In August 2023, I opened my own LLC to run a fractional CTO/consulting business. After almost a year, I learned some important things that could be useful for people who would like to make a change in their career.

1. Never trust anyone unless the contract is signed and the invoice is paid.

As the title says, a potential client might be eager to work with you, but when it comes to the actual contract and work, they might suddenly disappear without any signs of life, even people with whom you thought you had a nice relationship. Lower your expectations to zero or sometimes below zero. Once the contract is signed and the invoice is paid, you can have a small relief. (This happened to me 9 out of 10 times, maybe something is wrong with me)

2. No one cares about you.

If you are employed and you have HR which hates you or a manager who bullies you, you still have a stable income and some coworkers who care about you. Once you go on your own, there is literally no one who cares about your existence in any sense, neither financially nor morally. Even your family might not understand what you are doing and why you quit your 9-5. (This is exactly my case, even with family)

3. It’s not always about you.

I thought that when you go on your own, you will be in charge of all the results, good and bad ones. But once you figure out that as the smallest economic unit without any fat in terms of cash or clients, market trends might be your biggest enemy. 2024 showed a massive amount of layoffs and reduced budgets for consulting almost to zero, as well as the number of seed startups in Europe collapsed in comparison with last years.

4. You lose all security.

Once you’re employed, you are protected by labor law and when something happens to you or your family, you can rely on social systems which we have in Europe (to some extent), such as healthcare and unemployment benefits. If something critical happens with a family member and you are self-employed, you are in trouble in all possible senses. You might say that you need to charge your clients more and have a money buffer for such accidents, true, read number 3.

5. You become unemployable.

This year was probably the worst for me in terms of career and finances due to various reasons. I sent more than one thousand applications, but most recruiters, when they see that you have been a developer, team lead, head of department, and entrepreneur, they throw your application in the trash. If you apply for a software developer position, they would like to see a person with the exact same title for the last 15 years, the same goes for team leads and management positions.

My biggest advice to people who would like to go on their own: keep your 9-5, do your side hustle in your free time, and use your friend’s company to invoice your clients. Once you hit 50k+ per year like that, safely leave your 9-5.

Picture credits @lili_popper