Marketing Leadership

How to become a fractional CMO

There are many considerations when deciding whether to become a fractional CMO. Learn the key questions to ask yourself before making this career shift.


When considering a career shift as a marketing executive, the possibility of becoming a Fractional CMO has gained popularity. I did this myself after leading my second B2B SaaS startup to an exit.

After a couple of years doing this type of work, I returned to owning my own business and founded Kalungi, which provides instant go-to-market teams for early-stage B2B software companies. 

I still get many questions and do coaching sessions with CMOs considering going the Fractional Consulting path. So, I decided to compile some of the biggest questions and considerations to help you evaluate the practical implications and how the change aligns with personal interests, motivations, and life goals. 

Questions to ask yourself

Discussing these considerations with a career coach, mentor, or peers who have made a similar transition can be beneficial. Their insights can help inform your decision and help you understand what to expect in this new career path. I’m always happy to help with these conversations.

  • Do I value independence and flexibility? As a contractor or fractional CMO, you'll typically have more control over your and your client's time. However, this independence comes with increased responsibility for managing your own business. 

  • Am I comfortable with income variability? Traditional employment typically supplies a stable salary, while contractors' income can vary based on the number and types of clients they have at any given time. Can you handle periods of low income, especially as you get your contractor business off the ground?

  • Am I skilled at business development? As a contractor, you'll handle securing your own clients. This requires networking, marketing, and sales skills. 

  • Do I enjoy variety in my work? Contractors often work with various clients across different industries, which can be exciting and intellectually stimulating. However, it can also require quickly getting up to speed in new areas and juggling different business cultures and processes. 

  • Am I comfortable managing my own taxes and benefits? As a self-employed individual, you'll handle your own taxes, retirement savings, and health insurance. You may need to hire a professional to help with this, which is an added cost to consider.

  • Do I have the necessary resources to start my own business? This includes financial resources, the necessary workspace, equipment, and professional networks to support your work as a contractor.

  • Am I ready to wear many hats? As an independent contractor, you'll likely have to manage all aspects of your business, from marketing and sales to administration and finance, unless you hire others to help.

  • Is there a demand for fractional CMO services in my target market? This requires understanding your potential client's needs and the current market for fractional CMO services. If you have a niche area of expertise, is there a market for it?

  • Do I enjoy creating my own structure? In a full-time job, goals, timelines, and procedures are typically set for you. As a contractor, you must be self-motivated and comfortable setting these for yourself.

  • Do I have a plan for maintaining my professional development? As a full-time employee, your company may have provided training and development opportunities. As a contractor, this will be your responsibility. 

Do you have to work, or do you want to work? 

When I joined Chief Outsiders in 2015 for my first encounter with doing Fractional CMO work, I was still in the prime of my career. I wanted to work, and I wanted to work full-time. Because I was working because I chose to do so, I was working harder than I did in the early stages of my career because I did not consider it work anymore.

It had become my hobby…

I also met other CMOs who had gone Fractional because they wanted a couple of ‘Lifestyle gigs’ every year and the freedom to take a multi-month sabbatical every year and hang out with like-minded peers. They used the Fractional CMO work to make their semi-retirement life interesting and engage their intellect.

Finally, some of us just had to work to pay the bills, and of course, their tenacity to do whatever it took to make clients very happy and to fill up their calendars was of another level vs. some of their peers. 

Ensure you know how much money you need to make and how much you want to work. Here are a couple of other questions to add to these. 

  • Am I passionate about the work I'll be doing? As a contractor or fractional CMO, you'll likely be working with a diverse range of businesses and industries. Does this variety excite you? Are you passionate about helping different companies develop and execute their marketing strategies?
  • Am I motivated by the challenges of this role? Being a contractor can come with unique challenges, like the need to constantly find new clients or manage multiple projects at once. Do these challenges motivate and energize you, or do they feel overwhelming?
  • Do I value the flexibility and autonomy that comes with being a contractor? Being a contractor can provide greater control over your time and work, which might make work feel less like a necessity and more like a choice. However, it also comes with greater uncertainty. Is this trade-off worth it to you?
  • What are my long-term career and life goals, and how does this role fit in? Consider your long-term career aspirations, your personal life goals, and how being a contractor might fit into these. For example, if you value having a lot of time for personal or family activities, the flexibility of a contractor role might be appealing.
  • How does this role align with my personal values? Think about what you value most in work: creativity, impact, growth, balance, autonomy, stability, etc.. Does being a contractor or fractional CMO align with these values?
  • Is this something I want to do or something I feel I must do? It's important to consider whether this move is driven by external factors (like a layoff or a tough job market) or whether it genuinely aligns with your interests and goals. Even if it's the former, that doesn't mean it's the wrong decision, but it's worth recognizing what's driving the change. 

Remember, there's no right or wrong answer to these questions; what matters most is that you make a choice that feels right for you. You may want to consider speaking to a career coach or counselor to help clarify your thoughts and feelings about this potential shift.

Are you ready to sell yourself? 

The shift from a salaried position to a consulting role can pose several challenges, particularly in business development and marketing. As a contractor or fractional CMO, you're essentially running your own business and need to sell your services to potential clients.  

Are you good at networking? Do you want to do your own positioning? Can you build your own pipeline? Even when you’ve led teams doing this for a company or others, doing this for yourself can be a completely different challenge. Unless you have experience and successfully sold your own consulting service, be careful what you wish for. Selling is not easy. Selling yourself is harder. 

Alternatively, would you be willing to give up a part of your fee to pay for leads that come from another source? Or for sales being made by someone else? There are many groups of Fractional CMOs, or companies like Kalungi, who focus on Fractional CMOs for B2B SaaS companies, where the marketing and selling will be done for you in exchange for giving up a certain amount of margin or freedom. 

Here are some common challenges to consider: 

  • Building a Personal Brand: As a full-time executive, your reputation within your company and industry may have been well-established, but as a consultant, you'll need to create a compelling personal brand that differentiates you from other contractors. 
  • Networking and Relationship Building: Finding clients often requires networking and building relationships in your target market. This can take time and effort, and it can be challenging if you're not naturally outgoing or comfortable with self-promotion. 
  • Sales Skills: You may not have needed to "sell" in your previous role, but you'll need to pitch your services and negotiate contracts as a contractor. This requires developing new skills and potentially stepping out of your comfort zone. 
  • Finding the Right Clients: Not all clients are a good fit. It can be challenging to find clients with the right budget who need your services and are a good fit for your working style.
  • Managing a Sales Pipeline: Unlike a salaried job where you get a consistent paycheck, contracting requires maintaining a sales pipeline to ensure a steady flow of projects and income. This requires regular effort to find new leads, follow up, and close deals.
  • Pricing Your Services: It can be difficult to decide how to price your services. You need to consider the value you provide, market rates, your desired income, and how pricing might position you in the market.
  • Dealing with Rejection: Rejection is a normal part of sales and business development. It can be challenging to stay motivated and positive in the face of rejection, particularly when you're selling your own services.
  • Navigating Conflicts of Interest: If you're working with multiple clients in the same industry, you may need to navigate potential conflicts of interest.
  • Legal Considerations: As a contractor, you must manage legal considerations such as contracts, non-disclosure agreements, and intellectual property rights. 

These challenges can be mitigated by proper planning, skill development, mentorship, and potentially partnering with others who can complement your skills. Even if these aspects are new to you, with time and experience, you can learn and adapt to the requirements of your new role. 

Do you have an approach? 

Do you have a service portfolio you like to sell? Do you have an approach? A framework? Or do you like to use someone else's framework?

For example, are you comfortable studying and getting good at implementing known approaches like EOS or T2D3?

Many B2B SaaS fractional CMOs have adopted T2D3 as the playbook they bring to CEOs to build trust and secure new contracts. If you're interested in learning more, you can start by reading the book or becoming a member of the T2D3 masterclass and becoming certified. 

Whatever framework you use, make sure it's relevant to your industry.

A fractional CMO, or any consultant, should ideally have a suite of services that can address a wide range of client needs. Here are some components that could be part of a fractional CMO's portfolio: 

  • Strategic Planning: This could involve creating a comprehensive marketing strategy, including defining target audiences, setting marketing objectives, identifying proper marketing channels, and developing brand positioning strategies. 
  • Brand Development: This service could range from creating a new brand identity to rebranding or refining an existing one. It might involve logo design, visual branding, messaging, and overall brand strategy.
  • Content Strategy: This involves planning, development, and management of content that is designed to attract, engage, and retain an audience.
  • Digital Marketing: This encompasses many tactics, such as SEO, SEM, email marketing, content marketing, social media marketing, and online advertising.
  • Product Launches: Developing and executing strategies for launching new products or services, including pre-launch buzz creation, PR, and post-launch marketing.
  • Data Analysis and Reporting: Analyzing marketing data to identify trends, measure performance, and provide insights. This could also involve creating dashboards for clients.
  • Customer Experience and Journey Mapping: This involves mapping the customer's journey with the brand, identifying pain points, and recommending improvements.
  • Marketing Automation: Setting up and managing marketing automation tools for email marketing, social media posting, and customer relationship management.
  • Training and Workshops: Providing training for a client's team on various aspects of marketing or running marketing workshops.
  • Crisis Management: Helping businesses manage and mitigate crises, especially concerning public relations and brand image. 

Regarding frameworks, methodologies, books, and templates, having a few key resources that you rely on and refine over time can be useful. This might include: 

  • Marketing Plan Templates: A well-structured template to help clients plan their marketing activities.
  • Brand Audit Framework: A framework to evaluate a client's brand against its competitors and find areas for improvement.
  • Customer Persona Templates: These help clients understand their target audience in detail.
  • Content Calendar Template: This tool can help clients plan their content strategy across different platforms.
  • Books: Many books on marketing strategies and methodologies can provide insight and inspiration. Some CMOs even write their own books as a form of content marketing and thought leadership.
  • Data Analysis Tools: Having a suite of tools or platforms you're familiar with and can use to provide clients with data-driven insights.
  • Project Management Tools: Using a specific project management method and corresponding tools can help streamline your work and make collaborations more efficient. 

Remember, the key is not to offer everything but to develop a deep understanding of your target client's needs and offer services that best meet those needs. Additionally, consistently updating and refining these offerings based on feedback and results can help you stay competitive and deliver better value to your clients. 

What are your superpowers? 

You probably have learned a lot in your career, and many of those experiences will be very valuable for the companies and people you sell your services to. Write down any business- or go-to-market models you are very experienced in, or industries, technologies, activities, or types of challenges. 

And what are your strengths as an executive? Are you strong on the Art- or Science side of marketing? Great at ‘big M’ marketing like positioning, ICPs, personas and go-to-market strategy, or are you an execution ninja who gets the funnel to the next level, hires, and develops a new team very well is very experienced in urgent crisis management? 

Understanding and communicating your unique strengths, or "superpowers," is crucial when positioning yourself as a fractional CMO. Here are several qualities that can make a fractional CMO stand out: 

  • Industry Expertise: A deep understanding of a particular industry can be a strong selling point. This can be a significant advantage if you have years of experience in a specific sector and can demonstrate a strong track record of results. 
  • Strategic Vision: The ability to see the big picture, understand a company's strategic goals, and then align the marketing strategy accordingly is a highly valued skill. 
  • Data-Driven Decision Making: Mastery in using data to make informed decisions and drive marketing strategy is highly sought after. Your ability to analyze data, draw insights, and use them to optimize marketing efforts can be a unique selling point. 
  • Innovation and Creativity: If you are known for your creative thinking and ability to innovate in a marketing context, this can be a powerful selling point. This can apply to everything from campaign ideation to problem-solving.
  • Adaptability: The marketing landscape is continually changing. If you can adapt quickly, learn new platforms and strategies, and help your clients do the same, you can add significant value.
  • Leadership and Team Development: As a fractional CMO, you'll often be working with and leading in-house teams. Your ability to develop and inspire these teams can be a significant benefit to your clients.
  • Communication Skills: Excellent communication skills, both written and verbal, are key to marketing. Your ability to craft compelling narratives and communicate complex ideas simply can make you an invaluable asset to your clients.
  • Customer Centricity: If you have a knack for understanding customer behavior and crafting strategies that resonate with target audiences, this can be a significant advantage.
  • Technical Skills: Depending on your background, you may have specific technical skills, such as SEO expertise, proficiency with marketing automation software, or a background in digital analytics.
  • Project Management: The ability to manage multiple projects simultaneously, meet deadlines, and stay organized even in high-pressure situations can set you apart. 

Identify which qualities you possess and can demonstrate through past experiences or results to articulate these superpowers. Then, craft a value proposition that succinctly communicates who you are, what you do, and why you're uniquely positioned to help your clients. I like to use the Best, Better, Only exercise and positioning vector template when I help clients do this—you could also use it to position your personal brand.

Always tie your skills back to the benefits they bring to your clients – the problems you can help solve and the value you can add to their business. Remember, it's not about boasting about your skills but clearly showing how you can help your clients succeed.

What experience do you have? 

How would you position and market your unique set of experiences? Here is a starting point, categorized under industry experience, marketing disciplines, company lifecycle stages, and target markets (B2B vs. B2C): 

Industry Experience 

Your sector or industry-specific expertise can be a crucial asset, especially if you're targeting clients within those industries. Knowledge of industry-specific challenges, trends, customer behavior, and regulatory environment can be very valuable. 

  • Specific sectors (e.g., technology, healthcare, finance, retail, etc.) 
  • Emerging industries (e.g., AI, blockchain, green energy, etc.) 
  • Traditional vs. online business models 

Marketing Disciplines 

Expertise across various types of marketing can show your versatility and comprehensive knowledge of the marketing mix. This can include: 

  • Product marketing 
  • Channel marketing 
  • Enterprise marketing 
  • Influencer marketing
  • Content marketing
  • Social media marketing
  • SEO / SEM
  • PR and corporate communications
  • Event marketing
  • Direct marketing
  • Affiliate marketing 

Company Lifecycle Stages 

Experience in working with companies at various stages of maturity can highlight your adaptability and understanding of different business needs. 

  • Startups / Early-stage companies
  • Growth-stage companies
  • Mature / Established companies
  • Companies in transition (e.g., mergers, acquisitions, pivoting)
  • Companies facing a crisis or reputational challenges 

Target Markets (B2B vs. B2C) 

The dynamics and strategies can significantly differ in B2B and B2C marketing. Having experience in both and specialized ability in one can be a strong selling point. 

  • Business-to-Business (B2B) 
  • Business-to-Consumer (B2C) 
  • Business-to-Government (B2G) 

Geographical Markets 

Experience with different geographical markets can be valuable, especially for companies with international aspirations. 

  • Domestic marketing experience 
  • International marketing experience 
  • Experience in specific regions or countries 

Size of Teams/Projects Managed 

Demonstrating your leadership and project management skills through the size and scope of teams and projects you've handled can be a key selling point. 

  • Leading small, agile teams 
  • Managing large, cross-functional teams 
  • Overseeing large budgets or complex projects 

Technological Competence 

In an increasingly digital world, having experience with various marketing technologies and platforms is a significant advantage. 

  • Marketing automation platforms 
  • CRM systems 
  • SEO and analytics tools 
  • Social media platforms
  • Content management systems 

All these experiences are valuable and can be framed differently depending on the specific needs of the potential clients you are targeting. Remember that what's most important is showing how these experiences enable you to help clients overcome their unique challenges and achieve their goals. 

Who will you be up against? 

Analyzing your competition is a vital step when venturing into the world of fractional CMOs. Here are a few strategies to understand the competitive landscape and how you can position yourself effectively: 

  • Online Research: Search for fractional CMOs or marketing consulting firms online. Look at their websites, social media profiles, and their content. Understand what services they offer, their areas of specialization, their pricing structure, and the value proposition they communicate to their clients.
  • Industry Events: Attend industry conferences, networking events, and webinars. These events often attract professionals with a similar focus and provide an opportunity to understand your competitors and the value they bring.
  • Social Media and Professional Networks: Platforms like LinkedIn can be invaluable for understanding your competitors. Look at their profiles, the content they share, the groups they are part of, and the discussions they engage in.
  • Client Feedback: Reach out to businesses that have used fractional CMOs or marketing consultants. Ask about their experiences, what they liked and didn't like, and what they wish was done differently. 

Once you've gathered this information, analyze it to identify gaps in the market, areas of opportunity, and ways to differentiate yourself. Here are some ways you might be able to add unique value: 

  • Specialization: If you have a particular area of expertise, such as digital marketing, data-driven decision-making, or experience in a specific industry, emphasize this. Businesses often value consultants who understand their unique challenges and can provide specialized advice.
  • Experience: Your previous roles and achievements can set you apart. Businesses value a track record of success and the ability to bring best practices from past experiences.
  • Approach: Your approach to work, whether it's your commitment to data-driven decisions, your innovative thinking, or your collaborative working style, can be a key differentiator.
  • Personal Qualities: Soft skills and personal qualities, like strong leadership, excellent communication skills, or adaptability, can make you stand out.
  • Additional Services: Additional services, such as coaching or training for the in-house marketing team, can add value. 

Remember, your competition is not just other fractional CMOs, but also full-time CMOs, other types of consultants, and marketing agencies. Understanding your competitors and differentiating yourself is key to your success. 

What does it mean to be a fractional CMO? 

What does fractional mean for you? I’ve seen this range from real part-time to just sharing your time with multiple clients. As "fractional" can mean different things to different people, it can be good to think about what it means for you. 

In general, being a fractional CMO typically involves providing CMO-level expertise to a company on a less-than-full-time basis, but the specifics can vary widely. Here are some common interpretations and the associated trade-offs: 


The CMO works a set number of hours per week, perhaps 20 hours as you mentioned. 

  • Advantages: This provides a consistent schedule and income, and the flexibility to take on multiple clients or balance work with other commitments. 
  • Trade-offs: Clients might need assistance outside of your set hours, potentially leading to conflicts. Moreover, part-time engagements might limit the depth of your involvement and impact in the client's business. 


The CMO works on a specific project for a set duration. 

  • Advantages: This approach allows for focus on a single, well-defined project, and gives the opportunity to work with multiple clients across diverse projects. 
  • Trade-offs: There might be less security, as work is dependent on the availability of projects. Also, the duration and intensity of work can be highly variable. 

Multiple Clients 

The CMO works full-time but spreads their time across multiple clients. 

  • Advantages: Working with multiple clients can supply a steady income stream and diversify risk. It also exposes you to various challenges, keeping the work interesting.
  • Trade-offs: Juggling multiple clients can be challenging and might spread you thin, affecting the depth of value you can provide to each client. Confidentiality and conflict of interest can also be concerns. 


The CMO works for certain periods and takes extended breaks, like sabbaticals, in between. 

  • Advantages: This allows for concentrated work periods followed by extended breaks for relaxation, learning, or personal projects. 
  • Trade-offs: The gaps in work might result in variable income and could disrupt relationships with clients. It might also be challenging to stay up-to-date during extended breaks. 

Retainer Basis 

The CMO is available for a set number of monthly hours, offering ongoing support and guidance. 

  • Advantages: This provides a consistent income and allows for deep, long-term relationships with clients. 
  • Trade-offs: It may limit the number of clients you can take on, and clients might want more time than is available in the retainer. 

Ultimately, the best approach depends on your goals, work style, and lifestyle preferences. It's important to consider what you want out of the role and to communicate clearly with potential clients about what they can expect. 

How much do you want to make? 

What do you consider the value of your time? How much do you want to make? 

The earning potential for a fractional CMO can vary widely based on several factors, including: 

  • Industry: Some industries might be more willing to pay for a fractional CMO than others. For instance, tech startups might be more accustomed to and comfortable with this model than traditional industries. 
  • Geography: Depending on where your clients are based, rates may vary. Companies in major metropolitan areas or developed countries may be more willing to pay higher rates.
  • Experience and Expertise: Your background, including your years of experience, specialized skills, and past successes, can significantly impact what you can charge.
  • Engagement Model: How you structure your work can also affect your rates. For example, you might charge more for project-based work that requires a heavy upfront time investment compared to a retainer model with a more predictable and spread-out workload.
  • Market Demand: If you offer skills that are in high demand, you may be able to command a higher rate. For example, if you're an expert in a high-demand area like digital transformation or data-driven marketing, you may be able to charge more. 

It’s common for consultants in general to charge anywhere from $100 to $1000 per hour, depending on the length or an engagement commitment. Some of the people I talk with have read Million Dollar Consulting by Alan Weiss and made $1M in income when working a full year as their goal. This would mean $480/hour if you work the typical 2080 hours (about 52, 40-hour weeks) in a year. Of course, a better way to get here would be to sell some of your expertise in the form of packaged services- or content, instead of selling your time. Many though, are happy just to complement some other forms of passive income and are comfortable with a lower rate and more flexibility. To each his own. You need to think about what’s important for you. 

Do your own research, as these rates also change over time, and rates for a specific industry or geography could be higher. 

There are a few ways you can get more current information on compensation ranges: 

  • Networking: Speak to other fractional CMOs to understand what they charge. 
  • Industry Associations: Some professional organizations conduct and publish salary surveys. 
  • Online Research: Websites like Glassdoor, PayScale, and Indeed provide salary data for various professions, although they may not have specific data for fractional CMOs. 
  • Market Rates: Research what full-time CMOs earn and adjust accordingly to account for the benefits and job security that full-time employees typically receive. 

Remember, it's essential to charge what you're worth. It can be tempting to lower your rates to attract more clients when you're starting, but undervaluing your services can lead to overwork and burnout and can make it harder to raise your rates later. 

Consider the value you provide the client and price your services accordingly. This also allows you always to deliver top quality and maintain and improve your reputation…and your reputation is the most important asset you have… (even if this does not work out for you and you want to back to full-time employment again). 

Good luck on your journey, and feel free to reach out if you want to discuss more. 


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