top of page

The best books for freelancing and self-employment

Updated: Mar 20

These are some of best books for freelancing/self-employed folk as recommended by members of the Digital Marketing Union. In here we’ve got the best books when it comes to time management, mindset, processes, pitching and positioning - all essential items if you’re setting up or running your own business.

Any purchases made through this page generate a small commission and 100% of this will be donated to the DEC Disaster Emergencies Committee to help those impacted by the war in Ukraine 🇺🇦


Obviously Awesome - by April Dunford

Great for: Positioning your services or product to your audience

What we think: This is literally the only book you’ll ever need on positioning. A lot of freelancers and independents talk about marketing and designing their websites. I urge you to think about where you’re positioning yourself in the market. Are you a technical SEO who specialises in React.js or a PPC specialist who specialises in ecommerce websites but only in the UK? This book and the framework within can help you create a clear positioning strategy for your services - Adam Gent, Independent SEO product manager.


Unsexy Business - by Jamie Waller

Great for: Feeling inspired

What we think: This book documents the entrepreneurial spirit and success of a small group of business owners who share the ups and downs of running their ‘ordinary’ businesses. Not only is it a fascinating read, but it’s incredibly thought provoking and provides great insights for anyone looking to start their own thing - Kevin Redfern, Freelance Google Ads consultant.


Four Thousand Weeks, Time Management for Mortals - by Oliver Burkeman

Great for: Putting work/life balance into perspective

What we think: Four Thousand Weeks is the perfect antidote to the all the noise around productivity hacking, hustle culture and striving for constant growth. It explains why pursuing less - and going against cultural conditioning - will lead to a happier life - Maria Soleil, Self-employed marketer for purpose-driven SMEs.


Anti-Sell: Marketing, Lead Generation & Networking Tips for Freelancers Who Hate Sales - by Steve Morgan

Great for: People who hate sales

What we think: I was sold on this book based on the title alone. I hate being sold to, probably only slightly less than being forced to sell anything myself. Steve's book was a great exploration of this concept as well as offering up other great bits of advice on how to make it as a freelancer. I enjoyed Steve's honest, no-nonsense approach here; there's none of that "everyday I'm hustling" nonsense that other people seem to push constantly, and it's also a very easy, pleasant read. Great for any other freelancers who hate the idea of selling and prefer to let their own work do the talking - Matt Tutt, Freelance SEO consultant for green brands


Company of One, Why Staying Small is the Next Big Thing for Business - by Paul Jarvis

Great for: Entrepreneurship

What we think: Inspiring book for freelancers and entrepreneurs looking for alternative ways to be successful. It makes you question the pursuit of business growth and scaling, and how you could focus instead on other things such as profitability, fulfilment and mastering your craft. Great reflections and interesting real-life examples to support his insights. - Silvia Martin, Freelance SEO consultant


Out of Office: Ditch the 9-5 and Be Your Own Boss - by Fiona Thomas

Great for: Learning about everyday freelance tasks

What we think: I give this to anyone beginning freelance life – and it's the book I wish existed when I started out! Fiona guides the reader through everything from sending invoices to networking. Experienced freelancers will benefit from nuggets of wisdom around taking time-off, avoiding burnout, and discussion on where to work. One you'll refer to again and again - Rebecca Broad, Freelance writer and social media manager.


101 Freelance Lessons (Learned the hard way) - by Thomas Davis

Great for: Actually running your business

What we think: As the name suggests, Tom’s book is 101 pages of pure actionable advice, covering the specific nuts and bolts for things you will inevitably encounter when it comes to running your own business. It’s a manual which I seriously wish I had when I first started out as self-employed - Dan White, SEO Consultant.


Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less - by Greg McKeown

Great for: Understanding what’s actually important

What we think: There's a sense we can get it all done. Answer all the emails, read all the books, complete all the tasks. If we only we just had more time, or we worked faster, or did a few things at once. Greg does a fantastic job of explaining why that doesn't work and why, instead, we should focus on what's important now - Gareth Thomas, Self-employed strategy consultant


The E-Myth Revisited: Why Most Small Businesses Don't Work and What to Do About It - by Michael E. Gerber

Great for: Completely changing how you see your business

What we think: It gets you thinking about how important consistency, standardisation and outsourcing is in your small business so that you can grow without driving yourself into the ground, and regain or retain your love of your business and the creative and entrepreneurial spirit that led you to set it up - Sophie Cross, Editor of Freelancer Magazine.


The 4-Hour Work Week: Escape the 9-5, Live Anywhere and Join the New Rich - by Tim Ferriss

Great for: Mindset

What we think: This was the book that made me go self-employed. A lot of the tools recommended are now a little out of the date the principles, ideas and planning which Tim recommends are invaluable. While you might not end up working 4 hours a week it offers concrete plans for achieving something resembling a work-life balance so you can enjoy life now rather than waiting until retirement - Dan White, Freelance SEO consultant


Rest: Why You Get More Done When You Work Less - by Alex Soojung-Kim Pang

Great for: Putting work/life balance into perspective

What we think: Ever since I joined the corporate world back in 2013, my Linkedin and Youtube feed has been filled with a barrage of hustle content, telling you that you are a loser unless you work 60 hours a week or earn 6 figures a month. But this book brings you back to reality, talking you through the importance of rest and how you can get more/better work done when you actually work less. As someone who struggles to switch off, this book was a real eye opener and has helped me find a better work/life balance in my freelance career - Ryan Scollon, PPC freelancer.


The Win Without Pitching Manifesto - by Blair Enns

Great for: Learning how to respect yourself and value your talents

What we think: Win Without Pitching is a manifesto that helps freelancers and consultants to stop giving away their thinking for free. It’s a short book, and one I try to either read or listen to a couple of times each year. Through twelve “proclamations”, the book shows how we creative types regularly devalue ourselves by doing free pitch work before a prospect has committed to a project and explains how to break this habit / addiction. It is basically the twelve commandments for freelancers who want to charge more and be confident about saying no - Chris Higgins, Self-employed HubSpot consultant.


Make Time: How to focus on what matters every day by Jake Knapp and John Zeratsky

Great for: Building small, smart habits that can help you become productive

What we think: I’ve tried numerous productivity books since I started out as an independent consultant. This is a great book packed with 80+ productivity ideas that are field tested by the authors. A smart and simple book which also provides a framework to help you test and reflect on the ideas to see if they work. I highly recommend for anyone who wants to be more effective and happier during your workday - Adam Gent, Independent SEO product manager.


Common Sense Wisdom - by Pepper de Callier

Great for: Getting a fresh perspective

What we think: Collected over a 50-year period the quotes in this book are perfect to explain the ups and downs of freelance work and life in general. With a single quote on each page this book is easy to read, and I regally find myself re-reading quotes and their lessons before bed. My favourite so far is, "cheese is only free in a mousetrap, and only for the second mouse - Jonathan Moore, Self-employed SEO & analytics consultant.


Atomic Habits by James Clear

Great for: Building good habits

What we think: When I first picked Atomic Habits up, I was trying to force myself to go running because - as we all know - exercise is good for health, longevity and productivity at work. I reasoned that running was free and I could do it at any time to fit with my work schedule. But I was failing miserably to go because it felt like a total chore. Sound familiar? Atomic Habits gives you four steps to change your habits: (i) make it obvious, (ii) make it enjoyable, (iii) make it easy, (iv) make it satisfying. Using these steps, I was able to create new exercise habits that fill me with joy. I now exercise with enthusiasm almost everyday. It's made a real difference to my life and my work. I highly recommend it - Fay Edwards, Self-employed content and social media specialist.


Grit, the power of passion and perseverance- by Angela Duckworth

Great for: Mindset

What we think: Brilliant book, based on the author’s research about grit and why it is important for success. Very easy to read, including inspiring success stories, studies, research and strategies to be more motivated and resilient. Great for parents too, with tips for raising gritty kids - Silvia Martin, Freelance SEO consultant.


Be More Pirate - by Sam Coniff

Great for: Mindset

What we think: Comparing the pirates of history to the real-life change makers of today, Be More Pirate is a fantastic insight into how completely ordinary people have torn up the rules and gone out to make change happen. It’s an entertaining and fascinating short read that will leave you pumped up and ready to make your own changes to the world around you - Dan White, Freelance SEO Consultant.


Be a Free Range Human: Escape the 9-5, Create a Life You Love and Still Pay the Bills - by Marianne Cantwell

Great for: Making the leap

What we think: If you’re not sure if freelancing is for you, or if you feel trapped in your 9 to 5, then this is the book for you. Full of real-life stories and practical exercises, this book encourages you to be your true self and make you re-evaluate what a ‘career’ can be - Matt White, Freelance museum & arts communications consultant


It's Not How Good You Are, It's How Good You Want To Be - by Paul Arden

Great for: Communicating with clients

What we think: This is a short but truly excellent read with snappy quotes and fundamental life lessons covering essential ideas and angles to pitch ideas, receive feedback and generally feel more confident when working with freelance clients. Its account management 101 - Dan White, Freelance SEO Consultant


How To Have A Good Day: The essential toolkit for a productive day at work and beyond - by Caroline Webb

Great for: Productivity

What we think: The way us humans behave is complex and fascinating. Caroline does an incredible job of taking what we now know about how we think/behave, and making it understandable and applicable to our everyday lives - Gareth Thomas, Self-employed strategy consultant.


Recent Posts

DMU Member's Fund

Free DMU membership for under-represented freelancers Applications are now closed. We will be in touch with everyone who has applied. Hi 👋 We’re the DMU. A small, private online community of some of


bottom of page