys in your prospect/customer list, it will give you ideas of what products/services you can provide to serve your target market.
An important software when it comes to email is known as the auto-responder. I use an online tool called GetResponse, it is an online website that offers us the ability to store and send personalized emails to different groups of people on our list. Over the years, they also added in more features like website builder, landing page builder, funnel system, and chat tools. At the time of writing, GetResponse has a free forever plan that anyone can sign up to try their services while building your online business. Go ahead and give it a try!
Bonus audio interviews
I am also delighted that the author provides two audio interview recordings for the people who purchased his book. You also get to listen to the interview about the various business ideas they talked about. In another audio interview, they talked about some mistakes Entrepreneurs make so you are aware of them and avoid them if possible.
Finally, just a word of caution… Do not buy this book if you are already running a profitable online business (unless you are very open-minded, if not, you will find most of the rules common sense to you). I only recommend this book to people who have never started an online business and are looking to explore it.
For beginners in online business, I recommend you can read one or two rules every day and do your best to be mindful about them while you try out online business on the side.
ECommerce Evolved: The Essential Playbook To Build, Grow & Scale A Successful Ecommerce Business by Tanner Larsson
First is because of the evergreen content inside this book – I am confident that many years from now, the approach this book teaches will still be very relevant for profitable online shop owners.
This book does not cover the very technical aspects of software and tools so it will not get outdated easily compared to other books that write about a specific software or platform.
The second reason is that I have personally seen several online shops implement the methods taught in this book and yes, they are indeed very profitable!
Honestly, this book is a very good book for both new and existing online shop owners!
A valuable section of this book is the 12 core principles of ecommerce. It lists down the 12 principles that we must follow to build a successful ecommerce business, to me, they are also very true to other types of online business.
You Must Control the Order Process
One of the principles states that “You must control the Order Process”. I can relate to this principle because I leverage a lot on other platforms to sell my info-products but I do not have control over the order process and hence, I also lose the opportunity to implement some booster tips shared in this book to get the maximum profits out from my traffic.
A mind-changing tip is when the author emphasis DO NOT send any traffic to your own eCommerce store! This piece of information could be unacceptable for new online shop owners but the author analyzes it clearly for us in the book.
Instead of sending traffic to your own ecommerce store, you should send traffic to your own landing page promoting your best-selling product first. The conversion is much higher this way. The author went ahead and shares all the necessary components of an effective landing page. To me, the information in that section is GOLD!
Earning recurring income from any types of ecommerce store
Another section of information that I like very much is when the author shares different types of recurring income (listed below):
- Consumable subscriptions.
- Subscription box.
- Newsletter (Physical / Digital).
- Buyer’s Club.
- Micro Continuity.
He also shares examples of how other seemingly impossible online shops adopted the above and managed to earn an additional recurring income month after month!
For new online shop owners
Chapter 3 is more for new online shop owners as it covers more about product pricing and selection criteria. It also writes about different types of product fulfillment like arbitrage, drop-shipping, third-party fulfillment (like FBA, Fulfillment By Amazon), and in-house fulfillment.
This is a very important chapter if you are considering starting a ecommerce business soon or in the future.
For existing online shop owners
If you run an existing online shop, then chapter 4 would be more suitable for you at the moment because it covers various conversion tips and sales boosters.
For retargeting services, the author suggests these networks – Perfect Audience, AdRoll, SiteScout, and also FaceBook. The author highly suggests you use more than one network for better results.
This chapter also shares the components of an effective landing page which to me, I personally think it is the most important part of the entire book.
This chapter ends off with various methods that you can use to increase sales like Loss Leaders, Tripwires, Flash Sales, and Profit Maximizers. You will find this chapter very useful and practical if you are running your own online shop.
Frontend & Backend Marketing
This book ends off with frontend (to visitors) and backend marketing (to existing customers) tips and I totally agree with the author especially the part where he uses email marketing. Personally, email marketing has been my highest ROI channel for many many years to date.
Areas to improve for this book
There is only one area to improve for this book based on my personal opinion. That is the traffic acquisition section is rather brief. If you are looking for a book to teach you particularly on how to get traffic to your online shop, then this may not be the book.
This book will show you the WHAT and WHY, and you will need to get other books or courses to learn the specific traffic channel.
Having said that, this is one of those books that I will not give or sell away. This book is worth re-reading even after you have implemented some of the advice inside.
The Official Get Rich Guide To Information Marketing by Robert Skrob
I would recommend this book if you are keen to find out more about the information marketing business. Information marketing means you will be selling information-based products such as online courses, eBooks, kindle books, software, etc.
The advantage of information marketing is that you do not need to be concerned about the inventory and shipping hassle as compared to an ecommerce business like drop-shipping, Fulfillment By Amazon (FBA) etc. There are numerous reasons why should one start an information marketing business. In fact, the author listed down 6 big advantages for the Information marketing business on page 7 of the book.
This book was published back in 2011 but do not underestimate the relevancy of this book due to the date because most of the content is still valid as of today. For me, I often re-read this book to get ideas and inspiration on what I can do to further to improve my information marketing business.
How traditional businesses are selling info-products too
Starting page 15, you can read about 29 different businesses and how they package information in their industry and sell for profits. Even beauty salon owners can do so!
From pages 259 to 278, you will also learn how to create an info-marketing business to generate new customers for your service-based businesses too.
So this means even if you are currently running a business, you can still make very good use of the information inside this book.
What you must know to be successful in the info-marketing business!
During my recent re-read, I again learned that there are three factors that we need to keep in mind if we want to have a successful info-marketing business. The factors are market research, continuity income, and marketing systems to generate new customers. Luckily, Robert elaborates on these factors in chapter 4 of the book.
For people who are new to the business
If you are someone who is new to the business and this will be your first online business, then make sure you read chapter 13 where Robert teaches a way how you can get paid to create your first information product. With the increasing usage of zoom, you can even improve the idea because of today’s technology.
Both sections 4 and 5 (chapter 32 to 44) will give you ideas on how you can launch your info-marketing business as your first online business and start making money.
One final plus point for this book and why I want to recommend it is because it contains a lot of examples and stories on how people are packaging and selling information. And reading this gives me lots of ideas on what I can do too (and I would say the same thing for you!).
Before we end the review for this book, I want to leave you with one of the wisdom that Robert has shared in this book:
Information marketing is providing solutions to problems in a convenient and useful format.
Areas to improve for this book
If there is one area of improvement that you want me to suggest for this book is the lack of detailed steps for new beginner readers of this book. This book will give you ideas on what to do but you would need other supplemental materials (other online courses or more in-depth books) in order to implement what you have learned in this book. No worries, you can always post your questions below this blog post (if you are stuck and need my guidance) and I can help to point some useful resources to you!
Sell Your Crafts Online: The Handmaker’s Guide To Selling from Etsy, Amazon, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Shopify, Influencers and more by James Dillehay
To me, this is one of the few books in recent years I read that contain 100% useful information. The reason why I feel so is that many books (even the best-selling ones) often contain too much motivational stuff and end up only 70% or less containing really useful information for the readers to act on.
This book is different, if you are currently doing some crafts and thinking of selling them online, then this is the only book to get it for a start. This book, can single-handily, help you to get your online store up and get some sales first!
This book covers how to set up your business in the first chapter. It shows you where to search for existing trademarks, how to register your business and get payment processing services (PayPal, Stripe, etc) online.
The first chapter is by no means complete in business setup but it gives you enough resources to follow up and complete your business registration.
Do note the information covered in this book is applicable to the United States. If you are living in other countries, please follow the regulations in your country for business setup.
Preparations before you sell online
Do not underestimate the work needed before you start selling online. The author gives you a list of things you need to get ready that will set you apart from most competitors online especially on Etsy.
According to the author, you would need (the book covers the description of each item below):
- Promotional videos.
- Business cards.
- Thank you cards.
- Prepare packaging.
- Voice mail messages.
The author also provides a list of graphics and printing service providers online.
Images that sell!
I also learned from the author that one thing to get more customers from your competitors is the photos you use. He wrote that exceptional photos convert more shoppers to buyers!
There are 6 types of product images that will help to sell your products:
- Product-only images.
- How-it’s made images.
- Step-by-step instructional images (How to wear photos).
- Lifestyle images.
- Jury images.
- Headshots of you.
The book covers the details of each of the above types.
How to price your products!
Perhaps the most important chapter in the book is chapter 4, where it teaches you how to price your product. There are 2 types of pricing which differ depending on your customers (wholesalers and retail).
The book also includes resources to help you survey the market prices. Make sure you keep the pricing formula in mind!
From what I have read in the book, it seems the author suggests that you should start selling on Etsy first, then once you have gotten results, you can move on to other platforms like:
- Amazon Handmade: More complex to set up as compared to Etsy. Amazon also charges a 15% transaction fee, which is higher than Etsy (5%).
- eBay: Still in strong demand especially if you are selling to the United States market.
- Your own website: The book shares with you 18 ways how to build trust in your website.
- Social media selling: Using Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter to sell your products.
Chapter 17 is also very helpful because it shares what you can do to get influencers to share your products with more people.
First, the book will teach you what to prepare before you get in touch with the influencer. Of course, not everyone will know which influencer to contact, hence, the author shares a few social monitoring tools to help you locate your ideal influencer.
The book also went ahead and list down a few bloggers who you can check out their blogs and see if their blogs are suitable for you to showcase your products.
Overall, I really like the author’s writing style as there is no additional information that is unwanted. All the page you read contain useful information that you can’t wait to implement them.
If you are considering selling your handmade crafts online, then this is the only book I will recommend!
The Essential Habits Of 6-Figure Bloggers: Secrets of 17 Successful Bloggers You Can use to Build a Six-Figure Online Business by Sally Miller
Many online businesses come and go but blogging has been around for the longest time. In fact, I don’t think blogging will go away anytime soon, because the world needs to be curated and organized information, among the sea of information online.
I recommend this book because it is the only book in this list that contains interviews with successful people who are earning 6-figure per year. To me, the most important thing when it comes to interviews is the types of questions asked by the interviewer. Given a good set of questions, readers will be able to take away actionable items after reading the interviews. This book clearly demonstrates this.
I looked forward to each successful blogger’s response to the following three questions asked by the author:
- How long did it take from starting your blog until you were consistently earning $8,000 per month or more?
- What single strategy or habit had the biggest impact on your business when going from zero to $100,000?
- What would you do differently if you were to start a new blog business today (and couldn’t leverage your existing audience)?
There are a total of 9 same questions for each blogger and honestly speaking, there are many learning points from the answers given by them.
In addition, this book contains a lot of action steps for you to implement while progressing along with the author. This is definitely not a theory book that leaves you clueless not knowing where to go after reading the book!
Create systems for success!
Out of all the habits mentioned in the book, I like habit number 2: Create systems for success very much.
The reason why many people set a goal to lose weight but end up never achieving that is because of the lack of systems (similar to blogging). Thus, this section provides the answer to that!
There are 3 types of systems according to the author:
- Accountability system.
- Execution system.
- Tracking & Improvement system.
Note that in order to be successful, you need to implement all 3 types of systems as elaborated in the book. This is not choosing a one-of-out-three scenario!
If you are seriously considering blogging as one of your online businesses, then you must grab a copy of this book and implement what the author teaches. Just be warned, there is a lot of work to do!
Another sidenote, implementing what the author teaches in this book will also make you a better (& more profitable) online entrepreneur. The habits taught in this book are, indeed, essential for online business success!
Podcasting Made Simple: The Step By Step Guide On How To Start a Successful Podcast from the Ground up by Daniel Larson
I strongly recommend this book if you are considering starting a podcast as a hobby or eventually making it into a business. The reason for my recommendation is this book contains no useless information or fillers.
At 140 pages, it is quite an easy read but you will find that you can’t skip the pages because each page is essential and leads towards having a successful podcast business. Like what the Author has recommended, I also suggest you read each chapter a day, so it will give you time to think and refine what is in your mind previously.
Three parts approach to designing a podcast that suits you
To the Author, there is nothing more important than running a podcast that suits you and gets you the results you want. There are three parts to designing a successful podcast:
- Creating a captivating Introduction – The author includes resources on how you can design a good intro and outro for your podcast. He also gives you some real examples of some podcasters’ intros and outros!
- Nailing the shape and size of your podcast – You also need to think of what format you want to follow for your podcast. There are six main kinds of format namely nonfiction narrative storytelling, hybrid, interviews/panel discussions, repurposed content, educational, and conversational. The author then elaborates on each of these in the book.
- Right output frequency – You also need to think about how frequently you want to publish your podcast episodes. In general, the longer is your per-episode time, the longer is the interval that you can publish. For example, if your episode lasts about 1 to 5 minutes, then you can consider publishing your episode every day.
The technology side of podcasting
I am pretty surprised at the level of technicality that the author mentions in his book. In the book, the author shares the differences between the condenser microphones and dynamic microphones. He advised us to get a condenser microphone for podcasting purposes.
The author also touches on the topic of space for recording, the software, and audio editing tips. I am impressed by this chapter.
Throughout the chapter, you will read multiple times that the author keeps stressing the importance of investing in good audio equipment because it will save you lots of headaches to editing in the post-editing part. I can relate very much to this when I am recording my online courses.
How to turn your hobby into an income
I would think most people are most interested in chapter 10 where the author share how you can monetize your podcast. The author briefly mentioned the seven types of income streams you can generate from your podcast and then he went on to expand one of the methods which is – getting sponsors.
I can tell that the author is very experienced in getting sponsors for his podcast. He layout a systematic approach for you to get sponsors on board. I strongly believe his approach will save a lot of useless attempts by new podcasters!
Do you have a passion for your dream podcast?
Throughout the book, the author mentioned quite a few times that if you do not have a strong passion for the topic that you are talking about, then your podcast can easily become just another podcast out there. If you have a strong purpose on why you want to start the podcast inside you, then I believe this is the book for you!
In the ending note, the author also shares a discount link where you can get his video training series if you are serious about getting your podcast on the right start!
One area to improve on
Maybe one thing that the author can consider is to share more of his insights regarding the income source other than getting sponsors. I believe it would provide more options for the beginners to try and perhaps get some results before approaching any sponsors.
Let’s hear from you!
Now it’s your turn! Have you read any books on the topic of online business that you believe will benefit others too? Feel free to post a comment including the book title and I may include it in this post!