Most photographers fail to build their dream business for 1 of 3 reasons. This reading list will help you overcome 2 of those. No book or training or resource can change the first reason. You either have it or you don't. These books give you the tools and insights to work on reasons 2 and 3. I chose them because they made the biggest impact in my life and they cover a wide variety of skills that every successful business owner needs. They are also extremely actionable and written by people who have accomplished what they teach. It's not just theory and fluff.
The 1st reason photographers fail is from a lack of passion. You have to really want it. And when most hobbyists find out how much work must be done on the business and how little of it is actually photography, they decide it's not for them. And that is 100% ok. There is nothing wrong with loving photography and not wanting to run a business. You have to decide for yourself, and there is no wrong answer.
The 2nd reason is because they focus on the wrong things, and refuse to change direction when it isn't working. For example, if you try running Facebook ads to get clients and you don't book anyone, buying a new lens and taking a lighting class isn't going to help. Learning how to write copy, and build a funnel, and connect with your audience is a mandatory set of skills. An eagerness to improve the skills you actually need are what will propel you forward. These books will show you how to develop those skills.
The 3rd reason is because they ignore the internal work that must happen before external results are possible. Basically, if you don't believe that you deserve success, and that you can charge real money, and that you are not good enough, then you will never find the success you see others achieve. If you have a subconscious block, and we all do, many of them actually, you will constantly sabotage your progress to align with your internal beliefs. Every single person on the planet does this. The only option is to change your internal beliefs. These books will give you the tools to do that.
I've read hundreds of books over the last few years. Choosing 10 wasn't easy. I chose these particular books because of how actionable they are, and because they will prepare you to dive as deep as you want to go into any of these topics. This list is a starting place, a launch pad. I'm excited to see where it takes you!
This monster could really be three books. It's huge. And I couldn't put it down. This is not a 'how to be successful' kind of book, but rather it focuses on the lessons, habits, mindsets, and tools that a ton of wildly successful people put into practice every day. Tim interviews famous directors, and entrepreneurs, and athletes, and authors, and top achievers from all walks of life. These stories are so relatable, you'll take something valuable, and immediately actionable, from every single chapter. Tim encourages readers to skip or skim certain parts that don't feel entirely relatable, but I suggest reading everything because you never know what new insights or practices will resonate the most.
This is one of my favorite business books because it talks directly to someone who is just starting a brand new business and doesn't have everything figured out yet. Truth is, no one ever has it all figured out. The author gives you a very clear and actionable way to approach building a business, and putting the right foundations in place. The title sums up the theme of the book very well.
This book surprised me in how relatable it was. Brian gives you the tools and techniques to improve your self worth, your relationships with others, your ability to communicate effectively, and how to let go of everything inside you that is holding you back. It was very empowering, and I put a lot of these techniques into practice and saw results almost immediately. This is one of those books that shows you a lot of things you didn't know that you didn't know, and how to move forward.
This was the first book ever written on personal development and business. And even though it was written in 1937, it is still 100% applicable and it is a must-read book for anyone who wants to be successful in life. It's the book that got me started in business and it's one I refer back to more than any other book.
Scott Adams is the creator of the Dilbert comic strip, and he's an incredibly talented writer. This book reads like you're hanging out with your wise friend and enjoying your favorite beverage together. He'll destroy the way you set goals, and show you why systems are better, and how to look at building the right combination of skills to give yourself a unique advantage that none of your competition can touch. Plus, it's a really entertaining book.
This book shows you how to get started with what you have, and how to strategically build from there. Photographers always think they need one more lens or 100 more Instagram followers before they can do something, and it's just an excuse. You will learn how to get started and build momentum even with no money or experience.
If you've ever wondered why no one responds to your social media posts, blog posts, emails, or anything else, this training will show you what to say in order to get the results you want. And if you're stuck and not even sure where to start when it comes to writing and communicating, this is an amazing foundation. Plus, there is a great example in here specifically about selling photography. This is another one to listen to over and over again.
Most new photographers say they rely on 'word of mouth' for their marketing because they don't know how to market their business and attract clients. And when you aren't actually marketing and serving clients, no one is actually talking about you. This book teaches you how to create experiences that your clients will want to talk about, without you having to ask for it. The best way to get referrals is to give people a reason to refer you.
This is my favorite book on branding because it is based on psychology. You will learn how to create a brand that attracts your ideal clients and repels everyone else. This book teaches you branding and marketing tactics based on neuroscience. It's not guesswork. It's how people make decisions. And it makes marketing a lot more fun when you start with a proven set of tools. If you've ever seen me do the 'brand planet' exercise with a class, I got it from this book.
This probably should have been the first book on the list because it establishes that creativity and business go hand in hand. You will learn how to use your creativity to not only improve your art, but how to make your business more competitive and how to surround yourself with the right people to significantly improve your ability to succeed. One of my favorite takeaways from this book is the mindset shift that we don't create art for money, we make money so we can keep creating art. 🤯
Note: I receive an affiliate commission for all books purchased from this blog post. These books were chosen because of their content and they would still be on this list whether or not I receive a commission.