Few career moves are more invigorating and terrifying than that of an entrepreneur taking their business from part-time passion project to full-time entrepreneurial independence. This February, Blair Kaplan reached that brave milestone when she decided to take the plunge and leave her day job to work full-time on her business.
The swap to self-employment is often a gradual transition when a traditional day job funds the early days (or years) of a business. Kaplan’s journey started in 2008 when she started Blair Kaplan Communications, a public relations and social media marketing company that focuses on creating conversations and managing perceptions in the digital space. For eight years she worked her PR magic for clients on evenings and weekends while maintaining steady employment for financial stability.
“I loved my place of employment. It was a great team of people who were extremely supportive of my business goals. Making the decision to leave my job wasn’t easy, but my business had become busy,” said Kaplan.
“I was working for my clients before work, on my lunch break, after work, plus on weekends. So that’s how I knew it was time to focus my full attention on my company and have a better work-life balance.”
For Kaplan, taking that leap was about prioritizing freedom. Clocking in and out at a nine-to-five office job just wasn’t conducive to the work-life balance she wanted and didn’t jive with the flexible nature of communications work.
The entrepreneur had a vision to align her professional life with the core values guiding her personal life — values that prioritized freedom and adventure. This, however, meant saying so long to her steady salary.
“Needing to balance working for my clients, business development, professional growth and my love for adventure, I knew that I needed more freedom with my schedule,” she said.
Kaplan has amassed an international roster of clients and has a global outlook when it comes to professional development.
“Part of my business development and professional development strategy is to ensure that I attend at least one digital marketing conference outside of my community,” said Kaplan, who is currently attending the Digital Summit conference in Seattle.
Kaplan’s insatiable thirst for knowledge is critical in an industry that is constantly evolving. A key part of her strategy includes staying current and positioning herself as a thought leader in her community and the broader industry.
“I’m able to learn new and innovative digital marketing techniques and bring back that information to my local, regional and international clients,” she said.
Surrounding herself with business-minded individuals who also love the Whistler lifestyle is important to Kaplan, especially during the early days of solo operations.
“Remaining social and networking is so important, especially when you work from home,” Kaplan said.
She’s building a strong network to fuel her business growth through marketing peer groups, connections from committee work, and her Whistler Chamber membership.
She’s also found a convenient ritual to build networking and business development into her weekly schedule by joining BNI Mountain High, the Whistler chapter of a global business-referral organization.
“I’m the only person in this chapter with my profession, so the other members of the chapter help me grow my business,” explained Kaplan. “The members of this chapter act as each other’s sales team and it’s proving to be an effective way to grow my company.”
Kaplan insists that having a job while building a business on the side is a smart way to get started — until you reach that critical point where it’s time to commit full-time. The risk in her leap has paid off and since joining the ranks of the self-employed, Kaplan’s business has snowballed. With the fast growth, she is grateful for the flexibility of freelancing life and she offers this advice to those on a similar path: “You’ll know when it’s time to leave your job, and even though taking the leap is scary, it lights a fire inside of you to grow your business. Always lean into the discomfort and fear of being self-employed and remember to follow your passion.”