One year of Freelancing as Fractional CTO

I'm taking some time to recharge after struggling as a startup CTO for 5 years (with lots of ups and down). I have been working 40 hours a week in salaried positions from 2010 till 2023, and I decided to take it a bit easy. And with easy I don't mean to not work hard or to do simple work, but to not be 100% committed to a company for the long term.

In June 2023 I started freelancing as a Fractional CTO. It's for complicated projects or for companies that don't need a full-time CTO yet. It's been really great. In the past year I've:

  • Posted my availability once in my "goodbye to easee" LinkedIn post.
  • Been hired by 5 companies, who all found me through my own network.
  • Networked more than ever before. I suddenly have time for random meetings throughout the day.
  • Have not started an LLC (BV), nor got insurance, nor opened a separate business bank account.
  • Have signed only 1 contract for my freelance work (but some more NDAs) and almost never committed to a certain duration of the work. The paperwork takes time (and expensive lawyer overhead) and so far I've been fine with operating on a trust basis.
  • Have had all my invoices paid (by at most a week later than the due date).
  • Earned 2.5x what I earned before, while frequently working for only 3 days a week and took more vacations.
  • Had a great vacation to Egypt with my family.
  • Bought a framing shop with my wife where she's now working full-time.
  • And maybe most importantly: I've spent much more time with my kids and their school activities than ever before. I've been on school trips, did fun things with my kids after school, was invited to teach my son's class about electricity and inventions.

    As for the work, it's always been interesting and most of the time fun. I've:
    • Made plans and a technical architecture for a new product proposition, did competitive analysis and made plans to hire a team of about 40 engineers.
    • Set up an ISO 27001 ISMS in about 3 weeks, while working 2 days a week. That was a challenge but there was a lot of support from the full-time staff.
    • Interviewed about 40 people and hired a couple of them.
    • Set up k8s deployment with a helm chart and operator based on kopf, bringing my cloud skills back to excellence. (I had never touched kubernetes before).
    • Coached a software team on their way of working and individual engineers on their career tracks.
    • Helped management teams get a better grip of their technology stack.
    I'm doing this so I can start my own product company, and I don't find being a freelancer really fulfilling because there's no long-term perspective for me. But objectively speaking, going freelance is very very comfortable.

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