Ten of My Favorite Business Books for Artists

Often when talking with my fellow illustrator friends the discussion will turn to thing about running a business and we’ll offer tips from experience and books we’ve read on the subject. Remember, If you are an illustrator working for yourself, then you are a business. I don’t particularly like the term ‘freelance’. I run a children’s market illustration business. 

Here are some of my favorites. I have read each of the these books, sometime multiple times, and recommended them many times. They aren’t in any particular order. No matter where you are in your career the little tips, words of wisdom, mindset, business knowledge, etc. will be valuable to you. There’s an amazon link so you can peek inside the book. I think most of these should be available at a library as well. Happy reading!

$100 Start Up by Chris Guillebeau

Reinvent the way you make a living, do what you love, and create a new future. This book discusses being small and scrappy with case studies on how many businesses got their start.


Steal Like An Artist by Austin Kleon

Short and sweet book about being creative and thoughts on that topic. There are two other books, Show Your Work and Keep Going are great and also quick reads. I recommend all three but if you had to pick one, Steal Like An Artist is it.


Creativity, Inc. by Ed Catmull

Overcoming the unseen forces that stand in the way of true inspiration. I’m a big fan of Pixar, not only for their artistry, but for their storytelling. Ed Catmull talks about business methods employed at Pixar to protect creativity and let it flourish. All great things to keep in mind when you have to wear all hats as a solopreneur.


Deep Work by Cal Newport

I loved this book on focus. With modern connectivity comes a lack of focus which gets in the way of “Deep Work”. The book offers tips and stories on what deep work is and how it can be achieved for focused success.


The 4 Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss

I don’t believe illustrators will ever have a 4 hour workweek. That wasn’t my takeaway from this book. However, it is filled with new thinking on what work is and what it should be, business practices, life hacks and offers food for thought on setting up your own career schedule.


Art, Inc. by Lisa Congdon

Lots of practical advice, case studies and business advice in this one specifically for artists. Lisa has a new one out now called Find Your Artistic Voice: The Essential Guide to Working Your Creative Magic which I am looking forward to reading.


How to Fail at Almost Anything and Still Win Big by Scott Adams

Scott Adams has tons of practical advice on all kinds of topics in this book. Scott is the cartoonist creates Dilbert, so it is also packed full of humor. Scott has a sharp wit and uses it to offer a unique point of view. He discusses his comical failures and how he put them to use in his successes.


Creative, Inc. by Meg Mateo Ilasco & Joy Deangdeelert Cho

Another book filled with lots of practical advice on running a creative business.


The Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey

Money is often an uncomfortable subject but one that is necessary. Getting finances in order is key to running a success business and in your personal life as well. I really like the simple, straightforward thinking in this book.


David and Goliath by Malcom Gladwell

I have enjoyed all of Malcom Gladwell’s books, but this one is my favorite. When things seem insurmountable it is hard to remember that being the underdog, the misfit can often be to your advantage. Great thinking in this book.


Well, that’s it. Hope you enjoyed this list and let me know any recommendations you have!