The ability to self-educate is a key skill for running a small business. It’s been critical to the growth of our SaaS copywriting firm Lewis Commercial Writing.
Combined, we’ve read a lot of books in 2018. Some fiction (This Boy’s Life by Tobias Wolff -Sarabeth), some science nonfiction (The Tangled Tree by David Quammen -Alex), and a whole lot of business how-to (both of us).
After some careful consideration, here are the 10 books that informed our business decisions and boosted our growth in 2018:
1. Deep Work by Cal Newport
In the age of social media and distracting open office plans, focused attention has become a rare skill to come by. At the same time, highly-skilled work requires deep focus more than ever. In Cal Newport’s book Deep Work, he argues that the most important, well-paid workers of the future will be those who know how to block out distractions. They will be the ones doing the work that matters. -Alex
2. On Writing Well by William Zinsser
This is one of the classics. For those who want to learn the techniques of good writing, On Writing Well is up there with The Elements of Style and Stephen King’s On Writing. With clear techniques, inspirational anecdotes, and lessons that have stood the test of time, Zinsser offers a guide that is both practical and enjoyable. -Alex
3. Content Design by Sarah Richards
Sarah Richards has become something of a hero to me. Content Design is a book unlike any other. If you want to learn how to produce and organize user-centered content online, Sarah’s book is the place to start.
“Not more content, smarter content.” (pages 18-19) -Sarabeth
4. Confessions of an Advertising Man by David Ogilvy
I’ve been meaning to dive into this one for a long time. Ogilvy is one of the most famous names in advertising. Confessions of an Advertising Man is his classic book about the best practices of the industry. It’s one of the most easily quotable book I’ve read this year. ("The customer is not a moron. She's your wife.”) -Alex
5. The Conversion Code by Chris Smith
From optimizing landing pages to writing effective sales scripts, this book brings many classic sales concepts into the digital age. Chris references many useful and free online tools for business owners. We used his book to rethink our contact page and immediately saw results. -Sarabeth
6. Marketing Metrics by Paul Farris, Neil Bendle, Phillip Pfeifer, and David Reibstein
I’m still working through this one. This zero-fluff guide to understanding marketing metrics is a recent find. The book explains many types of analysis to conduct, as well as how to interpret the data once you have it. If you want a heavy book packed with lots of helpful industry terms and context, Marketing Metrics will teach you a lot. If you’re in marketing, keep this book close to your desk for reference. -Alex
7. The Copywriter’s Handbook by Bob Bly
Robert W. Bly has written multiple copywriting classics. If you want to grasp the best practices of direct marketing, The Copywriter’s Handbook is practical and readable. The book offers a template for writing ads that convert leads into excited customers. If clarity and simplicity are the ingredients for great how-to writing, Bob Bly is the example to follow. -Alex
8. The Design of Everyday Things by Don Norman
This book is the classic book on usability and design. For anyone moving into UX writing, this book is a must. It’s also just wicked fun. Don’s basic premise is that our society actively shames the individual for “human error” when bad design is actually to blame. He then outlines the hallmarks of good design and maps for the reader how to avoid common pitfalls along the way. A fascinating read. -Sarabeth
9. Writing for Designers by Scott Kubie
Scott’s short ebook is a must read for those of us in the content community who want to learn about microcopy and content design from a designer’s point of view. He outlines core organizational methods like mindmapping, outlining, and inventories while suggesting actionable workflows for getting stakeholder input, composing, and editing for product and the web. -Sarabeth
10. The Million Dollar, One Person Business by Elaine Pofeldt
Sometimes the best advice isn’t taught, it’s conveyed through example. Fortunately, The Million Dollar, One Person Business offers both guidance and case studies. Journalist Elaine Pofeldt investigates the people and processes behind some of the most successful one-person businesses. The resulting book is one that will educate and inspire any entrepreneur or freelancer. - Alex
**Full disclosure, we’re signed up as Amazon affiliates, so we will get a small cut of any purchases made on Amazon. However, these opinions and Reading Rainbow-style reviews are our own.
What books influenced your business in 2018? Tell us in the comments so we can snag a copy for the new year!