The 5 Best Business Books for Freelancers

By Bethany Johnson, Contributor, on April 30, 2018

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When I consider how I’ve learned some valuable business lessons over the years, one particular practice of mine stands out: I regularly turn off the TV to read the best business books written by qualified, articulate authors — especially the books that hit the bestseller lists.

But building a successful business is not a topic that can be covered in one book, no matter how hard some authors may try. If you’re looking to get your freelance venture off the ground, there are various titles you could benefit from reading. Here are five books to get you started.

“Shark Tales” by Barbara Corcoran

When I’m considering picking up a memoir or how-to, my first criteria is the author’s roots. Some celebrities have penned stories that begin with a privileged childhood and wealthy parents. Sure, those narratives are always fascinating, but they’re not really relevant to my life as an entrepreneur.

Barbara Corcoran tells the kind of story I can get into. Her family, just like mine, struggled financially when she was growing up. Her high school report card read straight Ds and she job-hopped for most of her young adulthood before she took a leap of faith. With a $1,000 loan, Corcoran started a real estate company called The Corcoran Group, which she grew and eventually sold for $66 million before taking a role as an investor on the popular TV series “Shark Tank.” As a mentor, she focuses on overcoming obstacles, and her books help freelancers do just that.

“I Will Teach You to Be Rich” by Ramit Sethi

Next up is Ramit Sethi, whose bestselling book debunks the myth that to get rich, you have to be really frugal. Instead, he emphasizes wealth creation, not penny-pinching. The book takes readers through six weeks of a personal finance refresh, and it applies directly to the freelance lifestyle. Lesson number one? Define your picture of success and brace yourself to say “no” to the rest. And it doesn’t hurt that Sethi’s a huge proponent of gaining side gigs to leverage your talent and time, a philosophy I naturally appreciate.

“Rich Dad Poor Dad” by Robert Kiyosaki

When Robert Kiyosaki’s book arrived on the scene, I purposely avoided it. After all, I was a single, female business owner. Not a dad. What information could this book possibly have for me? Over the next 15 years, the book grew in popularity, until one day I found myself trapped on a road trip with someone who wanted to listen to the audio version. But to my delight, the author uses stories to illustrate every single point, delivering a thought-provoking and refreshing change from the business books to which I’m accustomed. The best takeaway for freelancers? A new ability to identify assets versus liabilities. Before this book, I thought I could spot the difference. Today, I know for sure.

Kiyosaki’s other main emphasis is the pursuit of passive income. He doesn’t shy away from the truth: If you’re trading your time for money alone, you’re not building much of a business at all. Freelancers, take note.

“Tax-Free Wealth” by Tom Wheelwright

“The tax law is meant to help you, not hurt you,” writes author Tom Wheelwright. “In fact, over 95 percent of the tax code is intended to reduce taxes, not raise them.” If that sounds good to you, you’re not alone. Just like launching your own freelance business was the first step toward professional freedom, knowing how tax law works is the first step toward financial freedom. But don’t just take my word for it. Download a free chapter of Wheelwright’s book to see how it’ll affect your own freelance finances.

“What Management Is” by Joan Magretta

Imagine sitting down with the editor of the Harvard Business Review (HBR) and hearing her distill the major points from every HBR article, book and case study out there. Well, that’s just what Joan Magretta’s book does. Since HBR readership tends to be the C-suite of larger enterprises, I expected to drown in the first few pages. I feared that the book would be made up of complicated corporate financial mumbo-jumbo, organizational chart tips and tools for shareholder buy-ins.

Instead, I enjoyed story after story illustrating unexpected management principles that were directly applicable to my freelance business. For example, the book’s first half explains three major ideas: 1) Why management is everyone’s concern, 2) how strategy really means where not to focus and 3) what really matters when measuring success. The second half of the book then discusses the practical execution of the lessons learned in the first half, creating a map that shows you how to apply what you’ve learned to your own freelance business.

Reading the Best Business Books

Personal finance books are helpful, but freelancers need a more robust guide from experts who have proven their knowledge again and again. At the other end of the spectrum, though, most business books are geared toward large enterprises and don’t directly speak to the solopreneur. Don’t waste your time on business books that don’t apply to you — instead, use this list to read titles that address your personal career needs. Every author here recognizes the blurred lines between an entrepreneur’s professional, financial and personal goals, and their books will deliver tactics to help you achieve them all.

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