Should You Hire a Full-Time or Fractional CFO?

In times of economic stress, all companies must contend with financial challenges. A qualified Chief Financial Officer can help business leaders navigate the chaos and make wiser decisions. However, some companies may find a permanent, full-time CFO to be a strain on their books.

The gig economy has given rise to an alternative option: the fractional CFO. This part-time, contracted occupation can be a good solution for organizations that need financial clarity but are reluctant to commit to a full-time position.

Could a fractional CFO be the answer for your company?

What Is a Fractional CFO?

A fractional CFO is a business consultant who offers financial guidance to businesses of all sizes. Rather than working full-time, a fractional CFO is hired on a part-time, project or contract basis. Many fractional CFOs work with multiple companies at once.

Fractional CFOs perform the same duties as dedicated, full-time CFOs. They guide businesses through threatening economic times, empowering leaders to make better decisions and steering their efforts in raising capital, driving financial growth, facilitating audits, and negotiating with vendors and partners.

A fractional CFO can provide the knowledge and resources needed to help a company weather the storm, especially in times of uncertainty. Startups or struggling businesses can realize all the benefits of a full-time CFO without committing to a full-time salary or benefits package.

Facing Economic Reality

During times of economic hardship, major corporations are forced to lay off workers, and small-to-medium-sized companies must deal with tighter budgets and organizational structures. Here are some key points:

  • Startups and small businesses often can’t afford to retain a full-time CFO 
  • The average salary for a full-time CFO in a small, private company topped $194,000 in 2023, according to Driven Insights
  • Larger businesses hired CFOs for an average base salary of more than $306,000, not including benefits, stock options, or bonuses

Location also plays a role. Companies in large metropolitan areas like New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Chicago pay more for full-time CFOs than those in smaller cities.

Retaining fractional CFOs can make a lot of sense for companies. These professionals have the requisite knowledge to keep businesses moving in slow economies and are skilled at finding opportunities for savings and investments that can shore up their finances.

Benefits of Hiring a Fractional CFO

A fractional CFO can offer a company several distinct advantages, including the following.


Fractional CFOs typically charge by the hour, meaning companies don’t have to commit to a full-time salary that might include downtime. Fractional CFOs are paid only for the time they actively work on business matters, making them more cost-effective for smaller businesses.


Fractional CFOs are also easier to work with from an operational standpoint. Company leaders can hire them on a part-time or project basis, so they can work with multiple businesses at once. They also give hiring managers a great deal of freedom when it comes to staffing.


Since many fractional CFOs work with more than one company at any given time, they often have a wide range of business knowledge that spans numerous sectors. This makes it easier for them to develop “outside the box” strategies that a full-time CFO might not come up with.


Fractional CFOs frequently partner with other finance professionals, including accountants, bankers, business attorneys, tax consultants, and insurance brokers. They can rely on their networks to serve the businesses they work for and help them fill other roles.

Hiring a Fractional CFO

Fractional CFO rates are contingent on several factors, including:

  • The amount of time they work
  • Their depth of knowledge and experience
  • The sectors they’re familiar with
  • Their specialized skills

The cost of hiring a fractional CFO might be a flat fee or a monthly retainer, and some charge more than others. This means that hiring managers have some leeway when it comes to compensation.

Make the Right Choice for Your Business

Ultimately, there’s no right or wrong answer to what kind of CFO your business hires. 

There may be good reasons to take on a full-time worker. In this era of economic instability, however, it may make more sense to consider working with a fractional CFO.

The knowledgeable professionals at Zabel & Co. can tell you more about the responsibilities and advantages of fractional CFOs. Contact us using our convenient online form, call us at 651-605-2301, or email us at today.