Amy Clayman never planned to become a part-time finance chief. For more than 14 years, she held full-time finance jobs, including four years she spent as treasurer and corporate controller at JBA International, an ERP software and consulting firm.
But after having her second child, she couldn’t keep up with the hours and raise her children at the same time. Being her own boss gave her more flexibility. “I came to the realization that I couldn’t really be on a plane all the time or working those crazy hours that the public accounting and corporate finance worlds demand from you,” Clayman says. “So I started thinking about trying to pursue other career paths that would still keep me engaged in higher-level thinking but not put me in a situation where I had to work 50-plus hours a week.”
Clayman had colleagues and friends in public accounting, and one referred her to an $8 million tech company that was hoping to double in revenue over the next five years. “They didn’t really have a plan, they didn’t do any formal budgeting, and they didn’t have the typical level of financial planning and forecasting,” she says. “It was a very comfortable situation for me because I’d done that for a $200 million business, so to implement that for a smaller business wasn’t that hard,” she says.
Clayman’s freelance business expanded from that first connection. The CEO of that company introduced her to an executive in one of his roundtable groups, leading to another part-time gig. Now she holds the CFO role at seven or eight business-to-consumer service companies, and she says she wouldn’t want to go back to working for one business.
Clayman’s path — going from full-time financial executive at one company to a freelance CFO at many firms — may be growing more popular, Clayman says. “I feel it in the marketplace,” she says. “When I started this 10 years ago, there would have only been [a handful of] people you could choose to do this work. You had to really look to find them. Now they’re more apparent.”
Indeed, current and aspiring CFOs may need to consider freelance work as competition for the top finance spots gets fierce. Employment among top executives is expected to grow only 5 percent from 2010 to 2020, compared to 14 percent for all occupations, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The BLS estimates that the job market will grow 9 percent for financial managers (such as controllers) over that period. From 2000 to 2010, the BLS projected that employment would grow 15 percent among top executives, 19 percent among financial managers and 15 percent for all occupations.