How to get started as an interim or fractional leader

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From defining your need and thinking about specialisms to finding clients and building your brand, follow these 4 steps to build a portfolio career as an interim or fractional leader.
Whether the pandemic made you yearn for a more balanced work-life structure or you simply want to help more companies scale, transitioning to a portfolio career as an interim or fractional leader is becoming increasingly popular. But how do you actually get started? Follow these five steps.

1. Think about your working pattern

The freedom to choose jobs that suit your skills, lifestyle and expected earnings is one of the biggest draws of a portfolio career, but you first need to define what you want. For instance, do you want a full-time interim role (i.e. 4-5 days per week) for a set period of time (i.e. 4-6 months) with a clear outcome designed by the client? Would you prefer taking on a part-time fractional role (i.e. 2-3 days per week) or a coaching schedule?
You don’t have to rigidly choose one or the other, but it helps to set parameters. For example, Scale Expert Margo Hayward chose a portfolio career to spend more time with her family and therefore when it comes to potential jobs she blocks off school holidays. “I think ahead and don’t schedule work when the kids are out of school. It’s the same around school pick-up. It’s my diary, so I can.”
For those thinking about financial security, it helps to consider what you want to earn and then work backwards. According to Sophie Carter, Chief Fractional Officer at Scalewise, “typical day rates are from £800-1700 per day, depending on role, experience and specialisms. Work back from there. Will five or six roles be enough for what I want? Do I commit all my time to one client or just need to do it three days per week?”

2. Define your specialisms

Why are you making this change? For most, the desire to make a tangible difference at multiple companies is high on the list, so it’s crucial to think about where you can help.
When moving from a full-time VP of Sales to fractional roles, Scale Expert Nora Khalili looked inward first. “Where are the inflection points in the company where I get the most excited? Where am I motivated? Where can I see the impact happening? I normally work with Seed and Series A, so I looked where my strong suits were and where I can bring them impact.”
Sophie Carter agrees. “You need to get clear on your specialisms. Many of us have sales backgrounds and have often thought about a company’s positioning and ICP. Finding a client is exactly the same. What am I good at? What can I get good feedback on? What do I enjoy doing? What excites me? Where do I have good examples of my work or people to give good testimonials?”
Ultimately, the more you think about your experience, skills, what you enjoy doing and the way you like to work, the easier it is to find the right clients.

3. Find the right clients

Going from full-time salaried roles where finding clients as an independent contractor can be stressful. “To find out what is the right kind of company for me, I did an exercise with values,” says Margo Hayward. “I wanted a company with an appetite to grow, which had things that needed fixing, but didn’t have the expertise to fix it.”
Meanwhile, Sophie Carter “started to get involved with the start-up community and did some mentoring,” to find her first client. “Now, most of my work comes through my network. I did a bit to get out there and then expanded from there.”
For those without a pre-existing network of their own, it’s possible to find clients in other ways. For example, at Scalewise, we receive multiple requests from companies each week and then send out briefs to our network of interim/fractional leaders, matching the candidate to the role.

4. Speak to Scalewise

Looking at steps 1-3, are you more or less motivated to transition to a portfolio career? Well, here’s the nub. At Scalewise, we help you do all of the above. We work with you to define what jobs you want, what specialisms you have and what clients are right for you. We use our network to match you with the roles that suit your experience, working style and skills. We negotiate fees, arrange contracts and invoice the client directly. In short, we help you make a success of your portfolio career and build your brand.
Going out on your own can be scary, but with Scalewise you have the support of a whole community. Get in touch to find out more.

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