8 Best Books for Freelancers – Accelerate Your Solo Career

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Whether you’re already a freelancer or are just watching from the sidelines ready to take the leap, knowledge is everything.

Here are 8 books covering a range of freelance-related topics from getting your business off the ground, finding the right mindset, improving productivity, and plenty more.

Keep in mind that not all of these books are specifically aimed at freelancers, but nonetheless contain invaluable information no matter which kind of business you’re running!

The E-Myth Revisited – Michael E. Gerber

“If your business depends on you, you don’t own a business – you have a job.”

Michael E. Gerber

The E-Myth‘s fundamental thesis is that just because you know how to do the technical work done by a business, it doesn’t mean you know how to run a business that does that technical work.

To run a successful small business, you need to take on multiple roles at once, have an unquenching desire to learn, and be capable of real change to drive your business forward.

Gerber breaks down ways to properly harness these multiple roles, the different stages of growth for your business, and generally how to make your business work for you, and not vice versa. This especially involves creating replicable systems and creating good documentation for future hires to reduce your own need for being hands-on at all times.

Who is it for?

For freelancers who find it hard to stop themselves from being hands-on in every step of their business and want to learn how to work on their business rather just in their business.

The 4-Hour Workweek – Tim Ferriss

“Doing something unimportant well does not make it important.”

Tim Ferriss

With a world that often puts “workaholism” on a pedestal, The 4-Hour Workweek aims to be the antidote to this madness.

It’s not necessarily about taking the title literally, but simply trying to cut down your working hours to a reasonable level. This can be done by streamlining your operation, going more digital, and automating or outsourcing tedious tasks and time-sinks.

Ferriss lays out some ways that you can not only generate more free time, but also more profits alongside it! There’s a reason why this has become such a cult classic.

Who is it for?

Freelancers who feel overworked and want to take back control over their time, as well as those who are early in their freelance career and want to set up a streamlined operation before getting started.

Atomic Habits – James Clear

“Success is the product of daily habits—not once-in-a-lifetime transformations.”

James Clear

This isn’t specifically for freelancers, but is an amazing resource for shifting your mindset when it comes to getting better results from your work and overcoming procrastination.

James Clear’s concept is all about getting into small habits that eventually develop into powerful routines for self-improvement and productivity. Instead of focusing on your goals, Clear instead advocates for focusing on your system with 4 “Laws of Behavior Change” to motivate yourself (and eventually overcome the need for motivation), surrounding yourself with a beneficial environment, and knowing who you want to become.

It’s a great read that should be compelling to anyone with a passing interest in psychology and self-improvement – and goes a lot more in-depth than I’ve made out above.

Who is it for?

Freelancers who struggle with managing their time, want to find a solid routine, and generally want to improve the behaviors that define their freelance work and life as a whole.

The Freelancer’s Bible – Sara Horowitz

When you start freelancing, the roller-coaster ride of freelance cash flow can be scary and stressful. It’s important to realize that freelancing is its own animal, entirely different from regular paid work, with its own mindset and methods.

Sara Horowitz

The Freelancer’s Bible does its best to be true to its name, with an extensive collection of advice from how to invoice clients, develop client relationships, market yourself, subcontract out work, and overall how to grow your business.

A chunk of the information here is primarily aimed at a US audience (such as taxes and investment opportunities), but the majority applies to freelancers the world over. It’s about a decade old at this point, but is still a great compendium of freelance advice to keep you headed in the right direction.

Who is it for?

All freelancers, especially those starting out and wanting a good high-level overview of what it takes – plus it’s a good reference for existing freelancers to pick up as and when they need it.

Anything You Want – Derek Sivers

“When you make a company, you make a utopia. It’s where you design your perfect world”.

Derek Sivers

Probably one of the best books on developing an entrepreneurial mindset ever written. Anything You Want contains 40 valuable lessons on how to make your business work for both you and your customers – with a particular focus on your customers and making them feel special.

Sivers’ uses the growth of his own company, CD Baby (which he eventually sold for $22 million), as the backdrop to a lot of these chapters. Although it doesn’t give you the play-by-play on freelancing, it will likely give you invaluable insight into yourself and what kind of freelance business you want to run.

Who is it for?

Anyone who wants to start a business (or is already running one) but wants to shape their mindset to better serve themselves and their customers.

Company Of One – Paul Jarvis

“There’s nothing wrong with finding the right size and then focusing on being better. Small can be a long-term plan, not just a stepping-stone.”

Paul Jarvis

Company of One is about reframing your freelance mindset. Instead of being just a freelancer, it’s about recognizing that you’re actually trying to build a small business.

Some of the core ideas that Jarvis lays out include limiting growth (which may seem counterintuitive to some), targeting a hyper-specific niche, and focusing on fast, early profits instead of investing big early on.

Company of One is full of great advice and plenty of examples for you to draw inspiration from, whether you’re already freelancing or are just watching from the sidelines ready to take the leap. Although it’s not specifically targeted at freelancers (although the name might seem that way), there are numerous lessons that apply to any business owner here.

Who is it for?

For freelancers who believe that fast and limitless growth is the only way forward – Company of One shows that gradual and limited growth with a specific focus can instead be the perfect formula for success.

Rework – Jason Fried

“Workaholics aren’t heroes. They don’t save the day, they just use it up. The real hero is home because she figured out a faster way.”

Jason Fried

Rework is all about doing away with the commonplace complexity of business, from excessive meetings, paperwork, or even just planning too far ahead. According to Fried, simpler is better, faster, and more productive. He even has the receipts to prove it, since he did the same with his own business, Basecamp.

Fried’s plan is to make you more efficient by cutting back on unimportant things, market yourself on the cheap, and generally blast you with plenty of ideas to stimulate you and your business.

Who is it for?

Freelancers who may be trapped in a “traditional” business mindset without much success, or those who want to ditch their previous work and start on their own with a fresh mindset and zero constraints.

Hourly Billing is Nuts – Jonathan Stark

…I realize that most people bill for projects on an hourly basis. I also realize that with enough discipline, it can seem like it’s working. However, it’s an outdated practice born of cost accounting and factory management that was never meant as a means of setting prices for professional services. As far as I can tell, it only lives on through inertia.

Jonathan Stark
Hourly Billing is Nuts book cover

As you can probably tell from the title, Jonathan Stark doesn’t believe in hourly billing, but instead promotes the idea of so-called “value pricing” (essentially quoting a specific price for a given job without tying it to time spent working).

I’m not personally advocating for his exact system, but he makes a lot of thought-provoking points and the book can help shift your mindset on what income and especially the concept of “profit” can mean to a freelancer.

While it’s a very specific read, it can give you some clarity if you’ve had trouble with billing structures in the past or think it’s time for a change now.

Who is it for?

For freelancers who aren’t sure what pricing structure to adopt, as well as freelancers who charge by the hour but feel like it’s time for a change (but perhaps don’t know exactly why).

If you’ve already started your freelancing journey and are focused on writing, you might find some useful reads in our piece on the best books for copywriters.

If you haven’t taken the leap yet, you can check the how to get started with freelancing checklist and learn how to get started today!