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Ruth Carter wheaton's law
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NOTHING BUT THE RUTH!

Side Hustle for Lawyers: I Created an Online Course for People Who Will Never Hire an Attorney

By Ruth Carter

Repackaging your legal know-how into a new product or service can generate new revenue streams and provide more financial stability — especially in the feast-or-famine world of solo practice. How is it done? Ruth Carter explains how her latest side hustle for lawyers uses Teachery to tap an unmet need for legal information.

Earlier this year, I launched my first online course: “Lights Camera Lawsuit: The Legal Side of Professional Photography.” It took me three years to finally commit to getting it done and released. The main thing that held me back was fear, which is ironic since the purpose of creating the course was to provide financial stability in the eat-what-you-kill world that is my professional life.

Why an Online Course for a Side Hustle?

I’ve been a lawyer for nearly 10 years, and a model on the side for the last five. I like to say I work both in front of and behind the camera, without ever picking one up myself. After speaking at many photography events over the years, one thing I’ve learned about photographers is that most of them need all the legal advice they can get, but they don’t want to pay for it. They won’t hesitate to buy a $1,000 lens, but they won’t buy an hour with an attorney.

Creating an online course seemed to be the most logical choice for reaching this market. “Lights Camera Lawsuit” contains over 20 lessons on copyright, contracts and other topics specific to photographers’ needs, nearly six hours of legal information. They can access what lessons they need when they need them and have access to the materials for life. Also, if the applicable laws change, I can update the course (which everyone who has already purchased the course will get for free).

The Nuts and Bolts

Before I created this course, I needed to create a separate company from my law practice. I needed a clear delineation that people who only bought the course are not legal clients. There is no attorney-client relationship. (I also have a disclaimer at the beginning of each lesson that reminds the viewer that I’m not their lawyer.) After speaking with my accountant, I created a separate LLC called Scarlet Maven, named after my superhero alter ego, and created a simple website for it using Squarespace.

When deciding what platform to use for my course, I opted for Teachery, created by fellow entrepreneur and source of constant encouragement Jason Zook. I’ve taken other courses on this platform, and I wanted to use a similar format — slides with a voiceover recording (recorded with Screencast-O-Matic). Teachery is super easy to use, has excellent tutorials and seamlessly integrates with Stripe, which I use to accept online payment.

I did the bulk of the work to create my course myself: the website, the slides for all the content and the voiceover recording for each lesson. I hired two designers to help create the course: one to create the logos for Scarlet Maven and the course, and one to create the template for the course’s PowerPoint slides.

Same Material, Multiple Income Streams

Pamela Slim’s book “Body of Work” helped motivate me to create a course for my new side hustle. Slim says, “Viewing your career as a body of work will give you more choice, financial security, and creative freedom.” There are multiple ways to use, package and present the same information in ways that are helpful to different audiences, while also providing a creative outlet for the creator.

As an attorney, I find that traditional legal work is a feast-or-famine environment. I tend to oscillate between having a ton of client work or none at all. Having other streams of income – like writing, public speaking and now this course – helps provide financial stability in the unstable world of entrepreneurship.

“Even if you’re happy with your career, you want to have a backup plan in case you hit a bumpy stretch of road,” Slim says.

Overcoming Fear

I created Scarlet Maven in 2017, but, as noted, it took until 2020 to finally launch my first product. When I look back at what slowed down the process, the main culprit was fear. I was afraid it wouldn’t sell. I was worried I wouldn’t be able to figure out the nuts and bolts of recording the lessons and creating the course page (which were much easier than expected). There were many fits and starts.

The best thing I did when I got scared was to ask for help. It was always available when I was willing to ask for it. My photographer friends reminded me that this course would serve a valuable need in the community. My mastermind group helped me stay accountable. I looked to other entrepreneurs like Zook and Slim, who seem to be fearless in launching new ventures.

Whenever a task got too daunting, instead of walking away for a few months, I tried to break it down into more manageable pieces.

Create Once, Sell Hundreds

The benefit of writing a book or creating a course as a side hustle is that you only have to create it once, and then you can sell it potentially an infinite number of times. I’d love to be in a position where the bulk of my bills each month are covered by the revenue from “Lights Camera Lawsuit.” It requires a shift in mindset from creating to selling.

I don’t want to do anything that makes me feel like a used car salesperson, but Zook gave me another way to look at how I promote my work. I’m learning there are ways to promote that don’t feel selly-selly.

My goal is to have the go-to course for photographers for help with the legal side of their business. Zook says promoting something just means you’re excited to tell people about what you made, not forcing it on people who aren’t interested. You need to provide multiple ways for the people who want to know more to learn more and ultimately buy your product or service. Those who aren’t interested will self-select out.

Slims says, you have to sow 20 times more seeds than you think is necessary to make things happen, and that has definitely been my experience. I wish I had more hours in the day to work on creating relationships with photography groups, offering to speak at their meetings for free, and seeing how I can help more individual photographers.

It’s hard to manage a side hustle while having a stressful full-time job, but it’s worth it.

Image ©imagezoo.com

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Ruth B. Carter Ruth Carter

Ruth Carter — lawyer, writer and professional speaker — is Of Counsel with Venjuris, focusing on intellectual property, business, internet and flash mob law. Named an ABA Journal Legal Rebel, Ruth is the author of “The Legal Side of Blogging for Lawyers,” as well as “Flash Mob Law: The Legal Side of Planning and Participating in Pillow Fights, No Pants Rides, and Other Shenanigans.” Ruth blogs at UndeniableRuth.com and tweets @rbcarter.

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