I don’t know if this is true for all creatives, but I LOVE to read. I consider myself a life-long learner, and while there’s hardly been one year of my life that I didn’t take at least one class or course, most of my learning is through books. Sometimes that’s with a paperback book (I’m that person who underlines and writes notes in margins), Kindle, or audiobooks (my favorite for when I’m working out, painting, or doing anything that doesn’t take too much brainpower like creating graphics, etc.) These lists include some of my personal favorites. (Full disclosure: they may include affiliate links. My full affiliate disclosure can be found here.)
Top 10 Favorite Books for Artists + Makers
1. Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert – I read this book at the beginning of 2016, and I swear it changed the trajectory for the rest of my year. Part inspiration, part “woo woo” magic, part tough love, this book helps give you the gumption to live your life in a fully creative way. Besides Playing Big (in the second list, below) it’s the book I recommend most highly for creatives.
2. The Gift: Creativity and The Artist in the Modern World by Lewis Hyde – The Gift really is just that… a gift! For artists, makers, and creatives of all kinds. It will help you let your own creativity flourish.
3. Art, Inc.: The Essential Guide for Building Your Career as an Artist by Lisa Congdon – Lisa is by far one of my favorite authors, artists, and creative entrepreneurs. I have been lucky enough to take her Creative Live class “Become a Working Artist“, her Skillshare class called “Professional Practice In Illustration: Following a Creative Brief & Executing An Assignment,” read this book and her blog, and even see her work right here in Portland, OR. She is probably the hardest working creative I’ve ever met, but she also works smart. This book can help you do the same.
4. The Handmade Marketplace, 2nd Edition: How to Sell Your Crafts Locally, Globally by Kari Chapin – Kari is another fellow Portlander who I’ve been lucky enough see talk locally, and watch her Creative Live classes (like “Start a Handmade Business“). In this book she will help makers earn a living doing what they love by selling online and in craft fairs, wholesaling, and more. An excellent read, especially for those new to selling what they make.
5. Creative Block: Get Unstuck, Discover New Ideas. Advice & Projects from 50 Successful Artists by Danielle Krysa – In case you didn’t already know, Danielle is the woman behind the blog, The Jealous Curator (one of my favorite blogs!) And if you’ve ever experienced any kind of creative block (and who among us hasn’t?) this book is for you.
6. Creative, Inc.: The Ultimate Guide to Running a Successful Freelance Business by Joy Deangdeelert Cho and Meg Mateo Ilasco – Geared towards illustrators, graphic designers, photographers, and other creatives who want to be freelancers, this book is most helpful for those at the beginning of such careers.
7. The Crossroads of Should and Must: Find and Follow Your Passion Hardcover by Elle Luna – Elle Luna is one of those magical humans that makes you feel so loved, so special, so talented, and so hopeful, without ever even meeting her. I am pretty obsessed with her Skillshare classes, but this book really helps you clarify what your true calling is, in an enthusiastic, loving way. She also teaches classes at Skillshare, my favorite is Choose Must: 10 Exercises to Pursue Your Passion (and when you sign up through my link, you can get 3 months of access to ALL classes on Skillshare for just .99 cents!)
8. Steal Like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative by Austin Kleon – This book may be small and a quick read, but it’s actually packed with encouraging thoughts, creative prompts, and the kick in the pants you just might need if you’re feeling fearful about making and, more importantly, sharing your creative work.
9. The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles by Steven Pressfield – If you’re an artist, entrepreneur, or writer (or a combination of the three), this book will help you overcome obstacles — whether they are in the form of a creative block or a fear of success, The War of Art can help you help yourself become the greatest version of you.
10. The Artist’s Guide: How to Make a Living Doing What You Love by Jackie Battenfield – If you really want to have a successful career in the arts, but are just starting out (or have hit a plateau) this book is a must read. To me it’s the book they should have taught us in art school. Jackie teaches you about marketing, getting into galleries, building relationships, making and managing money, and much more.
Top Ten Favorite Books for Creative Entrepreneurs
1. Playing Big: Practical Wisdom for Women Who Want to Speak Up, Create, and Lead by Tara Mohr – If I could have an Oprah moment and give this book to every woman in the world (or at least every one of my blog readers and clients!) I would. So far I have given it to my daughters, and convinced both of my mastermind group participants that it’s a MUST read. (And they all read it, and they all agreed! We frequently refer back to it, too, when one of us is having a tough day.) In Playing Big, Tara gives you the tools, and confidence to reach for your dreams and become a strong leader within your business and in life. If I could only recommend one book for women, this would be it. Hands down.
2. Will It Fly: How to Test Your Next Business Idea So You Don’t Waste Your Time and Money by Pat Flynn – If you’re still in the start-up stages of your business, or if you’re thinking of a new product or business idea, reading — and really implementing — Pat’s book will help you decide if your idea is a hit or a miss. And I say “implementing” because this book is not one you simply read in a passive way. Every chapter is really more like a workbook, each one building upon the next, to help you ultimately determine whether your new idea will be a viable one.
3. Rework by Jason Fried – While this book says it’s intended for small business owners, artists who don’t want to starve, creative entrepreneurs and side-hustlers, it seemed to me to be written more for people with “grand start-up dreams” because they spend so much time talking about why a lean business is a better business. Having said that, I still recommend it because it’s filled with solid advice for building an internet-based business. From ideas and start-up, to dealing with (and being) competition, to evolution and hiring help, and so much more. They pack a ton of great info into a very quick read.
4. Grow Your Handmade Business: How to Envision, Develop, and Sustain a Successful Creative Business by Kari Chapin – Another book by Kari that I just love and recommend for makers and crafters who want to take their hobby and turn it into a viable business.
5. Friends, Fans, and Followers: A Creative Entrepreneur’s Guide to Building a Large, Responsive, Organic Following on Instagram by Julie Tillman – (oh hey, that’s me!) I wrote this ebook after figuring out a pretty quick and easy way to get new followers on Instagram. Not just numbers, either — but real people who actually have an interest in what you make, and even (gasp!) want to buy it! 😉 In about 10 months I had over 30,000 followers, and after about 16 months I had almost 100k followers. The ebook is definitely geared towards makers and artists, and I have tons of great feedback about it (click the link to read some of it) so I thought I’d mention it here for you.
6. The Fire Starter Sessions: A Soulful + Practical Guide to Creating Success on Your Own Terms by Danielle LaPorte – This is really the book that helped me get my butt into gear and start taking my creativity seriously, and passionately, into a business. I actually listened to it on audio, first, and I loved it so much I went out and bought the hardback book (I also use Danielle’s Desire Map Planner as a daily reminder of how I want my life to be/look/feel.) If you have a mastermind group or accountability partner, it’s a great book to read, and implement, together.
7. Blog, Inc.: Blogging for Passion, Profit, and to Create Community by Joy Deangdeelert Cho – If blogging is going to be part of your passive income strategy, but you’re not sure where or how to start, this book provides the basics in just about every area.
8. The E-Myth Revisited: Why Most Small Businesses Don’t Work and What to Do About It Paperback by Michael E. Gerber – The gist of this book is: create a business doing what you love that doesn’t run you. As creative entrepreneurs, we wear every single hat. But Michael teaches us the importance of putting systems in place as we grow our businesses so we don’t burn out and quit. He covers aspects of running your business, whether you’re just starting out, have been in business for a while, or even if you’ve been in business for 10 years or more.
9. The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich by Timothy Ferriss – So, Tim Ferriss’s book has caused a lot of controversy in the entrepreneurial world. People who work 60 or 80 hours a week laugh (or worse! Get VERY mad) at this type of teaching. But the truth is, it can be done. It’s definitely the exception, rather than the rule, however. Why I still recommend this book is because it’s good to aspire to work smarter over harder, and that’s exactly what it’s all about.
10. The Success Principles(TM) – 10th Anniversary Edition: How to Get from Where You Are to Where You Want to Be by Jack Canfield – Okay, I admit it… As of this writing I just started listening to this book on audio. But! It is so good already I wanted to share it here. I’ll come back and update this description as soon as I’m done listening to it.
That’s it… But, as you can probably tell, I’m always on the lookout for a great art and/or business book. Do you have a favorite you’d like to share? Contact me!