I am a freelance consultant, copywriter, marketer, professional speaker, and web designer. I have been self-employed and in my own business full-time for 20 years. I did a little part-time consulting before I started my own business, but it was negligible. I made my freelancing journey much easier with this essential reading list. The skill set you need to master when you are self-employed can be daunting, but this list of the 10 best books for freelancers. Many books give you the basics, but far fewer focus on specific skills that allow you to earn a high income. Anyone can be a freelancer, but not everyone will be a top-earning freelancer, so let’s get started with a list of the best books for freelancers.
10 Best Books for Freelancers
- The Wealthy Freelancer: by Steve Slaunwhite, Pete Savage, and Ed Gandia
- Making a Living Without a Job: by Barbara J. Winter
- Secrets of a Freelance Writer: by Robert W. Bly
- Million Dollar Consulting: by Alan Weiss
- The Six Figure Consultant: by Robert W. Bly
- Value Based Fees: by: Alan Weiss
- The New Rules of Marketing & PR: by David Meerman Scott
- Duct Tape Marketing: by John Jantsch
- The Tax & Legal Playbook: by Mark Kohler
- Lower Your Taxes Big Time: by Sandy Botkin
It was tough culling a list of the best books for freelancers. There are so many great books out there. I chose various books to help you if you are interested in a freelancing business. I also chose books that help if you are interested in consulting or writing, as both can be very lucrative and are popular areas for freelancers. Creative work is a popular area for a freelance career, and consulting and writing fall into that category. Finally, I chose some books that other lists skip over: marketing, taxes, legal, and finance. Most generalized books on freelancing will discuss a little marketing or cover very basic tax items, but if you are going to be a high-growth freelancer that breaks out of the rat race, these materials won’t be enough. You will need more specialized advice to help you when your income grows.
The list is not in any particular order, but I did group them by topic area. Also, some of these books go through updates, so when purchasing, please ensure you get the most current edition. Finally, as noted above, some of the books are focused more on consulting and writing careers, as I am most familiar with, but the books that cover those are broad enough to cover several areas.
10 Best Books for Freelancers
The Wealthy Freelancer: by Steve Slaunwhite, Pete Savage, and Ed Gandia
This book is a collaboration between three professional copywriters and marketing consultants, but the topics in the book are broad and will help freelancers in any business. Every freelancer struggles with marketing their services and getting a steady stream of clients and projects. These guys are marketers and copywriters, so they thoroughly cover this topic. Several ideas and concepts help freelancers find, market, and nurture new clients. They also discuss transforming those clients into repeat and retainer business, a critical skill for every freelancer. Without repeat and retainer income, you are constantly hustling for brand new clients and projects, which can be exhausting and burn out even the most ambitious freelancer.
They also cover pricing your services, an area every freelancer struggles with. Too many freelancers believe you need to price your services low to attract clients, but this will quickly lead to a slew of low-paying and demanding clients that will quickly burn you out. To be a successful freelancer, you need to learn how to charge what you are worth. They continue by discussing tips for productivity and building the ideal work-life balance. Finally, they discuss something critical for all freelance professionals: alternative income streams. I call this concept multiple streams of income, which is the same thing. Building alternative income streams will take a lot of pressure off the nut you need to crack every month in earnings from your business. The title lives up to its name. I learned a lot of great strategies from this book and recommend it to every new freelancer.
Making a Living Without a Job: by Barbara J. Winter
I met Barbara many years ago when my business was relatively new. Sadly, she passed away in 2022. Barbara introduced readers to the concept of building a business around your passions. She was an artist, writer, consultant, speaker, and world traveler. I once asked Barbara how she felt about Tim Ferriss and his book 4-Hour Work Week. She felt the book focused too much on “living for the weekend” and said she built her business around her passions and how to get paid for them. The book focuses on keeping your business small and adaptable. She helps new freelancers uncover their assets, market on a shoestring, cultivate their interests, and how to turn that into a business. The book has several inspirational stories showing freelancers from all walks of life and how they built a business around their passions.
She also discusses the concept of multiple profit centers. I found her approach to this topic interesting as she built what she called “anchor” profit centers and then worked in other profit centers around those core components. I liked this idea so much that it is a concept I built into my business and has worked well for nearly 20 years. She was also a passionate world traveler, so she found ways to get paid to travel by building it into her business. No matter what freelance activity you want to pursue, I promise you will find several gems in this exciting book.
Secrets of a Freelance Writer: by Robert W. Bly
Bob Bly is a freelance marketing copywriter. He started his business before the Internet and created terrific strategies and techniques for self-promotion and marketing that many freelancers who followed years later adapted and many still use today. Once the Internet became widespread, freelancers found his strategies even more potent and easier to implement.
Read this book if you want to become a writer or implement this as a profit center in your freelance business. He discusses unique strategies for finding clients, establishing yourself as the undisputed expert in your field, and keeping the work flowing. He covers a range of topics every writer needs, including how to locate new markets, land clients, ensure client satisfaction, and how to run your business efficiently. Every business in a creative endeavor faces one problem: how to find work and run your business, and Bob has covered those topics extensively.
Million Dollar Consulting: by Alan Weiss
Alan Weiss is an independent consultant who has been earning over a million dollars a year for many years. He calls himself the consultant’s consultant. This is a must-read book if you want to run a consulting business. He explains what a consultant is and how to set up your business correctly. He discusses finding clients, marketing and self-promotion, and, most importantly, how to price your services. He also discusses how to write a proposal differently from anything I have seen in the consulting world. It focuses on creating options for the client. He explains that giving options at various price points completely changes the sales psychology. It isn’t a question of will we use this consultant, but how we will use him, i.e., what option to choose. This was a complete paradigm shift for my business.
Mr. Weiss introduces another revolutionary concept for consultants, which is value-based pricing. Again, this is a revolutionary idea in consulting. You work with clients to determine the value of your contribution to the company and base your project pricing on collecting a piece of that value instead of working on an hourly retainer, which is a terrible business model. This was one of the best books I read when I started my consulting career. In addition, if consulting is included in your freelancing career and you suffer from imposter syndrome, this book will be beneficial. Mr. Weiss discusses how to position yourself so you are regarded as the expert you are.
The Six Figure Consultant: by Robert W. Bly
This is another excellent book by Bob Bly. He starts the book by discussing what a consultant is and what you do as a consultant. Many might think if you want to become an independent consultant that, this should be obvious, but it isn’t if you have never done any professional consulting before. Bob discusses how to set up a project, help the client understand what they will get for their investment, and execute it. He also discusses other important topics like managing your time, customer service, and managing your billables.
Where Bob shines is in his marketing chapters. He discusses a crucial topic for consultants: building and managing your reputation. People hire consultants based on their reputation and track record. He shows new consultants how to build a promotional kit, find clients, generate sales leads, and promote your practice. Finally, he discusses two topics I found fascinating. He discusses how to build multiple streams of income with informational products and professional speaking. As a consultant, you are selling your expertise. He shows you how to package that expertise in different forms, which can create lucrative income streams for a consultant and, as a bonus, build your reputation in the process.
Value-Based Fees: by: Alan Weiss
One of the most revolutionary and important things I learned as a new consultant was getting away from the hourly billing model. Think about when you call your attorney, and you know that the meter is running the second they pick up the phone. In the back of your mind, you hope you can figure out how to solve your problem in the shortest time possible. Mr. Weiss was one of the first in the consulting industry to point out that this model is outdated and puts you at odds with the client from day one. He argues that you and the client should collaborate on the desired outcome and then create a price to achieve it regardless of the time it takes. In other words, remove the time component from a client engagement. This was an excellent insight for me and every other independent consultant that billed by the hour.
He goes much further in this book by laying out a topic he discussed in his Million Dollar Consultant book: value-based pricing. He explains what value-based pricing is, how to explain it to the client, how much it should be, and questions you ask the client to establish the value of your contribution. Once that is determined, he shows you how to structure your project fees to get a piece of the value you create for the client. The process is very collaborative with the client and removes opposition inherent in time-based project fees while simultaneously boosting your earnings on every project you do. This book was a game changer for me when I read and started implementing his ideas in my consulting practice. This concept can quickly multiply several fold your earnings in a year.
The New Rules of Marketing & PR: by David Meerman Scott
No list of the best books for freelancers would be complete without this book. Freelancers often need to improve at marketing their services. Unfortunately, if nobody knows your business exists, you will never be hired or, worse, be forced to work for low-paying clients. David focuses his book on how to market your business on the Internet. He discusses using social media, video, blogs, news releases, viral marketing, and content to build constant traffic to your website. His material also discusses branding and positioning you and your business as THE business that your clients need to hire by using all these strategies for reputation and promotional management.
One of his unique approaches is “Newsjacking” which is the strategy of finding trending stories and news and creatively inserting yourself into the middle of it to develop publicity and promotion for you and your business. Instead of you working your tail off to get noticed, he flips the script by showing you to ride the back of what is already in the news and using it to your advantage. This book must be on your shortlist if you want to leverage the Internet to grow your business.
Duct Tape Marketing: by John Jantsch
Sticking with marketing, which small businesses and freelancers are terrible at, Duct Tape Marketing comes to the rescue. John shows you how to define your ideal customer and position your marketing to reach that customer. He discusses how you can market to your ideal customer, including direct mail, Internet, advertising, and referral marketing, one of the most powerful ways to grow a freelance business.
One of the unique things in this book that made it stand out is building a funnel of products and services that match each stage of your client development. When a client is brand new, they are unlikely to hire you for your Cadillac engagement. Instead, they want to see how you do on a lower-risk project. He shows you how to develop products and services for the new client but continually moves them up your funnel to progressively more expensive (and profitable) products and services. This helps you not only earn repeat business but business that is increasingly more profitable. The book has a lot of practical advice that is easy to understand and implement for any small business.
“In order to be knowledgeable in these changing times, we must pursue a constant program of self-improvement, a never-ending journey into new fields of knowledge and learning.”
The Tax & Legal Playbook: by Mark Kohler
We are going to switch gears with these last two recommendations. One thing circulating in the freelance community is how you get health insurance and other benefit plans that exist in the corporate world. The following two recommendations will discuss that. Reading a money book focusing on tax, legal, finance, bookkeeping, etc., will push many people outside their comfort zone, but unfortunately, you can’t outsource this. Forming the correct entity for asset protection, proper bookkeeping, and reducing taxes are often overlooked but are essential in running any business, including a freelance business. Mark Kohler writes books that are easy to read, written in plain English, and packed with great advice for dealing with all the legal and tax issues your freelance business will face. You must start doing this right from the beginning. One of the main advantages of self-employment is the tax advantages you can get, BUT only if you set up the proper entities, keep good books, and document your write-offs correctly.
The best thing about Mark’s book is that he covers a lot of ground in a short read. He discusses tax deductions, entity formation, bookkeeping, retirement planning, health care and HSAs, privacy, how to document a partnership, dealing with the IRS, and includes some case studies. The chapters are relatively short but well-written, easy to understand, and filled with excellent advice. I warn new freelancers and small business owners, don’t overlook this by thinking it is unimportant until you “make it.” That type of thinking is utterly backward thinking and wrong. This should be one of the first things you start figuring out and doing right from the beginning.
Further, don’t think your CPA will do it for you, or you can “fix it” later. Both of those thoughts will cause you many problems down the road. Learn these things and do them yourself. Nobody cares as much about your business as you do.
Lower Your Taxes Big Time: by Sandy Botkin
This insightful read focuses on the fantastic tax advantages small business owners get. These tax incentives exist because the government wants you to start a small business. The entire book is focused on tax planning and implementing the many deductions available to freelancers (if structured and documented correctly) for setting up and running a business. There are ways to get deductions for a home office, your car, meals, vacations, paying your kids and family, and many other things, but ONLY if you are set up correctly and do them how the IRS wants you to do them. Mr. Botkin was a former IRS auditor and CPA, so he understands how to set up the deductions and properly document them to survive an IRS audit. Again, this isn’t illegal, but it must be correct.
What is great about Mr. Botkin’s book is that he covers a wide range of tax deductions and explains how to document them. You can go through and pick and choose the best strategies for your business. He updates the book yearly to stay on top of current tax law. Every high growth freelance business owner must learn and implement tax planning. Most CPAs are good at taking what you give them and filing your tax return. Unfortunately, many don’t provide specific tax planning services unless you pay much higher fees, and even then, it can be hit or miss. It is much easier to read and understand how this works and then review them with your CPA to ensure you are doing what you need. Once you learn these strategies and implement them properly with your CPA, you can enjoy tax savings for many years, but only if YOU understand it.
Those are the ten best books for freelancers that every business owner should read. Freelancing is a fantastic way to build the career of your dreams and live life on your own terms, but there is a lot to know, and these freelancing books will shorten your learning curve and help you set up best business practices from the beginning. Feel free to bookmark this article for future reference.
The information contained within this website is provided for informational and educational purposes only and is not intended to substitute for obtaining legal, accounting, tax, or financial advice from a professional tax planner or financial planner. Full disclosure
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