9 Books To Grow Your Business
Note that if you buy any of these books directly from Amazon, I’ll get a small percentage commission from the sale, at no extra cost to you. I am not in any other way compensated for mentioning any of these books, and I’m only recommending books that I have actually read and enjoyed.
1. Building a StoryBrand by Donald Miller
New York Times bestselling author Donald Miller uses the seven universal elements of powerful stories to teach readers how to dramatically improve how they connect with customers and grow their businesses.
I had to start with Building a StoryBrand, because this book has done SO much to help my business! If you want a website that helps attract and book your ideal clients, you need to know how to write in a way that help people see themselves as the hero of their own story. This kind of writing takes a special skill, because most of us naturally write in a way where we position ourselves at the center, but that’s not what anyone else wants to read. This book has a ton of practical exercises to help you come up with your own mission statements and brand positions, along with examples of how other businesses have done this successfully.
TLDR; if you need help on how to differentiate your business from others, tell a compelling story of how you can help people, and most importantly: book more of your ideal clients, you need this book in your life.
Bonus: if you like this book, check out the Building a StoryBrand podcast, and 12 other podcasts that helped grow my photography business!
2. Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert B. Cialdini
Influence, the classic book on persuasion, explains the psychology of why people say “yes”—and how to apply these understandings. Dr. Robert Cialdini is the seminal expert in the rapidly expanding field of influence and persuasion. His thirty-five years of rigorous, evidence-based research along with a three-year program of study on what moves people to change behavior has resulted in this highly acclaimed book.
One of the things I love about running a business is that being successful really comes down to understanding human psychology (and being a nice person that does good work, duh!)… and human psychology is fascinating!
Robert Cialdini is an absolute expert on understanding how and why people make decisions, and how to influence those decisions. And I swear it’s nothing like reading a dry psychology book in college! The examples he uses are all spot on and helped me think of ways I could start using his theories in my own business.
TLDR; If you want to learn how to make people do what you want, this is the book for you.
3. Pre-Suasion: A Revolutionary Way to Influence and Persuade by Robert B. Cialdini
His first solo work in over thirty years, Cialdini’s Pre-Suasiondraws on his extensive experience as the most cited social psychologist of our time and explains the techniques a person should implement to become a master persuader. Altering a listener’s attitudes, beliefs, or experiences isn’t necessary, says Cialdini—all that’s required is for a communicator to redirect the audience’s focus of attention before a relevant action.
If you read and like Influence, you need to follow it up with Pre-Suasion. It builds on the same concepts about how people make decisions, but takes it further by teaching how we can set ourselves up for success long before it’s decision time!
4. Eat That Frog! by Brian Tracy
Eat That Frog! provides the 21 most effective methods for conquering procrastination and accomplishing more. This new edition is revised and updated throughout, and includes brand new information on how to keep technology from dominating our time.
How often do you find yourself refreshing Instagram during a workday?
Yeah, thought so.
If you find yourself putting off hard tasks, spend too much time on irrelevant tasks or “busy work,” and never feel like your to do list gets any shorter, I highly recommend reading Eat That Frog! With 21 practical tips for how to stop procrastinating and be more productive, I guarantee there’s something for you to learn here.
“One of the very worst uses of time is to do something very well that need not to be done at all.”
I think a lack of focus is one of the main things holding back a lot of photographers from running a successful business. We’re all given the same 24 hours in a day, so it’s important to work on the right things, and to be able to ignore the tasks that won’t help grow your business – at least most of the time!
5. Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook: How to Tell Your Story in a Noisy Social World by Gary Vaynerchuk
The New York Times bestselling author and social media expert returns with hard-won advice on how to connect with customers and beat the competition by mastering social media marketing.
This book was an instant classic in the online marketing world, and for good reason.
No one likes following an Instagram account where every caption is “NOW BOOKING” or “5 SPOTS LEFT” or “30% DISCOUNT THIS WEEK” – it gets exhausting. But an account that posts inspiration, motivation, funny stories or emotional photos, anything that gives people a reason to care, can mix in more direct marketing messages and get a much more positive response.
TLDR; Learn to give freely to your clients before you ask for anything
6. Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action by Simon Sinek
In studying the leaders who’ve had the greatest influence in the world, Simon Sinek discovered that they all think, act, and communicate in the exact same way-and it’s the complete opposite of what everyone else does. People like Martin Luther King Jr., Steve Jobs, and the Wright brothers might have little in common, but they all started with why.
Simon Sinek’s TED talk on how great leaders inspire action has been watched over 42,000,000 times. If that can’t convince you to read this book, I’m not sure I can do the job any better, but I’ll try.
Start With Why helps you get to the bottom of why you’re in business and doing this thing in the first place … then helps to turn that into a story that your ideal clients can connect with. We’ve all read the photography bios about someone who got a camera for their birthday as a kid and have loved taking photos ever since, but starting with why helps you go deeper than that to create a unique brand position.
I actually bought the accompanying Find Your Why after reading Start With Why, which is a practical workbook that helps you go through this system by answering questions about your own story, your motivations, and your business.
8. The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg
In The Power of Habit, award-winning New York Times business reporter Charles Duhigg takes us to the thrilling edge of scientific discoveries that explain why habits exist and how they can be changed. With penetrating intelligence and an ability to distill vast amounts of information into engrossing narratives, Duhigg brings to life a whole new understanding of human nature and its potential for transformation.
The Power of Habit has helped me with everything from starting a skin care routine to consistently turning around client wedding galleries in less than four weeks. The technique is so simple that it actually works, and there’s really no habit too big (or small) for you to start or break once you’ve read this book.
I did skim through some of the examples used, as you get the point pretty quickly, but I absolutely recommend this book anyway if you have a bad habit you wanna break, or a good one you want to start! (May I suggest breaking the habit of checking social media while working, or starting the habit of replying to emails in set time chunks every day rather than throughout?)
9. Purple Cow: Transform Your Business by Being Remarkable by Seth Godin
Cows, after you’ve seen one, or two, or ten, are boring. A Purple Cow, though…now that would be something. Purple Cow describes something phenomenal, something counterintuitive and exciting and flat out unbelievable. Every day, consumers come face to face with a lot of boring stuff-a lot of brown cows – but you can bet they won’t forget a Purple Cow. And it’s not a marketing function that you can slap on to your product or service.
Purple Cow is all about finding ways to stand out (no matter how crowded the market you’re in) and being remarkable. And not through gimmicks either, but by having a solid understanding of what makes you different. In a world where most wedding photography websites both look and sound the same, this book will help you stand out!
10. Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert
Balancing between soulful spirituality and cheerful pragmatism, Gilbert encourages us to uncover the “strange jewels” that are hidden within each of us. Whether we are looking to write a book, make art, find new ways to address challenges in our work, embark on a dream long deferred, or simply infuse our everyday lives with more mindfulness and passion, Big Magic cracks open a world of wonder and joy.
Big Magic is by far the outsider in this group of strategic business and marketing books, but it’s also my absolute favorite and top recommendation. If you ever feel like you’re losing track of why you’re doing all of this, why you put up with the uncertainty of running your own business, why you keep putting yourself out there and risk rejection? This book will help you take a deep breath and let go of the fear, so you can focus on creating.
“What do you love doing so much that the words failure and success essentially become irrelevant?”
DO YOU HAVE ANY FAVORITE BUSINESS BOOKS TO GROW YOUR BUSINESS THAT WEREN’T MENTIONED IN THIS LIST? SHARE A COMMENT, I’D LOVE TO CHECK THEM OUT!
Nina Larsen Reed grew a six figure wedding photography business in less than eighteen months from shooting her first wedding, while hiking and exploring her way around the Colorado mountains with her ideal clients. She is now using her half teaching degree from Norway (it’s a long story, ask her about it some time!) to help other wedding photographers generate more leads, build sustainable and profitable businesses, and work with couples they love!