Part of being a successful freelancer is being hungry and willing to improve yourself. Books are arguably the best way to accomplish this. If you aren’t reading at least ten books a year, you are losing clients. Prioritise books on your craft, but reading, in general, is excellent for you.

The Personal Development and Self-Help genres get a lot of well-deserved flak. They are full of redundancy and garbage. However, there are some gem’s within these genres – books that I truly believe have the power to set you on a different path.

The following 7 books are books that I have read that have directly benefited my freelancing business. Whether it be their power to teach, motivate, or inspire, these books have a place on any entrepreneur’s bookshelf and are full of actionable advice that can benefit your business.

7. Gorilla Mindset: How to Control Your Thoughts and Emotions to Live Life on Your Terms by Mike Cernovich

“To become your own recognizable personal brand — You, Inc. — you must find a way to differentiate yourself. Becoming different is not without challenges. We are taught from birth to conform to the expectations of others — whether those are society’s expectations, our parents’ expectations, or our teachers’ expectations. Differentiation requires you to be uniquely you.”

Gorilla Mindset is a book on learning how to control your mindset, which will empower you to focus on achieving your goals. Mike Cernovich’s writing is clear, relatable, and instructional. Early on in the book, he talks about his own personal struggles related to his weight and low self-confidence, which any of us can relate too. He proceeds to break down how one takes the step to control your mind.

While he teaches on the process of coming to control your mind, Cernovich inserts snippets of actionable advice on how adopting “Gorilla Mindset shifts” breaks down your and tackles your problems one by one. These shifts are quick, one-two sentence hitters that aim to help you be mindful, positive, and healthy – which are all essential steps into training yourself to adopt a mindset that encourages you to succeed.

Reading books that are by authors that have been through the trenches and have a lot of personal experience to share are some of the best books to read because they are relatable. Gorilla Mindset is a quick read by an author who practices what he preaches, and as a freelancer or freelance business owner, this book will strengthen your resolve and confidence and will push you to challenge yourself.

See Also: Running a Business from Home: The Do’s and Don’ts

6. The Art of Learning: A Journey in the Pursuit of Excellence by Josh Waitzkin


It is rarely a mysterious technique that drives us to the top, but rather a profound mastery of what may well be a basic skill set. Depth beats breadth any day of the week because it opens a channel for the intangible, unconscious, creative components of our hidden potential.


Josh Waitzkin is a former child chess prodigy and international martial arts champion, and his book The Art of Learning is nothing short of inspiring. I’ve always been very interested in the idea of mastery and becoming world class at a small set of skills, and Waitzkin has achieved this feat in not only chess but in Tai Chi Push Hands as well. Waitzkin’s sheer depth in the skills and practices he’s picked up since childhood and how he ties them together make this book unique.

If you are inspired by reading autobiographies, this is the perfect read for you. Even though the book has very little to do with entrepreneurship, it contains many carryovers that will help you in your freelancing. Waitzkin writes a perfect synergy of chess, martial arts, philosophy, meditation, and mindfulness into one complete package and shares these concepts in a very simple way. There are many elements of Stoicism in this book, and learning how to find peace in the moments where you are most discouraged. The book will encourage you to dive deeper in the similar ways that Waitzkin did from such a young age, with a particular focus on your biggest challenges.

Waitzkin’s style of writing in this book is fantastic. His ability to mix stories of his personal life with his current philosophical understanding about the world makes this book one of a kind. The Art of Learning functions as a mentor, with Waitzkin as the master passing down his strategies to you in a way that brings out a hunger to excel.


5. The 4-Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss


“It is far more lucrative and fun to leverage your strengths instead of attempting to fix all the chinks in your armor.”

A polarizing book from the infamous Tim Ferriss, The 4-Hour Workweek is a must-read for anyone who is interested in optimization and efficiency. No, he will not teach you a fool-proof method of getting rich. Nobody will. But Tim Ferriss is a master in helping you get the most out of your time.

There’s no fluff in this book. Tim Ferriss tells you like it is, and cuts no corners. He aims to shatter any preconceived notions about your job, career and making money. Instead of trading your time for money, Ferriss guides you to spend money to free up your time, so that you can utilize your time to focus on the tasks that are most effective. The Pareto Principle plays a huge part in this book, and the author makes a very strong case for applying it everywhere in your life – looking for the 20% that results in the 80%. For example, Ferriss found out in his own business that it was 20% of customers causing 80% of the problems. What did he do? He fired them. Did he lose some money? Yes. The piece of mind he got from dropping these problem customers was worth far more than the money they would have given him.

The 4-Hour Workweek is full of specific tips for optimizing your time. Ferriss is a master of process, and by the end of this book, you will be questioning every part of your day – in a good way. If you ever needed the motivation to remove distractions and becoming productive instead active, this book will do that. Everything in this book is directly applicable and helpful for those of you in freelancing, where freeing up just a few hours a week can pay huge dividends.

Don’t expect a blueprint to get rich and work *only* four hours a week with this book. It’s possible, but Tim Ferriss’ real agenda is to help you optimize your time and process.


4. The Millionaire Fastlane: Crack the Code to Wealth and Live Rich for a Lifetime! by M.J. DeMarco

“Reflect on your choices. Are you in a situation because you delivered yourself there? Did you error in the process? Were you lazy? Most bad situations are consequences of bad choices. Own them and you own your life. No one can steer you off course, because you are in the driver’s seat.”

Yes, I know – it’s a horrible title. The title is so bad it almost kept me from adding it to my reading list. Despite the awful title, The Millionaire Fastlane is a rock solid book on learning how to make money by starting a business.

M.J. DeMarco argues that you should make your money in the “Fastlane.” The “Fastlane” means you make money through your own business, one that provides a valuable, in-demand service and one that you can scale. That Fastlane has never been easier to enter due to the Internet, thus being able to provide value for people around the world has never been cheaper or easier. He is critical of the other lanes – the Slowlane, where you expect to make your money through investing in a 401k, or the Sidewalk, which is the lane of financial disillusionment, and wants to steer you far and away from these lanes.

His writing is especially convincing because he outlines the steps he took to run his own businesses – starting with a limo renting business he built back in the late 1990s. M.J. DeMarco’s instructions are the most direct out of the books on this list, and he makes the argument that the Internet makes getting into the Fastlane than ever before. He breaks down every chapter with logical and sounds points, which might come as a surprise given the cheesy title. DeMarco’s strategy is being able to provide value to an ever-growing amount of people – that if you want to make millions, you have to reach millions.

This book is about much more than just starting a business and making money on the Internet, and DeMarco wants to change the way you think about money and finance. Instead of chasing dollars to find happiness, he talks about chasing dollars in order to find freedom, freedom to “live your life as you please” and freedom that makes finding happiness so much easier. The book is motivational in the sense that it gives you a solid framework for starting and succeeding in business, and he makes it very clear that you are accountable for where you are in life, and where you will end up. Become a producer and create value and you will always succeed in freelancing.


3. Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill

“Wishing will not bring riches. But desiring riches with a state of mind that becomes an obsession, then planning definite ways and means to acquire riches, and backing those plans with persistence which does not recognize failure, will bring riches.”

A classic that belongs on everybody’s shelf, Think and Grow Rich is a staple in the Self-Help genre. The book focuses mainly on mindset, and how you can “hack” your mind into thinking your way to financial success.

The greatest thing about Think and Grow Rich is how clear the writing is. Napoleon Hill is a master of writing in a language that is very easy to understand and apply. Like many of the other books in this list, Hill combines all areas of his knowledge into one complete package. He argues that “growing rich” comes down to controlling your mind, your thoughts, and your impulses. If you start with these, learn to control them, and master them, you are on the right path.

A common thread among all of these books is the themes of planning and persistence, and this book carries explains them better than any other book on this list. Even though the book was first published nearly 80 years ago, the book’s relevance is timeless and the principles found in the book are just as important today. If you have read anything related to personal development, it’s nearly guaranteed that you’ll find the powerful influence this book has had on the genre. It truly reads like the grandfather of personal development and gives you a great foundation for developing your mindset.

Master your mind so you can master yourself, and master yourself so that you can master your business. Hill gives you a rundown of how Capitalistic markets work in Think and Grow Rich and describes the type of thinking you need to adopt in order to be successful. If anything else, this book will convince you how powerful and focused you can make your mind in going after what you want.


2. How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big : Kind of the Story of My Life by Scott Adams

“Success isn’t magic; it’s generally the product of picking a good system and following it until luck finds you.”

Scott Adams is a terrific writer, and his book is a tremendous account of how his failures helped lead him to success. His dry sense of humor makes this book much different than other books in the genre. This book is a very fun read, and even with the sarcastic tone, Adams drive’s home some very powerful and original ideas that aren’t found in your typical personal development book.

The main takeaway from this book is the importance of “systems” versus “goals”. Adams argues that you should be focused on building the best possible system for yourself. A system, as opposed to goals, is based on the idea of repetition and persistence instead of aiming for one particular achievement. Although goals can be helpful, Adams writing on adopting a systems mindset is very powerful and forces you to do something on a day to day basis in order to get better at it. This in itself will bring your goals to you.

Another major argument found in How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big is the argument for quantity over quality when it comes to your skillset. Adams makes the case for learning and failing at many, many things, and that this shotgun approach to your skills is the best approach for success. He writes that he himself is above average at many things, and all of them put together makes him into a well-rounded guy, a combination of skills that has made Dilbert such a successful series.

The book even contains a section on diet, which is unusual for the Personal Development genre. This section has some great stuff for how simple changes in his diet and fitness routine really helped him improve his system. If you’re well read on dieting and know what to eat and what not to, then this topic this chapter of the book can be safely skipped, but it emphasizes the importance of taking care of one’s body if you want to “Win Big.”


1. The Education of Millionaires: It’s Not What You Think and It’s Not Too Late by Michael Ellsberg

“In this increasingly unpredictable and chaotic world, the wisest choice for thriving and flourishing is to focus your efforts on cultivating skills, habits, and ways of being that will work for you under a wide range of market circumstances and economic realities, and which will allow you to bounce back and adapt to changes, shifts, shocks, crashes, and new opportunities as they arise. This is called cultivating resilience.”

This is the book that convinced me to start my own freelancing business, and that I could succeed in learning and applying skills that were entirely unrelated to my 5-year degree. The author himself, Michael Ellsberg, talks about his struggle with unemployment after graduating college as an aspiring writer. After years of deluding himself and realizing he wasn’t going to become a bestselling author (yet!), he decided to start looking to freelance in copywriting. He went on to run a very successful copywriting business, and further expanded his skill set and knowledge to help others break down how to really be successful at your craft.

The Education of Millionaires functions a bit like a textbook on how to start freelancing and get into entrepreneurship. The author breaks down what exactly it is that startup founders, successful freelancers, and savvy businessmen all know into digestible and easy to read chapters. The book is organized like a course on what steps you must take, and what key points that you must build your business on in order to design a successful lifestyle where your services are always in demand.

One thing Ellsberg gets absolutely right is the importance of learning how to sell, no matter your craft. As important as your craft is, sales and getting new clients is ultimately going to drive your business. You need to spend as much time networking and selling as you do studying your craft, as sales are the lifeblood of your business.

The Education of Millionaires has a bit of everything: it has story elements, motivational elements, instructional elements, business elements, and many more. Ellsberg ties all of these together into a masterful book on developing yourself so that you can develop an excellent business, a business that provides value and meets a demand.

Leave some of your favorite books that you believe have impacted your freelancing career in a positive way in the comments below.

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