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It takes a lot of knowledge and expertise to build a successful online business, and building an online teaching business is no exception. No matter what stage you’re in, you should definitely be making it a priority to learn new skills and acquire new knowledge on a regular basis.

To help you choose which book to read next, we’ve compiled list of 50 business and marketing books that will help you learn what it takes to build a successful business as an online instructor. We also organized these books into different categories based on which aspect of business and marketing they focus on.

Just so you know, many of these books are available in audio format from Audible. If you sign up for their free trial, you can download one for free.

Startups & Entrepreneurship

Make no mistake. If you’ve created an online course (or you’re about to create one), you are an entrepreneur. As such, it is important to learn as much as you can about starting and building a successful business. These books will help prepare you for the wild ride of entrepreneurship, learn fundamental business principles, and develop a solid plan for building and growing a successful online teaching business.

1. The $100 Startup by Chris Guillebeau

If you’re letting a small budget stop you from starting your business, then you should definitely read this book. The $100 Startup contains plenty of examples of entrepreneurs who found a way to combine their skills with their passions and built a profitable business on a small budget. By monetizing their passions, these people were able to escape traditional employment and restructure their lives in a way that gave them greater freedom and fulfillment.

2. The 7 Day Startup by Dan Norris

Launching a new online course doesn’t have to take a long time. In The 7 Day Startup, Dan Norris shows you how he built a cash flowing small business from scratch in just 7 days. He also provides a great framework you can follow to come up with your next product idea, validate it, launch it, and acquire your first customers in just one week.

3. The Toilet Paper Entrepreneur by Mike Michalowicz

Written by Mike Michalowicz, the founder of three multi-million dollar companies, The Toilet Paper Entrepreneur will show you why a business plan is a total waste of your time, why fulfilling your own needs is the first and last order of business, which three sheets of paper you need to successfully launch, manage and grow your business, how to get started in business with little or no money, how to find and exploit resources that no one else knows about, and how to stop procrastinating and take action now! Overall, a great read and a refreshing kick in the pants for entrepreneurs.

4. The Entrepreneur Roller Coaster by Darren Hardy

According to Darren Hardy, the unexpected and terrifying emotional roller coaster an entrepreneur experiences is the greatest factor in why most quit and ultimately fail. The Entrepreneur Roller Coaster will help prepare you for the wild ride of entrepreneurship. You will learn the best strategies Darren has ever collected from the most successful people on the planet, covering the four essential skills necessary for entrepreneurial success: Sales, Recruiting, Leadership, and Productivity.

5. The Art of the Start 2.0 by Guy Kawasaki

The Art of the Start 2.0 is Guy Kawasaki’s classic, bestselling guide to launching and making your new product, service, or idea a success. It has been fully revised and expanded since the first edition came out over a decade ago and features his latest insights and practical advice about social media, crowdfunding, cloud computing, and many other topics.

6. Will It Fly? by Pat Flynn

Chock-full of practical suggestions, case studies and exercise, Will It Fly? will help guide you through the process of validating your business idea. Pat Flynn, a successful podcast host and online entrepreneur, will help you make sure your target idea aligns with and supports your goals, uncover important details about your idea that you haven’t even thought about, assess current market conditions, and validate and test your idea with a small segment of your target market before you decide to move forward with it.

Online Business

Once you’ve equipped yourself with an understanding of fundamental business principles and what it means to be an entrepreneur, we recommend reading a few books that are more specific to building an online business. There are some major differences between an offline business and an online business. These books offer some great insights that apply specifically to building an online business that can be run from virtually anywhere in the world.

7. The 4-Hour Workweek by Timothy Ferriss

The 4-Hour Workweek has been read and recommended by almost every single successful online entrepreneur out there. Some even credit this book as their original source of inspiration for building an online business and becoming a lifestyle entrepreneur. Outsourcing, location independence, lifestyle design, escaping the rat race, and mini-retirements are just some of the topics that Timothy Ferriss shined the spotlight on, causing thousands of people to re-define success and build businesses that accommodate their lifestyle goals in the process.

8. The Suitcase Entrepreneur by Natalie Sisson

Written by lifestyle entrepreneur and digital nomad Natalie Sisson, The Suitcase Entrepreneur will teach you the nuts and bolts of setting up an online business you love, give you the blueprint to create your ideal lifestyle, create freedom in business and adventure in life. She shares specific steps to help you package and sell your knowledge and skills, and build an online platform to earn enough to work and live anywhere in the world.

9. The Laptop Millionaire by Mark Anastasi

The Laptop Millionaire provides easy to follow step-by-step strategies you can use to make money online. Mark Anastasi reveals the strategies he used to make millions of dollars from his laptop and includes the success stories of other millionaire internet entrepreneurs. Overall, a great mix of inspiration and practical advice to help you build a business online.

Wealth Creation & Money

Helping other people achieve success by creating and selling online courses is definitely rewarding in itself, but remember, the purpose of your business is to make money. Once you’re making money, the next step is to use that money to grow your wealth. These books will help you make wise decisions with your money and secure your financial future.

10. The Millionaire Fastlane by MJ Demarco

This controversial but highly recommended book might just be a financial wake-up call for most of its readers. MJ Demarco explains why the mainstream financial gurus have led the masses to believe that wealth can be created by recklessly trusting in the uncontrollable and unpredictable markets: the housing market, the stock market, and the job market. The Millionaire Fastlane provides an alternative road-to-wealth; one that actually ignites dreams and creates millionaires at a young age.

11. Secrets of the Millionaire Mind by T. Harv Eker

Secrets of the Millionaire Mind is a unique blend of personal development and personal finance. According to T. Harv Eker, we all have a personal money blueprint ingrained in our subconscious minds, and it is this blueprint, more than anything, that will determine our financial lives. This book shows you how to identify your own money blueprint and revise it to create success and, more importantly, to keep and continually grow it.

Business Systems & Outsourcing

Running a business is a lot of work, and if you’re not careful, you can easily becoming consumed by all the tasks that are required to maintain your online teaching business. In order to protect your time give yourself the space to focus on high value activities (like creating more courses!), you’ll eventually need to hire people and create systems to help run your business for you. These books are absolutely must-reads to help you go from working in your business to working on your business.

12. The E-Myth Revisited by Michael Gerber

In The E-Myth Revisited, Michael Gerber dispels the myths surrounding starting your own business and shows how commonplace assumptions can get in the way of running a business. He walks you through the steps in the life of a business from entrepreneurial infancy, through adolescent growing pains, to the mature entrepreneurial perspective, the guiding light of all businesses that succeed. Finally, Gerber draws the vital, often overlooked, distinction between working on your business and working in your business.

13. Never Work Again by Erlend Bakke

Never Work Again shows you how you can build a successful and profitable business without the long hours and high stress that most entrepreneurs suffer from. You will learn how you can easily start your own no-money-down virtual business – a business that will make you money online and allow you to quickly achieve financial freedom and time freedom to do the things you love when you want to do them and with the people who matter most in your life.

14. Work The System by Sam Carpenter

Work The System will show you how to achieve a positive macro result by looking your business and work on a micro level; by analyzing and refining the separate internal sub-systems, the systems that, added together, comprise the whole primary system business entity. The strategies outlined in this book will help you to quickly and dramatically improve performance as well as decrease the stress of being overtaxed and disorganized, ultimately resulting in a substantially shorter work week and a much-improved bottom line.

15. Virtual Freedom by Chris Ducker

Virtual Freedom is the step-by-step guide every entrepreneur needs to build his or her business with the help of virtual employees. Focusing on business growth, Chris Ducker explains every detail you need to grasp, from figuring out which jobs you should outsource to finding, hiring, training, motivating, and managing virtual assistants. Read it to scale up your online course business.

Teaching Online

Understanding entrepreneurship and learning how to start a business is important, but you should also spend some time learning about the online course industry and what it means to teach online. These books are great resources to help you understand how to monetize your expertise by building an information-based business.

16. Teach and Grow Rich by Danny Iny

According to Danny Iny, the online content industry is undergoing a quiet revolution, and selling information is getting harder every day. Teach and Grow Rich will help you to recognize the opportunities and tap into the multi-billion dollar industry of online education, to create impact, freedom, and wealth.

17. Leading the Learning Revolution by Jeff Cobb

Leading the Learning Revolution is the first book to explain in detail how to build a thriving, long-term business selling online courses and other educational products and experiences. Filled with insights from the author’s vast experience, field-tested strategies, interviews, and anecdotes, the book explains how to: use technology to create high-impact learning opportunities; develop content that is faster and better than the competition’s; convert prospects to customers by building connection; and, focus on the bottom-line results of lifelong learning.

18. The Millionaire Messenger by Brendon Burchard

The Millionaire Messenger will show you why your life story and experience have greater importance and market value than you probably realize. By packaging your knowledge and advice (on any topic, in any industry), you can help others succeed. Brendon Burchard shows you how you can get paid for sharing your advice and how-to information, and build a lucrative business and a profoundly meaningful life in the process.

Sales & Marketing

Creating an online course is the first step. Marketing your course is the second. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that publishing your online course immediately entitles you to an endless stream of sales and passive income. You’ll need to develop a marketing strategy to promote your online course to your target audience and generate sales. These books will help you scale up and automate your marketing to ensure consistent online course sales.

19. Launch by Jeff Walker

Before you hit publish on your online course, you need to read this book. Since starting his first internet business back in 1996, Jeff Walker has executed numerous highly successful product launches online. Over the years, he has refined and perfected his process and taught it to thousands of entrepreneurs and online marketers. Almost every successful product launch that happens online today (especially online courses!) follows the formula outlined in Launch.

20. Ask by Ryan Levesque

Before you create your next product or service, you should definitely ask your audience what they want. This will help prevent you creating something that no one buys. Ask reveals a powerful way to discover exactly what people want to buy and how to give it to them – and in a way that makes people fall in love with you and your company. Ryan Levesque shares his system for creating survey-based, customized sales funnels, and show you how to implement the same system in your own business – no matter your market.

21. Guerrilla Marketing and Joint Ventures by Sohail Khan 

One of the best ways to promote and sell your online course is by leveraging the power of joint ventures. Guerrilla Marketing and Joint Ventures shows you step-by-step how you can use smarter marketing and joint ventures to generate maximum profits and grow your business very quickly for low or even zero-cost.

22. DotCom Secrets by Russell Brunson

A major factor in every online entrepreneur’s success is their ability to create sales funnels that convert prospects into customers for their business. DotCom Secrets will give you the marketing funnels and the sales scripts you need to be able to turn on a flood of new leads into your business.

23. Invisible Selling Machine by Ryan Deiss

Having an email marketing strategy is critical to the success of any online business. In the Invisible Selling Machine, Ryan Deiss walks you through all 5 phases of the prospect/customer lifestyle, and shows how each step can be automated and perpetuated to convert strangers into friends, friends into customers and customers into raving fans using email marketing.

24. The Automatic Customer by John Warrillow

The lifeblood of your business is repeat customers, and according to John Warrillow, the emerging subscription economy offers huge opportunities to companies that know how to turn customers into subscribers. The Automatic Customer shows you why automatic customers are the key to increasing cash flow, igniting growth, and boosting the value of your company. It also shows you how to master the psychology of selling subscriptions and how to reduce churn and provides a road map for the essential statistics you need to measure the health of your subscription business.

25. Growth Hacker Marketing by Ryan Holiday

In Growth Hacker Marketing, Ryan Holiday, the acclaimed marketing guru for American Apparel and many bestselling authors and multi-platinum musicians, explains the new rules and provides valuable examples and case studies for aspiring growth hackers. If you’re looking to build awareness and buzz for your product or service on a modest marketing budget, this book offers some effective alternatives to traditional advertising.

26. Marketing: A Love Story by Bernadette Jiwa

Most entrepreneurs and innovators tend to have no shortage of ideas, but they struggle to tell the story of how their ideas are going to be useful in the world and why they will matter to people. Marketing: A Love Story shows you how to use marketing to communicate how your ideas translate to value for people in a marketplace.

27. All Marketers Are Liars by Seth Godin

As Seth Godin showed in this controversial book All Marketers Are Liars, great marketers don’t talk about features or even benefits. Instead, they tell a story—a story we want to believe, whether it’s factual or not. In a world where most people have an infinite number of choices and no time to make them, every organization is a marketer, and all marketing is about telling stories.

28. The New Relationship Marketing by Mari Smith

People have always done business with people they know, like, and trust. That’s the essence of “relationship marketing.” Today, the popularity of online social networking has caused a paradigm shift in relationship marketing. The New Relationship Marketing helps business people and marketers master this crucial new skill set. Social marketing expert Mari Smith outlines a step-by-step plan for building a sizable, loyal network comprised of quality relationships that garner leads, publicity, sales, and more. Tweet This Tweet this.

29. Buyer Personas by Adele Revella

Buyer Personas is the marketer’s actionable guide to learning what your buyer wants and how they make decisions. It provides comprehensive coverage of a compelling new way to conduct buyer studies, plus practical advice on adopting the buyer persona approach to measurably improve marketing outcomes. Rather than relying on generic data or guesswork to determine what the buyer wants, the buyer persona approach allows companies to ask the buyer directly and obtain more precise and actionable guidance.

30. Sell Or Be Sold by Grant Cardone

According to Grant Cardone, knowing the principles of selling is a prerequisite for success of any kind. Sell or Be Sold breaks down the techniques and approaches necessary to master the art of selling in any avenue. You will learn how to handle rejection, turn around negative situations, shorten sales cycles, and guarantee yourself greatness.

31. Predictable Revenue by Aaron Ross

Predictable Revenue reveals the outbound sales process that, in just a few years, helped add $100 million in recurring revenue to Salesforce, almost doubling their enterprise growth with zero cold calls.This is not another book about how to cold call or close deals. This is an entirely new kind of sales bible for CEOs, entrepreneurs and sales VPs to help you build a sales machine in your business. The concepts in this book will help you to generate as many highly-qualified new leads as you want, create predictable revenue, and meet your financial goals without your constant focus and attention.

32. How To Write Copy That Sells by Ray Edwards

Writing copy that sells without seeming “sales-y” can be tough, but is an essential business skill. How To Write Copy That Sells is a step-by-step guide to writing fast, easy-to-read, effective copy. It’s for everyone who needs to write copy that brings in cash – including copywriters, freelancers, and entrepreneurs. It includes copywriting techniques for email marketing, websites, social media, sales pages, ads, and direct mail.

Leadership & Personal Branding

As an online instructor, there is a good chance that you will become the face of your business. For that reason, you should spend some time learning how to build a strong personal brand and position yourself as the go-to expert on your topic. When you’re perceived to be a thought leader and an expert on your topic, your target audience will naturally want to learn from you. These books will help you make that happen.

33. Stand Out by Dorie Clark

Too many people believe that if they keep their heads down and work hard, they’ll be recognized as experts on the merits of their work. But that’s simply not true anymore. To make a name for yourself, you have to capitalize on your unique perspective and knowledge and inspire others to listen and take action. Stand Out explains how to identify the ideas that set you apart and promote them successfully. According to Dorie Clark, the key is to recognize your own value, cultivate your expertise, and put yourself out there.

34. Platform by Michael Hyatt

According to Michael Hyatt, who is one of the top business bloggers in the world, to be successful in the market today, you must possess two strategic assets: a compelling product and a meaningful platform. Platform provides down-to-earth guidance for building and expanding a powerful platform. He shows you what best-selling authors, public speakers, entrepreneurs, musicians, and other creatives are doing differently to win customers in today’s crowded marketplace.

35. Ready To Be A Thought Leader? by Denise Brosseau

Ready to Be a Thought Leader? is essential reading for anyone ready to expand their influence, increase their professional success, have an impact far beyond a single organization and industry, and ultimately leave a legacy that matters. Thought leaders have the gift of harnessing their expertise and their networks to make their innovative thoughts real and replicable, sparking sustainable change and even creating movements around their ideas. Denise Brosseau shows you how to develop and use that gift as she maps the path from a successful executive, professional, or civic leader to respected thought leader.

36. Body of Work by Pamela Slim

According to Pamela Slim, it’s increasingly rare to have a stable career in any field. More and more of us are blending big company jobs, startup gigs, freelance work, and volunteer side projects. Body of Work gives you the tools to have a meaningful career in this new world of work. She shows you how to find the connections among diverse accomplishments, sell your story, and continually reinvent and relaunch your brand.

Content Marketing

Your online courses are the content that you charge for. But in order to help market your courses and attract your target audience, you should definitely be giving away some content for free. Content marketing is the process of creating and distributing content to attract, acquire and engage a clearly defined target audience and converting as much of that audience as possible into your customers. These books will help you develop a solid content marketing strategy for your business.

37. Content Inc. by Joe Pulizzi

In Content Inc., Joe Pulizzi, who is one of today’s most sought-after content marketing strategists, reveals a new model for entrepreneurial success. Simply put, it’s about developing valuable content, building an audience around that content, and then creating a product for that audience. His award-winning book shows you how to get customers first and develop products later, and build a solid, long-lasting business positioned for today’s content-driven world.

38. Everybody Writes by Ann Handley

Everybody Writes will help you attract and retain customers through stellar online communication. Ann Handley gives expert guidance and insight into the process and strategy of content creation, production and publishing, with actionable how-to advice designed to get results. These lessons and rules apply across all of your online assets including web pages, landing pages, blogs, email, marketing offers, and social media. This is a go-to guide for anyone creating or publishing content online.

39. The Content Strategy Toolkit by Meghan Casey

In The Content Strategy Toolkit, Meghan Casey outlines a step-by-step approach for doing content strategy, from planning and creating your content to delivering and managing it. You’ll learn how to identify problems with your content, make sense of your business environment and understand your audience, set your content strategy, decide how to measure success, and more.

40. Authority by Nathan Barry

In Authority, Nathan Barry shows authors how to establish a consistent writing habit, how to implement a successful marketing strategy, how to replace traditional publishing methods with methods that can earn far more, in far less time and how to position yourself as an authority in your chosen field and enjoy benefits far beyond simply making money.

41. The Video Marketers Cookbook by Meg Le Vu

The Video Marketers Cookbook is a compilation of tutorials, systems, and tactics to help small business owners create awesome videos. If you want to learn how to use videos to increase your brand awareness, leads, and sales, this book is a great resource.

42. slide:ology by Nancy Duarte

Millions of presentations and billions of slides have been produced — and most of them miss the mark. slide:ology will challenge your traditional approach to creating slides by teaching you how to be a visual thinker. It is full of practical approaches to visual story development that can be applied by anyone. It combines conceptual thinking and inspirational design, with insightful case studies from the world’s leading brands.

Motivation & Personal Development

Let’s be real. Entrepreneurship is not easy. There will be days when you are unmotivated, discouraged, and frustrated. Setbacks and disappointments are unavoidable, but the important thing is that you don’t let them stop you from building your dream. Here are some books that will give you the much-needed motivation and inspiration to re-ignite your passion and help you stay focused on your goals.

43. CRUSH IT! by Gary Vaynerchuk

CRUSH IT! shows you how to use the power of the internet to turn your real interests into real businesses. Gary Vaynerchuk spent years building his family business from a local wine shop into a national industry leader. Then one day he turned on a video camera, and by using the secrets revealed in this book, transformed his entire life and earning potential by building his personal brand.

44. The War of Art by Steven Pressfield

In The War of Art, Steven Pressfield identifies the enemy that every one of us must face, outlines a battle plan to conquer this internal foe, then pinpoints just how to achieve the greatest success. He emphasizes the resolve needed to recognize and overcome the obstacles of ambition and then effectively shows how to reach the highest level of creative discipline. Whether you’re an artist, a writer or business person, this simple, personal, and no-nonsense book will inspire you to seize the potential of your life.

45. School of Greatness by Lewis Howes

Written by Lewis Howes, a 7-figure lifestyle entrepreneur and a sought-after business coach, speaker, and podcast host, School of Greatness is an excellent personal development book. It gives you the tools, knowledge, and actionable resources you need to reach your potential. Overall, a great source of inspiration for entrepreneurs and high achievers, with plenty of real life examples to support each chapter.

46. Make Your Mark by Jocelyn Glei

Featuring hard-won wisdom from twenty leading entrepreneurs and designers, Make Your Mark will arm you with practical insights for launching a purpose-driven business, refining your product, delighting your customers, inspiring your team—and ultimately—making something that matters. Overall, a great book for creative individuals who are ready to embrace entrepreneurship.

47. The Art of Work by Jeff Goins

The path to your life’s work is difficult and risky, even scary, which is why few finish the journey. The Art of Work is about discovering your life’s work, and doing you were born to do. Through personal experience, compelling case studies, and current research on the mysteries of motivation and talent, Jeff Goins shows you how to find your vocation and what to expect along the way.

48. The Creator’s Code by Amy Wilkinson

After interviewing more than 200 leading entrepreneurs, Amy Wilkinson identified the six essential disciplines needed to transform your ideas into real-world successes. The Creator’s Code will show you why each of us has the capacity to spot opportunities, invent products, and build businesses.

49. The ONE Thing by Gary Keller

The ONE Thing sheds light on a powerful concept that people are using to focus on what matters most in their personal and work lives. By focusing their energy on one thing at a time people are living more rewarding lives by building their careers, strengthening their finances, losing weight and getting in shape, deepening their faith, and nurturing stronger marriages and personal relationships.This book will help you to minimize distractions, increase your productivity, and obtain more satisfaction from your life.

50. Unstoppable by Kelly Roach

In her book Unstoppable, Kelly Roach breaks down the top lessons she’s learned throughout her award-winning career, blended together with lessons from some of the top industry leaders in the world today in a way that’s easy-to-understand and motivating. You’ll discover the key actions, strategies, and mindset to unlock your true potential for wealth, happiness, and success in every area of life, no matter where you are today. It all starts with simple keys that will leverage your time and revenue and allow you to work in your genius zone.

What Book Will You Read Next?

There you go! You now know of 50 great books that can help you to succeed as an online instructor and entrepreneur. Feel free to bookmark this page for easy reference whenever you’re ready to read a new book.

This article was originally published in March 2016 and was recently updated in February 2024.