5 Must Read Books for Freelance Creatives
As a freelance creative these ‘must read’ books will inspire you to see your creative business and career in a fresh and energising light. Being a freelancer is effectively the same as running a one person business and these 5 books will educate, encourage and motivate you to chase after your deepest ambitions. What more could you ask for?
Different – Escaping the Competitive Herd – Youngme Moon
This is probably one of the best books on marketing/business strategy that I’ve ever read. Youngme Moon is a Professor at Harvard Business School but in Different – Escaping The Competitive Herd she writes more like an accomplished storyteller than a jargon touting business academic.
The essential premise of the book is that being different is what will set you apart from the competition but that the way to achieve that genuine differentiation is far more counter-intuitive than you would ever expect. For example:
Reverse-positioned brands commit to with-holding benefits that the rest of the industry considers necessary to compete. Reverse brands say no where others say yes. And they do so openly. Without apology.
To see this kind of strategy in action just open up two more browser tabs and compare the difference between Google.com and Yahoo.com. One offers much more while the other does one thing and one thing only, but incredibly well.
The benefit to any creative freelancer in reading Different is that it will seriously open your mind to the importance and opportunity to make yourself stand out from the crowd, if you’re only willing to take some risks and do things a little differently.
David and Goliath – Malcolm Gladwell
In Malcolm Gladwell’s latest masterpiece; David and Goliath he takes on the topic of ‘underdogs, misfits and the art of battling giants’. In doing so he covers a fascinating range of topics with his usual flair and insight with surprising results.
“There is a set of advantages that have to do with material resources, and there is a set that have to do with the absence of material resources- and the reason underdogs win as often as they do is that the latter is sometimes every bit the equal of the former.”
It’s a valuable book for any freelance creative to read because it turns the idea of what we consider advantages and disadvantages to be on their head. It will help you see the things you might think would work against your chances of success into those that will ultimately drive them.
This book is probably my favourite read of 2013, and is helping me to re-think the way I perceive my freelance film editing career and helping me to see exciting new possibilities.
David and Goliath is a brilliant and riveting book that ends up in some unexpected places. If you’re a fan of Gladwell you won’t be disappointed and if you’ve never encountered his work before you’re in for a treat.
The Pixar Touch – David A Price
The Pixar Touch by David A Price, charts the rise of Hollywood’s most successful animation studio, having earned over $8.5 billion from it’s films and garnered 27 Academy Awards. With both financial and critical success time and time again, Price writes a compelling and comprehensive account of the company’s founding moments right through to the present day. In the midst of this history he also draws out some of the magic, the Pixar Touch, that infuses every one of their films.
“[Jobs] embraced a seemingly ludicrous idea: He was going to take Pixar public soon after Toy Story’s release. One financial advisor after another told him to forget about it. At the time, the notion of a public stock offering for a company that had never even turned a profit was alien to the thinking of serious investors.”
If you learn anything from The Pixar Touch it is that hard work, determination and white knuckle faith are all required if you want to make your creative endeavour really happen. The guys at Pixar had always dreamed of creating an animated feature and with Toy Story they not only fulfilled that dream, but changed Hollywood forever. Why should you read this book? Because every creative endeavour is part art, part business and requires the same kind of determination and raw belief you’ll find scattered across the pages of this book. Inspirational stuff.
The Social Animal – David Brooks
By far the most academic of all the books on this list, but no less entertaining for it, New York Times columnist David Brooks’ The Social Animal is an epic journey through a story of how success happens, as depicted in the lives of two fictional characters. It’s a brilliant mix of psychology, anthropology, behavioural economics and much more besides.
“Much of life is about failure, whether we acknowledge it or not, and your destiny is profoundly shaped by how effectively you learn from and adapt to failure.”
By far and away the best things you will learn from this book are all about how you and I work as human beings. Not only will that help you better understand yourself, your motivations and what can help you be more successful, but it will help you understand other people and what drives them too. People are what make the world go round and the more you know about them the more successful you will be. A deeply engrossing yet entertaining read.
There’s also a great TED talk from David Brooks on this book, which if you want a ‘try-before-you-buy’ taster, you won’t do better than this. Although the book is much easier to digest, bit by bit, than this quick fire presentation.
Onward – Howard Schultz
Of all the books on this list Onward – How Starbucks Fought For Its Life without Losing Its Soul by Howard Schultz (and Joanne Gordon) is the most business bookish, but it is still a decent read. Although a bit hyperbolic in places, it presents a gritty account of the difficulties in running a global franchise – which may not be what a lot of us will be able to directly relate to – but the lessons still hold true for any entrepreneur. What’s great about this book is that it is a rare opportunity to hear about what it takes to take a giant business that has lost it’s way, that is floundering and turn it around.
The entrepreneurial journey is not for everyone. Yes, the highs are high and the rewards can be thrilling. But the lows can break your heart. Entrepreneurs must love what they do to such a degree that doing it is worth sacrifice and, at times, pain. But doing anything else, we think, would be unimaginable.
I picked up this book with nothing but cynicism in my mind as to what the founder and chairman of Starbucks (that soul-less giant corporate monolith) and was surprised to find a person with a passion, commitment and drive to be the very best at creating a communal, human experience on a daily basis, all across the globe. Despite its imperfections this book is still well worth a read.