Making 12.5 More Than Her Corporate Salary by Starting a Business with Kaye Putnam

Kaye Putnam moved around a lot having a military family, and companies weren’t always so kind about that. She saw her salary stagnating a lot more than she’d like, so she set out to build her own company instead of just staying in a system that wasn’t serving her well. Now she makes more money […]

Kaye Putnam moved around a lot having a military family, and companies weren’t always so kind about that. She saw her salary stagnating a lot more than she’d like, so she set out to build her own company instead of just staying in a system that wasn’t serving her well. Now she makes more money in a month than she used to make in a year at her old job. This is an amazing story.

Kaye’s Website: https://www.kayeputnam.com/

Josh Haynam:
Hi everyone. This week, we’re here with Kaye Putnam. She’s a brand strategist who has been at this full-time for eight years, which is quite impressive. I always like to say that the internet years are like dog years, basically. So if you’ve been doing something for eight years, pretty much like you’ve been doing something for a very, very long time. So that’s where she’s at. And, currently her revenue each month is equal to, or greater than her previous job’s annual salary. So, 12 times more, which is very impressive. And, I’m sure a lot of you are already like, “Okay, I’m never getting there,” but Kaye, fill us in on what that actually looked like. Give us all the details of how you got here.

Kaye Putnam:
Yes. Thank you so much for having me, Josh. I have a feeling we’re going to have a blast gigging out about all things online business. And, you’re right, eight years in online business feels more like 80, like many lifetimes of knowledge that’s been built up over the last almost a decade. And do you want me to start like beginning, beginning? Where do you want me to go?

Josh Haynam:
As far back as what’s the first memory you have of being like I should go do my own thing?

Kaye Putnam:
Yes. So, I actually started my first business when I was still a senior in high school. I was a photographer. Grew that business to six figures a year, but promptly burnt out and learned a lot of really hard lessons about revenue and profit, and how all of those are meant to work and meant to be kept track of. So I always like to say that I learned more in that business and I actually did earning my marketing degree. So, fast forward a couple of years, earned said marketing degree with psychology minor. Did the traditional corporate thing in sales and business marketing in a few different capacities for a couple of years. And then got married to my hubby, who happened to be in the military at the time. And that meant that we were going to be moving around the country, and now it’s been actually the world. We lived in Italy for a couple years recently. And this was 2008, mind you, when I was looking for jobs. And I just got so burnt out doing interview after interview after interview, trying to land a corporate job every time we moved.

Kaye Putnam:
So I realized that I could go back to entrepreneurship and this time do it online so that it was location-independent while we were doing all this moving around and growing and starting a family, and all the things that we’ve done since then.

Josh Haynam:
Yeah, that’s awesome. I also started my first business in high school. I think it was junior year, buying and selling electronics. And similar story. What actually happened, I’m curious, what you did with all that money as what, an 18-year-old?

Kaye Putnam:
Yeah. So, some really silly decisions. I remember reading when I first started that business, that retail markup was supposed to be about three times. And, I did research and like, “Okay, I can sell a 5 x 7, and the cost to me is $1. So I guess I should sell those for $3. That was me following the best practices, not realizing that I would have to sell a heck of a lot of 5 x 7 prints to make the kind of money that I eventually did. So, lots of lessons learned about pricing and markups and those kinds of things.

Kaye Putnam:
But also, oh gosh, I’ve just made interesting decisions. I have always been the kind of person who likes to have the best technology, so there’s some of that. And then beyond the pricing, I was in college, I was paying for part of just tuition and classes and stuff. And then there may or may not have been a several hundred dollar pair of jeans in there too that got purchased, because I felt like I was rich, and making so much money. When at the end of the year it turns out to not be that much. But, you live and you learn, right?

Josh Haynam:
Yeah, I can definitely resonate with that. Mine was cars, and it’s not a good investment. So how long did you spend in corporate before jumping off?

Kaye Putnam:
Yeah, so I worked for a massive brand, basically in a sales position, but account management and sales for two years. And then I moved into the agency world. So I worked for a traditional marketing agency for almost two years, maybe a year and a half. And then from there jumped off into a digital marketing agency as my first foray online.

Josh Haynam:
Okay. And that was still within another company at the digital agency?

Kaye Putnam:
Yes and no. So that’s when I mark the time that I started my personal brand, but most of my work was done freelancing for this agency. So I had a few of my own clients right there in the beginning, but most of the paycheck was coming from freelance work in that first two years online.

Josh Haynam:
Yeah, okay. So you had a soft transition in a way. You still had clients while you’re building up the personal thing?

Kaye Putnam:
I did, but they were very… I had to prove my worth in that agency because it was a small scrappy startup at the time as well. I remember my first gig for them was, I don’t even, I should not admit this, but the traditional marketing agency I came from was a radio station. So I had experience writing radio ads, and somebody on some random job board who I ended up working with this human for a very long time, he needed two radio ads written for a local gentleman’s club in Canada. So that was my first freelance gig online. I’m like, “Okay, I just, I need the money, I need the experience. I’m just going to take the job.” And, it turns out, I ended up working for the agency as essentially a full-time contractor for several years, and the gigs and the jobs and the projects got much better after that. But, it took eating some humble pie and doing a little bit of questionable work to get there.

Josh Haynam:
Yeah. Some of those first jobs, you just have no control over. One of my first jobs was I did landscaping stuff and we got hired to move a beach out of someone’s backyard. So the guy wanted a beach for his son, and then his son decided he didn’t want the beach, which means it’s 10 tons of sand that you have to move with a shovel. So, can resonate with the first forays is not being your ideal world. So, you’re building up the personal brand for a couple years. What did that actually look like? What did you do? How did you stay consistent in that when there’s this other thing that’s drawing so much of your time?

Kaye Putnam:
Yeah. And, maybe it wouldn’t have taken eight years to get here if I didn’t have that soft landing or that like steady paycheck, if you will, that was coming in through the agency work. But that work, if nothing else, it taught me how important building a brand is. Because having the ability to influence demand for your services and to be able to pick and choose the kind of work that you’re doing for the kinds of people that you want to do, I realized through that experience that I wanted to have that control in my personal brand. I didn’t ever want to have to rely on somebody else setting my value for me. And I think that that was something I learned back in corporate, too. It’s like I had a four year degree, great grades, had this entrepreneurship experience.

Kaye Putnam:
But, I was probably at my max, as an entry-level employee making about 50K a year, and scraping by as like a young startup professional. And I realized that I had the talents and the skills to add so much more value than that, so long as I was able to communicate that to people. And I wasn’t going to be able to do that in either the corporate world or under this agency’s way, I really needed to step out and offer my own services to people directly.

Josh Haynam:
What did that feel like? How did you… I’m imagining going in every day, you’re doing this work, you are getting the sense that it’s more valuable than what you’re being paid. What did that tension do internally during that time?

Kaye Putnam:
Yeah, it’s tough. And I don’t think that there was an easy answer. I think I probably stuck with the agency work longer than I should have, but that’s just in retrospect, so you can’t really say that. But, the one thing that it did make me realize is that I needed to be able to package-up that value or I needed to be able to present it to the market in a way that made sense. And, I needed to have client results. So, I was able to build up my portfolio, if you will, and hone in on my process, while working for these other clients through this other company and get them really great results, and have the confidence to be able to offer it to my own clients later, because I knew that it worked.

Josh Haynam:
And then, as you started to make the transition, how did it go? Tell us about what that actually was like, the first few clients that are yours, not the brands. How did that go, and what was it like trying to jump in after at that point it had been six years of corporate-ish and now you’re trying to do something that’s just you? What did that, how was that?

Kaye Putnam:
Cliche, maybe, but you realize how much you’re responsible for when you’re doing it completely yourself. You have to have all of the processes, and the templates, and the paperwork that you’re giving to your clients. All of those things are taken care of for you when you’re working for somebody else. I remember one of the first clients that I had, personally, through my personal brand. And I think this was, it overlapped. I had some of my own clients at the same time I was working for the agency. But she asked me when I was signing her on she’s like, “Oh, so do you have a contract to send to me?” I was like, “Oh yeah, of course I do.” Let me go find one on the internet and send it over to this human because I didn’t have one before that. And it was a bit of trial by fire with my own clients to realize that there’s so many pieces of that client experience, of the marketing and sales process that I had to develop for myself, and learning the hard way in some cases.

Josh Haynam:
Yeah. Don’t tell anyone, but we’ve done that. In the early days of Interact, we did the exact same thing. Google contract template, and our lawyers are probably screaming right now. They’re like, “No, don’t say that. You have to go back and clean it up later.” But, can definitely, definitely resonate with that. And also with the fact that there’s a million things you have to do when you’re working with a client individually. It’s every contract, every piece of thing, and they just keep coming back, “How do you do this? How do you do that and the other thing? How did you manage that when you were also having a job at the same time?

Kaye Putnam:
Yeah, I quickly realized that I needed to have a signature process, like a signature service that I was selling. I think one of the places where service-based businesses in particular get into trouble is when they’re pitching everything by proposals, or response to proposal requests. And every piece of work that they do is custom. You’re constantly reinventing the wheel and you’re starting from scratch with every new client, and it’s terribly inefficient. Plus, you don’t typically get paid for all of that value that you’re putting in to reinvent your processes every time. So, one of the first things that I did that worked really well in my business was to design a process for my clients. So essentially, every client was going through the exact same steps. And I had the SOPs, if you will, the templates, the canned emails, all of it all set up eventually, so that it just was more efficient and more productive, and therefore more profitable than trying to reinvent everything, every single time.

Josh Haynam:
How did you decide on what that signature thing was?

Kaye Putnam:
Yeah. It’s, to me, one of the best ways to do this is to design your own job description, in a way. So it’s like, what is… And it’s that same question that I was asking myself back in corporate. I know that I’m worth more than this, but what job would I be doing if I wanted to get paid X or if I wanted to get paid Z? So it was reverse engineering that like, “Okay. I want a business that’s making X amount of dollars per month per year. What problem is big enough for my clients that it’s worth them paying these kinds of fees for? And also, what kinds of outcomes and experience do I need to provide to them so that it’s that valuable, essentially?”

Kaye Putnam:
So, I started to answer that question by working in reverse from there, and then also just ask myself, “What’s the kind of work that feels like I’m in flow? What feels like I’m losing track of time? What am I innately good at that other people suck at?” and putting all of that together into a dream service and selling that, as opposed to just being a hammer for a nail for any kind of job that’s out there.

Josh Haynam:
And then the second part of what came to mind is, how did you know there would be demand for that?

Kaye Putnam:
Great question. I think that as long as you’re solving real problems that actual humans have, there’s going to be demand for it. So you can’t make up demand. You don’t ever want to convince people that, I’m trying to think of an example and it’s not coming to me on top of mind. But just because you want to be an underwater basket weaver doesn’t mean that people are going to pay thousands of dollars for it. You have to match up your skills to existing demand in the market. So that’s how I looked at that. It was more of a puzzle piece problem than just inventing something out of thin air.

Josh Haynam:
Yeah, that makes sense. And how did you gage what that demand was?

Kaye Putnam:
I think one of the best ways to design any service to make any decision like this is to remember two things. One, it’s like dating. So, in the beginning might not have… You might have the ideal situation, the list of attributes that you want your ideal human partner to have, and then you go out and you realize it may be there’s no chemistry, it doesn’t quite work the way that you want it to. So, there’s a little bit of experimentation and just trying things out. But then also, as many conversations that you can have with humans that you think are your ideal client, the better you’re going to get at answering that question. Because if you understand what people’s problems are and have an idea of how to solve it for them, you get to bring those two things together on a sales page or a sales call.

Josh Haynam:
Yeah, that makes a lot of sense, just pulling it out of conversations that you’ve actually had. And then, the next question that comes to mind is, so now you have this signature program, but that was all… There was a lot of manual work still, right? It still required a lot of your time?

Kaye Putnam:
100%. total time for money situation. And, I got pregnant with our second child right around five years ago now. And, I realized that I was really tired of having that equation where I had to show up on one-on-one client calls, or I had to literally build whatever I selling for my clients. So I had two options. Either I could go full on into the agency model and hire other people to do the work, or I could start to productize some of my knowledge and sell courses. And that’s, essentially, what I focused on. So I designed a signature online course, that was my client process that I was using, but just teaching people how to do it for themselves. And, launched that at 32 weeks pregnant, about to give birth, and began selling online courses, which is the more modern evolution of my business, and what’s really allowed me to scale and get my revenue to the places that it is now.

Josh Haynam:
And how did that go initially? What happened?

Kaye Putnam:
So I think I launched it originally at $297, it’s currently a $997 course. So it was much less expensive then. And, I had already, so hats tip to you, Josh, because I had launched my quiz about, I don’t know, maybe six months before I launched the course. So I had been building up my email list, I had been building up my audience, people really liked what I was doing, they’re paying attention. And I think I sold to 17 or 18 people in that first round, which was validating to know that people wanted it, and that it was only up from there. Because from there I could relaunch it, I could continue to improve the course, I could continue to raise my prices, and that’s what I’ve been doing.

Josh Haynam:
Yeah, and I’m curious how that initial switch went. Meaning, you’re trying to gather up, I’m imagining gathering up all your memories of, “What calls do I have when, and what do I say, and how do I guide people through this?” and you’re trying to turn it into something that is accessible at any point. That’s a lot of stuff. And, how did you do that?

Kaye Putnam:
It is no small feat to extract that much knowledge out of your brain. Going through that process myself gave me such a huge appreciation for anybody that creates online courses. I think anybody who complains about the price of an online course is bananas, because there’s just so much that goes into extracting and then reformatting it into a way that’s digestible, and entertaining, and exciting, for somebody to go through. So, it’s an entirely new skillset versus being a service provider. But, I’m really glad. I think that it’s really high-leverage work at the same time. I can tell you that it looked like a ton of Post-it notes strewn all over my living room floor, just compartmentalizing, and organizing, and doing all of the brainstorming about what goes into the process and what goes into the course. And then, thankfully, since I had been doing the work one-on-one, I was able to refer back to client calls, and the actual deliverables, and all of those pieces too and bring it all into one place.

Josh Haynam:
Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. And, I would imagine that the sense of urgency also played into that.

Kaye Putnam:
Yes, I was documenting my process, and it’s so funny to go back to those blog posts because I was like, “Ah, I’ve been procrastinating for another couple of weeks. I really know that I need to launch this course, but my belly keeps on growing at the same time.” And, I am so glad that I had that natural deadline, because there’s a lot of self-sabotage that happens in that process. Like, “What if nobody buys? What if I’m doing all of this work for nothing? What if, what if, what if, what if?” And thankfully it all worked out and it was really a lesson and a reminder to do things imperfectly, and to just, if you can, and put a hard deadline on it so that when it gets to those final weeks, you can just start cutting stuff out that you thought was necessary, and you realize that it’s not, once you’re getting down to the wire.

Josh Haynam:
Yeah. Yeah, I can resonate with that. Not in any way to compare it to bringing a child into the world. But, when Matt and I were initially starting Interact, we were two months out from graduating and we had no income and no job. And so, it was the same kind of thing. Just cut everything out, figure out how to get somebody to start paying for this, because otherwise, we were literally just going to be homeless. So, it can-

Kaye Putnam:
I love those natural deadlines. I liken it to exam week or finals week in college. I loved the magic of those final weeks, because you would work your butt off to write 17-page papers. And I honestly don’t think that we’ve even… Excuse me. We can’t even scrape the surface of knowing what we’re capable of doing until we’re under some tight time pressure. It’s really amazing how much humans can produce and can get done, given the right motivation.

Josh Haynam:
Yeah. Yeah. I’ve been on… Maybe you can resonate with this having a military family, but I’ve been watching all these military movies recently. And the one yesterday was talking about, “Yeah, you don’t know what you’re capable of until you’re forced into a situation where you have to find out,” and I agree, I think it’s true.

Kaye Putnam:
It’s true. It’s true. I don’t know if my husband would want me to telling this story, but will do it anyway. So, he went to ranger school and that’s kind of the whole premise of this school is they deprive you of food and sleep and those things. And he remembers sitting in the porta potty one day, and he actually accidentally dropped this cracker that had cheese on it, and the cheese landed face down in the part of body. And he’s still gladly ate it, which is a really gross example of what we’re talking about.

Kaye Putnam:
But if you can find a way to put yourself into some kind of situation. And I think that maybe a more relevant example for people is, I recently invested in a really expensive mastermind. Not because I think that this mastermind is going to give me any secrets to online business, but it’s literally raising the stakes, and creating this time-based container where I have to create results, and greater results than I ever have. So I think that there’s ways to do that, maybe without going to ranger school and eating questionable things. But yeah, I like the principle.

Josh Haynam:
Yeah. And, I wonder… So, my theory sometimes, and I’m curious what you think about this, is I wonder if it takes getting to a point like that, where you’re going to eat the cheese cracker, or baby’s coming in a matter of weeks, for the initial thing to happen. Because later on, you can invest in the mastermind, but you’re not wagering everything. And I’m curious what your view is. Do you think you have to be up against the wall the first time? Or, can you wager lesser amount and still successfully get something off the ground?

Kaye Putnam:
Such an interesting question. And this one used to really trigger me because as a brand strategist, I like to look at people’s stories, their origin stories. And there’s so many of them that are these dramatic rags to riches stories. And looking back at my own upbringing, my own foray into entrepreneurship, I didn’t feel like I had that really dramatic, up against the wall, lost millions of dollars, stories. And at the same time I look back to when I really started seeing success, and it was the baby coming. It was, full disclosure, that agency that I worked with basically ran out of money. And I fully had to go out into my personal brand, and fully had to step into that role, not necessarily by choice. I think that when I was working with them, it was just a soft and easy, comfortable place.

Kaye Putnam:
And our subconscious mind literally looks at change like death. It’s like, “Okay, this might sound good consciously, but that’s a new place that we’ve never been, and that might kill us.” So, whether it’s manufactured or something that actually happens in your life, more and more I’m leaning towards yeah, I think we have to create some type of very real consequence for motivating ourselves into action.

Josh Haynam:
Yeah. And just across, even the stories that have been shared on this podcast, it does always seem like there’s a buildup, but then there’s also a life-altering event, where you, which I guess you don’t have to. You could have gone and gotten another agency job. You could have searched for something else that felt more safe and comfortable, but you decided not to what went into that. What went into that?

Kaye Putnam:
I think it goes back to wanting to feel… This may even be just a universal human desire. But wanting to be fully authentic and fully expressed in my life, as opposed to leaning on the laurels or leaning on the accomplishments of other people. I knew that I was capable of more than I was currently doing. And, that was enough of a motivation for me to step out. Because I had had some, and I know that everybody that is listening, like you’ve had experiences in your life that have shown you, you can do hard things. I think drawing some of that confidence and some of that gumption or grit from those previous experiences can be really helpful in responding to that catalyst. You’re like, “Okay. Now is the time, now I’m going to do it. I’m going to put myself out there in new ways,” and going after it.

Josh Haynam:
Hmm. Yeah, that makes a lot of sense and I can definitely resonate with that as well. I’m sure a lot of people can. Not feeling like your full self is out there. So I’m curious, last question, what’s on your mind now? So you’re far ahead of most people listening. And in this tier where it’s like things… Well, maybe this how you feel, maybe it’s not. But it’s like things have gotten to a point where it is safe, in a way, it is more comfortable, but what are you thinking about now?

Kaye Putnam:
I think that… Josh, maybe you have a question like this. I feel like the question I’ve been asking myself my entire life is, “Who am I really, and how do I express that?” And it’s come through in my life in different ways, in different phases. And I feel like I’m again asking myself that question. So I still do some service-based work. And then I still have this robust suite of courses on the other side of my business. So it’s asking myself now, “Am I still serving my clients in the best way that I can?” And I think that… And maybe you can relate. I think that we’re always growing, we’re always evolving, and if our own brands and our own offers aren’t also evolving, then we’re selling ourselves short.

Kaye Putnam:
So I’m in the process of re-imagining some of the ways that I work with my clients re-imagining some of the things that I talk about in my courses. I’m recently obsessed with the subconscious mind, and how all of that interacts and affects our results. And that’s a little bit of a scary leap from branding, and design, and logos, and those kinds of things, especially to put yourself out in a new way. So yeah, I’m going through another one of those moments, but I think that we all do that.

Josh Haynam:
Yeah. I can definitely resonate with that, especially the piece about trying to understand who I really am and how to put that up into the world. And, that goes just layers and layers deeper. The subconscious mind, there’s so many different ways that is approached and talked about. Things that influence you from your past experiences, all that kind of stuff. And then, how it molds who you are today, and then what you want to do with that. I think it does make sense. And I think it is that next level in speaking with people that have reached some level of success, it does seem like there’s a common thread amongst like, “Okay, this happened, this is what I always chased, but now what?”

Kaye Putnam:
Exactly. Yeah. It’s like I know how to be successful up to this point, but I know that it’s going to take something else to get to the next level. And I think it’s a condition, or a part of the human condition, to be ready for more, once you get comfortable. So, time to re-look at the subconscious beliefs and limitations and all of those things to start to reimagine what the next phase looks like.

Josh Haynam:
Yeah. And that’s exciting. And also, I think if I can talk to my previous self, it’s reaffirming in a way. Because I think one of the stories that I would tell myself is, “Well, when you get to this point, you won’t have the desire to do more.” But then, you get to the point and you realize, “I still have the desire to do more.” And then for me, at least, I started to look at, “Why do I have that desire to do more?” Obviously, it’s not going away, and I think it’s Jim Carrey who has that quote of like, “I wish everyone could be rich and successful and famous, because they would realize that being rich and successful and famous doesn’t change anything.”

Kaye Putnam:
Yeah, I love that so much. Yeah, you can’t get addicted to the destination. And I think that the reason why, not to be too presumptuous, but I think the reason why you and I, or entrepreneurs like us keep reaching for more, or maybe let me just speak to me. I’m obsessed with this game of business. I love figuring out the process of it. And the process shifts and evolves, but it’s always there. The journey is always there. So if that’s the part that you’re in love with, and you’re not just waiting for the destination to be happy, I think that embracing that can be really healthy and motivating.

Josh Haynam:
Yeah, I think that’s my healthy side. My unhealthy side is my need to prove myself, which that one never ends. And so, when I can shift over to really enjoying it, which I do. I can geek out all day on just, how do you figure out this problem of building something? It’s fascinating. But then there’s always the other motivations that you, or at least I try to diminish and then let the healthy one come into full view.

Kaye Putnam:
I think that’s part of the fun of being human is we have this, we have the angel on one side of our shoulder and the devil on the other. And, I don’t think life would be as interesting as it is if we were missing one of them. So, it’s constantly leaning into you feeling abundant or feeling positive and all of those things. But, the natural human state is that there are shadow sides of us. I can definitely resonate with that feeling of wanting to prove myself. I think a lot of people can. But, as long as you’re doing it for the right reasons, or as long as it’s motivating you in a positive direction, I think that it’s not a terrible thing.

Josh Haynam:
Yeah. Yeah, I used to obsess over this and talking to my coach I’m like, “Why can’t I just have perfect motivations?” and he’s like, “There’s not perfect motivations for anything that you do in your whole life.” So if you can accept that, then it gets a lot easier.

Kaye Putnam:
Exactly. I love that, sage advice from your coach.

Josh Haynam:
Yes. Awesome. Well, we’re coming up on time. But, for anybody listening that wants to check out what it looks like to be at your stage and follow along on your journey from here, where can they go to do that?

Kaye Putnam:
Yep. I am at kayeputnam.com, and basically all of the social media platforms. I’m a good internet marketer, so if you search my name, you should find me.

Josh Haynam:
Perfect. Awesome. Well, thanks for coming on and sharing your story.

Kaye Putnam:
Thank you so much for having me. It was so fun.

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Josh Haynam

Josh Haynam is the co-founder of Interact, a place for creating beautiful and engaging quizzes that generate email leads. Outside of Interact Josh is an outdoor enthusiast, is very into health/fitness, and enjoys spending time with his community in San Francisco.

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