I talk a lot on this show and in workshops and on other people’s podcasts about the impact of podcasting on a business, but what does that look like for somebody who’s not selling podcasts, who’s quite frankly not even necessarily selling a business service? That’s why I wanted to bring on Sarah of The Former Lawyer Podcast today because Sarah Cottrell does a really, really, really incredible job of supporting lawyers on her show. Today, she’s going to be talking about why she started her podcast and the results that podcast has had in her business over the last couple of years.
I am thrilled to get into this conversation. You’re going to hear us talk about it, but Sarah started working with us about a year ago, almost exactly a year ago in April 2021, and she’d had her show for about a year, a year and a half before that. We’re going to talk about her journey as a podcaster and how she knew it was the right time to make hires and even some of the reasons why she DIYed her show for the first year, which she did the first 12 months. She did absolutely everything herself. But she didn’t jump right into working with UM. For six months, she worked with a freelance editor and she’s going to talk about how she knew when it was the right time to make each of those calls. I think that’s really, really impactful to know when is the right time for you, when is the right time to pull that lever. I want you to listen to what she says.
If as you’re listening to this episode, it occurs to you that now is the right time for you, I encourage you to reach out. We have two spots for new shows to join us in April and I would love for one of those shows to be yours. Learn more about working with our team.
I loved having this conversation with Sarah and I am so excited to share with you now. It took a lot of effort. We actually recorded this about a month ago and it took a lot of restraint for me to stick with our plan and wait to release this because I think this is going to be a really, really cool episode for those who don’t necessarily sell B2B, what this can look like. I actually get this question quite a bit about using your show, and Sarah’s show is really podcast first, her business is really podcast first. You’ll hear that in the interview and I really wanted to hit home because it’s really, really impactful even if you are not selling to other online business owners.
This is not just a medium where graphic designers, web designers, coaches, and podcast producers can sell this to other people running businesses. In fact, Sarah’s audience is lawyers looking to maybe not be lawyers anymore, not necessarily be entrepreneurs. If you listen to the interviews she’s had on her show, a lot of the stories she’s telling are them leaving one traditionally corporate endeavor to go into another traditionally corporate endeavor. This is not just a way that B2B businesses are generating leads and conversions. Get ready, enjoy this one. Without any further ado, here’s my chat with Sarah.
Stacey Harris: I actually emailed my team and I was like, “I get why our clients like us so much.”
Sarah Cottrell: Yeah, you’re like, “Oh, this is life-changing. I now understand.”
Stacey Harris: More people should hire us. This is great. I should actually leave this bit in. So I’ve got Sarah with us now and for real, I’m going to leave some of that in because I adore Sarah so much. I’m going to resist my intense urge to just jump in and ask questions about your show and start with, I introduced you, but because this is a podcast and this is what you’re supposed to do as a podcaster, will you tell everyone about you and your show, please?
Sarah Cottrell: Yes, I would love to. I’m super excited to be here. My name is Sarah Cottrell. I am the founder of Former Lawyer. I work with lawyers to help them figure out what it is that they want to do that isn’t practicing law. I practiced law for 10 years and pretty much at least 50% of lawyers out there at some point in there realized, “Wow, I don’t want to be a lawyer and I have no idea what I do want to do,” so I started The Former Lawyer Podcast in August of 2019, so we’re right around two and a half years going now. I also have a program for lawyers where I work with them to help them figure out what it is that they want to do. That is what I do and that is my podcast.
Stacey Harris: I love it. I want to start with a question that I think no one really talks about after they start it but everyone says it’s so important before you start it, which is why did a podcast make sense for you two and a half years ago?
Sarah Cottrell: To be honest, I had just had the idea of a podcast in my mind forever. Literally, when I was still in Biglaw, this was like in 2011, my husband and I were walking around our neighborhood late at night because it was the only time we both were free, we both worked in Biglaw, and I just started listening to a lot of podcasts and was going through this experience of I need actual information about what lawyers do when they decide they don’t want to practice law. Because everyone says, “You can do anything with a law degree,” but I need to hear from some people what they actually did. Podcasts for me were just something that I could listen to them on my commute, it’s less formal than reading something but it’s not video, which for me as the mom now of a six-year-old and three-year-old and when the podcast started, the mom of a four-year-old and a one-year-old, I just wasn’t going to be like, “Oh, I’m so camera ready. Let’s have lots of conversations in full hair and makeup.”
It also just, for me, works for my personality because I’m very much the kind of person who would prefer to sit down with one person and really talk about all sorts of things as opposed to maybe some other format. It was a bunch of different reasons but mostly it was honestly that I really liked podcasts and really connected with the way that you can learn more about people in a really interesting way, so that was the medium that I wanted to use to share those stories.
Stacey Harris: I love that you shared that because I think oftentimes, the response is “Because someone told me it would be a great way to reach people. Somebody told me I should have one because I saw a Facebook ad that told me that everybody needed a podcast.” I think you probably already know how much all of those things drive me crazy as a response. Excellent choice on your answer.
Sarah Cottrell: I was going to say “must control fist of death”. For me, the thing about my business is truly my business was built around the fact that I wanted to bring this podcast into the world and I wanted to help lawyers. In order for it to not be a hobby, it needed to actually be a business but the podcast was the driver of everything for me.
Stacey Harris: That’s really cool.
Sarah Cottrell: I inadvertently did lots of things that now I see as best practice. I would have a podcast episode and then all my social media was just graphics that I was creating based on the episode graphic, a quote graphic, an audiogram, my emails list were about the episode and things that had come up in the episode. Literally, I don’t know what people are doing when they have all these different types of content that aren’t coming from one place, that just seems incredibly overwhelming to me. I guess in a certain way, it was like I walked backwards into the way that a lot of people ultimately end up promoting their business because the thing that people find my business through is the reason that I started my business.
Stacey Harris: That’s really cool. There really was a content first position here because it really was this desire to bring these stories that quite frankly it sounds like you were craving, these conversations that you wanted and needed, bringing those out. I think we see a lot of businesses start that way where we’re trying to solve a problem we have. I think that’s how a lot of us start businesses. But for you, it really was not just the business model but the content model that drove every other decision. That’s really cool. We’ve been working together for a year and I didn’t know that.
Sarah Cottrell: Oh, oh, well, yeah. Literally, I got the website up in maybe June of 2019 because that’s when I started recording episodes and then I started releasing episodes. For people who are listening, they may appreciate the fact that I literally did everything myself. I edited all the audio, I made all of the graphics—I’m not saying I did these super well, I’m just saying that everything that was done in my business for the first 12 months was done by me. Again, I’m not saying it was done incredibly expertly but it did help me understand a lot of different parts of the business so that when I decided that I was at a place where I could start handing some things off, I actually knew what those things were and why I wanted to hand them off.
Stacey Harris: I love that. What surprises people frequently when I talk to them is the fact that that’s how most of the shows we produce started that way. Most of the shows we produce, they DIYed it for about a year. Somewhere between like 8 and 14 months tends to be the sweet spot. I actually really, really encourage it. There’s a reason that you do not see podcast launch front and center on our website. We do that with maybe a couple of clients a year and it’s almost always because I have a pre-existing relationship with that podcaster because there is something incredibly valuable about being in the weeds for the first, at least, six months of your show because you are finding out if the decisions you made before you launched your show are where you want to keep going. Quite frankly, one of those decisions is having a podcast.
Sarah Cottrell: Yes. I was just going to say I think, especially if you’re a person in a position like you mentioned where the reason you’re creating the podcast is because someone told you that you should and not because you genuinely want to, there is a decent chance that you’ll get into it and be like, “This is not for me,” especially if you’re doing all the work yourself. For me, for the first 12 months, I did everything myself and then I hired an editor, so just offloading the editing of the audio, which was amazing to be clear, that was very helpful and he was wonderful. That was a big part of a segment of producing it but it got to the point where I was like, “Okay, I’ve done all of this myself, now, I’ve had the audio piece, the editing piece handled by someone else but now I need more.” That wasn’t until for me, the podcast started in August of 2019, I started having the audio edited in August 2020 and then, Stacey, I think we started working together in April of 2021, it’s another six plus months.
Stacey Harris: It’s interesting because people are always really surprised by this but I think that’s the exact right way to do it. I think it’s so beneficial to grow your team as you can, as you have capacity to, both financially and mentally because handing any part of a process over does take a certain amount of energetic expenditure. I hope that we make it fairly simple but what I think is really helpful, because I get asked this all the time, is at both points, when you stopped DIYing and you hired an editor, how did you know that was the right time? On the flip side, once you had that relief, how did you know if you were ready for us?
Sarah Cottrell: A really simple part of the answer for me is it was just I was at a financial place where I could do it. If I had been able to do it earlier and felt it was responsible, I probably would have because it does make such a huge difference. In August of 2020, I reached the point where I could comfortably take on someone editing the audio, that monthly expense. Like I said, I literally had never edited audio before. I did what I needed to do to get the podcast out but I knew I was never going to become an expert audio editor because I wasn’t going to put the time towards it. I was doing the quick and dirty version.
Stacey Harris: Minimum viable product we call it.
Sarah Cottrell: Yes. To me, that was a thing that I am not going to put time into to get significantly better. This is something that someone else already has put that time into becoming an expert in this area. When I can, I’m going to outsource this. Really, the same thing was the case when I ended up hiring Uncommonly More because I got to the point where I was like, “Okay, having the audio edited is great, but it really is just one piece of the puzzle.” Especially if you are doing what I’m doing, which is you’re using the podcast to create content for my blog, which then is SEO optimized because Google is a huge part of how people find me because lawyers are sad and alone at their desks and are googling “I hate being a lawyer” or “alternative careers for lawyers”, or whatever. No shade to them, that is literally what I did and that is why I know that’s what they’re doing, so I needed someone who understood the whole strategic picture, not just like, “Oh, we create a great episode,” or “Oh, we create a great episode and we create great social graphics,” it was that I needed the whole deal.
A lot of it is so intertwined that I had originally looked at working with the editor who I’ve been working with and then bringing people on for the different pieces, and it became very clear to me very quickly that I was going to turn into a project manager basically, which was going to be its own job, and the whole point of me outsourcing it was not to create another job for myself. It was the combination of financially the business getting to the point where I could take on that monthly commitment again with Uncommonly More and then also having a really clear idea of what I needed help with, what I could confidently outsource, and what I would be able to do with the time that I was going to get back when I did that.
Stacey Harris: I love that you said that because I think that that’s probably something I’ve heard from just about every client, in working together, is that highlight of when I have to manage all of the pieces, I become a project manager for my podcast. Literally, that’s a role on our team. We have somebody who does that on our team for your show because not one person on our team touches anyone’s show from beginning to end. We have an editor, we have show notes writers, we have transcriptionists, we have graphics, we have, we lovingly call them our button pushers because they do all the end scheduling. There are project managers for all those pieces because there are a lot of them.
The thing I want to bring us back to is that your business was really built podcast first, but you were also already driving traffic via the podcast to your offer. Part of it was also, I’m assuming, that there was a proven concept that the podcast worked. Were there any early wins in your show where you were like, “Yes, this is a thing. This actually works, yay”?
Sarah Cottrell: Yeah, for me. I did nothing with SEO until July of 2020. The first year of the podcast, there was no SEO happening, no optimization at all on my site. Search engines were finding it, it was not optimized. People occasionally would find me through Google but the vast majority of people were finding me through the podcast, or actually on Instagram because of graphics I was sharing from the episodes. I ran a small group program in early 2020 and then I started what I currently have as my main group program, the beta of that closed on April 1st of 2020 and most of the people who came into that found me through the podcast. The very few people who didn’t find me through the podcast then would go listen to the podcast and be like, “Oh, this person gets it. She actually understands what my life is like. She actually understands what the problems are.”
Even now that I actually do optimize my website for SEO—which is very important and hugely exploded my traffic, and that’s something that Uncommonly More helps with because they write my SEO optimized blog post now, which is amazing—those people who find me through Google often then go listen to the podcast. They find me through Google, they’re like, “Oh, this person gets it. Oh, they have a podcast,” they go listen to my podcast and then they’re like, “Wow, this person really gets it.” Almost everyone who joins my program has listened to at least some of the podcasts. Sometimes they join so quickly because they just found me and they’re like, “Yes, this is the person,” and then they start listening to the podcast.
Then in calls, we have monthly calls, they’ll reference this or that episode. In particular, I had an episode that I released in, this would have been May of 2020, and it was called Your Job Should Not Make You Cry. That episode, which we’ve re-released once since then–
Stacey Harris: We will re-release it again and again because it’s a great episode.
Sarah Cottrell: It still comes up all the time when people either email me or actually come into the program just saying, “I listened to this or I saw this and I was like, ‘Oh, wow. This person understands what my life is like and why trying to leave is so hard.’” My business without the podcast–
Stacey Harris: You can’t even separate them.
Sarah Cottrell: Yeah, and often I think of other people who don’t have that core content, whether it’s the podcast or whether they’re just blogging or whether it’s YouTube, and I just think, “How? How do you do it?” I don’t want to say it’s easy, because it’s a lot of work obviously, ultimately that’s why I needed help with it, but it is easy in the sense that I always know where I want to go in terms of where I’m going to share the things that I want to share that I think my audience needs to hear that’s important. I feel like if you don’t have that, then what are you doing? Not in a bad way but actually, what are you doing, question mark, I don’t know.
Stacey Harris: It’s true. You’re not rhetorical, I need answers. How do you spend your time?
Sarah Cottrell: Yes, basically.
Stacey Harris: I love that. I want to shift gears a little bit. I want to shift to you’ve had an editor, you’ve decided you want something a little more production-y, we’ll call it, is there something specific that drew you to UM outside of my sparkling personality and wonderfulness? Because that’s a given, obviously.
Sarah Cottrell: Let me think. Back in spring of 2021, time has lost all meaning, I know I interviewed at least three people.
Stacey Harris: You did, I remember that.
Sarah Cottrell: I interviewed at least two full production companies, and then one was more an individual who had outsourced some of the pieces. But for me, there were a couple of things: One, I felt like the process was really clear. It was very clear when you come into Uncommonly More, this is what we do, this is how we do it, I’m not looking to monetize my podcast, that is not the goal.
Stacey Harris: You have monetized your podcast.
Sarah Cottrell: Right. I’m not looking to monetize my podcast in the sense of I’m not like, “Oh, let me try to get advertisers,” my podcast has always been like “I’m putting this out there because I know this content, just free, will help lots of lawyers and also I share about the things that I’m offering so that if people want to work with me more closely, they can.” There’s a big difference between a production company that is trying to gear you towards monetizing through ads versus being strategic in terms of enrolling people into programs. That was a big draw for me with Uncommonly More.
Then, like I said, and I know you talk about this in your podcast, but I listened to a couple of the episodes including what it’s like when you work with Uncommonly More, and so I feel like I had a really clear understanding of what the process was, what I would get, what I wouldn’t get, what things I needed to ask for. For example, I really wanted help with writing blog posts that were SEO optimized because SEO is a huge part of my strategy now. If I were to outsource all the pieces of the podcast but not the blog post to someone, the blog post in many ways are the second most important thing that I’m doing after the actual core episode, and so it would not have been the same amount of taking work off of my plate so I could do other things.
Stacey Harris: Yeah, you’re still sitting in that project manager role just in a different part of the process.
Sarah Cottrell: Right, and still in the, “Okay, I have to write it once the episode is ready.” I was really wanting to get to a point where if I couldn’t get to something in a particular week, it wasn’t like, “Well, I’m not sure how this is going to go out this week,” kind of thing. I’ve just felt like the process, especially after talking with you, Stacey, there was an understanding of what it was that I was looking for and in the other interviews that I did, I just felt that there was not the same level of clarity. It may have existed, if we had started to work together, it may have been there but I didn’t really have a lot of confidence based on our conversations that I knew that was going to be the case.
When you’re doing something like offloading this huge piece of the business, you don’t really want to, “Oh, well, I’ll just see how it goes,” because that’s a big ship to try to turn if you realize like, “Maybe this was not the best,” and so I just really felt that there was a lot of clarity about what I was going to get and how the process was going to work, and also a lot of understanding of why I do the show that I do and how it functions in my business, all of those things.
Stacey Harris: I love that. I like that you point out the nuance of—and I talk about this potentially ad nauseam on this show—we do, we work with a very specific kind of show, we work with shows where the monetization of the show is leads in a business. You’re looking to genuinely serve an audience with content so that you can help them make a decision. That decision may be “Cool, I’ve solved my problem. Thanks to content.” There are absolutely people who listen to this very show and message me and are like, “Absolutely love this episode and answered my question and I’m good.” Aces. Job done. Or you identify that you want to work with someone like us but this isn’t the right fit. Cool. Go and be good. Or you realize that this is what you want and we’re the perfect right fit. Either outcome, you have a solution. Those are the kinds of shows we work with because those are the shows I like that I think are so important.
I think there’s a lot of stuff for people who want to monetize a hobby through ads and talk about a thing they really like or sit down and drink beers with their friends and say terrible things about women. There are absolutely those podcasts available, I don’t produce them. They’re not welcome here. I love that you shared that. As we start to wrap up, this is a completely selfish question, are there any wins or favorite things about working with UM? It’s April now when this episode releases, so we’re at our one year anniversary together. Is there anything, as you look at the year where you’re like, “Yes, I’m so glad”?
Sarah Cottrell: Where do I even start?
Stacey Harris: Top of the list works, whatever.
Sarah Cottrell: First of all, if you are listening to this and you have a podcast and you have been doing your own stuff editing and all of the things and social, and you’re thinking about outsourcing it, seriously, you should do it because it literally changed my life. On the metric side of thing, 2020 was the first year that I had revenue in my business and then last year 2021 so I started working with Uncommonly More in April, and by the end of 2021, granted the amount in 2020 was not huge but I had 5x the amount of revenue that I made in 2020. I don’t think that would have been possible at that same level if I didn’t have the time to devote to things other than producing content and making sure that it was good and getting it out in the world so people could hear it. I was able to focus on my program and work with my clients in the program, upgrading some of the content, and doing some promotions to make sure that people knew, “Hey, I do actually have a program.” There are just so many things. I also started a YouTube channel. Basically I hired Uncommonly More and immediately I was like, “Oh, I’ll start a YouTube channel because why not add additional things to my plate?”
Stacey Harris: It’s what happens when you buy back a lot of time.
Sarah Cottrell: Yeah, which has also been, because YouTube feeds into Google and SEO, so that has actually been also really great for my business, and there’s a zero chance that I could have started a YouTube channel if I was doing the podcast. No chance. Zero.
Stacey Harris: Yeah, and strategically, we’ve tied them together really well to optimize the site. We’ve used videos that have done well to inspire podcast episodes and flip that around, podcasts that were doing really well, you prioritize those as videos.
Sarah Cottrell: Yeah. It exponentially increased the number of things that I was able to do in the business, not just start a YouTube channel, but also just all of the other more strategic things that you just, especially for me, I work full time-ish but really it’s part-time because my kids get out of school at 3:30 and would drop-off, it’s basically a 9:30-3:00, maybe 10:00-3:00 work schedule, and so every minute counts. I do spend some of that time doing things like yoga.
Stacey Harris: Being a person.
Sarah Cottrell: Being a person, not just a business robot. When I say it’s life-changing, I literally mean it’s life-changing.
Stacey Harris: I love that. You guys can’t see me, but my face is so red and excited. I love that and I love working with you. I love the show. I highly recommend for the people listening to the show, for the lawyers you love in your life, just send them this podcast. I jokingly told Sarah, I don’t know maybe, our first strategy call or technically our second one, not our kickoff but our first quarterly call, I confess to you that my backup plan is always, I will get frustrated in my business and I’ll be like, “Screw it, I’m going to go to law school,” because that’s what I always thought I would do when I was young. And listening to this podcast–
Sarah Cottrell: You’re like, “Thank goodness I didn’t make that horrible life choice.”
Stacey Harris: Nevermind. I’m never going to law school.
Sarah Cottrell: I literally have had people send the podcast to people who are thinking about going to law school and just say, “Hey, you should listen to some of these episodes,” and have people be like, “Oh, yeah. I’m planning to go for the reason this person talked about why they chose to go and that means I probably shouldn’t be going to law school.”
Stacey Harris: Or they go with their eyes wide open and they make choices early that are different.
Sarah Cottrell: Yes, totally. That is, I think, a great part of doing it because like you said, there are people who will email me and be like, “Hey, I’ve been listening to your podcast for a year and I want to thank you for it because it really helped me see how I felt was normal and now I’ve just given notice, I’m going to this other non-legal job.” The fact that, for me, I’m able to put out so much content that is helpful for people even if they can’t afford or don’t want to invest the money in working with me in some program, is just literally my goal, to get as many unhappy lawyers out of their jobs as possible. What could be better?
Stacey Harris: By whatever means necessary. We’ll start kidnapping them soon. Can you point everyone in the direction of where they would find your show so that they can be sending it to all their maybe lawyers or regretful lawyers?
Sarah Cottrell: Yes. You can just go to my website, formerlawyer.com. The podcast page has links to the main places. Also, if you just search “Former Lawyer” wherever you listen to podcasts, it will come up and then send it to all of your lawyer friends who are like, “This is terrible. What should I do with my life?” so they know that they’re not alone.
Stacey Harris: Specifically send them the episode that Sarah points out that it’s not a good idea that you’re crying at your job.
Sarah Cottrell: Yes, yes. Your Job Should Not Make You Cry is an important episode. There is a very high likelihood that the person you know who’s a lawyer will relate to that episode.
Stacey Harris: Absolutely. Thank you so much for joining me. I really appreciate you coming on and talking about your show and the wins in it. I know I had a conversation with somebody yesterday. He was like, “Oh, people get leads from podcasts?” I was like, “Yeah. It’s a real thing.”
Sarah Cottrell: Yes. That is a thing. Interesting.
Stacey Harris: I appreciate you taking the time to share that. It was a weird conversation.
Sarah Cottrell: Yeah. I was going to say I think you just have to have good content. Would you want to listen to it? Will your past self want to listen to it? Then yeah, do it, basically. Thank you, Stacey.
Stacey Harris: Thank you. We’ll see you guys next time.