The following as described by Wikipedia are the definitions of Fractional, Consultant and Freelance:
Fractional executives are professionals who have decided to offer their advice and skills to organizations on a for-hire basis. These executives have typically served a number of years in a business environment in roles such as chairman, owner, CxO, SVP, VP, or director. Their skills may be focused in one discipline or could be more broad-based, depending on the role(s) they have served.
A consultant is usually an expert or an experienced professional in a specific field and has a wide knowledge of the subject matter. The role of consultant outside the medical sphere (where the term is used specifically for a grade of doctor) can fall under one of two general categories:
Internal consultant: someone who operates within an organization but is available to be consulted on areas of their specialization by other departments or individuals (acting as clients) or
External consultant: someone who is employed externally to the client (either by a consulting firm or some other agency) whose expertise is provided on a temporary basis, usually for a fee. Consulting firms range in size from sole proprietorships consisting of a single consultant, small businesses consisting of a small number of consultants, to mid- to large consulting firms, which in some cases are multinational corporations. This type of consultant generally engages with multiple and changing clients, which are typically companies, non-profit organizations, or governments.
Freelance (sometimes spelled free-lance or free lance), freelancer, and freelance worker, are terms commonly used for a person who is self-employed and is not necessarily committed to a particular employer long-term. Freelance workers are sometimes represented by a company or a temporary agency that resells freelance labor to clients; others work independently or use professional associations or websites to get work. Dictionary.com defines Freelancer as “Also Freelancer. a person who works as a writer, designer, performer, or the like, selling work or services by the hour, day, job, etc., rather than working on a regular salary basis for one employer.”
For those that have reached executive level during their careers, you will want to decide if you would prefer to take on projects where you act as an interim or temporary executive and or projects where you are being sourced as a consultant for your expertise. From a positioning perspective, positioning yourself as a consultant will not place you at a disadvantage if you brand yourself in a manner that clearly outlines your capabilities and credentials. Some have expressed that positioning themselves as consultants or fractional execs has impacted their ability to land future work and, as a result, have stayed away from taking on projects while in-between jobs. In this Gig economy, it’s all about positioning. Therefore, do not miss the opportunity to land additional paid opportunities while anticipating your next semi-permanent or permanent role. Examples of fractional executive work could fall under functions such as:
Fractional executives should be viewed as those that have risen to the top of their field and are offering their expertise on a retainer or project basis to solve a problem for the company. Positioning oneself as a Fractional executive could align with higher-paying opportunities should your credentials support your positioning.
Consultants have been brought in for multiple roles on a contract or project basis for years to help support isolated company needs. Conceptually, fractional exec work from problem-solving, but not always complexity runs parallel.
If you never reached the C-Suite during your career, positioning your capabilities as a consultant will still be vital in your ability to build a brand as a subject matter expert as well as position yourself as a problem solver in a specific area.
Five questions to ask yourself when developing your offering regardless of how you would like to classify yourself as Fractional, Consultant, or Freelance would be as follows:
What problem do I want to solve?
Who do I want to solve it for?
What credentials do I have that support my ability to solve that problem?
Who do I know in my network that can align me with my target audience?
What business development tasks will I start with to build my business?
Three questions to ask yourself when taking on a new role are:
What will the role include?
What does success look like for this position?
What is the time commitment?
In conclusion, having a clear understanding of your capabilities and researching who you will want to provide services to will help you formulate how you want to position your service offerings from a branding perspective. If you are a seasoned and multi-faceted executive, think about the benefits of positioning yourself as a fractional executive and or consultant.