I'm sort of obsessed with reading business books.
At any given time, you'll find 3-5 stacked on my bedside table. Below are a few of my favorites, which I find myself recommending to my clients over and over again. If you're looking for books that can help you narrow in on the work you enjoy most and charge more money for your services, these are a great place to start.
I'll be adding more to this list as time goes on, so check back whenever you need some fresh inspiration!
*Please note that the links below are affiliate links, which means I might make a bit of dough if you purchase any of these books via these links.
Badass Your Brand
By Pia Silva
Oooh, I love this book! It's written by a woman who started a design business with her husband. They took the path that so many small service businesses take: grab any little project you can get, fail a little bit, then start charging more, fail bigger, then start getting "better" projects that you don't actually like, then wonder what the hell you're doing all of this for. The difference is that this couple then figured out a great formula for doing only what they love for only the clients they love and only in one very specific package – and they make big bucks doing it. As Pia says in the book, "This book shows you exactly how we took our company from being $40,000 in debt to making $500,000 in 12 months – and how you can successfully apply the very same process to your business."
Badass Your Brand is a quick, easy read that will get you thinking about your brand and your services in a whole new way. It will challenge you to do things differently than your competitors. It will ask you to raise your rates and increase your value. And it teaches you how to price your services so that the money you make is more in line with your personal goals. Pia also reminds you that being a "badass brand" is not for the faint of heart; it means swimming against the current and being a total turn-off to clients that aren't a good fit. It means taking some risks. But it also means you could do what Pia did, and transform a struggling business into a powerhouse.
Start With Why
By Simon Sinek
When I start working with a new client, 95% of the time we spend our first hour talking about their life story. I ask questions about where they came from, their family, their education, their hobbies and interests. I think people are often surprised by this, but the reason is simple: I’m trying to understand their “why” – the seed or path in their life that brought them to their current work – which should inform every aspect of their brand.
Simon’s amazing book explains why starting with WHY in any business or movement is essential – not just from a marketing perspective but also from a biological one (based on how our emotional brains make decisions). He shares his concept of the Golden Circle, which should change the way any entrepreneur describes their services to their clients. (You can also watch his popular TED talk on the concept.)
If you’re having trouble pinpointing your WHY, check out the follow-up book Find Your Why, which gives a brief summary of the concepts in Start With Why before giving detailed instructions for discovering your own.
The Win Without Pitching Manifesto
By Blair Enns
Whenever anyone complains to me that they’re losing money on the proposal process, or that they find themselves giving away a lot of free insight to a client before they even get hired, I tell them to read this book.
As Blair states on his website, “This book is a rallying cry to creative professionals worldwide to throw off the shackles of the pitch.” It was written mostly for designers and ad agencies who are expected to show off the work they would do for a client before they even get hired (think Mad Men). But the ideas in this book can be groundbreaking for anyone in a creative profession.
The author challenges us to see ourselves as true experts, not as mercenaries at the client’s beck and call. To charge more and discuss money early on. To specialize so that we can differentiate ourselves and demand higher fees. To play the game by our rules, not the clients’. It’s a short, empowering read that just might become your new “Bible.”
Positioning for Professionals
By Tim Williams
Ok, so the cover of this book looks dreadfully boring, a little like a Microsoft operating system manual or something. Yuck! I certainly didn’t buy it for its looks. I bought it because the author was raved about repeatedly in a podcast I heard. And once I picked it up, I couldn’t put it down. All I could think was, “ALL OF MY CLIENTS NEED TO READ THIS.”
If you’ve ever questioned whether narrowing your niche or specializing is a good thing, this book is for you. Williams gives comprehensive and well-studied reasonings for why specialized businesses are so much more effective and successful. Similar to The Win Without Pitching Manifesto (above), this book was mainly written for design and advertising agencies – but the concepts are totally applicable to any service-based business.
The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving A F*ck
By Sarah Knight
This isn’t really a business book per se, but holy crap does this concept apply to running a business! Or, at least running a business well, where you don’t regret the whole thing every day. The author explains that every person only has so many fucks to give (think in terms of time, energy, and money), so it’s really important to use them wisely – i.e. give fewer fucks to things that you don’t like, so that you have more fucks to give to the things that are really important to you.
It’s a simple concept, but as I’m sure you know, living life this way is easier said than done. Knight gives concrete examples, ways to maneuver tricky situations, and even a flowchart for deciding when you should or shouldn’t give a fuck. She covers everything from work to family, and shows you how to prioritize your fucks. But most of all, this book is a humorous and invigorating pep talk on not caring about what other people think, and making room in your life for the good stuff. And, well… fuck the rest!