27 best books for freelance copywriters in 2021

Saas Copywriter

This list will be updated as I read new books that are worth sharing!

One of the greatest advantages you can have as a business owner is curiosity and the continual thirst for knowledge. 

Whether you’re just starting out or years into the trenches of copywriting, content writing, or other self-employment, there’s a book out there that can help expand your ideas and improve your approaches to everything from copywriting, to marketing, to productivity, financial management, and human behavior.

These are 27 of the best books for freelance copywriters. I’ve personally read all of the books in this list, as I only want to recommend things I’ve found genuinely helpful in growing my own business. 

Best books about copywriting


On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by [Stephen King]

On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King

Yes, it’s by THE Stephen King, master of horror, and creator of crazed killer clowns.


I love this book and it’s always top of my list when people ask me for book recommendations. It starts with King’s first foray into writing, how he got his big break, and follows him through his career wins and tragedies. 


He shares the most important elements of writing as both a craft and a business, and how to create environments and routines that enable you to do your best work. He also shares tons of tips on how to become a better writer!


If you need more convincing, this book has a solid 5-star rating with over 8,000 reviews!

The Elements of Style by Strunk & White


A must-have guide to grammar and correct word usage for anyone that’s thinking of making a career out of writing. This constant bestseller is a solid guide on the ins and outs of composition for any content creator.



Woe is I: The Grammarphobe's Guide to Better English in Plain English by Patricia O’Conner

 

A quirky and humorous read on grammar, spelling, and punctuation problems with deeply useful insights for all writers.


Finding The Right Message: How to turn voice of customer research into irresistible website copy by Jennifer Havice


Jennifer is a copywriting colleague, and the author of this insanely valuable book about finding the right messaging to use for website copy, emails, sales pages, landing pages, and anywhere else you need to interview and survey people to create copywriting that sells.


Copywriting that converts doesn’t come from guesswork. It comes from the voice of customers. This book will help you learn to gather the data you need from people, organize it into a powerful and useful asset, and then turn it into sales copy that your clients will love you for. 

You’ll learn:

  • The step by step process to gather data from customers
  • How to run interviews and surveys
  • How to use your research when you start to write
  • How to create a value proposition
  • The differences between features and benefits, and why this makes a huge difference when you’re writing website pages and other sales copy


Research is the DNA of professional copywriting, so if this is something you need to learn about -- there’s no better resource out there than this book. It’s saved my butt on so many occasions!


The Copywriter's Handbook: A Step-By-Step Guide To Writing Copy That Sells (4th Edition) by [Robert W. Bly]

The Copywriter’s Handbook by Robert Bly


As the name suggests, this super helpful handbook covers everything you need to know about a wide variety of different copywriting projects you might get asked to work on, and how to ensure you get great results for clients (and for your own personal projects!). It’s a staple in a copywriter’s arsenal.


Note: Make sure you grab the latest version, as this book has had a few different revisions to keep pace with the needs of digital marketing over the years.


Hey Whipple, Squeeze This: The Classic Guide To Creating Great Ads by Luke Sullivan


A copywriting favorite, this book sets out everything from starting out as a copywriter to creating successful advertising campaigns across both digital and traditional media. 


You’ll learn how to create compelling brand stories, and how to use storytelling to create authenticity, conflict, and resolutions in your work.


Advertising is a saturated market, so this book is essential reading to give you strategies that cut through the noise. It covers:


  • How to turn an idea into a winning campaign
  • How to work across multiple media channels
  • How to protect your work
  • Campaign mistakes
  • How to succeed without becoming a sell out


It’s an engaging, fun read about the realities of a competitive industry, giving you the knowledge to get started and succeed with your copywriting goals.


Ogilvy on Advertising

Ogilvy on Advertising by David Ogilvy


As one of the world’s greatest advertising wizards, Ogilvy shares his knowledge on:


  • How to get started in the advertising industry
  • The secrets behind successful advertising
  • How to be a successful copywriter
  • Why you need to research before writing a single word


The vintage ads and images in here are amazing! It’s a solid read for people who want to study the craft of copy and advertising from the perspective of one of history'sgreatest ad men.


The Ultimate Sales Letter: Attract New Customers, Boost Your Sales by Dan Kennedy

A copywriting classic, and an essential read for anyone who writes sales letters or sales pages. You’ll learn how to create effective messages that sell products like crazy - no matter which industry you write for. Headlines formulas, creative exercises, and how to use design to influence your copywriting are all covered in here.


Adweek Copywriting Handbook by Joseph Sugarman

 

This book covers everything you need to know about the craft of copywriting. Under expert guidance, you’ll learn how to write copy that creates interest, increases motivation, establishes authority, and moves customers to buy.

 

Breakthrough Advertising by Eugene Schwartz

 

Rather like a mystical holy grail of copywriting, this highly revered book doesn’t come cheap - and is very hard to find. I cracked around 2 years into my copywriting business and bought a copy. I thought it was well worth it, and it’s a book I’ve relentlessly referred to during copywriting projects.

 

If you’re buying a cheap knock-off copy, be aware that it may be missing pages or be incredibly hard to read due to bad photocopying. I’ve heard some horror stories! 

 

For those serious about the business and craft of copy, this website is the official home of the book by the late, great Gene Schwartz. As you’ll see on the website, it’s possibly "the greatest book ever written about persuasion, human behavior, and marketing".  And no, I won't sell you my copy :)

Scientific Advertising (1923) by Claude Hopkins


Yep, advertising was a hot topic in 1923! This book is a classic, and comes highly recommended by the advertising Mad Man himself, David Ogilvy, who said everybody in advertising needs to read this. Most copywriters are familiar with, or own this book.


Although it’s 100 years old, this book covers principles that are still the core of marketing today, such as testing and measuring, writing to one reader, using human psychology to create compelling copy, eliminating buyer risk, and learning how to sell with words.


Best books about content creation


Epic Content Marketing: How to Tell a Different Story, Break through the Clutter, and Win More Customers by Marketing Less by Joe Pulizzi

 

If you’re in the business of blogging and content creation, this is a must read. Learn how to:

 

  • Create engaging messages and stories for distribution across the web and social media
  • Step by step guides for creating successful content pieces
  • Best practices for creating content for social media
  • How to ensure your content ranks for SEO

 

The author is the founder of the Content Marketing Institute - so you’re learning from an expert!


Everybody Writes: Your Go-To Guide to Creating Ridiculously Good Content by [Ann Handley]

Everybody Writes: Your Go-To Guide to Creating Ridiculously Good Content by Ann Handley

One of the most loved books on content writing in existence, Ann Handley weaves her delightful humor and personality throughout this book. 

 

It’s a wonderful and valuable addition to the collection of any blogger, content creator, marketer, copywriter, and pretty much everyone that writes any content at all on the web - no matter which industry you’re in or who your readers are.

You’ll learn how to attract and engage readers and create content that builds relationships, as well as establishing authority and building a solid content marketing strategy for yourself, or your clients.


Content Rules: How to Create Killer Blogs, Podcasts, Videos, Ebooks, Webinars (and More) That Engage Customers and Ignite Your Business (New Rules Social Media Series Book 16) by [Ann Handley, C. C. Chapman]

Content Rules: How to Create Killer Blogs, Podcasts, Videos, Ebooks, Webinars (and More) That Engage Customers and Ignite Your Business by Ann Handley

 

Another excellent book from Ann Handley, this one covers all the forms of content you’ll come across as a writer or business owner. Learn from a master of the craft and supercharge your content creation!


Best books about productivity

Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones by James Clear

One of my all-time favorite books on productivity and creating better habits. Let’s start with the accolades:


  • Wall Street Journal bestseller
  • USA Today bestseller
  • Publisher's Weekly bestseller
  • One of Fast Company's 7 Best Business Books of 2018
  • One of Business Insider's Best Self-Help Books of 2018


I picked up so many simple tips to improve my business processes (and life in general) that I read this book twice. I also have it on Kindle, and two copies in hardcover that I got sent as gifts because, honestly, everyone seems to love this book and want to spread the word.


Lots of excellent anecdotes, and plenty of tips on how to achieve more, overcome setbacks, and form positive habits to last a lifetime.


Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World by [Cal Newport]

Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World - Cal Newport

 

Are your social scrolling habits getting in the way of work? Trying to multitask to get more done...but ending up getting even less done during your day? Are your days going by in a blur without you achieving anything? 

 

Deep work is the key to fixing your problems.

 

This book unravels your focus issues, and gives you the techniques you need to get more done and produce better results in less time. It’s like opening a book and finding a superpower inside! Worth reading at least twice :)


The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles by Steven Pressfield

 

Procrastination, resistance, impostor syndrome -- as a freelancer, these are very real setbacks that can get in the way of your work, and life in general.

 

This book sets out strategies to help any creatives achieve what they set out to do, without all that head trash getting in the way! 

 

No matter which creative field you’re in, you’ll learn how to harness your potential, create better work, and create a roadmap to get you out of trouble when those mental roadblocks show up.


The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich by Tim Ferriss


The book that launched a thousand digital nomads! I read this over a couple of days lying on a sun lounger in Zanzibar before I was thinking seriously about the whole freelance thing.


This made me get serious.


It wasn’t so much what was in the book, but reading it started my brain churning around ideas, what-ifs, ambitions, outcomes, and the confidence to say f*** it, I'm going to go all in and see what happens. Maybe I wouldn’t be where I am if I hadn’t read this - but there’s no way to know for sure :)

Whether you love Tim Ferriss or absolutely hate him, this book has spent 7 years on the New York Times bestseller list for a reason, so I’m labelling it as “give it a go”.

Best books about human behavior


How To Win Friends and Influence People by [Dale Carnegie]

How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie


Possibly one of the best selling books of all time, this book has rave reviews from over 37,000 people on Amazon. 


Understanding human behavior is the key to being successful in both life and business, and as this 60-year old book can attest to, nothing has changed since this was published!


A must-read book for anyone who wants to improve their copywriting, marketing, and selling skills!


Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert Cialdini

A masterclass in human behavior and the persuasion techniques that make us buy things. Probably the most quoted, referenced book for copywriters and marketers. 

 

Learn the 6 principles of influence and how to use them in your business, plus how to realize when other people are trying to influence YOU:

 

  • Commitment and consistency
  • Reciprocation
  • Social proof
  • Liking
  • Authority
  • Scarcity

 

The book is based on scientific and evidential research, plus field studies on behavior mechanisms and triggers. A goldmine for copywriters everywhere!

 

If you’ve read this already and loved it, check out Pre-suasion by the same author - another awesome resource.

Made to Stick: Why some ideas take hold and others come unstuck by [Chip Heath, Dan Heath]

Made to Stick by Chip and Dan Heath

  

This book provides solid frameworks to ensure that people pay attention to your messages and buy your products. It’s the outcome of years of research, and gives fascinating case studies around how ideas can be created and shared that stick with people.

 

It’s entertaining and packed with super interesting case studies such as:

 

  • How a scientist convinced the world he'd discovered the cause of stomach ulcers by drinking a glass filled with bacteria
  • How a sports reporter got people to watch a football match just by showing them the outside of a stadium
  • How movie pitches such as “Jaws, but on a spaceship” (Alien) and “Die Hard, but on a bus” (Speed) convinced movie producers to throw vast sums of money at projects with barely any information


If you’re looking for new, effective ways to help you get your ideas across, this is a recommended read.


Best books about managing finances and freelance life

Profit First: Transform Your Business from a Cash-Eating Monster to a Money-Making Machine by [Mike Michalowicz]

Profit First: Transform Your Business from a Cash-Eating Monster to a Money-Making Machine by Mike Michalowicz

As a freelancer, managing your finances is critical - especially if you’re planning to work remotely and travel! This book sets out a simple cash management system that ensures you can pay your taxes, stay out of debt, and achieve profitability as a small business owner. No small feat!

With plenty of case studies and practical how-to advice, this is a definite must read if you struggle with your finances - it’s a bestselling book for a reason!

 


I Will Teach You To Be Rich by Ramit Sethi


A New York TImes and Wall Street Journal bestseller, the second edition of this book is packed with even more information about making your money work harder for you.

Love your soy lattes? Don’t feel guilty about spending money on them. Learn how to manage your finances, invest sensibly, and live the lifestyle you want without sacrificing the things that make you happy!


  • Crush your debt and student loans - fast
  • Find no-fee, high interest bank accounts
  • Automate your finances so your money goes exactly where you want it to the moment it hits your bank account
  • Investment strategies
  • Insights on the psychology behind money
  • Case studies from people who have used this book to create richer lives

The Well-Fed Writer: Financial Self-Sufficiency as a Commercial Freelancer in Six Months or Less by [Peter Bowerman]

The Well-Fed Writer - Financial Self Sufficiency as a Commercial Freelancer in 6 Months or Less by Peter Bowerman


This was published in 2013, so may feel a little dated in some places, but the ideas are rock solid. It covers essential things for establishing a successful writing business, even if you have zero experience, zero samples, and zero contacts.


You’ll learn things including:


  • The qualities you need to succeed as a freelancer
  • How to build a foundation for freelancing while you’re still at your day job
  • How to find work - and get hired!
  • How to find consistent work and keep your pipeline full
  • What to say on a call with potential clients
  • What you should charge
  • How to ensure you get paid
  • How to increase your hourly rate to $100+ per hour


A great start for anyone thinking about getting into the business of freelance writing.


Best books about business

Company of One: Why Staying Small is the Next Big Thing for Business by [Paul Jarvis]

Company of One by Paul Jarvis

Want to know how to create a life where you work for yourself, set your own hours, and become a highly profitable company of...just you?


This book centers around the many benefits of staying small and running lean as a business so you have more freedom to spend time enjoying the things you really want to do with your life.

The E-Myth Revisited: Why Most Small Businesses Don't Work and What to Do About It by [Michael E. Gerber]

The E-Myth Revisited: Why Most Small Businesses Don't Work and What to Do About It by Michael Gerber

I loved this book because it dispels the myths about starting your own business, and points out how all your assumptions and expectations can get in the way of running a successful business.

Take a walk through all the steps in the life of a business—from entrepreneurial beginnings and dreams, through growing pains, and on to the mature entrepreneurial perspective.

This book helps you take a step back and understand how you can work on your business, instead of being consumed by working in your business.

Superfans: The Easy Way to Stand Out, Grow Your Tribe, And Build a Successful Business by [Pat Flynn]

Superfans: The Easy Way to Stand Out, Grow Your Tribe, And Build a Successful Business by Pat Flynn

As a freelancer, your business relies on you finding clients...which means getting out there and networking, growing your followers, subscribers,and fan base.

People look to us to give advice, and to care. They look for trustworthy tools and resources (much like the one you're reading now), and for someone to help them to achieve their goals.

These are the people whohave potential to become your superfans.

This book is about cultivating superfans by taking people on a journey that only you can give them, and growing something that's more than your average freelance copywriting business.

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