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books for creative entrepreneurs by Ashlyn Carter of Ashlyn Writes


last updated:
August 17, 2017


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Reading time: 4 min.

With The Little Princess lodged in the side door of the blazer and Becky at the Barre on my nightstand—bookmarks in both—my trajectory was set in third grade: I’m one of those multiple-books-simultaneously readers.

I know, I know. It’s perhaps the most inefficient thing ever.

But sometimes I need escapism fiction and sometimes I want to sit at someone’s feet through a biographer and learn.

So, 20 years later, I still read multiple books at once, and a lot of those have been business-focused since leaving my corporate job in February 2016.

books for creative entrepreneurs by Ashlyn Carter of Ashlyn Writes

I once heard that your first 2 years in business are borderline like getting an MBA—it’s trial by fire to learn how to create and peddle a product in a capitalist economy, grow a team, run projects, manage expenses, and pay yourself. Leaders are readers, and it takes just a toe-dip into the pool to see successful entrepreneurs read voraciously.

“Read 500 pages like this every day. That’s how knowledge works. It builds up, like compound interest,” Warren Buffet said. “All of you can do it, but I guarantee not many of you will do it.”

I realize not everyone’s a reader, and if you’re a creative entrepreneur and business owner who doesn’t fangirl over reading, I’d say go peruse any of Nancy Ray’s blogs about reading—she wasn’t a born, avid reader, and taught herself how to be a reader (note: she reads constantly now, and her recommendations are always on point).

Ashlyn Writes book recommendations by Ashlyn Carter

I read between 3-4 books a month, and get asked where I’d point someone looking to start a creative small business or start reading to get better at business. Here are my top favorite books for creative entrepreneurs!

Want my full reading list, including books I’ve read, and books I want to read? Sign up to get access to my sample “Housewife Life” Trello board, which includes my list of book recommendations and more!

What Successful People Do Before Breakfast OR 168 Hours, both by Laura Vanderkam nearly workbook-y in their recommendations, both are a primer in teaching you how you’ve got more time than you think you do. I told Wes I think she’s my spirit animal.

Every Good Endeavor by Tim Keller, which is my hands-down-amen-and-amen favorite book about how the Lord views work. If you’re a Jesus-follower, you need to read this.

4 Hour Work Week by Tim Ferris, a bit dated, but a great 101 look at how online business can work.

The One Thing by Gary Keller, a quick-and-dirty pep talk about how no, you can’t do more than one thing at one time well, and how to start the domino-effect early on in your business.

Essentialism by Greg McKeown unlocks your mind to start honing in and focusing on one.thing.at.a.time, Ashlyn.

The Miracle Morning by Hal Elrod, first recommended to me by my friend Becky Marquecho teaches a new way to set up your mornings to be productive right out of the gate (I’m a morning bird, NOT a night owl, and still got tips from this, and I’ve heard that night owls turned into liking mornings a bit more after reading this).

The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles by Steven Pressfield, a kick-in-the-bootie talk about how to be an artist or creative, you’re still gonna need to sit down every day and do the work.

The Compound Effect by Darren Hardy walks you through figuring out how daily habits make up our day make up our weeks make up our lives. He gets a little big for his britches at times, but I walked away with some learnings that still stick with me.

Boundaries by Henry Cloud and Townsend, widely praised as a book that’s helped a lot of people learn how to say no … including this girl right here.

Design Your Day by Claire Diaz-Ortiz, full of lessons on how to set up your time to work for you. I’ve mailed this book to 4 different people who have a hard time setting up efficient processes. If you’re a martyr type who thinks you have to do it all or that “first one in, last one out” means better work, start here.

Six-Figure Freelancer by Kelly James-Enger, which I tell every single girl coming to me asking how to build a freelance writing business to read.

Real Artists Don’t Starve by Jeff Goins, (The Art of Work is good, too!) so you can debunk any myth that you had in your head that to be a true artist, you’d have to scrape by.

Entreleadership by Dave Ramsey, which is one super-duper well-run company’s playbook for success, and how to combine creativity with leadership. Maybe don’t read until you’re starting to grow a team.

The Creative Habit: Learn It and Use It for Life by Twyla Tharp, is a master class in living a creative life from an inspiring industry heavy hitter.

So there you have it!

Oh …

And this may not be a popular opinion, but I’d say you can skip reading Seth Godin’s stuff (!). I’m a BIG fan of the guy and have read his books, but you can squeeze most of his brain power out of a 2012 podcast series he did called Start-Up School.

Creativepreneur sin #2: I also didn’t read Big Magic by Liz Gilbert but again, if I can listen to a podcast on 1.5 speed while driving by myself to another state, then I’m gonna do that. Listen to her podcast series called Magic Lessons.

And no, I’ve never read Jon Acuff, either. They’re on the list, but there’s other things I need and want to read first. 😉

What business books are your favorites?

Reading Time: 4 Minutes Reading time: 4 min. With The Little Princess lodged in the side door of the blazer and Becky at the Barre on my nightstand—bookmarks in both—my trajectory was set in third grade: I’m one of those multiple-books-simultaneously readers. I know, I know. It’s perhaps the most inefficient thing ever. But sometimes I need escapism fiction […]


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comments +

  1. Tavia says:

    Great list! I also love Pumpkin Plan and Profit First — both by Mike Michalowicz

  2. Heather says:

    Thank you for telling me podcasts are out there for Seth Godin and Liz Gilbert! I don’t have time to read as much as I used to and now I can keep with the times!

  3. I totally agree about Seth Godin. Love the guy and he’s super smart. I’ve read five of his books and most say the same thing throughout and then he repeats the info in his blog posts and podcasts. If you aren’t a natural sales person, I highly recommend Sell or Be Sold by Grant Cardone. Skip chapters 1 and 2 if they’re slow; the meat starts in chapter 3.

  4. Sicilia says:

    @Alex I’m not a ‘natural sales person’, so I’m taking a note. @AW Thanks for this list! I keep coming back to it.

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