As your startup grows, you’ll need the expertise of a chief financial officer, or CFO, to build financial models and forecasts, develop a financial strategy for your business, and provide professional financial advice imperative to making important business decisions.
However, hiring a full-time CFO can be extremely expensive—on average, annual CFO salaries are over $350,000—and some startups on tight budgets don’t hire a CFO when they need one because of the cost. Business owners or CEOs often fill this role themselves when their business is starting out, but this isn’t a long-term solution.
If you’re considering acquisition or approaching investors for funding, you’ll benefit from having an experienced CFO at hand to ensure your financial systems are watertight, your metrics and projections are accurate, and that you have a solid understanding of the financial side of your growing business.
Most startups that are at the seed or Series A stage don’t have enough tasks to require 40+ hours of work from a full-time CFO each week, so they can save money by hiring a part-time CFO (also known as an interim CFO, fractional CFO, temp CFO, or outsourced CFO service) for a fraction of the cost of a full-time CFO. In this article, we’ll cover how much a part-time CFO costs and what to expect from each type of price package.
How much will a fractional CFO cost your business?
The exact costs associated with working with a part-time CFO depend on the size of your business, but there are two main types of interim CFO rates:
- Hourly rate—Traditionally, part-time CFOs charge by the hour, with the total amount you pay each month tied to the number of hours your CFO works. For a finance professional who has experience in your business’s vertical, you should expect to pay a CFO hourly rate of around $300. Most early-stage startups require 15-25 hours of CFO services each month, which equates to spending between $5,000 and $8,000 per month on fractional CFO costs.
- Flat monthly fee—Alternatively, some fractional CFO services charge a fixed monthly fee for a set scope of work or number of hours each month. This makes it easier to budget for the cost of a part-time CFO and can deliver big savings compared to paying an open-ended hourly rate. CFO services often set their price based on factors like the specific services you need or the size of your business. For example, at Zeni, our virtual CFO pricing is based on your monthly business expenses and begins at $1,149 per month. (Zeni’s CFO plan includes all of your ongoing bookkeeping, accounting, financial statements and other finance functions, too.)
If you choose to pay an hourly part-time CFO rate, it can be difficult to predict the exact cost of their services each month. For example, if the CFO needs to spend additional hours cleaning up your books or closing outstanding months before they can get started crunching numbers, then your monthly bill will be higher. This unnecessary work will cut into your time to leverage your CFO as a sounding board for important business decisions - be sure to set your part-time CFO up for success by having your basic bookkeeping and accounting tasks in order.
What should I expect from fractional or outsourced CFO services?
Before you sign up with an interim CFO or outsourced CFO service, discuss your startup’s specific needs with them to establish which functions are included as standard within their pricing, and which functions may incur an additional fee. The services and capabilities that interim CFOs offer can vary, but generally include the following:
- Financial projections
- Scenario modeling
- Unit economics
- Financial presentations
- Strategic planning
- Customer contract review
Some businesses ask their interim CFO to work on bookkeeping and accounting tasks, but this isn’t a good use of their valuable time (or your company’s funds). To avoid paying more than necessary, make sure you have the right ongoing accounting staff support to manage your basic financial recordkeeping and accounting tasks at a more appropriate rate.
You can find a detailed list of the services you should consider outsourcing to a part-time CFO role in this article: Top 11 Outsourced CFO Services For Startups (& 2 To Avoid).
Zeni’s CFO Plan: What Sets It Apart From Other Part-Time CFO Services
Zeni is a full-service finance firm that handles bookkeeping, accounting, and CFO functions for startups and small businesses for a fixed monthly fee. When you sign up for the Zeni CFO Plan, we’ll assign a dedicated CFO advisor with experience in your business vertical. Your CFO advisor will handle all your financial planning and analysis, including scenario modeling and cash flow projections, track the variance between budget and actuals, provide ongoing financial consultation, prepare key financial reporting, and even present your business financials in board meetings.
Zeni also manages all your bookkeeping and accounting, including daily bookkeeping, bill pay, and invoicing with our AI-powered system; as a result, your CFO advisor won’t need to spend time on basic finance tasks and can focus on the areas that actually require their expertise. Plus, this deep understanding of your business’s finances means your CFO advisor will hit the ground running and can start delivering the CFO support you need from day one.
Working with multiple services can fragment your finance processes: With Zeni, you have one team and one platform to manage all your finances, so you don’t risk important details falling between the cracks.