Running your own business—whether as an entrepreneur or as a solopreneur—is quite a difficult task. What’s more, sometimes starting that business can be even harder. For those who have never done it before, it can be intimidating striking out on your own; without the proper guidance, there are numerous mishaps and tragedies that can befall your business. With so much that can go wrong, it’s easy to lose your way or become discouraged.
Even seasoned startup savants need encouragement now and again, as there’s bound to be ups and downs along the way. So where do the dedicated and determined turn when they need advice, inspiration, or a motivational boost? To seasoned peers who know exactly what it’s like because they’ve been where you have.
Don’t have any close contacts that are successful business builders? Don’t worry—many of them have reached out to wider audiences by writing books about their experiences and expertise. Reading well-written business literature is about as good as talking to an expert in person. In some ways it’s even better: they’ve had time to consider their advice carefully, and then explain it with precision.
To help you find the right book for your personal business journey, we’ve compiled this list of 11 books for solopreneurs and entrepreneurs. In this list, you’re bound to find some useful wisdom, and we’re sure one of them will be your new favorite.
Start With Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action
by Simon Sinek
Sinek’s book has been around less than a decade, but it’s had a wide influence on business since being published in 2011. The book, which emphasizes the importance of why a person works in a given field (not just what they do or how they do it), teaches readers that “People don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it.”
The book—and Sinek’s very unique way of thinking—has developed a cult following, with his TED talk on the matter having been viewed nearly 30 million times. The monumental impact Sinek’s philosophy is having on the business world is helping his book to quickly join the ranks of classics like How to Win Friends and Influence People. If you want a book that will help you find satisfaction in your lifelong profession, start with this one (no pun intended).
Crush It!: Why NOW Is the Time to Cash In on Your Passion
by Gary Vaynerchuk
A book for those who need reassurance that they don’t need to put off their new business venture, Crush It! details the efforts of self-professed “serial entrepreneur” Gary Vaynerchuk. Vaynerchuk (whose resume includes author, investor, speaker, and CEO) explains in the book how he utilized internet-based tools, including social media, to build a personal brand. This allowed him to market who he was as well as what he was, i.e. what his business had to offer.
It’s a good read, and it’s full of encouragement and motivation for those afraid to take the leap.
The $100 Startup
by Chris Guillebeau
Sometimes what’s holding you back is the cost of starting your own business, but that doesn’t mean you have to wait for a six-figure savings account before striking out on your own. Guillebeau’s book it’s loaded with practical advice on how to run (or start) a small business on a budget. It outlines how you can get out of your dead-end job and start getting paid for your unique expertise, all without pouring your finances down the drain.
The book is also replete with inspirational stories and examples of others who have gone before. You’ll come away from the book not just with a solid plan of execution, but with the motivation to follow through.
The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change
by Stephen R. Covey
This one has been around for a while, and odds are if you’re in business you’ve heard of it. There’s good reason for that. Covey’s book discusses how to prioritize tasks, how to organize (both in business and in life), and how to turn ideas and intentions into accomplishments. It’s the perfect book who want to upgrade themselves into a better, more capable version, and you’ll likely be recommending it to others by the time you’re done.
The One Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results
by Gary Keller with Jay Papasan
The goal of The One Thing is very simple: dispel the myth of “multitasking.” The book argues (via a combination of insights, theories, and real data) that multitasking does more harm than good, and that productivity is best served by focusing on a singular task or goal and hitting it out of the park.
If you’ve ever fallen into the mental trap of believing you have to do everything at once, this book is for you.
Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear
by Elizabeth Gilbert
It’s not uncommon for business owners, especially solopreneurs, to find that their biggest obstacle is themselves. Between internal criticism, perfectionism, procrastination, personal fears, and more, there’s a lot we ourselves can do to get in the way of our own success. Gilbert’s book helps readers to push back against the tide and take back control from our own shortcomings.
The book is, at least ostensibly, aimed at creatives, and while not every small business is a creative endeavor, many aspiring self-employed professionals stand to benefit from the advice in this book.
The Happiness of Pursuit: Finding the Quest That Will Bring Purpose to Your Life
by Chris Guillebeau
One of the biggest reasons to go into business for yourself is to have the freedom to pursue something that leads to greater satisfaction in life. In many ways, looking at the why makes Guillebeau’s second book on our list similar to Start With Why. The difference quickly becomes apparent in how that why is applied: Sinek’s book uses it as a tool to further and improve your business. The Happiness of Pursuit uses it to further and improve your life.
Whether you’re in the game already or are just considering it, there are good reasons you’ve turned to self-employment. This book reinforces how positive it can be for your life if you do it right.
The Lean Startup
by Eric Ries
Businesses are a lot like living creatures. They live, they grow, they die, and sometimes they even spawn other businesses. Most importantly, however, they’re subject to a financial version of natural selection: those that can adapt to their environment and overcome challenges survive, while those that cannot wind up faltering.
Ries’s book is all about that adaptive process: how to plan, test, implement, and adjust innovative ideas to keep your business on top of the competition. It’s a guidebook on professional evolution, and it’s a must-read for solopreneurs and entrepreneurs that want to keep their company running long-term.
Will It Fly?
by Pat Flynn
For those looking to start a new venture, it’s important to consider the possibility of failure. The wise, however, take it a step further and measure the possibility of failure. Flynn’s book is about doing just that—taking the guesswork out of whether or not a venture will be successful. It’s a toolkit for testing ideas, since “NASA has never launched a mission just because it ‘sounded like a good idea,’ and neither should you.”
Profit First: A Simple System to Transform Any Business From a Cash-Eating Monster to a Money-Making Machine
by Mike Michalowicz
Not everyone is a financial genius. Coming back to the cost element of starting and running a business, Michalowicz discusses strategies for cutting costs in a rational way, and how to make the hard calls when both options are good (or both options are really bad). It also explains how traditional accounting creates many of the problems and anxieties we experience, and how to circumvent those with new practices.
For anyone who hates budgeting or crunching the numbers, this book will be a life-saver.
All Marketers Are Liars
by Seth Godin
We round out this list with one by the indispensable Seth Godin. Famous for his succinct, quick-witted insight on his blog, Godin distills a healthy serving of reality and advice into his book. All Marketers Are Liars covers truths about how businesses get themselves noticed—truths that you probably knew intrinsically, but had never been able to put to words. Then, he offers tips and strategies for leveraging those truths in favor of your own business.
It’s a compelling read, and one that’s easy to digest (with bits of knowledge that are easy to remember). Expect to be looking for other books written by Godin after you’re done.
At Davinci, we work with startups, small businesses, and solopreneurs on a daily basis, and we see first-hand the work that’s required to make them successful. That’s why we root for them and do what we can to help them achieve their goals. Hopefully, this list will do the same for your business, with the books we’ve suggested giving you the tools you need to realize your venture’s potential.