Are Fractional CxO Jobs Right for You in 2024?

Navigating the Pros and Cons of Fractional CxO Work into 2024 and Beyond

In today’s business landscape, the role of the Executive Officer has evolved beyond the structure and confines of traditional full-time employment. The emergence of fractional CEO, CMO, CFO and CMO jobs, where seasoned executives offer their expertise and leadership on a part-time basis to multiple organizations, is now a booming industry. In the first part of this series, 5 Reasons for the Rise in Fractional Executive Work, we explained the factors that have nurtured the explosion in fractional executive jobs. Now, senior leaders are wondering if this new executive career path is right for them. How do you, and should you get started in this line of work?

Pros of Fractional Executive Roles

1. Flexibility in Leadership Work

One of the most significant advantages of taking on fractional executive roles is the flexibility it offers. As a fractional CEO, CFO, or CMO, you have the autonomy to set your own schedule and choose the projects or companies that align with your interests and expertise. This power can allow you to maintain a healthy work-life balance, a crucial consideration for today’s busy executives. Additionally, most of these roles are remote. Since you are not a full-time employee you can take vacation whenever you want or take your kid to their doctor appointments or game, as long as you get your work done.  Additionally, being on the outside of the company, you are less involved in inter-office politics, company-wide all-hands meetings, and administrative procedures like performance reviews. 


2. Increased Earning Potential as Executive

Fractional executive work can be lucrative. In offering specialized skills and experience to multiple organizations, you have the potential to significantly increase your overall income. As you are running your own consulting business you can diversify your revenue streams and take on projects that provide substantial compensation as well as outsource and mark up services. 


3. Opportunity for Skill Development

Engaging in fractional executive work offers you exposure to a diverse range of industries, challenges, and organizational structures. Fractional work for an executive can provide an invaluable opportunity to learn new skills, adapt to different business environments, and broaden your professional expertise. While the learning curve in fractional roles can be steep, the knowledge gained can open up your career path. It can be a great way of keeping your skills sharp in between roles as you are looking for your next full-time executive job.

4. Continue to Expand Your Network

Working with multiple organizations in a fractional CxO role opens doors to a broader professional network. At MDL Partners our motto is “network, network, network.”   As a fractional executive, you will have the chance to collaborate with a diverse group of industry leaders, fellow executives, and professionals. Demonstrating your abilities to new, talented people will lead to new opportunities, partnerships, and collaborations that may not have been possible in a traditional full-time role.


Cons of Fractional Executive Jobs

1. Less Stability than a Full-Time Role

While fractional executive jobs offer flexibility, they also come with a degree of uncertainty. Working in part-time engagements means that there may be periods of fluctuating workloads or gaps between projects. This lack of stability can create stress and anxiety for those who are accustomed to a predictable, steady stream of income.

2. No Benefits and Administrative Work

Unlike full-time positions, fractional executive roles often lack any benefits package including health insurance, retirement plans, equity, paid vacations, office stipends, and other perks. For smaller companies and startups the equity is often the carrot that can seal the deal if you believe in the business model.  As a fractional CEO, CFO, or CMO, you will need to address these aspects of your life, which may require additional time, resources, and some costs. A fractional CxO must also own or outsource 1099-administrative work such as client billing, invoicing,  keeping track of your business expenses, and your business taxes.

3. Fractional CxO Roles Can Lead to Periods of Under-Employment

There may be times when you have fewer active projects than desired. This under-employment period can be financially challenging and may require careful financial planning to bridge the gaps.  It is hard to predict when a client project might end and fractional work and contractors are often the first to be let go during an economic downturn and RIF.

4. Managing Multiple Fractional Clients

Managing multiple clients and projects simultaneously can be demanding. It requires strong organizational skills, effective time management, and the ability to prioritize tasks. Once you reach two or more clients at the same time, the mental shift of jumping projects, often one after another on the same day can be a mental challenge. Additionally, prioritizing the needs and expectations of different organizations can be a complex juggling act as every client thinks they are your number one.

Some resources to meet other fractional executives and find roles include:

In conclusion, fractional CxO work presents a compelling alternative for the traditional CEO, CFO, CMO, and other executives who seek to diversify their career paths and income streams.

The flexibility, increased earning potential, learning opportunities, and expanded network make it attractive. However, it’s important to weigh these benefits against the potential drawbacks, including less stability, the absence of benefits including equity, periods of under-employment, and the need to manage multiple clients effectively.

Sometimes the marketplace dictates your next move. By carefully considering these factors, you can navigate the landscape of fractional CxO work and make an informed decision that aligns with your career goals and aspirations.