If you plan to start a freelance writing career, there’s a lot you need to know before you take on a life of self-employment.
There’s much more to a freelance writing career than creating a blog, setting your own hours and working full-time from home. It can be one of the best decisions you make for your life and overall wellbeing, but too many people start their freelancing journey only to realize they know a lot less than they thought.
In 2019, there are more than 62 million freelancers working in the U.S., and that number continues to increase year by year. Freelance work isn’t going anywhere as more people are discovering they’d rather indulge in a flexible work lifestyle than sit in a chair inside a cubicle 40 or more hours per week.
Reading about what you’re interested in is the best way to figure out if it’s right for you as well as sharpen your skill set and prepare for what’s ahead. In this post, we’re going to look at books that cover the following:
The basics of a freelance writing career and what it takes
How to write excellent content
The process of finding and landing clients
Maintaining a healthy work-life balance
How to manage your finances as a self-employed worker
Here are 10 books you must read before launching your freelance writing career this year.
1. The Essential Guide to Freelance Writing: How to Write, Work, and Thrive on Your Own Terms by Zachary Petit
There’s a lot that goes into a freelance writing career that someone new to the idea will, understandably, have tons of questions about it. Petit does a great job of diving into the basics and does so by explaining things in a way that anyone can understand. This book covers multiple facets of freelancing life which include how to build a writing platform, which niche of writing to break into, and how to conduct interviews.
2. The Freelancer's Bible: Everything You Need to Know to Have the Career of Your Dreams―On Your Terms by Sara Horowitz
Another great read to devour when you’re just getting into freelance writing is this book by Sara Horowitz, founder of the Freelancers Union. It’s not only for those new to freelancing but also gives valuable insights to those who are already self-employed. Every freelancer is going to come across challenges while building their career, and Horowitz outlines how to do all of those things even though it’s overwhelming at times. The book delves into topics like setting up a home office, creating contracts, negotiating with clients, and much more.
Writing excellent content
If you’re going to make it as a freelance writer, you better know how to write and do it well. Ann Hadley’s novel goes into great detail about how to create content that sells. Content marketing is how you market to your audience without them knowing that’s what you’re doing, but only good writers are able to master this art. Communicating through writing is an absolute necessity in this line of work and will determine your income, so it’s best to read up on how to perfect your craft so you can be a successful freelance writer in your niche.
4. Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott
Though this book doesn’t specifically cater to freelancers, it’s a must if you want to learn more about writing for an audience and writing well. Many writers go into the industry with unrealistic expectations failing to realize that it’s a real job that takes real hard work and dedication to master. Lamott doesn’t shy away from sharing the truth about writer’s block, horrible first drafts, and how you can be your own worst enemy standing in the way of your success.
5. Warm Email Prospecting: How to Use Short and Simple Emails to Land Better Freelance Writing Clients by Ed Gandia
Anyone who’s self-employed will tell you that the most crucial step to success is landing the right clients for the right price. Part of that process is being able to write excellent emails to prospects. Email marketing is an essential part of any business, but it especially applies when freelancing because it’s how you make your money. You pitch ideas, make network connections, and speak to clients all through email, so if you aren’t well-versed in the craft, you’ll be left behind. Gandia takes you further into "warm email prospecting" where he teaches you how to email clients like a pro.
6. Book Yourself Solid: The Fastest, Easiest, and Most Reliable System for Getting More Clients Than You Can Handle Even if You Hate Marketing and Selling by Michael Port
Being a freelancer means learning to sell yourself to others, especially when just starting out. When you’re new to freelancing, the most challenging part is convincing clients to take you on when you have little to nothing in your portfolio. That’s why self-promotion is so important, which is what Book Yourself Solid teaches you how to do. In this business, you need to learn how to sell all sorts of things, including your reputation, image, skill set, expertise, and more. It also includes information on how to build a positive self-image, how to create brand credibility, and how to perfect your pitch.
Maintaining a healthy work-life balance
7. Lead With Balance: How To Master Work-Life Balance in an Imbalanced Culture by Donnie Hutchinson
When you’re your own boss, it can prove difficult to achieve a work-life balance that leaves you feeling rejuvenated to get back to work while being able to take time off without feeling guilty. Donnie Hutchinson does a good job of breaking down how to achieve your business goals without sacrificing your mental and emotional health. It doesn’t cater specifically to a freelance lifestyle, but emphasizes prioritizing your social and personal life even when work feels overwhelming.
8. It Doesn't Have to Be Crazy at Work by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson
This day in age, if you aren’t working yourself into the ground, you aren’t getting closer to achieving your goals. Fried and Hansson argue that working long hours, losing sleep, and taking on excessive workloads is unnecessary to reach success. Solopreneurs, contractors, freelancers, and employees alike struggle with taking on too much work. This book outlines a strategy to embrace a calm work life without feeling like you’re falling behind. It uses practical insights to guide you through having fulfilling workdays that don’t leave you feeling burned out.
Managing self-employed finances
9. The Money Book for Freelancers, Part-Timers, and the Self-Employed: The Only Personal Finance System for People with Not-So-Regular Jobs by Joseph D’Agnese and Denise Kiernan
Knowing how to manage your finances as a freelance writer is perhaps the scariest part of the entire endeavor. You’re the only one responsible for saving enough while trying to live comfortably. This read guides you through how to build your finances as a freelancer so you don’t have to worry about how you’ll pay the bills and make enough to live off of. What’s even better is that it’s written by two freelance writers with first-hand experience and expertise.
10. Working for Yourself: Law & Taxes for Independent Contractors, Freelancers & Gig Workers of All Types by Stephen Fishman J.D.
If you’re going to commit to the life of a freelancer, you need to learn the technical part of managing your finances. When you work for yourself, you become responsible for the legal requirements that come with your business. You have to file your taxes differently, set up legally binding contracts, and perhaps even hire a lawyer to make sure your books are set up correctly. Whether you’re freelancing as a side hustle or doing it full-time, this book is necessary so you aren’t sued or end up in legal or financial trouble down the road.
Over to you
If you’re going to take on the life of a freelance writer, you need to read up on it as much as you can before you take the official plunge. Freelancing isn’t for the faint of heart and reading up on it will give you insight into if it’s the right decision for you and how to get there successfully. What books do you recommend for freelance writers this year?