11 must have books for freelancers

We all need some extra stimulus from books sometimes, particularly when we are wrestling with a presentation or simply trying to come up with a name and idea for our business. We’ve put together a list of the top 11 books that we turn to at different stages in our freelance career and we’ve reviewed them here.

For when you are teetering on the edge of freelance-dom

1.     Free Agent Nation: The Future of Working for YourselfBy Daniel Pink.

It’s the daddy of all books about the changing world of work, and the inexorable move towards independent working.  Daniel Pink coined the term ‘free agents’ in a well known article for the Fast Company a decade ago, and many of the things that he wrote about back then have come to pass.

The book deals with the changes that have come to the corporate world and the economy thanks to the ever-larger numbers of people starting to work from home.  It’s a really good place to start your journey to independence because it just goes to show how long this idea has been around.

2.     Start Your Dream Business: Secrets of Successful and Happy EntrepreneursSarah Wade/Carole Ann Rice

The second of two books by Sarah Wade and Carole Ann Rice, this is not your average start up in business book. The thoughtful and provocative personal stories in the book from a diverse group of ‘got it aloners’ are absorbing and realistic.  If you are still thinking about whether you should take the plunge it is a great place to start feeling warm inside about working for yourself.

3.     The $100 Startup: Fire Your Boss, Do What You Love and Work Better to Live MoreChris Guillebeau

This really is an international best seller and Chris Guillebeau has a following around the world for the ideas you’ll find here and on his blog – The Art of Non Conformity.  He writes about how you can reinvent the way you think about making a living and find happiness.

What makes Chris’ book more likeable than the usual ‘make money anywhere’ location independence books is that he is honest about exactly how you can be successful at it.

He includes exercises for getting your ideas flowing too.

4.     My So-Called Freelance LifeMichelle Goodman

What I love about this book is that it is so much more than just a great resource filled start your own business book; it’s an honest, humorous appraisal of the realities of freelance life.

She really speaks the same language as us here at KindredHQ, and she talks a lot about how you need to build your freelance friend network and maintain a life.

For getting going

5.     Creative, Inc.: The Ultimate Guide to Running a Successful Freelance BusinessMeg Mateo Ilasco and Joy Deangdeelert Cho

I know this is on everyone’s list of lists for freelancers, but there’s a reason for that. Creative Inc is aimed at new creative freelancers but to be honest the resources and advice apply whatever you do. The book gets into the nitty gritty of administering your business, but it also includes interviews with freelancers that bring it all to life by asking the questions that we all want to know the answer to like ‘How did you come up with the name for your business?’ It’s a great read, and you’ll revisit it many times.

6.     The Freelancer’s BibleSara Horowitz

New from Sara Horowitz of the Freelancers’ Union, the Freelancers’ Bible is the heavyweight of all books about freelancing, and so it ought to be, given Sara’s credentials.  Despite her huge knowledge on the subject, it is an incredibly easy book to read and has particularly good sections on building out your portfolio of work and keeping the work flow coming in.

For motivating you when the going gets tough

7.     Be a Free Range Human Marianne Cantwell

Marianne Cantwell broke out of her cubicle cage, transformed her life and now eschews the daily commute and soul-destroying office grind in favour of a whirlwind tour of the globe. Before you think, oh yuk, she’s actually incredibly down to earth and In Be a Free Range Human Marianne makes one thing very clear throughout: the lifestyle of a Free Range Human is an attainable one, but it will take time, inspiration and a whole lot of sustained effort on your part to achieve it. If you’re ready to make the change and are prepared to roll up your sleeves and get stuck in, then book provides a genuinely helpful set of suggestions and resources to help you get started.

8.     Making Ideas HappenScott Belsky

Scott Belsky is the man behind Behance, the online portfolio site and its spin off thought leadership blog and conference, 99U.  He passionately believes that just because you are creative, it doesn’t mean that you can’t organise yourself to get things done, and that in not doing so, you are underselling yourself.

Making Ideas Happen is a great resource, whether you are a ‘creative’ or not. Belsky breaks down the formula for greater productivity into (The idea) + organisation + Execution + forces of community + leadership capability. It’s stacked full of ways to rethink your processes and learn new behaviours for creating stuff.

For finding new clients

9.     Get Clients NowCJ Hayden

If someone asked you when you first start out what you most need to know you’d probably say ‘ how do I make sure I have a full client pipeline’!  Well this book is just what you need then.  It’s based around a 28-day marketing programme and it’s highly practical, allowing you to tailor the plan that works for you and your type of business.

Because it’s easy to put marketing yourself and your business on the back burner while you deal with the client projects in front of you, it’s useful to have something that you can do in bite size chunks. I love it.

For selling yourself

10.  Fusion: The New Way of MarketingDavid Taylor

To be honest, for many of us, the whole social media thing can feel completely overwhelming when you are trying to work on your business. Unless it IS your business, of course.  Keeping on top of all the different things you’re supposed to be doing, and being effective at it is no mean feat.

What we love about Fusion is that whilst it is written by Lon Safko who ‘gets’ social media, it is based on solid marketing principles, and he argues that you should start with a strategy before you decide on which tools will work best for you.  It’s real common sense and will help you avoid spending a lot of wasted time and energy on media that won’t work for your particular market.

11.  Uprising: How to Build a Brand–and Change the World–By Sparking Cultural MovementsScott Goodson

The premise of this book is that you create a vision for your ‘brand’ that turns into a story as your movement grows. It makes complete sense that you engage your customers by drawing them in and making them active participants in your plans, rather than passive consumers of your service or product.

It’s an easy read, and full of practical advice that you can easily put into action.







Who is Alex Butler

Hello, I'm Alex Butler and I founded the KindredHQ community and blog back in 2011 after I re-started a freelance career. I LOVE freelancing and I wouldn't swop the freedom, control and joy of working for myself for anything. But I realised how much I missed the company and energy of other people - of having a team around me. So, I got a few people together one day with our laptops, a jar of coffee and some jelly babies and we sat and worked together one afternoon. We've been doing that every week in London, UK since then! I am still 100% freelance and I like to share the everyday highs and lows of being a freelancer here on the blog.


  1. C.J. Hayden Reply →

    Alex, thanks so much for putting my book Get Clients Now! on your must-have list. I appreciate your vote of confidence!

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