- Ellen Lichtenstein, 38, quit her six-figure job because she was tired of the “corporate BS.”
- She now works 12-hour days across her two businesses and one full-time opportunity.
- But she says she’s never been happier and plans to retire by the age of 55.
In March of 2020, 38-year-old Ellen Lichtenstein was feeling “burnt out” in her six-figure content marketing job at a software technology provider, which she says was “very micromanaging and demoralizing.”
“I hit my breaking point with the corporate BS and not really feeling like I was getting anywhere,” she said. “People loved my work product, but I just was stuck in the role that they wanted me to be in — I didn’t really have any autonomy.”
On a whim, she decided, “You know what, I’m done. I’m out of here.”
She took a leave of absence — thinking that might help — but never returned. Today, she has two businesses, one full-time opportunity, is working 12-hour days, is making more money — and said she has never been happier. Plus, she thinks she can retire by age 55.
Lichtenstein says she wouldn’t recommend this lifestyle to someone unless they’re “in love with what they do” — she’s “pretty much working all the time,” bouncing between multiple computers and Slack channels.
“If I didn’t have some sort of light at the end of the tunnel to say, ‘Okay, if I do this, I can retire early,’ I wouldn’t be so driven to do all these different things and work really hard,” she said.
Lichtenstein is among the many Americans who have experienced burnout over the last few years. Per Gallup’s 2022 State of the Global Workplace report, 50% of the 1,000 US workers surveyed said they felt stressed out on a daily basis. While some of these workers have embraced “quiet quitting,” which describes the idea of establishing work-life boundaries while still collecting a paycheck, others are continuing to join the “Great Resignation” and call it quits.
While many Americans have pursued freelance opportunities, millions, like Lichtenstein, have decided to start their own businesses. US workers filed over 5 million new business applications in 2021, the most since 2005. While this path isn’t without its challenges, many of these entrepreneurs have never been happier.
An offer “too good to refuse”
In June 2020, Lichtenstein started a digital marketing business — Just Add Communications. The business has generated over $400,000 in revenues since inception, and Lichtenstein personally pocketed an average of roughly $40,000 per year after paying two employees and covering other expenses, according to documents viewed by Insider.
That same summer, she founded a second business — Leg Up Learning Solutions — through which she provides horseback riding lessons and Equine Facilitated Learning on her Colorado property.
This past March, one of her biggest Just Add clients made her a job offer “too good to refuse.” For roughly 80% of her former salary, she could continue providing the same services but as an “in-house” employee. And crucially for Lichtenstein, she’d be allowed to continue running Just Add on the side if she agreed to limit the number of new clients she took on.
“It was important to me to keep the business running, because I don’t ever want to go back to being dependent on an employer and feeling like, ‘I can’t quit, I don’t have any other options,'” she said.
Lichtenstein attributes a lot of her success to the 15 years of connections she’s built across different industries over her career working in television, a grocery store, a call center, and communications.
“As soon as I was available and saying, ‘Hey, I’m here. I have a business. I’m working,’ people were just knocking down my door like, ‘I need you for this or that,'” she said.
Lichtenstein’s business provides digital and content marketing for clients that range from one-person insurance agencies to large universities or tech companies. Her services range from the ghostwriting of articles for corporate executives to video production — “anything that has to do with creating content that drives sales leads,” she says.
“It’s a way better fit for the life that I want to live.”
Between her three sources of income, Lichtenstein says she is now making “slightly more” money than she did from her old job that she “hated.”
Given her digital marketing business lost a large client when she accepted the full-time position, she’s not certain she’ll be able to take more than $25,000 in salary this year. And while she makes roughly $500 per month from Leg Up, this doesn’t cover the cost of caring for her horses.
That said, she says there’s no comparison when it comes to her quality of life.
“It’s a way better fit for the life that I want to live. I’m more fulfilled, I’m happier and I have a lot more control over what I’m doing and that’s really important to me,” she said.
Lichtenstein says that if possible, aspiring entrepreneurs should consider starting their business while they remain fully employed — “testing out the waters” to see if there is a market for their product before they quit. But at some point, she says, one has to take the leap.
“You do have to hit a point where you just say, ‘I’m not 100% sure if this business is viable but I’m going to throw everything into it for a period of time and see,'” she said. “Because I don’t think you’ll ever truly be able to launch it if you’ve got like one foot in it and one foot out of it.”