There’s nothing like learning on the job to bring you up to speed on your profession, and every education needs a school book, right?
No matter how much formal education you’ve had in your life or how many degrees you’ve earned, your true education starts when your business begins.
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It’s so important to continually educate yourself when it comes to your business, so we keep a constant reading list of books, both fiction and nonfiction, to keep our minds sharp when it comes to marketing, finances, business, and entrepreneurship.
In fact, our goal is to read at least one business book or audiobook every two months.
Whether or not that actually happens is debatable!
BUT, we certainly try because we realize the importance of staying keen, wise, and thinking critically within our business.
Over the past few years we’ve gathered together a list of books that we’ve found to be the most helpful when it comes to running a small photography business, and as we continue to come across more page turners, we’ll continue to add to this list.
Before you do anything else, read this book! It is foundational for anyone that is pursuing a meaningful, fulfilling, and sustainable business, which (I’m guessing) is what you’re trying to do!
Simon Sinek talks about the concept of the Golden Circle – that all remarkable brands not only know WHAT they do and HOW they do it, but they also have a deeply embedded WHY that is center of everything they do. And it’s their commitment to their “why” that causes their customers to feel so deeply connected to them.
“The goal of business should not be to do business with everyone who needs what you have. The goal is to focus on people who believe what you believe.”
Less of a book about business, this is a book about the magic and art of creativity. And if you’re a creative entrepreneur, getting your heart and mind aligned with how to interact with your creativity is critically important!
I love Gilbert’s honest and refreshing approach about living the creative life. She doesn’t hide the struggles, but she is also positive and optimistic while opening up about how hard it can be. This will replenish your soul while also grounding you in the reality of making a living on your art!
McKeown believes in the disciplined pursuit of LESS so you can make your highest contribution to culture and society.
“The Way of the Essentialist isn’t about getting more done in less time. It’s not about getting less done. It’s about getting only the right things done.”
A great discussion on what marketing used to be like and what it is now like.
Essentially marketing used to be all about battering your audience with as much information as possible but now it’s all about creating real relationships, fostering trust, and providing value.
Promise me that you’ll read this before you even think of sending out an e-mail newsletter to your entire address book.
This book is a discussion of why it’s better to market to 100 people who care about your product than 10,000 people who don’t have a clue who you are.
Drive down the road in farm country and you’ll see countless cows, and chances are that you wouldn’t think twice about passing thousands of them.
But suppose you drove by a purple cow – you’d probably come to a screeching halt, take a ton of pictures and tell everybody you know about the Purple Cow you saw on your trip to the Midwest. Right?
That’s what this book is all about – becoming a Purple Cow that your clients can’t help talking about to anyone and everyone they come into contact with.
E is for Entrepreneurial and this book focuses on the keys to success for any entrepreneur and really centers on the idea of treating any small business just like you would a corporation.
As a small business owner, sometimes you have to wear several hats at once, and this book talks through how to determine which hats to wear and when (and why to do so).
The most enjoyable exercise in this book is the construction of your corporate organizational chart – we had a lot of fun with it, coming up with creative names for all our positions.
For example, Erin is the “Deputy Director in charge of the Blogosphere and Blogosphere Relations” meaning she takes care of our blog and the way we interact through it to our readers.
This is a great resource if you’re thinking about having employees, interns, or associates in your business as it discusses how to be a leader from wherever you are, and how to encourage those who you lead to be leaders in turn.
John Maxwell talks a lot about leadership in his seminars (which we’ve never been to) and in a lot of his books; this is probably the best place to start if you want to start reading through his book list.
When Dane wrote this book, he did something tremendous for the photography industry – he created an amazing jumping off point for people who are either 1) thinking about a career in photography or 2) stumbled into a photography career and feel lost in the process of taking their business to the next level.
Dane has a gift for writing in an easy-to-read, conversational tone that makes it seems like less of a book and more of a helpful conversation from a friend.
This is one of those books that simply must be read by anybody who owns a business that deals with people, or anybody who is part of a team or leads a group of people.
It was written back in 1937 and the principles in the book are still current and relevant even today. It centers around the idea that people should be dealt with in such a way that they feel important and appreciated.
Books that are less about business, but SUPER interesting anyways:
Malcolm Gladwell is one of my favorite authors – and speakers – and the Tipping Point is his most business-relevent book, especially for photographers, so I’d probably suggest starting with this one, then reading his other work in any order.
“The best way to understand the dramatic transformation of unknown books into bestsellers, or the rise of teenage smoking, or the phenomena of word of mouth or any number of the other mysterious changes that mark everyday life is to think of them as epidemics. Ideas and products and messages and behaviors spread just like viruses do.”
– Malcolm Gladwell
In Outliers, Malcom Gladwell asks why some people succeed and live remarkably productive and impactful lives, while so many more never reach their potential.
Challenging our cherished belief of the “self-made man,” he makes the case that superstars don’t arise out of nowhere, propelled by genius and talent.
Instead, “they are invariably the beneficiaries of hidden advantages and extraordinary opportunities and cultural legacies that allow them to learn and work hard and make sense of the world in ways others cannot.” Examining the lives of outliers from Mozart to Bill Gates, he builds a convincing case for how successful people rise on a tide of advantages, “some deserved, some not, some earned, some just plain lucky.”
This book centers around the idea that lasting change can be best effected by a tribe: a group of people connected to each other, to a leader and to an idea.
There’s all kinds of tribes that are possible to create around you (or be a part of) and together, we can actually make a difference.
Really thought provoking, and a quick read.
One of my favorite quotes comes from this book – and one I keep sitting on my desk –
“You don’t need a keyboard to lead…you only need the desire to make something happen.”
– Seth Godin
Books on our list we haven’t gotten to yet, but will soon:
An honest and refreshing guide to quitting your day job to pursue your own thing. Our friends, Justin & Mary Marantz, recommend this to anyone that is considering going full time with their photography. I love hearing Jon Acuff speak, so based on that alone, I wholeheartedly second that recommendation – read this before you quit!
Recommended by Joel & Amber, The Millionaire Next Door shows the habits of millionaires in today’s society, and it does come as a surprise. There is a difference between an affluent lifestyle, and those who are truly affluent. And there is also a vast difference between income and wealth. A person making $50,000 a year but living on only $30,000 a year is on a much better track that someone making $200,000 a year, but living a $200,000 lifestyle.
Everything you need to know about building a business but don’t know to ask. A lot of great leaders in my life have read this book and loved it!
Happy reading my friends!