Sergio Pereira: Fractional CTO and Remote Work Leader
Fractional consulting, selling courses, geographic arbitrage, and running marathons! - Part-Time Profiles in Tech 006
Hey all, welcome to another edition of Part-Time Tech!
Between getting sick and a lot of family time, it’s been a wild past week of media appearances:
I was featured in the Wall Street Journal in an article entitled “Burned Out, More Americans are Turning to Part-Time Jobs”. Archived version.
I appeared in a brief segment for Good Morning America’s cover story, “Increasing number of Americans choosing to work part-time” on Monday.
Both stories were borne from the recent jobs report data that nearly one million workers over the past few months have decided to go part-time by choice. As I predicted not too long ago, we’re at the cusp of a part-time, freelance, and more flexible work revolution.
If you’re one of our new readers coming from the WSJ article, welcome! While this newsletter is focused primarily on the tech and software industries, I think you’ll find a lot of content relevant regardless of your industry or background.
Stay tuned for some exciting future updates on ways to connect to other readers, new podcast episodes, and other resources and guides for talent and companies alike.
I love Sergio’s story because I think it’s very replicable for many senior level tech workers and leaders. Though it may not be easy, it’s a tried and true playbook of building leads, networking, and building a portfolio of different sized engagements, while also dabbling on some other side projects. Sergio shares a lot of good detail on how he works and generates business.
Now onto today’s article 👇
Sergio has recently launched a side project called the Remote Work Academy, where he's launching video courses, mentoring sessions and a community to help people around the world find high paying remote jobs.
What’s your experience with part-time work?
It all started in 2015. I had left my cushy full time Software Engineering job a year before to launch my first startup. As a Tech Founder/CTO going through startup incubators and accelerators, I became a go-to person for other startup Founders who didn’t have a technical co-founder. It all started very ad-hoc, but at some point I started charging an hourly rate, given that my startup was going through a rough patch. I enjoyed the demand, enjoyed working with different companies in parallel, and enjoyed the broad range of use cases I was asked to help with.
Since that early start I’ve matured my offering into what I call a Fractional CTO, and learned about finding clients for my services. I’ve had more than 15 Fractional CTO clients, most of them early stage tech startups, especially in the Fintech industry.
I have 3 main type of engagements:
Advisory: 1-2 hours/week
Quarter time: 10-12 hours/week
Part time: 20-25 hours/week
I learned that I enjoy the most having an “anchor” part-time engagement, and then I top it up with a mix of quarter time and advisory engagements, depending on bandwidth.
Working as the Fractional CTO at early stage tech startups, I’m usually responsible for building their first product, and building the engineering team. I’ve also been increasingly in charge of setting up a healthy and productive remote culture, so much so that I distilled that knowledge into the course Mastering Remote Work, which is getting tremendous traction, including with bulk purchases from big organizations such as the UK Government.
Why is working part-time important to you?
I’m a big fan of asynchronous communication, and for a few years now I’ve been building my teams using processes that allow me to hire remote workers anywhere on earth.
I found that companies that are willing to hire a Fractional CTO like myself are especially open to hiring remote employees and to set up an asynchronous culture. I found this to be a great fit with my own skill set, motivation and above all, my lifestyle.
I have two children and I enjoy being a part of their daily routines. I’m also into trail running and triathlon and like being able to put in volume as per my race calendar. I also like to travel without asking for an employer’s permission. And I learned that working as a Fractional CTO I can do all this while still having a fulfilling and well paying career.
I learned that this flexibility has the added benefit of giving me head space for new projects. I’ve been writing down my knowledge and recording courses at the Remote Work Academy Who knows what I’ll do next, but I long for launching some micro-SaaS ideas that I find exciting.
What does your compensation look like?
Over the last 8 years I’ve had part-time and full-time roles. The couple full-time roles I had were actually part-time clients that became exciting enough for me to join them full-time. Interestingly, my compensation has been higher when I work part-time, but that’s mostly due to growth that happens when I work full time.
Example: A few years ago, I was earning $125k on a full-time CTO role. Then I left to work as a Fractional CTO for $150/hour, which allowed me to earn about the same working half the time.
In my last full time CTO role I was earning close to $300k, but as a Fractional CTO I’m now charging between $250 and $500 per hour, depending on the type of engagement. The same pattern repeats again, I can earn about the same yearly wage working much less time.
Another important aspect for me is that Fractional CTO roles tend to be very remote friendly, and I can earn such high rates while living in a village in Portugal, where my cost of living is relatively low. Salary arbitrage is a major upside of this work arrangement.
What are the tradeoffs to working part-time vs one traditional full-time job for you?
Working part time is not all positive outcomes. It has some frustrations too. I’ve come to understand the pros and cons and how they weigh in my decision at different stages of my life over the past 8 years.
The pay Is very good, as long as I have enough clients,
It grants a more flexible lifestyle, and sometimes work significantly less,
I get to grow a lot faster, being exposed to different companies.
Finding clients can be a real grind that triggers massive anxiety,
The detached nature of the role wears out and sometimes I long for ownership + accountability
In many engagements I come in to solve “dumpster fire” situations which I would have avoided in the first place, if it was a full time role.
At times when I feel burned out, working part-time is great. After working a few years only part time, I feel tempted to accept invitations to join full-time (happened twice). But overall I prefer part-time.
What advice do you have for someone who wants to work part-time like you?
The biggest challenge for being happy as a fractional CTO is dealing with the variable nature of revenue. One month I’m juggling 5 clients and earning record revenue. Another month I have no clients and see no new opportunities coming in.
Earnings can be unpredictable and seemingly random at times. This is especially true when my engagements are shorter term. The unpredictable nature of finances caused anxiety for me, and others I know have similar worries. I have done a few things recently to find clients at a more predictable pace:
Have cushy savings. Just like for any other non-deterministic source of revenue, it helps a lot to have more than a one-year runway to account for the rainy days.
Create an inbound stream of opportunities. I hooked myself with “lead generators”, ranging from formal (agencies, consulting marketplaces, etc.) to informal (other fractional CTOs that offload excess demand they have). This drives most of my inquiries, and I’m happy to pay them a cut of my earnings (some don’t want anything, though).
Write in public. Writing daily on Twitter and Medium, and frequently on some private groups and roundtables, has gained me a growing number of organic inquiries. It makes me feel more in control and incentivizes me to continue writing consistently in the first place. Plus, I have much better negotiation power toward these clients that reach out to me directly.
Identify my target client and build a lead database. I started using Google Alerts to spot Fintech startups raising seed funding rounds (my target client) each week and store them in a database. I have a few hundred relevant leads to reach out to if I face an empty funnel ahead.
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