Best business books and business podcasts in 2018

As I grow my business, my overarching goal is to be a go-to writer and editor for membership associations. To do this, I not only continue to work on my craft, but I focus on the business side of MelEdits. I’ve become a fan of good business books and business podcasts. I’ve discovered that many business books and podcasts can apply to a broad spectrum of industries. And if you’re an employee, they can still provide you inspiration and tactical advice in areas such as social media and SEO. They can also teach you how to improve your work-life balance, with tips on productivity, mental focus and maximizing your energy at the right time.

Below are the best business books and best business podcasts I discovered in 2018.

Best business books

1. “Make Time: How to Focus on What Matters Every Day” by Jake Knapp and John Zeratsky. 

This is one of the most practical, helpful business books I’ve read. But it’s not just for work—it can help you organize your life to make time for the things you enjoy or new projects you want to start. The lessons are not earth-shattering, but they’re presented in a smart, relatable, doable way. Too many books that help us work on productivity just end up teaching us how to do more work, which is not my goal. I want to maximize my productivity so I can be more efficient and find the time to do the things I love. This book shares that philosophy.

“Make Time” shows you how to choose a ‘highlight’ for each day, something you want to get done, whether in work or your personal life, and then how to minimize the distractions all around you to be able to laser focus on that highlight. I’ve been using this method for a few months already, and it’s helped me accomplish “deep work.” (See my Cal Newport recommendation below.)

2. “The Freelance Content Marketing Writer: Find your perfect clients, make tons of money and build a business you love,” by Jennifer Goforth Gregory.

I have known Gregory for a few years and have always been a bit in awe of how prolific she is as a content marketing writer. No matter how many times I see her present at conferences, or how many of her blog posts I read, or how many in-person conversations I have with her, I always gain great concrete, how-to tips I can implement immediately. This book is no different. It takes the best of her blog and expands it, creating a game plan for how you can expand your business, gain more clients, charge more money and be successful—however you define success. I recommend it for every freelance writer, no matter if you are new to the business or have been writing for 20+ years.

3. “Off the Clock: Feel Less Busy While Getting More Done” by Laura Vanderkam.

I became hooked on Vanderkam’s books and her time-tracking recommendations ever since I heard her speak at the American Society of Journalist and Authors annual meeting a couple of years ago. I pre-ordered this book and thought I’d gather a few more good tips related to time tracking. But this book is so much more than I thought it would be. It’s doesn’t just provide a few obvious productivity tips like many books on the subject. Vanderkam teaches you how to live life with more intention, to “linger” and “savor,” and to invest in your happiness by being mindful of how you spend your time and how you WANT to spend your time. I was already implementing some of Vanderkam’s previous suggestions, but I picked up a few more ideas of how to make my freelance business more successful while savoring a happy, slower pace of life. 

Bonus pick:

“Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World” by Cal Newport

I actually read this book in 2017, but it’s so good that I have to recommend it here. Ironically, when I first picked up this book, I couldn’t get through it because my mind was too scattered and distracted to read a book. I needed to work on “deep work” first and dive into books again to regain my attention span. Once I did that, I devoured this book. I believe wholeheartedly in the philosophy of taking the time to train our brains to focus on deep work and not only spend our days in the superficial world of meetings, social media and email—flitting from one thing to the next; never having the uninterrupted quality time to do real work; telling ourselves multitasking works (spoiler: it doesn’t). Newport gives a lot of helpful, practical advice to train your brain to focus on deep work and improve your concentration, productivity and output.

Many business books and podcasts can apply to a broad spectrum of industries—and be helpful to both freelancers and employees. Here are my favorites of 2018. @MelEdits Click To Tweet

Best business podcasts

1. High-Income Business Writing with Ed Gandia. A successful content marketing writer, Gandia provides great tips—both his own and from his guests—on how to grow a freelance writing business. But he also provides inspirational big ideas and challenges us to question our lives and work, which are my favorite episodes.

Episodes to try:

How to Be More Productive (and Creative) in a World Filled with Distractions (#166)

James Clear on an Easier Way to Build Good Habits as a Freelancer (#163)

The 21 Questions I’m Asking Myself This Week (#117)—This is a great way to reflect on the previous year and set goals for the new one.

2. Online Marketing Made Easy with Amy Porterfield. Porterfield’s specialty is creating successful online businesses. Even though that’s not my focus, I’ve found a ton of useful information and inspiration through her podcast. And she offers smart, updated advice in areas such as SEO, Facebook ads and content creation that could help employees too.

Episodes to try:

7 Things You Must Do When Planning for 2019 (bonus episode, Dec. 4, 2018)

5 Ways to Create Binge-Worthy Content with Melissa Cassera (#237)

Podcasting 101: From Creation to Promotion (#233)

What other business—and inspirational—podcasts should I listen to? What business books do you love?

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