Episode 81: Taking the Leap from Employee to Entrepreneur

How to become an entrepreneur and turn your corporate employer into your first client.


Known around the internet as “Kat the Course Builder,” Kat Dunn helps people transition from the corporate world to full-time entrepreneurship. Listen in to learn how to kickstart the transition, create passive income opportunities, and leave your corporate job with your first client—or clients!—already lined up.
Kat Dunn has more than 16 years of experience creating learning and development programs for brands including Verizon Wireless, Ocean Spray, The Internal Revenue Service, and The United Way. Additionally, she helps new business owners and corporate employees transitioning to entrepreneurship build businesses around their expertise and digital offerings.
Keep up with Kat at bit.ly/teachmekat.


Chris Davis: 00:24 Welcome to another episode of the ActiveCampaign podcast. I’m your host Chris Davis, and on this episode I have Kat Dunn, Aka Kat the course builder, and she specializes in helping you transition from your corporate job. If you’re somebody who has been working in the corporate space and you have an urge or a pulling and you know that there’s something more that you could be doing, maybe you’re not feeling valued at your particular place of employment and you’re looking to make that leap. This is the podcast for you.

Kat goes over some of the things that you need to take into account before you make that leap that I’m sure you’re probably overlooking as well as your target number and a unique approach that can have you leaving your job with a client in the bag immediately, so you don’t ever go from having revenue to no revenue to building your business backup to revenue. So it’s all covered in this episode. Enjoy.

Kat, Welcome to the podcast. How you doing?

Kat Dunn: 01:26 I am doing fantastic, Chris. Thanks for having me.

Chris Davis: 01:29 Yes, excited to have you on and jumping to a rather juicy topic that you are well qualified to speak to, but before we get into that, give the audience a little bit of background of yourself and your business.

Kat Dunn: 01:46 Yeah, so I go by Kat, the course builder across social media and I help experts to stop chasing one client at a time and leave behind your corporate job so that they can create passive income opportunities in their own businesses and in their own lives so that they can live it on their terms. That’s what I do in a nutshell.

So I was a corporate baby, I grew up with my mom telling me that I should get a good education and good job and that’s exactly what I did, Chris. I did that and it worked for me until it didn’t work for me. And so a lot of your listening audience might be able to relate to being on a job for maybe five years, 10 years, however long people are working in corporate and then deciding that, “You know what, it’s just not for me anymore. I want to have more control over my time and over my life.” And that’s exactly what happened.

As a matter of fact, Chris, I have a funny story as to how I actually kind got up the game. So I was traveling a lot for the last job and I was working for and I was traveling, I was out on Sunday, back on Friday, out on Sunday, back on Friday. And I just felt like I was on a merry-go-round and I couldn’t get off but something that you might be able to relate to is that being in a corporate job, sometimes it’s kind of comfortable, right? Like you’re making decent money, you’re making pretty good money, you’re able to rely on that on the first good 15.

Like a lot of other people, I just kinda stayed there and put up with it until I had a new manager and I wanted to take off four hours for my birthday. My birthday is on New Year’s Eve. And so we already got off a half a day for New Year’s Eve, but I wanted the other four hours off and this lady told me no. My manager told me I could not take off the other four hours because my clients might need me and I just … I don’t know, Chris, something just went off in me and just that, “You know what? I’ve got to do something different. This is not gonna work for me anymore. I can’t even take off the whole day on what’s already a holiday? This is crazy. It’s ridiculous.” And so I just decided I wasn’t going to have another [inaudible 00:04:17]

Chris Davis: 04:18 Yeah. You know what Kat, as you are talking, I’m going back in time with my days in the corporate space. It is one of those things where that cheque gets so comfortable, you almost feel guilty thinking that you can do better or that you’re not satisfied with that. I remember having friends and I would tell them, and I was an engineer so I didn’t have a lot of engineering friends. They were all working regular jobs or small careers and anytime I would even mention something that, “Uh, you know what? I think I can do better,” or like any inkling that I wasn’t 100% satisfied which is [crosstalk 00:05:08] was just like-

Kat Dunn: 04:18 Why? Why?

Chris Davis: 05:07 And I just remembered that.

Kat Dunn: 05:08 Yeah. And you know, the reason why you remember it is because it is part of a social conditioning that your inner spirit person is saying to you, “Hey, that’s not really me.” And I think that we are conditioned as just general society to accept what is the norm or what is the norm for most people or for what people consider to be the norm. So we just go along with it until we decide that something inside of us, reaches for a higher calling.

Chris Davis: 05:51 Yeah, and I agree with that. I think that a lot of it not to go too much down, like the personal development and motivation part. A lot of this is just giving yourself permission, right?

Kat Dunn: 06:05 Absolutely.

Chris Davis: 06:05 Like you’ll find in life there’s nothing stopping you from really doing what you desire to do besides you creating some limitation.

Kat Dunn: 06:16 Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. And so we get what we expect in life and like you said, not to go too far down that path, but the truth is that when we change our expectations of ourselves and we decide that I expect more out of if, and I’m okay with that, then the universe opens up for you and responds to what you desire and what you put out there to say that what your intention is. I think it was Henry Ford that said, “Whether you’re right or you’re wrong, it’s true.” Whatever you say, it is.

So, I just decided and lots of people decide every single year, thousands of people go into entrepreneurship because they decide that they are not going to settle for the norm. And like you said, sometimes it’s this guilty, it’s because you’re going against maybe what your grandmother taught you, what your mother taught you, what your father said you should do. My mother [inaudible 00:07:36] that was going to be, I shouldn’t say my lot in life because it just sounds so melodramatic, but she taught me that I was supposed to be a teacher.

She was a teacher, she’s an educator. She was a principal, a teacher, and she’s just, “You’re so good at it,” and I’m just like, “Aah, but I don’t want to be that kind of teacher.” And I didn’t know at a young age, growing up in high school. I didn’t realize that I wanted to teach, but I didn’t know how. Because guess what, Chris? When I was in high school, they didn’t even have the Internet.

So I’m dating myself, but I could not have even imagined the way that teaching the thousands and thousands of people one day. But I knew that the pigeonhole the people had put me in, was not what I wanted. I say that because I know that if your intention and if you decide that your life is going to be something more than gone, the universe to open those things up for you and now we’ve got the Internet and all these resources and systems and things that you can do that used to be only available to corporations and really, really rich people.

So what I love about where things have gone now, Chris, is that the average everyday person with a vision and a mission can actually achieve that in this environment. So I’m really excited about that.

Chris Davis: 09:17 Yeah, that’s powerful and it really walks us into the topic that I wanted to speak about because you are uniquely qualified for it. And that is your approach to making that transition. I know, I’m going to be transparent here. When I was in corporate, I didn’t know. I read a book, I believe it’s Tim Ferriss’s, 4-Hour Workweek, and that exposed me to two ideas that just rocked my world because nobody had ever told me this was possible. One was you don’t have to work 40 hours a week to make a living.

Kat Dunn: 09:53 Absolutely, not.

Chris Davis: 09:54 I was like, “What? What are you talking about? Who is this guy?” And then the second is; technology can help you do it. I was both working 40 plus hours a week. I was using technology. I was always a nerd, always had some electronic. I didn’t know how to use, I just didn’t … I wasn’t exposed. So that started my curiosity and my entryway into business online was through Internet marketer. So I started to follow these internet marketing blogs and at this time, this was years ago where email launching, launches via email were the thing-

Kat Dunn: 10:36 Yeah, that’s right.

Chris Davis: 10:38 Sign up for a webinar and send emails and become a millionaire. Well, you’re desperate for change. Your BS filter is so low that you’re like, “Maybe I’ll try that”-

Kat Dunn: 10:57 That’s right. That’s right.

Chris Davis: 10:58 So I did. I had a nice engineering salary. I started buying these courses and they were so … like when I look back at them now, it’s almost like the used car salesman type field. And I’m like, “Yeah, Chris, what were you thinking?” But the good thing is, it was part of my journey. When I look back at it, the role was of course ragged and jagged. It wasn’t a straight line, which most of us will be probably all of us. So it would have been refreshing to just hear what to anticipate with making that transition.

So, we’ve got you. You’ve made the transition and you’ve helped countless other people make the transition. Talk to us a little bit about your approaching and the process to that.

Kat Dunn: 11:45 So that change and that process definitely start with a mindset change. And so the very first thing to do is have a conversation with … once you’ve made that decision that you’re going to do, make that transition, have a conversation with the people who are closest to you, not for permission. You’re not asking for permission. You are setting the tone and expectation for what new changes are going to take place because you may not know what all those changes are but just know that somethings are going to be different.

If you’re a mom, if you’re a wife, you’re going to happen to have discussion with your kids about, “Mommy is going to be working more. You’re going to see mommy working after work and after school. There won’t be any TV. Maybe we can’t do as many after-school activities. Maybe it’s going to affect your finances where maybe we won’t go on that vacation this year because mommy is working on a greater mission for us, so that we can have the things that we need for our future.” It requires some sacrifice, right?

And I think a great time to have that conversation with your kids if they’re old enough to have that conversation and also with your spouse, because the truth is that your spouse may or may not be completely on board when you decide to make this transition. I know my husband, really supportive, really awesome guy, but he was like, “Um, so we’re going to just, okay, let me get this right. So we’ve got a contract that you had for some viewers, right?” I say, “Yeah,” “And it’s bringing in close to [inaudible 00:13:48]” “Yeah, that’s correct.” “And you’re going to just give that up, right? Because you need more time to work on business stuff. Is that what I’m hearing?” “Yeah, that’s what you’re hearing.” And he was like, “Okay, let me just …” He had had this one minute, and I had to let him be okay with it.

He was hurt for a minute, because that’s a hard pill to swallow. It’s a hard pill to swallow for anybody and that was a big chunk of the money that we were bringing into the household and so you’ve got to give your folks the opportunity to get used to the new you and the new schedule and the new sacrifices that might have to be made. Now, thankfully, it didn’t take me too long to replace that income and so that changes things, right? So people were like, you [inaudible 00:14:50] like, “Oh, okay, we’re good now.” But at the same time it does take time. So you do want to have that conversation and make sure that everybody understands what’s happening with the change. That’s the first thing, yeah.

Chris Davis: 15:11 I like that because most of the time when you think about leaving corporate or leaving your job, starting a business or whatnot. The one thing that everybody does is whether it’s a spreadsheet or on a piece of paper, they’re like, “Okay, if I can make this much, I can sell these many things to these many people every week.” You do the numbers thing, but you don’t understand how important it is to get the people your support system in line because like you said, they may not be 100% on board in the beginning, but at least they’ll know what to expect. So there’ll be less … hopefully less of a hindrance during the process.

Kat Dunn: 15:54 Yeah, yeah, hopefully that is. And set the expectation. And that’s why coaching and people to guide you, I think it’s an important component because your coaches who are part of your support system have been there, done that, and understand what’s coming down the road, so that they can help to prepare you and help to prepare your family, quite frankly, for the changes that are gonna take place. Because the changes are not just going to be things that they can necessarily see or put your finger on.

But this venture is going to help you to build that confidence and you’re going to have a new found sense of freedom and who you are and a sense of knowing in confidence that I think is hard to get in a corporate environment because I just think by nature it’s set up to where others tell the value. And they are able to dictate how much money you make every single year, and whether or not you get a 1%, 2%, 3% raise. I don’t even know if they give 3% raise anymore. But it’s dictated to you and you’re moving into a totally new realm where now you literally dictate how much money you make. You say, you are the CEO of your business. And so it creates internal changes as well as external changes.

Chris Davis: 17:36 Yeah. And it can be overwhelming. I know one of the things I witnessed with a friend of mine, he was working a job, and he was starting this business on the side, and he was doing speaking, and he just kept telling, “Hey, you guys don’t know when I’m doing speaking full time, get ready, get ready.” And the opportunity came to where he was able to transition off his job, and the total opposite happened. It was almost like he was working more because you saw less of him speaking. And what happened was it’s like you said, you can set your own price, that takes you doing the effort to define what your price is. And then what didn’t I realize was that a job essentially mandates your schedule. So you never had to create your own schedule, it was already given. You’re here at seven, you leave at five. That removed, he didn’t realize just how much structure he had to create for himself-

Kat Dunn: 18:39 Correct.

Chris Davis: 18:39 … to make that transition. So these are all things that you have to keep in mind, and I’m glad you’re touching … I didn’t even realize you were going to touch on some of these intangibles because I think people just skip over them so fast, and they just run to the money.

Kat Dunn: 18:55 Yeah, running to the money will have you run into indeed.com or whoever else to get you another job. So you have to put some thought into it and you are absolutely right about the schedule because now you’re in charge, and it takes discipline. I mean, it’s a disciplined life. And so in my community I talk a lot about passive income and passive income opportunities and how to create that. But what I like to remind them of is that passive income is not passive, right?

So you have to work at it. There’s a lot that you have to do and it creates income, but here’s the good news. The good news is that there is a pathway to it. There’s so much out there and like you were saying, when you first got started, there was all these information out there and people have all these solutions, that email marketing, that’s the big thing, and now it’s this, now it’s that, right? And there is a process and all of those pieces that people are trying to piece together. There is a systematic approach to getting there. So, that’s the good news.

Chris Davis: 20:04 Yeah, absolutely, and for you, when you’ve done all the right things, and you’re ready to make that leap, you say that there’s one thing that a lot of people just don’t think of when they leave their job. They don’t even think of their job anymore as an opportunity in a different way to help them make this transition. Can you touch on that a bit?

Kat Dunn: 20:26 Yeah, absolutely. Because when you’re ready to go, it’s like, “I’m out of here,” You slam the door, and you don’t get back, and you never look back. But you could totally be slamming the door on what is your next big opportunity. And so, like for me, when I was making the transition, I was working for a company and then I started contracting for that company once I left. And so in order to contract with the company that you’re leaving, you have to do it in a certain way. But the first thing is, like you said, you have to have an open mind to know that, that’s even a possibility to say, “You know what, I want to leave this place in the best possible way. I’m sure that my professional brand that I built as an employee translates over to when I approach them about a business relationship with them.”

So, they’re going to be thinking about what kind of worker was this? Was it somebody who was viable, came in on time, delivered, and how did they leave? Did they just slam their two-week notice on the desk and actually left after one week. Or was this somebody who we could trust to actually live out their two weeks and leave in a way that is professional and so you can actually turn your employer into your first client.

Chris Davis: 21:59 And I know that somebody may be listening and be overwhelmed just with … And you walk people through the talking points, the negotiations, all of that. Just to be aware of how to position themselves. And in that, what would you say is the biggest hurdle that you found with communicating to people that this is a possibility? Like once they hear it and they’re like, “Okay, Kat, I’m a little nervous.” You know, like,[inaudible 00:22:35] is that trend of everyone who’s their first hurdle?

Kat Dunn: 22:39 Yeah. So the biggest hurdle which most of them have is realizing their own worth and being able to communicate that to others. They’ve been working at this job and people have been telling them, “Oh, your job pays $50,000 a year and that’s for sure what your job is worth and that sort of thing.” And so being able to translate what they made as an employee and because the first thing that they try to do is match what they made as an employee. They’ll say, “Okay, well, I’ll just charge this, that’s what I was making.” And I’m like, “Oh, you don’t want to do that.” You want to actually charge what you’re worth. And I find that, that’s the biggest mindset shift challenge that a lot of people have.

Chris Davis: 23:36 How do you get them to see their worth? Do you have them like break down the work that they’re doing and do you do a market analysis? See what this work is worth this to this corporation. What does that process look like? Was it all just like mindset stuff?

Kat Dunn: 23:51 Oh, no. It’s minded on paper. We’re going to do the numbers. We want to see exactly what the market value of that service is, and we also want to look at what … because that intangible piece. The fact that you already know the business, they don’t have to retrain you. That is money saved on their part. So you want to make sure that you are communicating that in your pitch and your proposal that, “Hey, I know the system, I know the process, you don’t have to retrain me.” And so that’s part of that benefit that you’re going to communicate to them. So I help them to go through all of those intangibles. Tangibles that are gonna help them to price themselves and not cheat themselves out of what they should be asking for.

Chris Davis: 24:51 Wow, now that is really good and I will say the same thing because I feel like when I was transitioning, that would have been my mindset. I would have been like, “Okay, I’m making this,” And I probably at that level, It’s been so long ago and I’ve changed so much. But objecting back, I know I probably would have even been nervous asking for that. You’re like, “Oh, let me give them what they’ll say, ‘yes’. I’m making 80, let me just do 70 or 75.” I don’t want to lose this opportunity where we’re just saying, “Hold on, wait a minute. You’re saving them training and you’re proven, right?” There’s no risk. So these are all things that people have to learn to value and understand that is saved time, which has saved money.

Kat Dunn: 25:45 Absolutely. It’s so important because companies know that there is an actual dollar figure value on training and having employees that know what’s going on and well-trained employees are very valuable to them. And so they understand that there is an actual dollar figure amount they are saving when they hire someone as a business that was actually an employee. So even if you don’t understand it, trust me, they understand it well. So you don’t want to go in there not taking that into account.

Chris Davis: 26:23 Yeah. And it also shows the intelligence of the business. I’ve witnessed it personally and I’ve seen it time and time again where the company will get it … it’s supposed to be professional, but people will get in their feelings and they will let someone leave their organization that has a great amount of value and expertise in their head and not take the time to either in the two week transition, try to get as much of it as possible or if differently and say, “Okay, I can’t retain them as an employee. How else can I retain that expertise for the betterment of this company?” So it’s always depressing. Not, I shouldn’t say depressing, it’s disappointing when I see companies not take advantage of that.

Kat Dunn: 27:07 Yeah. Well, here’s the thing, Chris, you are so right. And that’s because a lot of companies just are like the Titanic. They just don’t have the creativity necessarily to think that innovatively. [inaudible 00:27:23] Not to give them excuses, but just to say that they are not naturally inclined to be that forward thinking. So what you have to do as the employee, is before you put in that two-week notice, long before you do that, you do the research. Go to your HR department and really find out what opportunities might be there because it might be simpler than you think. All right?

So there was one case, Chris, where one of my clients was looking to transition and she didn’t realize until she went to her HR department, which I told her to go and do some research there. She didn’t realize that they already had a program for people who were transitioning out. They don’t advertise it because they don’t want people to leave. They want people to stay as employees, but they had a step-down program where you can choose to go part- time. As long as your manager would approve it, you can actually move to from full time to part-time as an employee.

Now what benefit does that do? That allows that person to continue working, continue bringing in some income, continue working while they are spending that time, to the time is what they need. They need that time to really build their business. And so stepping down to part-time allows them to keep bringing in some income while they’re working on their business. And not only that, then once she was done with that, they have a vendor program where they actually walked them through how to become vendors with the company. So she’d had never known that, had she not gone to her HR department and inquired about what some of the opportunities might be.

So I definitely recommend doing some homework. Don’t be afraid to go to your HR department and have a conversation with your HR representative about possibilities that maybe you hadn’t thought of.

Chris Davis: 29:31 And lastly, Kat, as we close up, there’s a number that you like to get people to when they’re making this transition. A monthly, monetary number that is like a target that you found that if most people can hit this number, they’re good. They can successfully make this transition and sustain it. Tell us a little bit about that number and where it came from?

Kat Dunn: 29:53 Sure, sure, sure. So that number is $10,000. $10,000 a month, is the goal for a lot of the folks who were in my communities and in my mentorship programs. Because they’re making maybe $5000 a month, anywhere from four or five on up. So I feel like if they can replace that income, then hey, that would be a great foundation. They won’t be embarrassed to go to the family barbecues and tell people that they need a job. They can still live the quality of life that they’re looking for.

So I have a program where I teach them in this, matter of fact, it’s called The Course to 10K with specific steps as to how to get to that $10,000 a month. And, first thing that they want to do is build their influence. I teach them how to build their influence online and build their credibility. I also teach them how to build an engaged community both online and offline because those are folks who are going to buy from you. And third, how to build content. Just wanna lead people to your offers, video development, live stream, for the lot of people although nervous about video.

That’s okay because you’ve got to learn how to manipulate the video and how to do it. And so I teach them how to do that, easy peasy. And then I also teach them how to build out passive income offers such as membership sites, online courses, quick courses, academies, workshops, those sorts of things that are going to offer and then how to build that pipeline of business, sales sustainability in their business so that they can keep that $10,000 a month consistently on and on into perpetuity.

Chris Davis: 31:53 Yeah, makes sense. Kat, this was amazing. Thank you so much.

Kat Dunn: 31:59 I am so glad to be here. Thank you for inviting me.

Chris Davis: 32:04 Oh, this was great. So where can people find out more, get connected. I already sense right now that there is somebody, at least one that is in the exact position of wanting to transition, who is like, “Oh, well maybe I’ll go talk to HR.” Where can they get connected with you to find out more?

Kat Dunn: 32:24 Yeah, well you can find me on Facebook and across social media. The name of the Facebook group is Course Building with Kat, the Course Builder. Right on Facebook, that’s my free community where I teach these strategies. I teach how to build these passive income offers and build that 10K a month, and they can join it quite easily by just going to bit.ly/teachmekat. Okay, that’s bit.ly/teachmekat. And that’s Kat with a K

Chris Davis: 33:05 Great. Great. And we’ll put all the links below on the website below the podcast episodes so you can easily click and get there yourselves. Again, Kat, thank you so much for taking some time out of your day and spending it with us on the podcast. Our listeners really appreciate it. I know I do.

Kat Dunn: 33:25 Oh, and I do as well. Thank you so much and as I always say, Chris, stay on course.

Chris Davis: 33:33 Real good, I’ll see you online, Kat.

Kat Dunn: 33:35 All right, take care now.

Chris Davis: 33:38 Thank you so much for listening to this episode of the ActiveCampaign podcast. I enjoy so much just the insight that Kat shared when it comes to turning that corporation that you’re working for into your first client. Listen, it is all about value, knowing what you bring to the table, to the market, and demanding that value.

The transition can be overwhelming and scary, but what worth having is not? So hopefully you’ve been equipped with some tools, some insight. We’ve exposed you to the opportunity that you may have not even realized that you were sitting on. Maybe the leap from your corporate job to entrepreneurship was overwhelming and hopefully this podcast gave you enough clarity, insight, and exposure to make it just a bit less overwhelming and if not less overwhelming, you’re encouraged more to go at it knowing what the end result could be.

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