Industry Insights with Experts

Fractional vs. Freelance: What's the Right Fit for Your Needs?

Mrittika B M

21st Jun'24
Fractional vs. Freelance: What's the Right Fit for Your Needs? | OpenGrowth

Businesses are growing more flexible by the day and a growing pool of talent is looking beyond full-time employment. This has given rise to two popular hiring models: fractional and freelance. But with so much flexibility on offer, knowing which is best for you can be hard.

In this blog, we will break down the key differences between fractional hiring and freelance recruitment so you can make an informed decision. We’ll look at the scope of work, expertise levels, management styles, and benefits of each job role. By the end, you’ll be able to find the right talent solution for your business.


Key Differences Between Fractional Hiring and Freelancers

Both fractional hiring and freelancers offer valuable options for accessing skilled professionals. Here are the distinctions between both.

1. Scope of Work

  • Fractional: Fractional hiring fills a specific business need on an ongoing, part-time basis. These roles are often strategic and require deep integration with the team and a long-term commitment. For instance, companies might hire fractional CFOs to develop and execute their marketing strategy for a set number of hours per week.
  • Freelance: Freelancers are hired to complete a specific project-based task. Their work has a clear start and end date and they are not expected to be involved in the company’s long-term strategy. Examples of freelance work include website design, content writing, and social media management.


2. Expertise

  • Fractional: Fractional hires are usually senior-level, experienced professionals with a proven track record in their field. They bring a lot of knowledge and expertise to the table and can hit the ground running with minimal onboarding.

This approach is similar to how "Experts on Demand" services work. These services connect startups with specialists who offer their skills and experience on a part-time or project basis. This can be a cost-effective way to access the expertise you need to overcome specific challenges without the commitment of a full-time hire.

  • Freelance: Freelancers come in all shapes and sizes with a wide range of skill sets and experience levels. You can find freelancers who are experts in a particular niche or generalists who can do a variety of tasks.


3. Management

  • Fractional: Because fractional hires are part of the team on an ongoing basis, there is more management involved. You can expect regular communication and progress updates and fractional hires are often seen as an extension of the internal team and are considered a game-changer for startups.
  • Freelance: They work more independently with less management. You need to provide clear instructions and deliverables upfront and manage the project timeline.


Benefits of Fractional Hiring and Freelancing

Now that we have established the differences between a fractional and a freelancing hire, let’s move on to the benefits.




Paid benefits

Depending on the agreement, fractional hires may be eligible for benefits such as health insurance or paid time off. 

Freelancers are self-employed and are not entitled to benefits from the companies they work with. They are responsible for securing their health insurance and other benefits.


Fractional hires can provide continuity and stability to your team, as they are committed to the role for a longer period.

Freelancers can bring a fresh perspective and new ideas to your projects, as they are not beholden to the company's internal culture or processes.


Fractional hires can help you scale your team up or down quickly and easily, as you only need to pay for the hours they work.

Freelancers can be a cost-effective way to access specialized skills that you may not need on a full-time basis.


Fractional hires can help you avoid the risks and costs associated with hiring a full-time employee, such as recruitment, onboarding, and payroll taxes.

Freelancers can free up your internal team to focus on core competencies, by taking care of less critical tasks.



Steps to Consider Before Hiring a Fractional Expert or Freelancer

Not sure how to carry on with the process of hiring a fractional expert or a freelancer? We have laid out a step-by-step guide here.

Step 1: Identify Your Needs

If you’re a startup growing fast, hire a part time CFO who can bring financial expertise and guidance without the full-time cost. If you need a one-time website redesign, a freelance web designer is the way to go. Moreover, if you have a temporary need for a specific skill set like a data analyst to crunch numbers for a quarter end, a freelancer can fill that gap. But for a more strategic and ongoing need, like building a data analytics infrastructure, a fractional CTO can provide long-term vision and implementation.

Step 2: Consider Your Budget

When comparing costs, think about:

  • Benefits:  Benefits costs of fractional hires. Freelancers don’t get benefits from your company.
  • Overhead expenses:  Fractional hiring platforms may charge fees, but managing freelancers takes time and resources.
  • Project management:  Freelancers require more project management overhead, which adds to your workload.
  • Performance and quality:  Experienced fractional hires deliver higher quality work and require less hand-holding, potentially saving you costs in the long run.

Step 3: Consider Your Team Dynamics

How will the new hire fit in with your existing team?  Fractional hiring lets people sit in team meetings and become part of the company culture. Freelancers may need clearer communication channels and established workflows for successful collaboration.

Additionally, how comfortable are you with clear, upfront communication and managing deadlines for freelancers? For scaling your business effectively, clear communication and managing freelancers are crucial. 

Step 4: Pinpoint Your Project’s Complexity

For complex projects that require ongoing guidance and collaboration, a fractional hire is the way to go. They have deep knowledge of your business so can have regular check-ins and problem-solving. Freelancers are also great for much larger project scopes as they are well-defined.


The Perfect Fit for Your Business Success

Freelance or fractional hiring? It depends on what you need. Fractionals are great for long-term strategy and integration, and freelancers for well-defined projects. By considering budget, team dynamics, and project complexity you can make an informed decision that drives uniform growth.

OpenGrowth makes it easy to find the perfect talent fit. Our platform has a network of pre-vetted fractional executives across industries. Use our matching, engagement tools, and expert support to find the expert for your project or long-term goals. Visit OpenGrowth today and find the power of the perfect talent fit for your business.

Mrittika is fascinated by the intricacies of two extremes -data science and Bollywood's vibrant storytelling. In her copywriting pursuit, she seeks perfection and is very particular about words. Beyond copywriting, she reviews cinema and shares her perspectives, both mostly in her head.