8 of the best books to read when starting a business

There are more ways than ever to learn how to run a business. Entrepreneurship is now open to anyone. But despite all the podcasts, videos, blogs, and courses out there, there’s still one medium I love most to learn about business: books.

Books have taught me so much about how to run a business. They’ve helped me to understand the nitty-gritty of being an entrepreneur, but most of all they’ve taught me how to think like a business owner.

To help you to get your business off to the best possible start, here’s my selection of the best books to read when starting a business to help you to think and act like a business owner.

These books are aligned with my philosophy of creating a simple business that is designed around the life you want to live (and that doesn’t take up all of your time, money, and energy).

Add these business books to your reading list, but remember that however good they are, reading isn’t a substitute for taking action in your own business. Read, get inspired, and take action.

The best books to read when starting a business

1. Anything You Want by Derek Sivers

I read Anything You Want before quitting my job and starting my business. It’s informed everything since then, including the business philosophy I shared Simple Business.

This is Derek Sivers’ collection of 40 lessons for a new kind of entrepreneur: one that puts their customers first, prioritises generosity, and doesn’t faff about with what doesn’t matter. If you read any business book, make it this one.

2. Company of One by Paul Jarvis

A successful business doesn’t have to be a big business. If your goal is to be happy and live well, then a simple, profitable, and fulfilling company of one is a perfect goal. Company of One is a great guidebook to creating a simple one-person business that’s designed for freedom and flexibility.

3. Entrepreneurial You: Monetize Your Expertise, Create Multiple Income Streams, and Thrive by Dorie Clarke

A strong business is a diverse business. Right at the beginning of my business, Entrepreneurial You taught me to think about different revenue streams, whether that’s consulting, a book, a paid course, income from my book blog, or anything else.

4. Rework by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson

Basecamp is one of the best examples of a business doing things differently. They don’t believe in doing what everyone else does, just because that’s how it’s done. Their philosophy is about shaking things up and figuring out a different way of doing things.

Rework is Basecamp founders Jason Fried and David David Heinemeier Hansson’s guide to a better, faster, and easier way to succeed in business. 

Read it and you’ll find out why plans are actually harmful, why you don’t need outside investors, and why you’re better off ignoring the competition. What you really need to do is stop talking and start working.

5. Chill and Prosper: The New Way to Grow Your Business, Make Millions, and Change the World by Denise Duffield Thomas

Chillpreneur by Denise Duffield Thomas is the book that taught me how to earn well and avoid the trap of undercharging and undervaluing myself. Denise has now published an updated edition of this book, called Chill and Prosper.

Read this to challenge the old, boring assumptions of what it takes to be successful in business and learn how to create a thriving business that’s abundantly successful on your terms.

6. Four Thousand Weeks: Time Management for Mortals by Oliver Burkeman

Four Thousand Weeks is actually about philosophy rather than business, but I think it’s such a valuable book to read when you’re starting a business. This is because we rarely think about the ultimate time management problem: how to best use our four thousand weeks on earth, many of which most of us will spend working.

I adored this book about throwing productivity out of the window in favour of doing the right things – and creating a life you truly want to lead.

7. Business for Punks: Break All the Rules – the BrewDog Way by James Watt

I read Business for Punks before I started my own business and while I was still working as a marketer and writer for a small tech company. Why don’t more businesses do things this way? I wondered.

This book by Brewdog founder James Watt proves that you don’t need a huge marketing budget to build a successful business. You don’t need anything, really, other than these key pillars: a solid product, stubbornness, and a message that grabs the attention of the right people.

8. Simple Business by Lucy Fuggle

What is the point of working for yourself if not to work less and live more? Being a business owner can be your road to ownership of your time, location, creativity, and peace of mind. But you need to design your work that way – and protect it.

If you haven’t read Simple Business yet, give it a read to learn more about my simple philosophy for building and growing a business that’s designed around the rest of your life.

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