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6 Business Books All Entrepreneurs Must Read in 2012

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Last year I set a goal to read more. More specifically, I set a goal to read at least 6 new books (one book every 2 months – which is good for me since I never read offline).

Along with a few other non-business books, I devoured the following 6 business books and think every designer who aspires to run a successful design business MUST read these books.

I’ve tried to list them in the order of most impact; meaning the book that most changed the way I do business, I listed first. Second place next, and so on. All the links you find below are affiliate links which means I make a tiny fraction of money if you click through and buy, but I will NEVER recommend a book or service that I haven’t personally tried and approve of. If you do click through and purchase one of these books, be sure to let me know so I can thank you and chat about the book with you.

You'll also enjoy this episode of our new podcast...

Now, I’m looking for some great business books to read in 2012. If you have one you want to recommend, please leave a comment and tell me what it is.

The 4 Hour Work Week

A phenomenal book by Tim Ferris. I know it’s not brand-new, but it was to me and its principles were refreshingly original.

While I don’t absolutely agree with 100% of what Tim writes about, there is no single book (not just last year, but EVER) that has more positively influenced and changed the way I do business.

The 4 Hour Work Week is all about how to run a successful business from wherever you want on however many hours a week you choose. Want to check email once a month from some beach house in Puerto Vallarta while raking in more money than you know what to do with? Tim will show you how he does it.

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Why YOU should read this book in 2012
This outstanding book hasn’t just changed the way I do business, but also changed how I do life. It will literally change the way you think about work, time, priorities, and money.

It’s also packed with resources and web sites to help with some of freelancing’s most pressing questions: How to get insurance, how to travel without spending tons of money, and where to find virtual assistants.

If you feel like you’re stuck in a rut, give this book a read. You’ll feel refreshed, rejuvenated and motivated to have a great year in 2012.


My second favorite book of 2011 was by Dan and Chip Heath (who are quickly becoming two of my favorite authors) and is titled Switch.

The subtitle sums it up more perfectly than I can: How to Change Things When Change is Hard.

This amazing book is conversational, easy to read, and includes actionable stories and tips on affecting change in your world. Whether you want to convince clients to act differently, build your business more quickly, or stop destructive behavior, Switch will help you make change even when it’s difficult.

Why YOU should read this book in 2012
If you’re tired of feeling like you have little power to guide your own life or business, this book is a great one!

If there’s anything you can’t seem to solve (hard-to-please clients, a plateau in your business growth, etc) this book will teach you how to make the changes around you that will help you get out of whatever hole you’re stuck in.

Rules for Revolutionaries

Next, comes a book that changed the way I approach problem solving. It’s always easy to “do whatever we did last time” we had this same problem.

But Rules for Revolutionaries teaches you how to approach innovation and problem solving from a fresh new perspective every time.

Why YOU should read this book in 2012
If you’re looking for a fresh new take on business in 2012, take a look no further than Rules for Revolutionaries.

Einstein said that insanity is doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results.

If you’re wondering why your design business isn’t growing, perhaps you’re doing something wrong, failing to innovate, or missing a vital piece of the puzzle.

Be revolutionary in 2012.

Made to Stick

Another amazing book from Chip and Dan Heath (I told you that I liked them), Made to Stick is actually their first book.

The book is all about “Why Some Ideas Survive While Others Die”.

One of the most famous principles they teach in the book is the Curse of Knowledge (a concept that blew my mind and fascinated me when I first read about it. In fact keep your eye out for a post in the next week or so about how the Curse of Knowledge can cause serious communication problems between you and your design clients. Subscribe to updates.).

Why YOU should read this book in 2012
As an entrepreneur, it’s important that people remember what you tell them. If you’re tired of communication problems with clients or even with family members, help your ideas survive by reading Made to Stick this year.


Written by the founders of the popular project management tool, Basecamp, Rework is a great quick read about how to rethink business. It curses the idea of holding meetings (which is one of my favorite parts) and teaches you how to streamline your business. Among many other things, it takes a step back and forces you to reevaluate the way people have been doing business for decades.

Why YOU should read this book in 2012
If you’ve been doing business the same way it’s always been done with little success, take a look at Rework. Its fresh take on business will revitalize you and help you see business from a non-traditional point of view. I also loved this book because it was a short, quick, easy read.

Moonlighting on the Internet

The last book all entrepreneurs MUST read in 2012 is an oldie but a goodie.

I chose this book for two reasons:

1. Pat Flynn of Smart Passive Income recommended it on his blog (as he did with the 4 Hour Work Week mentioned earlier). Pat makes tons of passive income online each month.

2. About a year ago, I got a full-time job as a designer/marketer and I wanted to keep making money from my freelance business, so I figured that passive income was a great way to do it. Moonlighting on the Internet is all about making passive income online.

The book teaches various ways you can make a few extra bucks (or a few extra thousand bucks) each month.

Why YOU should read this book in 2012
Like I said, this book is a little older. In fact, some of it is a little less-relevant that other books on the list, but this book is very motivating.

If nothing else, buy this book in 2012 for the amazing entrepreneurial stories that are shared.

In additional to valuable tips and practices, the book is packed with experiences and advice from people just like you who took their business online and found success with it.

One other book of 2011

Last but not least, I made a resolution last year to self-publish and in the middle of last year, many of you know I published From Passion to Profit, a book created especially for designers who want to start their own business.

From Passion to Profit guides you through the first 11 days of starting your own design business and teaches you how to find clients, write a contract, and make your first piece of profit.

If you’re looking for something to help you build your design business in 2012, give From Passion to Profit a try today.

What have I left off the list? What should I read in 2012?

Now I’m turning the tables on you. What books did I leave off the list and what ones should I read in 2012 in order to keep building my business? Leave a comment on this post and let me know!

Happy reading and business-building in 2012!

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About Preston D Lee

Preston is an entrepreneur, writer, podcaster, and the founder of this blog. You can contact him via twitter at @prestondlee.

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  1. Awesome list, Preston. I am excited to give some of these a read. I also highly recommend Talent is Not Enough: Business Secrets for Designers by Shel Perkins (review on my blog here: http://bit.ly/qx7UwJ).

    I’ll also say that your Passion to Profit as a course, was excellent. I took away a lot of valuable information. Good stuff all around!

    • Melissa,
      Thanks for adding that book-looks like a great one for designers who hope to build their business. I’m also glad you enjoyed From Passion to Profit – how’s everything going with your business?

      • Everything is going great! I saw a ton of growth in 2011 and 2012 is already shaping up to be a fantastic year, profit and cool project wise. I have some other areas I want to break into this year; start making some money from my blog (which means more dedication at keeping it updated…hard!), sell some of my illustrations as prints and work on a side project that won’t really make me any money, but will be fun and a great opportunity to give back to the community. 2012 should be awesome!

        What about you? Excited for a great year?

        • Preston D Lee says:

          That all sounds amazing Melissa! I’m stoked for 2012 and I’m glad you have some great goals already in place for the year! Best of luck in all of it. If you would ever like to write a guest post to drive a little extra traffic to your blog, please consider yourself invited!

  2. Hey Preston, nice list of books man. I have to say my favorite is Rework.

    I’d like to add one more to your list, “Return On Influence” by Mark Schaefer comes out this March, should be good.

  3. The 4-hr work week is also on my list of favorite business books. Completely agree that isn’t just about work, it’s about life! Another must-read for 2012 is Accelerate! Move Your Business Forward through the Convergence of Search, Social and Content Marketing. It’s an excellent how-to guide for marketers to drive more traffic through their websites, whether they work for a large company or own a small company. It has compelling case studies plus 16 examples of different types of content. It’s received rave reviews from other industry experts. I keep it on my desk and reference it daily. Thanks for this great list!

  4. Preston,

    I’m reading the 4-hour work week right now – on your promotion of it – and absolutely LOVED Switch! 🙂 Your book, From Passion to Profit, is excellent as well.

    One of the books that I read cover-to-cover in one sitting (NOT on purpose) was LogoDesignLove by David Airey. It’s all about the logo creating process, but the process and more importantly, the thought-process, can be applied to any design.

    • Preston D Lee says:

      April, thanks for buying the Four Hour Work Week. I hope it’s changing your outlook on business and life as much as it has changed mine.

      David’s book is a GREAT addition to this list. It’s super-insightful and full of excellent images and instruction. A definite MUST-READ if you are into logo design.

      If anyone’s interested in April’s recommendation, here’s the link:

  5. Read 4 out of the 6 you suggest Preston. Great list and Made to Stick is definitely a keeper. If you are looking for some other great business books to read in 2012, then I would also recommend “Potemkin, Inc.” by Philippe Joly. It’s an amazing book with true stories about what it really means to be an entrepreneur. It has a very original approach, and in my opinion, anyone starting a business or thinking about it, should read this book. It’s just released, but it’s one to watch for on the bestseller charts for 2012, I’d put bets on it.

  6. Great books, I am downloading them now to my kindle, and I love reading…Really have to up my game…Thank you all so much


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