May 17, 2023

Become a Fractional CFO: A Step-by-Step Guide

Become a Fractional CFO: A Step-by-Step Guide

A fractional CFO is an increasingly popular career step that many financial professionals are considering these days. Yet, it is not a career move to make without considering its various nuances and requirements. This article will take a deep dive into the career of a fractional CFO, looking at what it is, who needs one, and how to become one.

What is a Fractional CFO?

A Fractional CFO is a financial expert who provides CFO services to organizations on a part-time, retainer, or contract basis. They are highly experienced, in-demand finance executives. Fractional CFOs often have prior experience as a full-time CFO but have chosen to work with startups and small businesses to provide their CFO services part-time.

A fractional CFO can give financial operations support. This includes financial analysis, forecasting, budgeting, and reporting. They can also help with strategic planning, risk management, and mergers and acquisitions. Fractional CFOs guide organizations to make informed decisions and achieve their financial goals.

Fractional CFOs have essentially the same responsibilities as a full-time CFOs. However, these responsibilities can differ from client to client depending on each one's needs. Pretty much anything a full-time CFO does, a fractional CFO can take care of, billing hourly for their work instead.

What are the Benefits of a Fractional CFO?

Business owners may find themselves in need of financial leadership without the resources to hire a full-time CFO. This is where a fractional CFO can be an asset to them, adding value, expertise, and flexibility.


A fractional CFO can provide the same level of financial expertise and guidance as a full-time CFO but at a fraction of the cost. By working on a part-time or project basis, a fractional CFO can help businesses save money on costs such as salary, benefits, and office space.


A fractional CFO brings a wealth of experience and expertise. They can assist with budgeting, forecasting, financial reporting, and strategic planning. They can also make valuable insights and recommendations to help your company make the best financial decisions.


One of the biggest advantages of hiring a fractional CFO is the flexibility they provide. They can work on a part-time or project basis, allowing their services to be scaled up or down as needed. This means a business can get the financial guidance it needs without the commitment of a full-time hire.

How to Become a Fractional CFO

Now that we’ve looked at what a fractional CFO is and who needs one, what steps do you need to take to pursue this career path? Becoming a fractional CFO requires a combination of education and work experience.

Education and Certification

Having experience in financial operations and leadership will be beneficial when starting out as a fractional CFO. You will need a strong educational background in finance, accounting, or a related field. A bachelor's degree is almost always required, and a master's degree in business administration (MBA) can be helpful. Additionally, as with any CFO position, obtaining a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) designation can be beneficial. Stay up-to-date with industry trends by attending conferences and seminars and reading relevant publications.

Work Experience

Work experience in financial analysis, financial modeling, and strategic planning provides the appropriate background for anyone wanting to become a fractional CFO. You can gain this experience by working in various finance-related roles, such as a financial analyst, accountant, or controller. It is also important to have experience in board reporting, as this is a common task for fractional CFOs. Developing your consulting skills is also a must, as strong consulting skills are essential for success in this role.

Skills and Qualities of a Fractional CFO

Just as there are different steps to take to be qualified to work in a fractional CFO role, there are also skills and qualities that will enable you to handle the financial affairs of your clients effectively. Here are some critical skills and qualities that you should develop to become a top-notch fractional CFO:

Financial Expertise

Fractional CFOs are expected to have a strong background in finance, accounting, and financial analysis. You must be able to analyze financial data, identify trends, and interpret financial statements. Additionally, being knowledgeable in financial modeling, forecasting, and budgeting will propel you in any financial endeavors. Your expertise should enable you to provide your clients with sound financial advice, help them make informed decisions, and manage their financial risks effectively.

Communication Skills

As a fractional CFO, you will be working with different clients with varying levels of financial literacy. So, you must be an excellent communicator with both words and writing. Know how  to explain complex financial concepts in simple terms that your clients can understand, and learn to articulate your ideas and recommendations clearly and persuasively. Your communication skills should enable you to build trust with your clients, establish credibility, and cultivate long-term relationships.

Strategic Thinking

Fractional CFOs are strategic thinkers who can help their clients develop sound financial strategies. Analyzing a client’s financial situation involves being able to identify their strengths and weaknesses and creating strategies that align with their goals and objectives. Additionally, the ability to expect potential financial challenges and develop contingency plans to mitigate risks will come in handy. Your strategic thinking skills should enable you to add value to your clients' businesses and help them achieve long-term success.

Time Management

As a fractional CFO, you might be working with many clients simultaneously, so effective time management is key. Practice the art of prioritizing your tasks, meeting deadlines, and delivering high-quality work consistently. Your time management skills should enable you to provide your clients with timely and reliable financial advice and ensure that you meet their expectations.

How to Price Your Services

As a fractional CFO, determining how to price your services can be a challenging task. There are several factors to consider, including your level of experience, the scope of work, and the industry you are working in. In this section, we will discuss the three most common pricing models: hourly rate, retainer, and project-based. When choosing a pricing model, it's important to consider your own needs and the needs of your clients. Each model has its own benefits and drawbacks, so it's important to choose the one that works best for your business.

Hourly Rate

One of the most common pricing models for fractional CFOs is the hourly rate. This model is straightforward and easy to understand. You charge a set amount for each hour of work that you perform. The hourly rate for a fractional CFO can range from $200 to $350 per hour, depending on the level of experience and the industry.

When setting your hourly rate, it's important to consider your budget and cash flow needs. You want to make sure that you are charging enough to cover your expenses and generate a profit, but not so much that you price yourself out of the market.


Another pricing model for fractional CFOs is the retainer. This model involves charging a set fee for a predetermined amount of work over a specific period. For example, you might charge a client $5,000 per month to provide ongoing financial modeling and analysis services.

The retainer model can be beneficial for both you and your clients. It provides a predictable income stream for you, and it allows your clients to budget for your services more easily.


The project-based pricing model is another option for fractional CFOs. This model involves charging a set fee for a specific project or set of tasks. For example, you might charge a client $10,000 to create a financial forecast for their business.

The project-based model can be beneficial for clients who have a specific need or project in mind. It allows them to know exactly how much they will be paying upfront, which can be helpful for budgeting purposes.

Finding Clients

As a fractional CFO, finding clients is a crucial part of your job. When seeking out potential clients, it's important to focus on the value that a fractional CFO can offer, such as those discussed above. Startups and retail businesses may especially benefit from the services of a fractional CFO. Here are some ways to find clients as a fractional CFO:


Networking is an age-old way to find clients. Attend industry events, conferences, and seminars to meet potential businesses that might need your services. Joining professional organizations and associations can also assist you connect with potential clients. Make sure to have a business card ready to hand out and be prepared to talk about your services and expertise.


Word of mouth is often the most trusted method of marketing. Ask your current clients to refer you to their colleagues or acquaintances. You can also ask your professional network for referrals. Make sure to follow up with referrals promptly and thank the person who referred you.


In any self-employed service, marketing yourself is key. Create a website that showcases your services and expertise. Use social media to promote your services and share relevant industry news and insights. You can also consider advertising in industry publications or online.

Virtual CFOs can also offer flexibility and cost savings for clients. Make sure to emphasize these benefits when marketing your services.

Managing Your Fractional CFO Business

As a fractional CFO, you are responsible for managing your own business. This involves ensuring that your financial foundation is solid, utilizing technology and resources to streamline processes, and managing your time effectively.

Financial Foundation

To ensure the success of your fractional CFO business, it is important to establish a strong financial foundation. This includes creating a business plan, setting financial goals, and tracking your income and expenses.

Additionally, it is important to manage financial risk by maintaining adequate insurance coverage and creating a plan for unexpected expenses. Understand what tax laws say about how you have set up your business and hire a tax attorney to make sure you are paying the right taxes. Seeking the guidance of a financial advisor can also be beneficial in establishing a solid financial foundation.

Technology and Resources

Utilizing technology and resources can help streamline processes while increasing efficiency in managing your fractional CFO business. This includes utilizing accounting software to manage financial reporting and record-keeping, as well as utilizing online resources for networking and marketing.

It is also important to stay up to date with industry trends and developments in technology to ensure that you are utilizing the most effective tools and resources available.

Time Management

Effective time management is crucial in managing a successful fractional CFO business. This includes creating a schedule and prioritizing tasks, as well as delegating tasks when necessary.

Time management tools such as calendars and task lists can also ensure that you are maximizing your productivity. Stay abreast of the latest project management software to make sure all the many balls you will be juggling stay in the air.


Becoming a fractional CFO requires many things such as gaining the right experience, having the appropriate skills, marketing yourself, and managing your own freelance business. You should know how to establish a strong financial foundation, use technology and resources, and manage your time effectively. By implementing these strategies, you can increase efficiency and ensure the success of your fractional CFO business.

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