Forget that C-Level Vacancy: Hire a Top Executive on a Freelance Basis

This article was originally written by Philip Bueters for MT/Sprout, for the original post please visit this page. This version has been translated to English and adjusted. Freelancers are being used everywhere for temporary or part-time jobs. It’s about time that this kind of ‘fractional hiring’ became common at the C-level too. Angelique Schouten, who is connecting supply and demand with her new platform, strongly believes this.

In recent years, Angelique Schouten has been a director at fast-growing scaleups such as Ohpen, Cloudtract, and Clevr. Naturally, she learned a lot from that experience as a leader. Naturally, she has gained a lot of leadership experience.

Hiring and Developing People

A significant part of her experience revolves around the way these companies went about hiring and developing people. “We, like many other scaleups, have sometimes kept people in high positions for too long even when they didn’t have enough experience to grow with the company,” says Schouten.

Another issue is when you need to fill a key position, like Chief Commercial Officer, in a new team. The perfect profile for such a person depends on the qualities of the rest of the team and how they divide the roles. If you don’t have that in mind, it’s difficult to recruit.

Talent Crunch

Moreover, the labor market has been so tight for some time that the best C-level candidates are no longer queuing for vacancies. Recruiters and LinkedIn can no longer supply all the talented people needed in this tight labor market. “The talent crunch is a reality, and you have to adapt to it. Korn Ferry has calculated that 85 million vacancies worldwide will not be filled by 2030.”

Additionally, the rates for experts in various niches—for example AI—are so high that many startups and scaleups can no longer afford to hire full-timers for such positions. “A good experienced CFO who has led IPOs, raised tens of millions of funding or bought and sold several companies, sometimes earns as much as half a million and is therefore unaffordable for scaleups.”

Fractional Hiring: Top-level Freelancers

According to Schouten, the solution lies in fractional hiring. Just like the gig economy where tasks from delivering pizzas to writing articles are outsourced to freelancers, this model can extend to top-level positions. Whether it’s a CFO, a CMO, or senior experts in niche areas, people can now be deployed part-time or temporarily in these roles.

With this vision in mind, she and CTO Anton Zhelyazkov have launched a platform called 10x, aimed at connecting supply and demand in freelance top talent. 10x, which stands for ten times better and represents aiming for ten times better results.

“A term from the world of software developers: that is the developer who produces ten times better code in a fraction of the time it takes others.”

Angelique Schouten

According to Schouten, this should also be possible in other disciplines: delivering ten times faster, better, more creative work. “If you put good people in their place, and in their strength, you go faster and the results are better.”

10x-Person as co-CEO

Well, nobody possesses that ‘superpower’ all the time like a 10x developer does. “In my role as CEO, I don’t have that 100 percent of the time, but I wanted to focus on the things I was very good at and would deliver the most added value. I would be better off looking for a co-CEO for the tasks in which I do not excel or have less impact, someone who is a ’10x’ person in that area.’ says Schouten.

In the US, skill-based hiring has been touted as the future of recruitment for quite some time: the emphasis is not on positions and titles but on finding individuals who can get the job done effectively.

Schouten conducted inquiries in the Netherlands and observed that while there are many high-level fractional workers who are reluctant to dedicate a full day each week to client acquisition, others, like experienced freelance CFOs or marketers, lack a community for collaboration or access to the latest tools for enhanced efficiency.

Screened for Skills and Personality

In the long run, everyone will discover the value of 10x, assures Schouten. Clients and employers can trust that top talent has undergone thorough screening—ten times over. “And it’s not just about job skills; we also delve into personality and more. Work and personal life are intertwined, so it’s beneficial to understand someone on a personal level too.”

Companies can hire 10x employees on a daily rate, with options ranging from hybrid, onsite, to remote work. Additionally, fractional freelancers can offer packaged services, such as eight hours per month at a fixed rate.

Teams Gel Seamlessly

Schouten envisions making entire teams accessible in the long run. “You’ll be able to assemble your dream team through 10x.” The startup lets market forces determine rates, charging clients a platform fee.

Through this approach, Schouten has brought dozens of experienced professionals onto the 10x fractional platform. “These are individuals with a track record in scaling up or spearheading major company transformations. Whether at the C-level across various disciplines, as program managers, or as senior experts in areas like AI or data engineering, at 10x, quality takes precedence over job titles.”

Fractional isn’t Synonymous with Consultancy

Schouten highlights a significant distinction from consultants who offer comprehensive assistance to companies. “A fractional professional isn’t merely an advisor offering opinions or suggestions from the sidelines. Instead, they bring hands-on experience, having tackled the work themselves, and take ownership of specific deliverables. That’s a significant difference.”

Since her startup emerged from stealth mode, hundreds of potential fractionals have sought screening. These are seasoned professionals with ample experience who aren’t inclined to oversell themselves. They include seasoned program managers, former C-level executives looking to contribute at a high level without committing full-time to one employer, and entrepreneurs who have successfully exited and are eager to assist other scaleups while preferring to delegate paperwork responsibilities.

‘Distance yourself from your organization’

It sounds intriguing, ditching traditional job titles and recruitment methods and instead, organizing tasks around that 10x factor. But for a CEO who can’t start a new scaleup from scratch, where’s the starting point?

Thankfully, CEOs are typically savvy and driven individuals. They need to take a step back from their organizational structure and focus on their objectives: what do they want to achieve, and can it be accomplished with the current setup? More often than not, the answer is: not entirely. “That’s where the opportunity for fractional hiring comes in,” says Angelique Schouten.

“You can start by addressing the most pressing bottleneck, exploring the most promising niche, or tackling the biggest transformation or integration challenge you’re facing. Chances are, you’ll require additional expertise and talent that you can’t or won’t bring in full-time. Let’s consider something seemingly straightforward yet complex, like obtaining ISO or SOC2 certification.”

“Many companies overlook salaries as costs; they think, ‘We’ll handle it ourselves.’ We encountered this issue at Ohpen. Our team wanted to handle SOC certification internally. However, when you factor in the salaries of the five individuals working on it for nine months without prior experience, the costs escalate. Fortunately, we found someone who specialized in it, hired them fractionally, and within three weeks, we obtained the certificate. That’s achieving 10x better results in 1/10 of the time. That’s when it clicked for me.”

“I also want to emphasize to CEOs the importance of considering the cost of not hiring. In the past, a vacancy might remain unfilled for nine months because the right candidate couldn’t be found. It’s crucial to let go of the notion that this is just how things are. Understanding the costs associated with this situation can provide valuable insight.”

Angelique Schouten

Fractional Hiring on the Agenda

On the demand side, the adoption of 10x is rapidly gaining momentum. Schouten expresses her astonishment at the feedback she’s received. “The CEO of a major financial institution immediately said, ‘I’ll introduce you to my Chief Human Resources officer because fractional hiring needs to become a standard part of our agenda.’ That’s precisely my goal: while it’s gratifying when people choose 10x, I aim for fractional hiring to become widely recognized and embraced, much like Cloud Computing did years ago, and more recently, AI.”

Schouten believes that fractional work extends beyond simply filling an empty chair. “Even if traditional hiring methods suffice, you’ll still want to retain talent. Especially the younger generation seeks to pursue a career in a flexible manner, which doesn’t always align with the idea of committing to a full-time job for half of one’s life.”