These are my personal book notes of 40 Rules For Internet Business Success by the author Matthew Paulson.

Let’s dive in.


  • Author: Matthew Paulson
  • Title: 40 Rules For Internet Business Success
  • Subtitle: Escape the 9 to 5, Do Work You Love, And Build A Profitable Online Business
  • First published: 2014
  • Type: non-fiction
  • Genre: marketing / online marketing
  • Author’s website:
  • Rating: 5/5
  • Recommended: Yes (Hell, Yeah!)

All hard work brings a profit, but mere talk leads only to poverty. The wealth of the wise is their crown, but the folly of fools yields folly.
- Proverbs 14:23-24

Table Of Contents Of The Book

  • Praise for “40 Rules for Internet Business Success”
  • Dedication
  • “All hard work brings a profit…”
  • Introduction
  • Bonus Audio Interviews
  • Section One: Developing Yourself
    • Rule 1: Know Your Why
    • Rule 2: Excuses are the Fuel of Failure
    • Rule 3: Relationships Trump Knowledge
    • Rule 4: Become a Voracious Consumer of Content
    • Rule 5: Don’t Leave Your Family Behind
    • Rule 6: Head in One Direction at a Time
    • Rule 7: Follow the Supermarket Rule
    • Rule 8: Be the Person Everyone Wants to Work For
    • Rule 9: Don’t Quit Your Day Job (Too Early)
    • Rule 10: Prepare for Failure: Plan for Success
  • Section Two: Building Your Business
    • Rule 11: Market Selection is a Make or Break Decision
    • Rule 12: Don’t Become a Copycat of Someone Else’s Business Model
    • Rule 13: Have a Business Model, Not a Business Plan
    • Rule 14: Let Your Customers Develop Your Product
    • Rule 15: Be Unique
    • Rule 16: Begin with a Minimum Viable Business
    • Rule 17: Don’t Give Up Equity (Early On)
    • Rule 18: You Don’t Need the Perfect Domain Name
    • Rule 19: Use Value-Based Pricing
    • Rule 20: Make Your Launch a Can’t Miss Event
  • Section Three: Running Your Business
    • Rule 21: Get Your Finances Right from the Beginning
    • Rule 22: Busyness Is Not Productivity
    • Rule 23: Don’t Be an Employee in Your Business
    • Rule 24: Befriend You Customers
    • Rule 25: Not Everyone Needs to Be Your Customer
    • Rule 26: Read before You Sign
    • Rule 27: Measure Your Company’s Vital Signs
    • Rule 28: Be Skeptical. Be Aware.
    • Rule 29: Strengthen Your Business’s Weakest Links
    • Rule 30: Fail, Quit, and Regroup.
  • Section Four: Growing Your Business
    • Rule 31: If You Build It, They Won’t Come
    • Rule 32: Results-Driven Advertising
    • Rule 33: Go Where the People Are
    • Rule 34: Don’t Rely on Social Media, SEO, or the Tech Press to Market Your Business
    • Rule 35: Own Your Customer List
    • Rule 36: Show Credibility with Social Proof
    • Rule 37: Always Be Testing
    • Rule 38: Use the Three Keys of Revenue Growth
    • Rule 39: Turn over Stones
    • Rule 40: You Are Never Finished
  • Final Thoughts
  • Appendix A: Recommended Books and Podcasts
  • Appendix B: 40 Online Business Ideas
  • Thanks
  • Acknowledgements
  • Notes

Key Concepts & Ideas

Having a dream and taking action to achieve that dream are two different things.

There are a lot of people who would love to be the entrepreneur with the next big success story and a wildly profitable Internet business.

They dream about living life on their own terms and not having to worry about money.

They look up to successful entrepreneurs who have come before them, having escaped the 9 to 5, who found work they love doing while still making good money.

Unfortunately, very few people who want to build their own online businesses are willing to take the necessary steps to make it happen.

Of those who are willing to do the work, many are unsure of how to get started or how to continue their forward and upward momentum when they do.

The dream of financial success and a lifestyle redesign remains just that, a dream.

The 40 Rules: Your Game Plan For Internet Business Success

Fortunately, your dream of developing an Internet business does not have to end in failure like so many others do.

You can build a successful Internet business that will allow you to do the work you love, provide for your family, and enable you to live life on your own terms.

There are two keys to becoming a successful online entrepreneur:

While I cannot make you put in the long hours essential for a successful business, I can provide a proven plan and rules to follow based on my own experiences so you can build a profitable online business like I have.

The 40 Rules for Internet Business Success is designed for you to understand and implement ideas for your Internet business no matter what your goals are for online success.

Whether you are creating

  • an e-commerce store,
  • an information product,
  • a software-as-a-service business,
  • a membership site,
  • a company that provides professional services through the Internet, or
  • any kind of bootstrapped start-up,

this book will provide wisdom and insight to build your Internet business the right way from the beginning.

Comprised of forty different rules or principles that I have learned over the last eight years, this book takes you from initial thoughts all the way through the strategies that can take your successful business to the next level.

Structure Of The Book

  1. The first section, Developing Yourself, offers healthy rules to live by as you become an online entrepreneur.
  2. The second section, Building Your Business, provides experience-based information about constructing your business model and finding the unique aspects of your ideas to get your business up and running.
  3. The third section, Running Your Business, contains solid guidance about the day-to-day workings of your business, advice on customer relationships, and recovery from setbacks after your business has launched.
  4. The fourth and final section, Growing Your Business, discusses different strategies for marketing and growth once you have gained traction and are running a successful business.

A Call To Action

We live in an era where six-figure and even seven-figure Internet businesses can be built without ever leaving the comfort of your laptop.

Thousands of people like you have leveraged their knowledge along with hard work and some incredibly powerful software tools to build their businesses.

Many have quit their day jobs to develop their business models full-time and have gained the freedom of setting their own work hours.

Others have built healthy side businesses to supplement the income that their day job provides.

Building a successful Internet business requires

  • your time,
  • your talents, and
  • your determination,

but can be an incredibly rewarding and profitable experience.

The best time to start your own Internet business was five years ago, but the second best time to start your business is today.

==> Start Today!

Think about where you want to be five years from now:

Do you want to be stuck in the same job that you have today and with the same dream of someday starting your own business?

Or, will you look back, satisfied and thankful that you decided to do the hard work to get your business off the ground?

Make that decision today and then follow through with a plan to be the entrepreneur that is doing instead of just dreaming.

This will mean spending a few years doing what most people will not do so that you can spend the rest of your life doing what most people cannot do.

If you read and follow the rules outlined in this book and are willing to work exceptionally hard, perhaps you too will be able to build your own six-figure or even seven-figure, Internet business.

Rule 1: Know Your Why

Before you make the decision to take the entrepreneurial leap and start your own Internet business, the first question you need to ask yourself is, “Why?”

Why are you starting your business?

You likely have the option to continue working at your current place of employment and receive a steady paycheck, but you are choosing to put many thousands of hours of blood, sweat, and tears to create a business where there was nothing before.

The buck is going to stop with you.

You are now going to be responsible for everything:

  • market identification,
  • product development,
  • marketing,
  • sales,
  • operations,
  • customer service,
  • accounting, legal, and taxes,

and all the other things that come with starting a business.

You are going to be the one responsible for putting out every fire that threatens your business and be responsible for making the whole machine run smoothly.

Every. Single. Day.

Building an Internet business from scratch is not easy.

Not everyone can do it.

When you make the decision to start, you are signing up for months of hard work, sleepless nights and less time spent with your family.

You better have good reasons for why you want to give this a shot.

You cannot kind-of, sort-of, maybe start a business.

If you believe you are ready to make that decision, you need to commit all of your best energy into building and growing.

This means remaining head-down for months on end and working hard before you have earned any meaningful revenue.

In those moments when you have to choose between staying and working on your business that has not had any traction yet and going out with your friends or family, you need to have your “Why” firmly in place to remind you of the reasons you started your business in the first place.

Your “Why” Shapes Your Business

If you know why you want to start your business, you will be able to answer just about every other important question to shape what your business needs to look like.

If your goal is to escape the 9 to 5 to work at home so you can spend more time with your family, you will not want to structure a business that requires you to have an office and a bunch of employees.

If you are starting your business because you have to be the master of your own domain, you probably do not want to start a business that will require you to raise venture capital, because you are just going to end up with more bosses.

If you want to have more freedom with your time and schedule, you do not want to build a business that requires you to be on-call for your customers during all hours of the day.

If you hope to quit your full-time job and replace it with your Internet business, realistically you will to need to create a business that generates at least as much net profit as your salary paid you last year.

When you have a clear and concise reason for why you want what you set out to achieve, you will have a lens through which you must make every future business decision.

I know my ‘Why’. I have built my businesses because I want to be the master of my own destiny. I want my success to be fully dependent upon my ability to deliver and generate value. I want the ability to generate a six-figure income so I can provide for my family and give generously to the charitable causes that my wife and I care about. I want freedom over my time so I can play with my son every morning, serve in my local church, and have lunch with friends, family, and business acquaintances any day of the week. I want to be able to visit family and go on vacations without having to ask permission from anyone else.
- Matthew Paulson

Stay Focused

It took eight long years to get to where I am with my Internet business.

I have put in my hours, I have tried and failed and tried again, and now I am living my goals of total freedom over my time while my business continues to provide more than enough income for my family’s month-to-month expenses and entertainment.

When you have built a successful business that is working for you, you will be able to look back at your journey from where it started.

Your decisions and strategies made along the way will seem like no-brainers.

Hindsight provides that clarity.

But in the beginning, you are at the base of a large mountain that you need to climb.

It is easy to wander off the path or give up along the way.

If you want to make it to the top and build a successful business, keep your focus on your “Why”.

Action Steps:

  • Complete this sentence: “I am starting my business so I can…”
  • List any constraints that you need to be mindful of while building your business.
  • Begin mapping out the other questions that will naturally stem from your “Why” (How? When? What?). Try to answer them. These other questions may change over time, but your “Why” should remain your foundation.

Rule 2: Excuses Are The Fuel Of Failure

As an entrepreneur, you simply do not have the luxury of making excuses.
- Matthew Paulson

Regardless of what your excuses are, nothing will happen until you put in the hard work to make something happen.

If you want to succeed in your Internet business, quit making excuses.

If creating an Internet business was really easy, everyone would be doing it.

Action Steps:

  • Set challenging but achievable weekly goals.
  • Build time into your work week to accomplish your goals.
  • Commit to the time and effort it takes to complete your weekly goals regardless of outside factors.

Rule 14: Let Your Customers Develop Your Product

Entrepreneurs commonly make the mistake of assuming that they know what their clients’ needs are and build out their product or service before ever actually talking to a potential customer.

If you finalize your product before talking to your customers, there is a good chance that you will build something that they do not want or need.

Your product may not solve any of their actual problems.

Keep in mind that your ideas about your product are valuable, but your customers know their wants, needs and frustrations better than anyone.

It is important that you take the time to listen and get feedback from people in your target market before diving intomproduct development.

Find A Problem To Solve

The key to building a great product is to identify a major problem, pain, or frustration that your target market has and to identify or create a solution that will solve that problem.

Customers, especially business customers, will happily pay money for products that address significant problems they currently struggle with if it saves them time or money, or both.

If the people in your target market have a headache, they will gladly buy Tylenol(R) from you to make their headache go away.

Your potential customers will be more than happy to tell you about the problems and frustrations they have.

For example, when I was launching the premium version of ARN Daily Premium, many of my potential customers told me that they were frustrated because there were no single comprehensive resources that had a full summary of all of the stock research notes that brokers publish on a daily basis.

As a result, one of the initial product goals for ARN Daily Premium was to provide the most comprehensive coverage of stock research reports.

By having a clear understanding of what problems your customers face, you will be able to build a product that effectively addresses their issues in order to keep them coming back as your customer.

Talk To Potential Customers

I recommend that you meet with at least three people who could potentially be consumers of your product.

If you are building a product that helps dental offices with marketing strategy, go out and interview three different dentists.

Start with a list of five or six people you want to interview, knowing that a few of them will likely turn down your request.

When you are planning your meeting, tell them that you are developing a product for their industry and you would like their input.

Do not try to sell them your product when you first meet with them.

At this phase, you are only trying to gather information.

Make sure to take notes during your meeting so that you remember what each of your interviewees said.

I recommend asking these questions to the three people that you interview in your target market:

  • What are the most pressing problems you have?
  • What are the most frustrating aspects of your business?
  • What are you doing now to address the issues that you mentioned?
  • What are the advantages and disadvantages of your current solution?
  • What potential alternative solutions could more effectively address your issues?

If your interview is going well, you can feel out the following questions to help you identify potential marketing channels.

Again, do not try to sell your product or service here.

  • How do you find out new information about your industry?
  • Are you a part of any professional groups?
  • Do you subscribe to any trade magazines or visit any industry websites on a regular basis?
  • Do you attend any conferences or trade shows?
  • Who makes the purchasing decisions in your organization?

After asking the other questions first, tell them about your current idea for your product or service.

Ask them if it would solve any problems for them.

Ask them how they would improve your product to better fit their needs.

Pay attention to their reaction to your ideas and write down any suggestions they may give you that would fit their needs.

Be sure to thank them for their time.

Find Online Professional Groups For Additional Feedback

If you are building a product for businesses or any type of professional, consider using LinkedIn groups as a way to get additional feedback about your product or service.

I have a friend who is building a marketing service for massage therapists.

He posed a couple of open questions on the American Massage Therapy Association LinkedIn group and received fifteen responses to his questions in 48 hours.

While online professional groups are not a replacement for meeting with your customers in person, they can provide confirmation about what you have learned in your interviews or generate better questions to ask your specific target market.

Follow Up

After you have conducted your interviews and have a better idea of what kind of product or service you should create, follow up with the people that you interviewed at a later date.

Tell them about the product or service you are building and ask whether or not it would solve their current problems.

If you plan on pitching your product when you follow up with them, ask them to commit to buying when you meet with them and get their first payment if possible.

If they tell you that do not want to buy your product, be sure to ask for the reasons why.

This could be one of the most helpful pieces of feedback that you get.

Action Steps

  • Interview three potential customers in person.
  • Confirm what you have learned from your interviews through online discussions.
  • Follow up with potential customers to tell them about your product and receive feedback if you give your sales pitch.

Closing Thoughts

My book notes only cover small parts of the book.

So if you like what you read, please consider buying the book from the author.

Thank you for reading and stay awesome,

Tim for Online Business Dude

PS: Start Your Own, Profitable Online Business From Scratch, Step-by-Step, Today!

==> Download The Free Online Business Blueprint (PDF)