When I started freelancing part-time, I wanted to find every resource possible to help me understand the business side of freelancing.
I was starting out, so investing in expensive courses or coaching wasn’t within reach for me then. However, after reading the 4-Hour Work Week by Tim Ferris, I knew I could learn many business principles and marketing strategies without stepping foot in a classroom or taking an online course.
Although I don’t knock those learning methods, freelancers must read for themselves and discover these ideas. Reading business books changed my trajectory and mindset. I was inspired to take action and try new things for my business with every book I read.
That’s why reading is a game changer for freelancers and anyone running a business. However, it can be challenging to determine which books to read if you’re unfamiliar with the business book world.
The good news is that of all the books I’ve read since I started my journey, there are a few books I recommend to any freelancer, no matter what stage of business you’re in. Here are 12 books I recommend you read this year:
1. The Big Leap
Most of us believe that we will finally feel satisfied and content with our lives when we get the good news we have been waiting for, find a healthy relationship, or achieve one of our personal goals. However, this rarely happens.
Good fortune is often followed by negative emotions that overtake us and result in destructive behaviors. “I don’t deserve this,” “this is too good to be true,” or any harmful thought patterns prevent us from experiencing the joy and satisfaction we have earned.
Sound familiar? This is what the author Gay Hendricks calls the Upper Limit Problem, a negative emotional reaction that occurs when anything positive enters our lives. The Upper Limit Problem prevents happiness and stops us from achieving our goals. It is the ultimate life roadblock.
The Big Leap offers a proven way to identify which of these four fears prevents us from reaching our personal upper limit, then breaking through that limitation to achieve what Hendricks refers to as our Zone of Genius.
2. Building a Story Brand
Donald Miller’s StoryBrand process is a proven solution to business leaders’ struggles when talking about their businesses. This revolutionary method for connecting with customers provides listeners with the ultimate competitive advantage, revealing the secret for helping their customers understand the compelling benefits of using their products, ideas, or services. Building a StoryBrand teaches listeners the seven universal story points all humans respond to; the real reason customers make purchases, how to simplify a brand message so people understand it, and how to create the most effective messaging for websites, brochures, and social media.
Whether you are the marketing director of a multibillion-dollar company, the owner of a small business, a politician running for office, or the lead singer of a rock band, Building a StoryBrand will forever transform the way you talk about who you are, what you do, and the unique value you bring to your customers.
3. Business Made Simple
Most people enter their professional careers not understanding how to grow a business. Sometimes, this makes them feel lost or, worse, like a fraud pretending to know what they’re doing.
Success is hard without a clear understanding of how business works. These 60 daily entries are necessary for any professional or business owner who wants to take their career to the next level.
Even if you had the time, access, or money to attend a top 20 business school, you would still be missing the practical knowledge that propels the best and brightest forward. However, there is another way to achieve this insider skill development, which can drastically improve your career earnings and the satisfaction of achieving your goals.
Donald Miller learned how to rise to the top using the principles he shares in this book. He wrote Business Made Simple to teach others what it takes to grow your career and create a healthy and profitable company.
These short, daily entries will add enormous value to your business and the organization you work for. In this 60-day guide, listeners will be introduced to the nine areas where truly successful leaders and their businesses excel:
4. Differentiate or Die
For marketers, differentiating products today is more challenging than at any time in history, yet it remains at the heart of successful marketing. More importantly, it remains the key to a company’s survival.
In Differentiate or Die, bestselling author Jack Trout takes marketers to task for taking the easy route too often, employing high-tech razzle-dazzle and sleight of hand when they should be working to discover and market their product’s uniquely valuable qualities. He examines successful differentiation initiatives from giants like Dell Computer, Southwest Airlines, and Wal-Mart to smaller success stories like Streit’s Matzoh and Connecticut’s tiny Trinity College to determine why some marketers succeed at differentiating themselves while others struggle and fail.
Unlike a collection of marketing success stories, Differentiate or Die is an in-depth exploration of today’s most successful differentiation strategies. It explains these strategies, where and when they should be applied, and how they can help you carve out your image in a crowded marketplace. Marketing executives in all types of organizations, regardless of size, can learn how to achieve product differentiation through strategies including
- Revisiting the U.S.P. – Rosser Reeves’s classic, unique selling proposition approach, updated for today’s marketplace
- Positioning – Understanding how the mind works in the differentiating process
- Owning an Idea – Techniques to seize a differentiating idea, dramatize it, and make it your own
- Competition – How to use differentiating ideas against your competitors in the marketplace
Differentiate or Die outlines the many ways you can achieve differentiation. It also warns how difficult it is to achieve differentiation by being creative, cheap, customer-oriented, or quality-driven things that your competitors can do as well.
5. Invisible Selling Machine
What if you could automate your entire sales process and make sales while you slept at night? Well, thanks to modern marketing automation tools (along with a handful of carefully crafted email messages), making sales while you sleep is not only possible… it’s downright simple!
In the Invisible Selling Machine, entrepreneur Ryan Deiss walks you through all 5 phases of the prospect/customer lifestyle and shows how each step can be automated and perpetuated to invisibly convert strangers into friends, friends into customers, and customers into raving fans.
This book is for startup founders, small business owners, marketing professionals, consultants, service professionals, authors, speakers, and even brick-and-mortar butcher, baker, and candlestick makers. In short, if you want to grow your business and your customers happen to have an email address … this book is for you.
6. Marketing Made Simple
Every day, your company loses sales simply because you do not have a clear path to attract new customers. You’re not alone.
Based on proven principles from Building a StoryBrand, this five-part checklist is the ultimate resource for marketing professionals and business owners as they cultivate a sales funnel that flows across key customer touchpoints to develop, strengthen, and communicate their brand’s story to the marketplace. In this book, you will learn:
- The three stages of customer relationships
- How to create and implement the one marketing plan you will never regret
- How to develop a sales funnel that attracts the right customers to your business
- The power of email and how to create campaigns that result in customer traffic and a growth in brand awareness
- The keys to wireframing a website that commands attention and generates conversions
With Marketing Made Simple, you will learn everything you need to know to take your business to the next level.
7. Profit First
Traditional business accounting uses the logical yet flawed formula: sales – expenses = profit. The problem is, humans run businesses, and humans aren’t always logical.
Serial entrepreneur Mike Michalowicz has developed a behavioral approach to accounting to flip the formula: Sales – Profit = Expenses. Just as the most effective weight loss strategy is to limit portions by using smaller plates, Michalowicz shows that by taking profit first and apportioning only what remains for expenses, entrepreneurs will transform their businesses from cash-eating monsters to profitable cash cows.
With dozens of case studies, practical step-by-step advice, and his signature sense of humor, Michalowicz has the game-changing road map for any entrepreneur to make money they always dreamed of.
8. The Power of Habit
In The Power of Habit, Charles Duhigg takes us to the thrilling edge of scientific discoveries that explain why habits exist and how they can be changed.
From the boardrooms of Procter & Gamble to the sidelines of the NFL to the front lines of the civil rights movement, Duhigg presents a whole new understanding of human nature and its potential.
At its core, The Power of Habit contains an exhilarating argument: The key to exercising regularly, losing weight, being more productive, and achieving success is understanding how habits work.
9. The Psychology of Selling
Brian Tracy, one of the top professional speakers and sales trainers in the world today, found that his most important breakthrough in selling was the discovery that it is the “Psychology of Selling” that is more important than the techniques and methods of selling.
Tracy’s classic audio program, The Psychology of Selling, is the best-selling sales training program that teaches anyone whose profession requires marketing and sales how to eliminate the fear of rejection and build unshakeable self-confidence.
10. The Seven Figure Agency Roadmap
Too many agencies hit an income ceiling and never make the kind of money (or the kind of impact) they can. They get stuck at one of three plateaus: startup, struggle, or even success.
Most agencies blame themselves and try to work on their mindset, but nothing changes because your mindset is not the problem. It’s the model that needs to change.
The model you bought in when you started your agency business is completely unscalable (manual prospecting to get a few leads, chasing prospects down rather than getting them to come to you, and living off project revenue, so there’s never consistent income or time for you).
Josh Nelson has a very new approach, and he shares the best of what is working in his business, and for the agencies, he works with to build million-dollar agencies.
The Seven Figure Agency Roadmap is a must-have resource for digital marketing agency owners. Increase your income, work when and how you want, get your clients incredible results, and live your desired lifestyle.
11. They Ask You Answer
In today’s digital age, the traditional sales funnel-marketing at the top, sales in the middle, and customer service at the bottom – is no longer effective. To succeed, businesses must obsess over the questions, concerns, and problems their buyers have, and address them honestly and as thoroughly as possible.
Every day, buyers turn to search engines to ask billions of questions. Having the answers they need can attract thousands of potential buyers to your company – but only if your content strategy puts your answers at the top of those search results. A simple and powerful equation produces growth and success: They Ask, You Answer.
Using these principles, author Marcus Sheridan led his struggling pool company from the bleak depths of the housing crash of 2008 to become one of the largest pool installers in the United States. Discover how his proven strategy can work for your business and master the principles of inbound and content marketing that have empowered thousands of companies to achieve exceptional growth.
They Ask, You Answer is a straightforward guide with practical tactics and insights for transforming your marketing strategy.
12. To Sell is Human
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, one in nine Americans works in sales. Every day more than 15 million people earn their keep by persuading someone else to make a purchase.
But dig deeper, and a startling truth emerges: Yes, one in nine Americans works in sales. But so do the other eight.
Whether we’re employees pitching colleagues on a new idea, entrepreneurs enticing funders to invest, or parents and teachers cajoling children to study, we spend our days trying to move others. Like it or not, we’re all in sales now.
To Sell Is Human offers a fresh look at the art and science of selling. Pink describes the six successors to the elevator pitch, the three rules for understanding another’s perspective, the five frames that can make your message clearer and more persuasive, and much more.
What’s your reading goal for this year?
Turn this list of books into an actionable reading plan for the year. If you’re not already using it, I highly recommend using Goodreads to set your reading challenge with the number of books you want to read this year.
I also recommend signing up for an Audible Plus or Premium membership. You can listen to audiobooks of these titles while you drive, work out, or even while you’re working in your business.