With great power comes great responsibility. And with great freedom comes even greater vulnerability. If you are an aspiring freelancer or solopreneur, you better tattoo these words on your hand.
Some people learn this the hard way.
I knew this guy from my old job.
He was a coder with 5+ years of experience. About a year ago, he decided to cut out the middleman. So he quit the company and started approaching the clients by himself.
He kept his prices low to lure them.
And to his credit, he wasn’t dumb about it.
He had done his calculations well. All he had to do was get as much work as he had at that office. And he would make 2X more than his salary despite the cheaper rates.
A few months later, he had to quit freelancing and take another job with a different company. This one paid much lower than his original job.
How did he end up there?
He didn’t get as many clients as he had hoped, and he smoked a good part of his funds running social media ads.
Yes. Unlike a job, freelancing has no upper ceiling. But guess what! There’s no lower floor bed either.
There’s always an element of risk.
But with the right strategy, skills, and discipline, you can hedge it out. And these books for freelancers & solopreneurs can help you do just that. So if you don’t want to end up as my friend here, I recommend reading them at least once.
1. Unscripted: Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Entrepreneurship
Author: M. J. DeMarco
Goodreads score: 4.5/5
Most people are broke and remain broke because the money scam has made them perpetual chasers of something that cannot be chased — it can only be attracted by offering perceived value.― M.J. DeMarco, UNSCRIPTED: Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Entrepreneurship
It might seem unfair to see people making more money from their living room than you make from your 9-to-5.
But here’s something that you might not have considered yet. You don’t get paid for how many hours you work. You get paid for the problems you solve.
Here’s something about those who work from their sofa, wearing shorts and t-shirts. They are working with multiple companies, taking on all kinds of projects, and multi-tasking the hell out of each working hour of their day.
They make more money than you because they solve more problems than you, not because they are lucky. You can do the same. But first, you need to learn how money really works.
That’s precisely where this book comes in handy.
Money-chasers stalk the cat, hoping someday to catch it — around the bushes, up the tree, and in between the parked cars. That someday never comes.
Meanwhile, the UNSCRIPTED know better. They ignore the cat and instead offer it something attractive. A cracked can of tuna later, and bam, that cat slinks in and leaps to your lap.
2. So Good They Can’t Ignore You: Why Skills Trump Passion in the Quest for Work You Love
by Cal Newport
Passion comes after you put in the hard work to become excellent at something valuable, not before. In other words, what you do for a living is much less important than how you do it.― Cal Newport, So Good They Can’t Ignore You: Why Skills Trump Passion in the Quest for Work You Love
Here’s something that will make freelancing or starting a business significantly less intimidating.
You will be much harder to replace when you have a unique skill set to produce outstanding results for the right market.
In such cases, even if you fail as a freelancer or solopreneur, your problem-solving skills would make you a much more valuable employee than those hustling to pay their monthly bills.
So the next logical question is, “What skills should I go after?” Here’s what you need to know. Doing what you love isn’t going to cut it.
It’s not good enough if you are good at something that (A) isn’t providing any real value to the market, (B) anyone can learn like a cakewalk.
So the best way to choose your career, as Newport mentions in this book, is to find the following elements in your next job or business venture:
- Creativity: It’s where you have an opportunity to grow by solving challenging problems and learning new skills.
- Control: You have your say over how, when, and where you do your work.
- Impact: It will have to positively impact your customer, employee, and yourself.
Find something that satisfies all these standards. Then acquire rare and valuable skill sets.
3. The Unfair Advantage: How You Already Have What It Takes to Succeed
Author: Ash Ali, Hasan Kubba
Goodreads Score: 4.09/5
An Unfair Advantage is a condition, asset or circumstance that puts you in a favourable business position.― Ash Ali, The Unfair Advantage: How You Already Have What It Takes to Succeed
Make no mistake. The game is going to be unfair. However, you do have your own set of unfair advantages.
And if you are going to lose, it won’t be because other people have unfair advantages over you but because you don’t know your unfair advantages yet. This book will help you find out them.
For example, if I were a passionate cook, I wouldn’t try to compete with restaurants with an army of trained chefs.
I don’t have the resources to open an Instagrammable restaurant at a good location. And my skills as a cook will not contribute much to the business side of things.
Hell, I wouldn’t even sell food.
But I will compete where I can. And I sure can:
- perfect existing recipes
- simplify complicated recipes
- and create my own quality fusions
That would be my product. Now, how would I scale it?
- I would kickstart a YouTube channel, Insta account, and Website.
- I would market research the bestselling cookbooks and try to fill the gaps to create even more appealing books.
- Also, I would sell my cooking courses online.
- Later on, I would launch my own brand of spices and food items for retail.
It won’t happen overnight. And it would take a lot of effort on your part to make it work. But here, you have a much higher winning chance.
And when you do so, you will neutralize the unfair advantages the big restaurants had over you.
- Location problem? Gone.
- Capital issue? The things I said would be much cheaper than the annual budget of running a mid-size restaurant.
- Skillset required? Here, my success will be much more directly related to the quality of my recipes and products.
- Scalability? Yes. This would require you to pick on skills more than cooking. But you can do it step by step over the years.
That’s how you create your own unfair advantages.
4. Storyworthy: Engage, Teach, Persuade, and Change Your Life through the Power of Storytelling
by Matthew Dicks
Goodreads Score: 4.30/5
Make it your mission to find, see, remember, and identify stories, and you will begin to see your life in a new and more compelling light.― Matthew Dicks, Storyworthy: Engage, Teach, Persuade, and Change Your Life through the Power of Storytelling
It might not sound super apparent at first. But your chances for success depend heavily on how good your writing is.
Jason Fried, the CEO of the software company Basecamp, mentions in his book Rework
If you are trying to decide among a few people to fill a position hire the best writer. it doesn’t matter if the person is marketer, salesperson, designer, programmer, or whatever, their writing skills will pay off.
But why so?
Clear writing is a sign of clear thinking. great writers know how to communicate. they make things easy to understand. They can put themselves in someone else’s shoes.
However, writing is not just about the act of putting words on a page; it’s about the stories you can tell and how well you tell them.
Sean Ogle, the head of Location Rebel, also speaks highly of using storytelling to build rapport in his cold pitches. Every time he uses some stories to break the eyes, he gets a response.
If you want to get it right and truly engage your readers with your words, I highly recommend the book “Storyworthy” by Matthew Dicks.
Not only does this book help you tell the stories you want to tell (in a better way), but it also helps you discover story-worthy moments from your life that you didn’t know you already had.
5. Plays Well With Others: The Surprising Science Behind Why Everything You Know About Relationships Is (Mostly) Wrong
by Eric Barker
Goodreads Score: 4.15/5
We have grown smarter, but less wise. And that’s not just a warm platitude, it’s science. Wisdom isn’t just raw IQ; it involves understanding others.― Eric Barker, Plays Well with Others: The Surprising Science Behind Why Everything You Know About Relationships Is (Mostly) Wrong
Let’s set your expectations right. Even if you quit your job and become your own boss, you still will be your own employee.
It is you who will be answerable to your clients from now on. And if needed, you will also need to collaborate with other freelancers. Long story short, you will still have to be a team player.
But calibrating with so many different people at such a capacity can be pretty tricky.
What if you associate with the wrong people? You make life a living hell. On the contrary, if you pass on working with the right people, you lose out on a series of opportunities.
But how do you know who is who? And how do you know who to rely on when things go south? And what if they change?
Read this book by Eric Barker, and you will have all the answers you need.
A successful freelancing career can’t exist in a void. If you try to force it into existence, it will just pop like a bubble.
You don’t want that. You want it to stand tall as a healthy tree.
That’s why you have to get the basics right. That’s because if the soil isn’t rich in minerals, your tree will lack strength. And you will find all the basic minerals in these books.