How to Fix Your Tech Problems With the New “Employment” Model… and Save Money Doing It

If you’re a business owner or executive who finds yourself hobbled by technology, it might feel like your dangling off the edge of a cliff.

You’ve hung on so far with a combination of sweat, vision, and sheer willpower, along with a little muscle from your team.

Why are you hearing about tech problems more often?

What happened to all of those “analytics” you were told would help you make smart marketing decisions?

Why has your company lost the ability to quickly jump into new product lines or new markets?

Maybe it’s time to hire a CTO… except they’re so expensive. You don’t have the budget to pay for salary, benefits, equity, and the rest of the package.

Maybe you’re screwed.

Or, maybe not.

Hope

In case you haven’t heard, the freelance economy is booming. More and more experts are ditching traditional employment in favor of the 21st-century version of consulting. In fact, the Freelancers Union (a contradiction in terms, perhaps) estimates there are 55 million full and part-time freelancers in the U.S. alone.

And a significant percentage of them bring a combination of technical skills and management chops that may be exactly what you need.

Many of these professionals are motivated primarily by three things:

  1. Leaving behind a world of endless meetings in exchange for more control over their schedule and more family time.
  2. The opportunity to exercise greater control over their compensation, advancing much faster than they would in the corporate world. But, as we’ll see in a moment, that actually saves you money.
  3. The opportunity to learn new skills, explore new industries, and expand their knowledge. In short: variety.

Dilbert stuck in a meeting

“Great. How much will it cost me?”

Although successful freelancers earn more than they would working as a full-time, permanent employee at a traditional corporation, small businesses that hire them actually pay less than they would for a full-time equivalent.

Here’s why:

According to Robert Half’s 2019 Technology Salary guide, the base pay for a full-time, traditionally-employed CTO is $180,750… before benefits, bonuses, and additional compensation. Tacking on another 30% to account for all of that brings the total to $234,975.

That’s a lot of money for a small business.

Contrast that with a consulting engagement where the goals are to (1) identify strengths, (2) find weaknesses and risks, and (3) execute on a plan to fix those weaknesses and position you to scale. Those types of projects typically take between three and six months.

The cost varies by consultant, of course, but here are a few figures to get you started:

  • Part-time engagement, capped at x hours per week: from $4,700 per month on the low end to $10,000 and possibly more (avg. $7,350).
  • Full-time, temporary engagement: $15,000 to $32,000 (avg. $23,500) monthly.

Now, that might sound like a lot of money, too, and it is. But consider this: you’re not bringing in a full-time employee. You’re bringing in a war-time general to fix the broken stuff—tech and team—so you can scale.

From a hard-dollar perspective, a full-time, temporary engagement at an average of $23,500 monthly would cost you a total of $141,000 for six months. That’s almost $94,000 less than it would cost to hire a talented, experienced CTO at the market rate.

Yes, it’s still a lot of money. But at least the picture starts to look a little nicer when the engagement isn’t open-ended.

By the way, those are U.S. rates. Here’s another piece of good news: you can look overseas. There are many, many extremely-talented, executive-level technologists living in countries with a much lower cost of living. Hire remotely, and that will translate to additional cost savings for you.

Where to find a consulting CTO

If you’re ready to take the leap, you still have to find the right person.

But where should you look?

Three possible sources of talent are Upwork, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

Upwork is probably the easiest from a freelancer-identification perspective, though it will still require some due diligence. Upwork is the largest platform for freelancers, and you can find a wealth of talent here. Just make sure you take your time to interview. Check references. And remember: you get what you pay for. Don’t be cheap.

Facebook groups are a gold mine of talented freelancers. If you’re using a major software platform, such as Aweber, HubSpot, or VICIdial, chances are there are several Facebook groups dedicated to user support. Freelancers hang out in those groups to help out and solicit business.

Finally, LinkedIn can be a good resource as well. But searching for “CTO consultant” or “consulting CTO” won’t yield too many results. Instead, you’ll have to search for IT professionals with experience in application development, infrastructure, and project management.

Unfortunately, a large percentage of those folks are either happy where they are or don’t have the type of strategic experience you’ll need. Also, due to the nature of the platform and the mindset of traditional employers, those who are looking to freelance probably won’t be telegraphing their search.

Wrapping up

Remember: you don’t have to keep wading through “tech hell” just because you don’t have the budget to hire another FTE. You can find the help you need in the freelancer economy.

Will it take time and due diligence?

Of course.

But it’s your business, and you already knew that.

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