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6 books that taught me how to be a freelancer and land clients quickly

Headshot of freelancer Chris Weller.

Courtesy of Chris Weller

  • Chris Weller recently launched a new business to help thought leaders tell their stories.
  • He read many books before starting his business and shared his six favorites.
  • One book gave him specific scripts that he used in sales calls to better understand good deals. 

I was inspired to start my own business when I began binge-watching episodes of “Shark Tank” — around the time I was 19. Twelve years later, a month ago, I finally made the leap.

My business is to help thought leaders in business and academia write more effectively and gain recognition for their ideas — storytelling. Except, that isn’t really a business. It’s a vision. Before I started the actual business, I knew I needed to learn more about what I was getting myself into.

Given all the evidence that the most successful people are voracious readers, I began reading everything I could get my hands on — and it paid off. Three weeks into starting my business, I was already under contract for my first projects and now have a handful more lined up.

Below are six books that set me on a strong trajectory.

1. ‘Beginners’ by Tom Vanderbilt"Beginners" by Tom Vanderbilt book cover.


“Beginners” was the first book I read in 2023. It’s all about the author’s quest to understand the science and lived experience of learning something new. He writes about learning to sing, surf, juggle, and draw. Along the way, he reflects on why people tend to fall short of their potential and how to go easy on yourself as a newbie.

It put me into a beginner’s mindset right away, and gave me the reassurance I needed to reject perfectionism in my business journey. I can learn from the greats, but it does me no good to pressure myself into becoming great overnight.

Find it here »

2. ‘The Almanack of Naval Ravikant’ by Eric Jorgenson"The Almanack of Naval Ravikant" book cover.

Magrathea Publishing

I first learned about Naval Ravikant on Twitter—where I kept seeing people retweeting his account. I’d never heard of this guy, but I dug into his ideas and came to learn he’s the cofounder, chairman, and CEO of AngelList, among many other successful ventures. I thought, okay, maybe I should pay attention.

“The Almanack of Naval Ravikant” is a compilation of Ravikant’s years’ worth of writing on happiness and wealth. It helped me put my ambitions into perspective. Why even bother building a business? What does being wealthy mean to me? In one night, this short book gave me principles I would have otherwise spent years figuring out for myself.

Find it here »

3. ‘Company of One’ by Paul Jarvis"Company of One" book cover.

Mariner Books

One of my concerns with starting a business was that I essentially had two options: 1) scale the business or 2) limit my earning potential. “Company of One” convinced me that this is a false dichotomy.

As Jarvis explains, there is a ton of value (and thus, profit) in focusing on getting better, not bigger. Not only that, trying to scale introduces risks in the form of overhead. Staying lean keeps businesses safe, and allows founders to focus on the thing they’re best at and love doing.

Reading this book solidified that a solopreneur lifestyle is still compatible with huge returns.

Find it here »

4. ‘Hourly Billing Is Nuts’ by Jonathan Stark"Hourly Billing Is Nuts" book cover.

Courtesy of Jonathan Stark

“Hourly Billing Is Nuts” gave me the tools to break free from hourly billing, talk openly with clients about the value I can provide, and build out pricing from there.

Jonathan Stark runs a tech consulting practice, but has created a brand (and side business) around “value-based pricing” — a form of pricing that anchors on what clients get out of a project, not what the vendor puts in.

The book blew my mind. Freelance writers are often asked about their hourly or per-word rate, but this limits earning potential and creates skewed incentives. If work is priced on inputs, not results, the vendor is punished for efficiency and is incentivized to withhold immediate value.

Find it here »

5. ‘Value-Based Fees’ by Alan Weiss"Value-Based Fees" book cover.

Wiley; 3rd edition

As I was digging into value-based pricing, I remembered one of Stark’s newsletters where he called “Value-Based Fees” “the bible for anyone who wants to value price professional services.” I bought the book right away.

Weiss is a veteran consultant who’s worked with Mercedes-Benz, Hewlett-Packard, and many others. His book dissects value-based pricing in action, as it’s worked for him over his career.

I came away with specific scripts that I’ve already used in sales calls to better understand the deal I’m getting myself into and how the client and I can become partners, not adversaries. It’s clear clients appreciate this forethought.

Find it here »

6. ‘Atomic Habits’ by James Clear"Atomic Habits" book cover.


All of this wisdom would vanish if not for the systems to put it to use daily. That’s what “Atomic Habits” gave me: a science-backed model for understanding how habits form and, more importantly, how to form the right ones.

The prior five books gave me direction for getting started, while this book has served as a playbook for staying on course. With “Atomic Habits,” I picked up pointers on how to replace willpower with systems. Even on days when I’m unmotivated, I can trust my systems will keep me honest and the business running smoothly.

Find it here »

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