What is a Flex / Fractional Role?

Embracing the Future: The Rise and Advantages of Fractional Work

What is a Flex / Fractional Role?

Mike Bank is an early-stage startup founder, former investment banker, and a visiting lecturer and career coach at some of Europe’s leading business schools.

At Citigroup, he was one of the bank’s youngest team staffers, assisted with graduate and MBA assessment centres in the London office, and ran numerous lateral hire processes.

Over the past ten years, he has built and led teams at his own ventures as well as consulting with VC-backed startups on talent acquisition.

How the world works is changing

For most employees, gone are the days of a job for life.

A 9-5 job is still the norm for many, but an ever-increasing number of workers are waking up to the reality that the safety and security of a traditional career have been replaced by doubt and uncertainty.

On the other side of the table, companies are starting to explore the benefits of hiring Flexers in a flexible or fractional capacity.

The future of work for top-performing professionals - those of you operating at the peak of your respective industries - will be less about exchanging time for money, and more about getting paid for the impact you can have on a business.

Importantly, by working and hiring in this way, both sides can win:

  • You can get paid more for less (and still have an enormous, fulfilling impact in your various roles);


  • Companies can pay less for more (as they are able to afford more senior and experienced talent on a flexible basis, who can have an outsized impact on their business in only a few days a week).

As a fractional worker or Flexer, the key will be learning how to position yourself to take advantage of this seismic shift in working norms.

We will dig into each of these questions and more in future articles. 

This seminal article will explore what we mean by flex or Fractional roles and the benefits of this new way of working for both employees and employers.

What is a Flex or Fractional Role?

Flexible jobs, fractional working, portfolio roles, squiggly careers, side hustles, multi-hyphenate careers; what exactly do these terms all mean?

Flex Roles share several key characteristics that distinguish them from traditional employment setups:

* Flexible Hours: Flex roles can allow you to choose your working hours, accommodate personal commitments, and optimise your productivity during your peak performance periods.

* Remote Work: Flex roles often enable you to work from anywhere, eliminating the need for physical office space and enabling a location-independent lifestyle.

* Outcome-Based: Flex roles frequently involve outcome-based work, where you are able to engage in specific assignments or tasks for a defined period, providing you with variety and exposure to diverse projects.

* Autonomy and Independence: Flex roles grant you a higher degree of autonomy in decision-making, allowing you to shape your workflow, prioritise tasks, and take ownership of your work.

Types of Flex Roles

There are various types of flex roles that you can explore based on your preferences and skills:

* Multi-Hyphenate: As a multi-hyphenate professional, you will wear many hats depending on the specific project you are working on. This particularly suits generalists, or those with scanner personality types. You will typically not be a functional expert but will be an expert generalist with a multitude of skill sets that can be applied within different organizations on an as-needed basis. We will talk more about how to overcome the difficulties of marketing yourself in different ways to different audiences in future articles.

* Focused Expert: If you have a deep wealth of experience in one particular industry and/or function, you may be best suited to work as a focused expert. You should aim to become known as the subject matter expert for your niche. This will enable you to win work via inbound leads, as well as position you to charge richly for your services. We will talk more about how to identify your niche and position yourself as an expert in future articles.

* Freelancing and Contracting: As a freelancer or contractor, you can take on short-term assignments or projects with different clients, enjoying flexibility, independence, and the opportunity to work across multiple industries. This can work well for someone earlier in their career who needs to build up a body of case studies to support their future multi-hyphenate or focused expert offerings. We will talk more about how to laser in on the right types of assignments with the right types of clients in future articles.

* Job Sharing: In a job sharing arrangement, two or more individuals split the responsibilities of a full-time position, allowing you to work part-time and strike a balance between work and personal life, or to work across multiple organisations simultaneously. This can provide an opportunity for Flexers to gain a foothold in an organisation, with the aim of winning more flexible work from them in the future. On the other hand, it can also provide you with the opportunity to free up time in your current 9-5 in order to explore your flex career. We will talk more about when it makes sense to explore a job-sharing arrangement in future articles.

* Project-Based Work: As a professional in a project-based flex role, you are able to work on specific projects from start to finish, contributing your expertise for the duration of the project before moving on to the next assignment. This can work well when a specific need has been identified, either by the organisation itself or with the help of a well-thought-out pitch to the stakeholders. We will talk more about identifying and pitching for project-based work in future articles.

* Side Hustle: Side hustles will usually emerge from one or more of your passions. You will use your spare time outside of your full-time role to spin up a side hustle. Eventually, this can overtake your main gig as a source of income. We will talk more about how you can set up and grow a side hustle in future articles.

Benefits for Employers

Flex or Fractional roles offer numerous advantages for businesses operating in today's fast-paced, competitive environment. Understanding these advantages can be useful when pitching yourself as a flex role professional vs. a more traditional 9-5 employee. Here are some key benefits to consider:

* Agility and Adaptability: Flex roles empower organisations to quickly respond to changing market dynamics. They can assemble teams with specific skills tailored to each project, ensuring efficient and effective outcomes.

* Access to Specialised Expertise: By tapping into a diverse talent pool, businesses gain access to specialised expertise that may not be available in-house. This enables them to leverage the latest trends, technologies, and industry best practices.

* Cost Optimisation: Flex roles allow businesses to optimise costs by engaging professionals on a project basis rather than hiring full-time employees. This eliminates the need for long-term commitments and associated overhead expenses.

* Enhanced Innovation and Creativity: Flexers bring fresh perspectives and diverse experiences to the table. Their ability to work across different industries and projects fuels innovation, creativity, and outside-the-box thinking.

* Bang for their Buck: Organisations can hire exceptionally talented and experienced flex role professionals on a fractional basis for the same cost as a much more junior or less impressive full-time hire.

Benefits for professionals

Flex roles also offer numerous advantages for individuals seeking a more dynamic and fulfilling work experience. Here are some key benefits:

* Work-Life Integration: Flex roles provide you with the freedom to manage your work around personal commitments and priorities. You can achieve a better work-life balance, reducing stress and improving overall well-being.

* Skills Development and Growth: Engaging in flex roles allows you to continually develop and enhance your skills. You have the opportunity to work on diverse projects, acquire new knowledge, and explore different career paths.

* Increased Autonomy and Control: As a flexer you have greater control over your work. You can choose projects that align with your interests, values, and career goals, leading to a higher level of job satisfaction.

* Expanded Network and Opportunities: Working across multiple projects and industries enables you to build a diverse professional network. This can help expand your job prospects and open doors to new opportunities and collaborations.

* Greater Financial Rewards: By juggling multiple opportunities, you can charge a premium for your time/input and optimise your earning potential. In this case, the sum of the parts (multiple flex roles) is greater than the whole (a single, full-time job).

If you are keen to learn more about this new way of working, please subscribe to our weekly newsletter.

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