50+ Must Read Resources for Starting and Growing a Business

I’ve been an entrepreneur and digital marketing consultant for about eight years now, and throughout that period I’ve been meticulous on cultivating and curating the best sources on growing a business. Today, I’m opening up almost a decades worth of knowledge – broken down into the exact order of operations you need to start a business.

I’ve narrowed hundreds of articles down to a list of 100, leaving only the best of the best. I plan on keeping this resource updated, and if you spot any dead links or dated resources, please shoot us a tweet.

If this post was any help to you, I’d appreciate if you could spread the word.

Note: I’ve had this list sitting as a draft for quite some time as I wanted it perfect. But I figured I could always publish now and edit later. Please let me know if you see any errors, or if you think there should be any additions. 

Getting Started

A part of becoming an entrepreneur is learning how to ignore the haters. There will be people who tell you that you can’t do it. That you should just get a job (because climbing the corporate ladder is so fun). Your environment conditions your behavior. It’s why many entrepreneurs end up moving to entrepreneurial cities like Silicon Valley, Chicago, New York, Las Vegas, etc. It’s one way good ideas are formed. It doesn’t matter where you are – this post from TheNextWeb can help show you how to stop giving a f@$% what people think.

Books to Rewire Your Brain:

1. Rework by Jason Fried – I’ve heard about this book since it was released, but I strayed away from it after reading one popular Amazon review that said it was “good advice, but not really anything new.” But I would disagree. Sure, it has some advice that has been talked about before. But it’s the perfect book to rewire someone’s brain and start thinking like a modern entrepreneur.

2. The Startup Manual by Steve Blank – Although the author states that this book is geared towards

3. Business Model Generation by Alexander Osterwalder and Yves Pigneur – A book book full of business models from startups all the way up to Google and Apple.

What is the best order of operations if you have a great idea for a website? A short summary on the order of operations you should be thinking about. Here’s another post that delves into a step-by-step guide for launching a startup from 6 months prior to launching, to post-launch.

How I Built a Web 2.0 Site for $12,107.09. A little old, but still very relevant today. I’m a huge Guy Kawasaki fan, he’s very personable and a good public speaker – in this post he’ll give you an idea of how to start a business, and what costs are associated with it.

How to Make $1,000,000/mo with Digital Products. A solid outline, even if you’re not planning on selling a digital product. RelevantHow to (Really) Make $1,000,000 Selling eBooks.

An eBook Pricing Model That Resulted in $100,000 in Sales.

How to Organize a Conference: How We Made Over $100,000.

How to Become a Millionaire in 3 Years.

The 6 Counterintuitive Ways We Grew Barkbox into a 100m eCommerce Business. I love this post because the “box of goodies” subscription model has popped up in every niche, and many have failed. But Barkbox is one that succeeded, and Co-Founder Henrik Werdelin describes how they did it.

Growth Hacking for eCommerce Startups. Written by yours truly, this in-depth post looks at the creative strategies BetaBrand used to rise to the top.

How to: Guerrilla Bootstrapping. Essentially a super short version of this article that highlights how entrepreneurs can get started with little money.

A Freelancers Guide to Recurring Revenue – Freelancing can be a nightmare if you don’t when the checks will be rolling in, especially true for those quitting the 9-5. Dunn explains how recurring revenue is predictable revenue and something every freelancer should be thinking about.

How to Charge What You’re Worth – This is a 90 minute interview, featuring NYTimes Best Selling Author Ramit Sethi, asking Chase Jarvis how we grew in the photography industry, an industry that’s become very crowded over the past few years. 90 minutes, but well worth it. And even though this is perfect for photographers like my buddy Chris at Orange Soda Photo, this applies to any freelancer as we’re often times tempted to work for below market rate because of increased competition.

A consultants answer on, “How did you make your first million dollars?” A few good insights on building and bootstrapping a company, many other answers in that thread are worth reading as well.

You Don’t Need a Business Plan, You Need a Business Model

While a business plan can be useful for internal purposes, if you’re starting a business it’s all just projections. Everything shifts as you move forward. They’re still a good idea for traditional B&M businesses, as commercial real estate agents often request your business plan, and banks will ask for the same if you want a loan.

13 Ways to $10M in Revenues Part I and Part II. This is a great post on TechCrunch that breaks down numerous different industries, and how they can get to $10,000,000 in revenues.

Finding a Co-Founder

Many entrepreneurs can’t do it alone. Some have a sharp business acumen, others are skilled programmers, and some are blessed with design brilliance – but seldom do people have all three qualities. This is something I’ve battled with, and ultimately I decided to hone in on my business acumen, while learning just enough about programming and design to be able to successfully outsource that task if needed. But it really depends on what you’re starting. Seldom do solo founders raise venture funding and thus you’ll need a team. If you’re a freelancer starting a service based business, that’s a different scenario.

How do I find good technical co-founders? Dropbox’s Founder/CEO Drew Houston compares finding a good technical co-founder to “How do I find a really hot single girl to go out with me?”

You Can Do It Alone. Ryan Carson’s (Founder/CEO of TreeHouse) personal anecdote of how he started his startup alone.

If you have a little money, consider hiring someone. Kevin Rose found a developer through a Craigslist ad and built Digg  With the advent of online marketplaces, you could find developers on Elance/oDesk, or better yet – Ziptask.

Raising Money

First off, do you need to raise money? This video explains why less than 20% of high growth companies take on venture capital:

How to Hustle with AngelList

Venture Deals: Be Smarter Than Your Lawyer and Venture Capitalist

Do Angel Investors and Venture Capitalists prefer investing in LLC’s or C-Corps? An important consideration if you plan on raising money.

Legal

Disclosure: I am not a lawyer, this is not legal advice. 

Forming a company? No lawyer is better than a crappy one. I love people who spend a lot of their time providing information completely gratis, and José Ancer is one of those guys. Ancer touches on a very delicate subject, as an entrepreneur getting started most of us aren’t excited to plunk down a few thousand for company formation. And while he does not advise that you should try to form your own company. He knows there’s a good percentage of entrepreneurs who will try anyway – and this guide is very helpful for that.

How to Do What You Really Shouldn’t Be Doing: “Rolling Your Own” Website Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. Antone Johnson is another lawyer who’s active an active blogger as well as popular on Quora, he’s worked with MySpace in their prime and eHarmony. Here he talks about how to roll your TOU and PP.

What are common legal problems among web startups? Another important post that helps you avoid the problems companies before you have found themselves in.

I love startups who want to disrupt the legal, helping entrepreneurs save time and money. The general consensus around the startup world is that you should avoid services like LegalZoom, instead consider:

Clerky – “Clerky helps startups get legal stuff done right (and fast).” They currently specialize in incorporation, but they soon plan to expand to NDA’s, employee documents, convertible notes and more.

Lawfully – Lawfully’s goal is to create an open community for sharing legal information. Most entrepreneurs don’t want to be wrapped up in the legalese, Lawfully annotates legal documents with plain language to help entrepreneurs understand key terms, issues, etc.

Software

Wave – I’ve used both QuickBooks and Freshbooks, both of which are paid services. I’ve found Wave to be better than both – and it’s free.

HR Software from CIPHR – Scalable HR software that can take care of HR, payroll and a host of other things that could help entrepreneurs and startups save a lot of time and money.

DataMax – Offers a host of solutions for C-Store daily operations, both affordable and scalable, whether you run a single store or a nationwide franchise.

How to Get (More) Clients and/or Users

How to Get Your First 3 Paying Clients. Ramit Sethi is one of those no-nonsense guys that provide actionable advice that hasn’t been regurgitated 1000’s of times. Anyone starting their own consultancy needs to read this post.

How We Got Our First 5,000 UsersiDoneThis is not only a useful tool, but they crafted an interesting post showing exactly how they got their first 5,000 users.

Web Design, UI/UX

Domain Registrar: Personally, I use GoDaddy because they’re the cheapest and I haven’t had any customer service issues with them. Many do recommend NameCheap for better service though.

Web Hosting: It’s usually good to separate your hosting from your registrar. I use multiple hosts and have had only had one issue with HostGator (though it was lengthy), so that would be my recommendation. Shared hosting should suffice, and you can always change in the future. When you get your new server, check the speed and setup Pingdom.com (it’s free) to check for downtime. If you have extended downtime I would recommend asking to be moved to another server. If they don’t comply, I’d cancel and switch.

Email: While Hostgator does provide free email hosting, as do many other hosts. I would recommend Google Apps for Business  especially if you’re familiar with the Gmail interface. It’s not free anymore, but $5/mo is well worth it in my opinion. I did test Outlook as they provide free email hosting for custom domains as well, but I had a horrible experience and ended up switching to Google Apps.

Logo Design: You’re logo is the part of your brand everyone remembers. If you’re absolutely on a budget I would checkout our post on the 7 Best Business Gigs on Fiverr, one being a logo design gig. If you’re shooting for a higher quality and want to save time, checkout our guides to crowdsourcing platforms 99designs or DesignCrowd.

Breakdown of Web Development Costs. There’s a lot that goes into a new website, this post breaks down an estimate of what you need, and how much it costs.

Website: 

Startups, This is How Design Works. I’ve referenced this website several times since I found it a few years ago – very useful.

How to Conduct Interviews for UX Research – Design is only one piece of the puzzle, usability is equally (if not more) important.

What are the best resources for learning bleeding-edge web, UI and UX design? Bunch of great answers on this Quora question.

What qualities are shared by most successful startup home pages? You don’t need to reinvent the wheel.

What are the best practices for converting blog traffic? What’s the point of blogging if your traffic doesn’t convert? This answer illustrates a few high converting tactics used by popular blogs.

How to Outsource Web Development. If you’re considering outsourcing web development, this is a must read.

Anticipatory Design: Dangers and Allures – An interesting examination of anticipatory web design, it’s appeals, potential, and concerns as it relates to UX and website users.

Launch

PR

Huge list of blogs and websites that a new startup could announce their pending launch.

Two Cold-Emailed TechCrunch Pitches that Worked. Getting press usually requires prior relationships with journalists. This post shows you that isn’t always a requirement. Although this post is about a technology startup shooting for press under a major tech publication, this post is relevant for any business looking to get press.

Pitch Perfect: A Startups Guide to Getting Coverage. This one’s great because it’s written by a journalist at a major tech publication, TheNextWeb.

From First TV to Doctor Oz – How to Get Local and National Press. Another solid post from Tim Ferriss, a post that helped me land on NBC.

The Hacker’s Guide to Getting Press. This entrepreneur wrote in-depth guide for getting press, showing exactly how he got featured in Time Magazine and other notable press sources.

Are Press Releases Still Worth Sending Out? Press releases use to be gold for digital agencies. The potential for press and a legitimate way to essentially buy backlinks. Things changed last year when Google essentially forced all press release services to no-follow all links within a press release. Related: What’s the best press release service after Google’s latest update?

Scaling

Branding

Why Apple Uses 67 Characters to Describe the iPhone 5.

The Difference Between PR, Advertising, Marketing and Branding.

Marketing

Noah Kagan was employee #4 at Mint, #30 at Facebook. Today he’s the CEO of AppSumo and he shares his thoughts on “What are key strategies to acquire your first 100k users with zero marketing budget?” Relevant: How did Mint acquire 1.0+m users without a high viral coefficient, scalable SEO strategy, or paid customer acquisition model?

It’s the CEO’s Job to Email the First 1000 Users. As an early adopter to many technology startups, I have always found it reassuring when the CEO sends out an email (even if it is automated).

Digital Marketing Strategy by Portent. I love in-depth guides like this, and when it’s created by a well known internet marketing agency – even better!

Startups: Don’t Outsource SEO. SEO isn’t something that you should just jump head first in. One wrong mistake and you could be de-indexed from Google. Before reading the following posts about SEO strategies, read this post and gain a better understanding of Search Engine Optimization (SEO).

Link Building: The Definitive Guide. The SEO world is filled with so much regurgitated garbage, but Brian “Backlinko” Dean is a no-nonsense guy that uses data to back up his methods. If you could only read one guide on link building – let this be it.

SEO: The Advanced Guide to Link building. Backlinks are the #1 driver for SEO, and this 30,000+ word guide shows a multitude of different ways that you can build backlinks. It’s similar to the one listed above and could provide a few additional tips.

5 Unconventional Tips to Boost Your SEO with Fiverr Gigs. It can be tough to wade through all the garbage SEO gigs on Fiverr – but that 1% could provide the boost you need. In this post, we show you how to use Fiverr whilst staying on the white hat of the SEO spectrum.

Advertising

Anyone who tells you a particular channel will work 100% of the time with any business is probably lying. My view about advertising is simple – test what works. If you find a channel where you can put a $1 in and receive $10 in return – repeat it, and scale it. The following posts look into the most popular advertising channels:

Note: Google AdWords, Yahoo/Bing, and Facebook Ads often run promotions offering free ad credit, usually from $50-100, though sometimes I’ve seen $200 coupons. It’s worth Googling before you start a campaign. 

Google Ads:

Facebook: With its continually improving advertising platform, it’s futile for me to post guides I’ve used in the past. Though I do feel compelled to share with you that GM says Facebook Ads don’t pay off and this video went viral illustrating Facebook Click Fraud. Though the flaw with the ladder video is that their targeting wasn’t narrow enough. When you’re targeting a smaller user base, your click throughs will be a lot more relevant.

I do use Facebook ads, both personally and for clients, but for a lot of people it won’t work. It just depends on whether or not you can reach your target market. For example, if you’re a wedding planner you can target engaged couples. If you’re a realtor, you can target people who recently moved or who are planning to move. If you’re a plumber you’re not likely to find people who need plumbing services.

Yelp: Answers on “What’s your experience with buying ads on Yelp?” The consensus is that Yelp tends to work better for service based businesses. Relevant: Half-Star Change in Yelp Rating Can Make or Break a Restaurant

Direct Mail vs Groupon – By The Numbers. Reddit is usually filled with memes and funny videos, but you can find gold if you subscribe to the right subreddits. This is a complete breakdown of advertising via Direct Mail vs Groupon which not only compares cost, profit, but also retention rate, cost to acquire customer, etc.

Sales

Your #1 Sales Rep Should be Driving a M6 Convertible by Month 12. Why? In short, you want to prove to prospective future sales reps that your business model works. 

The Ultimate Sales Machine by Chet Holmes. I come from a newer generation that hates to be sold, and that’s what a lot of sales books (including this one) tend to preach. But this book came as a recommendation from Noah Kagan so I had to at least check it out. If you’re a little close minded on sales, this book will open you up to a whole new world. If you only read one sales book, let this be it.

Sales Outsourcing Pros – If you or your team is struggling with sales, another good option is to outsource sales. This gives you access to an on-demand force of cost effective sales specialists that you can scale up and down as you please. Another pro to an outsourced sales force, is that instead of being restricted to the 9-5, you could have a sales force working in different time zones allowing you to hit different markets.

I will try to keep this list as updated as possible. If you have anything that you think would be a great fit, please do not spam your link in the comments below, instead send me an email at jay@launchastartup.com and I’ll check it out. 

Disclosure: As per the FTC Guidelines for Bloggers, please note that some of the links on this website are affiliate links, and at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you decide to make a purchase. Please read the full FTC Disclosure here.
5 Responses to “50+ Must Read Resources for Starting and Growing a Business”
  1. Ying Ying Shi September 7, 2014
  2. Naomi Dinsmore January 6, 2015
  3. Kiwi Chris October 3, 2015
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