Why Expert Networks Will Gladly Pay $500+ for an Hour of Your Time

Expert networks, like GLG, AlphaSights, Coleman, and Guidepoint, facilitate more than ONE MILLION one-hour phone calls per year with professionals from virtually all fields. These calls are easy, convenient and engaging micro-consulting projects that pay sky-high rates. Whether you’ve just received a LinkedIn message from an expert network inviting you to participate in a paid consulting opportunity or have completed your first few high paying calls and want to figure out how to do more of them, here’s your guide to getting started and thriving in this secretive industry.

expert network companies
Over 100 expert network companies around the world can connect you with clients for high-paying consulting calls

Imagine you’re an associate at an investment fund… 

You’ve just come out of a meeting to learn more about a business your firm is considering investing in. 

The CEO was intelligent, charismatic, and told a great story about his company, including some glowing quotes from satisfied customers. He excitedly detailed how a new product line is going to revolutionize the industry. And he showed financial projections that point sharply up-and-to-the-right (even though they were labeled as conservative)!

Everyone was impressed, including your boss who wants to explore buying tens of millions of dollars worth of stock. But the timeline for a decision is tight, so he wants you to dive into deeper research on this business right away. 

Ultimately, there’s one key question he needs you to answer:

“Is it all bullshit?”

To get the real scoop, you’ll need to talk to people who actually know – like customers, suppliers, competitors, and especially former employees. While you’re just parachuting in to learn about the company, these people deal with it every day (and have for years). They know what’s going well with the business and what isn’t. They know what the real story is underneath the highly polished investor presentations. 

And they’ll tell you everything you need to know…for a price.

Expert Networks: A $1.9 Billion Dollar Marketplace for Small Nuggets of Expertise

GLG offices
GLG has helped build a massive industry for buying and selling expertise. Photo source

What is an expert network?

For hedge fund managers, venture capitalists, private equity investors, and management consultants, knowledge and information create invaluable advantages.

These advantages can mean the difference between making, or losing, millions of dollars.  

Over the past twenty years, over 100 expert network companies have emerged worldwide to connect firms with information – more specifically, the experts who hold that information. These global expert network companies have rapidly grown into a $1.9 billion dollar industry that is attracting soaring venture capital investment, led by “The Big Five”.

The main product of expert networks is providing access to people like you, while charging their clients rates that often start at $1,000 per hour.

Best of all, once you connect with a few expert networks, these opportunities start coming to you. You don’t need to do any marketing or selling, and you’ll get paid within days. It typically takes just five or ten minutes to qualify for an assignment, and once you’ve gotten your feet wet with a few projects you’ll discover it’s so easy to find your rhythm that you won’t need to spend a single minute getting prepared. 

Oh, and as soon as you hang up the phone, your work is done – no follow up, no deliverables.

Perhaps the most surprising thing about the expert network industry is it’s inclusivity. Expert networks are open to professionals from virtually any industry and at almost any level. As a result, there are more than 1 million expert network calls arranged each year. If you have deep knowledge on a company, product or market, odds are that someone is looking to tap into your expertise. This is especially the case if you have good ties to a ‘hot’ company or two, such as businesses that:

  • are going public or about to be acquired
  • have a soaring (or plunging) stock price
  • have a new CEO or high management turnover
  • are launching a trendy new product
  • will be subjected to new government regulations or policies

Once you get to know the ropes it’s possible to earn several thousand dollars per year from expert network consulting, while working a small handful of hours!

Sounds like a dream side hustle, right? It absolutely is.

And I’ll show you how to tap into this world yourself. In this expert network guide I’ll explain the three types of phone calls you’ll typically have with a client, teach you how to get started with expert networks, show you how to stand out from the crowd, set your own hourly expert network rates, and nail your call. So let’s start by talking about what to expect.

How to Drop One-Hour Knowledge Bombs

The most common way you’ll share your expertise is through one hour phone calls with a client. 

These phone calls generally break down into three types of conversations:

#1 -The Company Deep-Dive

This is your bread and butter expert network call. Investors are looking at taking a position in a company and they want to start getting input from the feet on the street: former employees, competitors, customers, suppliers; or key influencers, like doctors or former government officials.  

Most deep-dive calls are about public companies (or companies about to go public), and the client may or may not have spoken directly with management before chatting with you. Keep in mind they are not always looking at investing in the company you’re talking about – sometimes they are considering betting against it with a short position or investing in a competitor, though they’ll tend to keep those cards close to their vest.  

On a good call, expect things to get laser focused after building rapport with a few softballs. Remember, this isn’t an interview or a sales call. They want to pick up the key insights they can’t get from reading reports or watching presentations, and they want to know what YOU really think. 

  • How do unit economics work and do you think they are getting better or worse?
  • Do customers really like the product or are complaints pouring in? 
  • What do you think about the management team? 
  • Which competitors are really winning and losing?

These clients love numbers and will probe for any key metrics you can share (without revealing confidential or inside information). It’s worth pointing out that investors will rarely, if ever, ask for your thoughts on the share price. It’s their job to evaluate that.

#2 – The Industry Overview

Investors may kick off their research by speaking with a few experts. They often come into these paid consulting calls without much foundation, which can make these calls a cakewalk; you get to play the role of star professor while they lap up your every word.  

These calls tend to dive down into who the major customers and suppliers are in your market segment, what the economics look like, and where the industry is headed. Things will generally shift to your opinion on the leaders or breakout companies, and if there’s an upstart product or technology, they’ll want your perspective on how that may impact the industry. 

You may be asked for your quick take on several companies during a lightning round. But more frequently they’ll want to know, “what questions should we be asking?” as they will be talking to others.

#3 – Consulting to Consultants

While investment firms are the largest client category for expert networks, management consultants are increasingly using expert calls to sharpen their insights. Consulting firms are typically helping their clients launch a new product or business-line, improve the performance of one that is misfiring, or perform due diligence as part of an investment or acquisition.  

These calls tend to revolve more around how things work, such as your process for evaluating a product or service that your company has recently purchased, or if a new product with certain features would be something you’d consider using. 

Again, these calls are easy because clients will hang on your every word while happily paying you top dollar for your opinions (which they probably bill at 2X to their clients. 😉)  

Industry Surveys

Many expert networks also regularly conduct surveys on behalf of their clients. These tend to revolve around your perception of a set of products or what your expectations are for a market in the near future, such as if you expect your budget to grow, shrink or stay about the same and how you’ll allocate it over the next year.

These invitation-only surveys generally take 10 – 20 minutes to complete online and pay a fixed rate, that usually falls between $40 – $70. While they’re generally not as lucrative as completing calls, they are an easy way to make a few extra bucks in your spare time.

How to Get Started with Expert Networks

GLG consulting request LinkedIn
Expert networks like GLG heavily recruit new consultants via LinkedIn message about consulting opportunities.

One of the best parts of expert network consulting is there are opportunities for practically any professional.

C-level executives charging over $1,000 per consulting call tend to get the headlines, but bread-and-butter projects go to upper and mid-level managers (you know, the people who actually DO stuff) in virtually any field:

  • sales
  • marketing
  • finance
  • manufacturing
  • operations
  • human resources
  • strategy
  • and more

And that’s not mentioning the countless projects in areas beyond business. Engineers, construction managers, small business owners, farmers, and former government officials are often in demand. Healthcare also comprises a meaningful chunk of the expert network industry, with a high volume of projects available to doctors, nurses, pharmacists, back office administrators, and veterinarians.

Ready to get started with expert networks? Here are your first steps mapped out.

Step #1 – Get found

Expert networks employ small armies of recent college graduates tasked with finding people who have the firsthand knowledge their clients are looking for on a project (AlphaSights ranks as one of the top 25 employers of new college grads!).

These associates spend much of their day trolling LinkedIn and looking for profiles that match up well with their project descriptions. They typically don’t know much about the subject of the project itself; they’re just trying to find people who match the requirements. (You may have found this page by doing some Googling about a paid consulting opportunity you received via a LinkedIn message!) Make it easy for them to connect with you on LinkinedIn by opening up the messaging settings on your and/or including your email address in the Contact Info section of your profile.

Step #2 – Optimize your LinkedIn profile

Start by adding a descriptive and keyword-rich list of companies, products and industries to your profile (these should be subjects you can knowledgeably talk about). This will help your profile pop to the top of more keyword-driven searches. A good rule of thumb is if you could give a half hour presentation on a topic, you may be an expert in it.

Be sure to list out former employers, vendors you closely work with, software and products you use regularly in your job, and close competitors you frequently butt heads with. Be specific about what your role entails, especially if you share the same title with dozens or hundreds of other people at the same organization (such as ‘program manager’ or ‘vice president’). If you own a budget or are the final decision maker on large purchase decisions, call that out directly as well.

Associates may scan through hundreds of profiles a day, so make it easy for them to see that you closely match the requirements in their project spec.

Looking to fast-track your visibility? Read our insider tips on how to spruce up your LinkedIn profile for expert networks

Step #3 – Register with expert network companies

Once your LinkedIn profile is shipshape, the next step is to invest a few hours creating profiles directly with expert networks.

There are several hundred expert networks around the world, many of which are strong in certain geographies or industries and could be a great source of projects for you. However, “The Big Five” firms are a good place to start:

(If you are especially interested in completing expert network surveys that generally pay $40 – $70, you should also register with up-and-coming networks like Atheneum, Dialectica, Maven Research, proSapient, techspert.io, and NewtonX.)

Your expert network profile should look different than your resume or what you post on LinkedIn. Expert networks are interested in what you know, not what you can do, so omit the soft skills you typically list elsewhere. Your goals here are to show up near the top of the list in relevant search results and quickly convince an associate you match up well enough to their spec to earn an invitation to apply to their project. Associates will typically spend about 10 seconds scanning your profile, so make it SIMPLE AND EASY for them to find what they are looking for.

Remember, most of the time associates know little (or nothing) about the subject matter of the project itself – they only know the qualifications the client is looking for. Those are the terms they are putting in the search query field, and those are the words or names they look for when they scan your profile.

It may only take a few keywords to land a project invite, so list out everything you are qualified to speak about in clear and organized lists. For example, let’s say you’re a seasoned veteran in the sugary cereal business.

You would create detailed, cut-through keyword lists like this:

  • I am an expert on cereal marketing, cereal product development, cereal pricing and promotion, food packaging design, and character licensing.
  • I have five years of experience as a brand manager for General Mills monster cereals: Count Chocula, Boo Berry and Franken Berry.
  • I compete directly with Kellogg’s Fruit Loops, Apple Jacks, and Coco Pops.
  • I manage the $X million Got Milk cross-promotion and am a customer of Advertising Agency X, Marketing Agency Y, and Fulfillment Company Z.

Also, use an extremely direct headline or summary sentence to describe yourself. While you may have great success on LinkedIn by branding yourself with something clever like “Helping America love breakfast”, you don’t want to beat around the bush in your expert network profiles and should make a beeline for a clearer description like “Breakfast Cereal Brand Manager at General Mills”.

Looking to create an eye-catching expert network profile? Read our insider tips on crafting an unmissable expert network profile.

How to Get Picked for Expert Network Projects

Coleman Research consulting projects
A diverse set of recent projects at Coleman Research.

Alright, thanks to your finely polished LinkedIn and expert network profiles, you will soon start receiving invitations to apply for projects.

Most of these invitations should be on-point, but if you consistently receive emails about projects that are way off the mark, take another look at your profiles to see if you need to do any clarification or trimming.

Once you have become established with an expert network, you may be directly asked to participate on calls and projects. But for most opportunities, you will need to complete a few screening questions through an online form or brief phone call with an associate, especially if you are just getting started.

You’ll generally land about 1 out of 5 projects that you respond to, but with a few simple strategies, it’s easy to double that conversion rate. Three strategies I recommend include:

  • Fast responses
  • Create a template
  • Set your availability

How to use speed to get picked for more expert network calls

Speed counts, so reply to project invitations as quickly as you can.

Associates will fire off invites to as many relevant experts as they can to participate in a project, so getting your response in fast helps put you at the top of the pile. This will prevent you from missing out when everyone sourced has a similar set of expertise as you. Most projects call for multiple experts, oftentimes with different relationships and perspective on the focus of the call.

Associates tend to favor highly responsive candidates too, because they view them as reliable and lower risk of causing a major headache like rescheduling a call at the last minute or failing to show up altogether.

How to use a template to get picked for more expert network calls

When answering the screening questions, think about what the associate (and client) is really looking for and deliver it to them. The ideal answer to each question is usually two or three sentences that clearly demonstrate you can deliver the goods. This templated three sentence structure is effective at conveying that you’re the expert they’re looking for.

Here’s an example of how your three sentence structure might look:

  1. Describe why you are an authority on this topic

Example: “I am a brand manager for Monster Cereals at General Mills and have ten years of experience in cereal marketing.”

2. Show that you are a leader and/or control budget in the area they want to know about

Example: “I am the final decision maker on toy-in-the-box promotions and oversee a $10 million annual budget for promotional inserts.

3. Name related products or companies that they are likely care about and explain how you are knowledgeable about them

Example: “In the past year, I have executed significant purchase orders with Company A, Company B and Company C. I also explored proposals but did not buy from Company D and Company E.

Consider how a direct, detailed, and concise answer compares to the respondents who write just a few words, or a simple ‘yes’. It’s hard to imagine a response like the example above wouldn’t make it to the top of the pile for a project on cereal box prizes!

How to use your availability to get picked for more expert network calls

Along with your responses to the screening questions, you’ll also have the option of listing when you’re available for a call.

Take a advantage of this, as it continues to make it easy for the associate to schedule a call with you. List as many convenient windows of time as you can, and don’t hesitate to include time when you take lunch or can pop out of the office or into a conference room for an hour or so.

Making money on your lunch break really is that simple!

How to Set Your Expert Network Hourly Rate

glg hourly rates alphasights
You don’t need to be a Fortune 500 CEO to earn $300 – $500 per hour from expert networks like GLG or Alphasights.

Sky-high rates attract many people to expert network consulting.

But consulting rates vary considerably, generally starting at $100 per hour, but can soar as high as $5,000 per hour (GLG is rumored to have several high profile council members at this price point).

This makes the question of where to set your fee a difficult one to answer. To help you set your expert network hourly rate, here are my top tips…

Tip #1 – Focus on the value you are providing

Your expert network hourly consulting rate needs to make it worth your while, which generally means meaningfully more than your standard hourly compensation. Don’t be afraid to ask for a multiple of what you regularly earn. Remember to focus on the value you are providing (for example, how much a portfolio manager contemplating a multi-million dollar investment will learn from you in one hour) and remember that many expert networks will charge their clients over $1,000 to facilitate a phone consultation.

Tip #2 – Align your fee with the market

Now you’re ready to ask for the big bucks, but keep in mind you do need to align your fee with the market. Understanding the average hourly rates for people with similar experience and expertise as you can help you survey the landscape.

Some general guidelines to targeting your rate:

Experience LevelSample Job TitlesHourly Rates
Individual ContributorsManager, Nurse, Shift Leader, Small Business Owner$100 – $250
Upper ManagementVice President, Doctor, Engineer, Department Head$300 – $500
Prominent ExecutivesCEOs, Former Government Officials, Specialized Surgeons$800 – $1,000+

While expert network associates have wide latitude on the rates they approve for a project, your hourly rate is a key factor in whether or not you are selected for a project (or even presented to the client).

Associates are closely evaluated on the profitability of their projects, so the more they pay out to experts the lower their profit margin. While associates strive to source experts with strong insights for their clients’ needs, if they find two people who look similar on paper, nudging the client towards the expert with the lower hourly rate can make the project more profitable for them.

Tip #3 – Establish yourself as an authority

The best way to consistently get assigned to projects while charging the upper-end of the rate band is by establishing yourself as a top authority in your field of expertise.

If you’re trying to land your first few projects with an expert network, put your consulting rate towards the lower end of your acceptable range to help land your first couple of projects. With a good performance on those initial calls under your belt, it’s easy to explain that you wanted to establish yourself and need to charge your higher ‘standard’ rate going forward. If you’re polite and professional, it’s not hard to rapidly increase your rate by 25% – 50%.

Being able to benchmark with what you charge at other expert networks is helpful too. A few up-and-coming expert networks focused on transparency, like DeepBench, will allow you to search and view other consultants profiles and rates. Put yourself into the shoes of an expert network consultant and search for the keywords terms that are commonly used on the projects that you land to see who else ranks highly in the search results. It’s a great way to research your competition for projects to see how they are positioning themselves and how your rates compare to theirs.

Tip #4 – Monitor your acceptance rate

Your acceptance rate on projects is another gauge for whether your rate is appropriate.

If you’re landing 1 – 2 projects out of every five projects you respond to, your rate is set at a good level. If you’re converting opportunities more often than that, a rate increase is certainly in order, while a a lower close rate may indicate you’re charging too much.

Reach out to associates to get feedback on why you weren’t selected for a project. They usually answer the phone and will give you straight feedback on how you can improve your chances of landing more assignments. A quick conversation can help you sort out whether you should adjust your rate, refine your profile, or be a bit more selective in which projects you apply for.

Tip #5 – Vary your rate by network and project

Every call is unique, so it makes sense to vary your rate by expert network and even by project.

For example, GLG has a reputation for pressuring consultants to keep their rates on the lower end, so your GLG hourly rate may wind up being lower than what you charge elsewhere in order to stay competitive.

You may also want to vary your rate by project, charging towards the lower end for broader projects where there are clearly many well-qualified experts available. Then opt for significantly higher rates for a client looking to speak to the few former employees from your business or functional area at your previous employer. Some expert networks make it easy to change your rate through their online interface, while you’ll need to ask an associate to do it for you on others.

Ready to increase your worth? Discover our insider tips on setting your expert network hourly rate.

How to Ace Your Expert Network Calls

I'm an expert

Alright, it’s finally showtime!

Time to dazzle the client with your deep knowledge and thoughtful insights. A stellar call is not only interesting and engaging, superlative feedback from the client can help establish your reputation with an expert network, making you their go-to expert for projects in your niche.

Outside of being the expert that clients expect of you, one of the most important rules of expert network consulting is also one of the simplest – SHOW UP ON TIME!

Being late for calls, rescheduling at the last minute’ or worst of all, failing to show up, will quickly get you blacklisted. To avoid this problem, find a quiet place with a good cellular or WiFi connection and dial-in a couple of minutes before your call is scheduled to start.

Note that many expert networks, like GLG and Guidepoint will pay you by the minute on a pro-rated basis, so try not to have a hard stopping time so you have some flexibility to go past the one hour mark. It’s always nice to pocket an extra $50 (or much more) by keeping a good conversation going for a few extra minutes! You can often seize an opportunity about 10 mins before the scheduled end of a call and say, “based on what you’ve told me, you might also want to ask me about X, Y, and Z. Tell me what you need to hear about.” It’s a great way to productively extend the call or lead to a followup.

As for the conversation itself, remember your main objective is to give the client the information and insights they are looking for. They want the real story, not what they can find in an investor presentation or a Google search. Be specific, name names, and provide numbers where you can. Most importantly, share your opinions. They are talking to you because you are in the thick of things, so don’t hold back on what you think is going to be a huge success, or why something is doomed to fail.

Here are a few more proven ways to stand out and guarantee you grow your reputation (as well as your earning potential):

  • Don’t be afraid to go off-script: While clients will always come prepared with some questions, these calls tend to be fairly free-form. They like to hear about issues they haven’t considered and appreciate brief explanations and examples of how things really work in your field. During longer stories or explanations, it’s good to pause for a moment to check-in with the client to make sure you’re giving them the type of information they are looking for.
  • Don’t be afraid to disagree: Most clients turn to expert networks for help proving or disproving their thesis. If they are looking at things the wrong way, or haven’t considered an important factor, tell them. They are not spending top-dollar with expert networks to speak with a bunch of yes-men!
  • Don’t be afraid to say that you don’t know the answer to a question: A client won’t be offended if you don’t have an answer. In fact, they’ll usually have plenty of other topics they’d like to get your opinion on. Plus, many clients have finely-tuned B.S. detectors and you’ll lose credibility quickly if you start spinning tales.

IMPORTANT: In all cases, don’t provide any confidential or non-public information – the client won’t ask for it and doesn’t want to hear it. Violating compliance rules is the fastest way to be permanently kicked off of an expert network. It can be very tempting to just share a little something you shouldn’t with the client – they’re paying you and you want to be helpful – but DO NOT DO IT! When in doubt, err on the side of caution and tell the client that you are unsure how to answer their question without providing non-public information and they will move on to the next one.

You can also develop safe and legitimate approaches to pointing them in the right direction without sharing anything that you shouldn’t. Provide high level, generalized answers along the lines of “I can’t really share what I know about …, but let me tell you, more generally, ….” Additionally, familiarize yourself with what information is out in the public domain, even if it is hard to find. If there is information they could uncover on their own through public sources like Google or SEC filings it’s generally not going to be considered non-public and you can have at it!

Looking for more secrets behind a winning call? Read our insider tips on delivering a kick-ass expert network call.

Your Work Here is Done

Outside of the money and the flexibility, one of the best features of expert network calls is that your work is done as soon as you hang up the phone!

There’s no deliverable, and no follow up. You don’t even need to send an invoice.

With most expert network firms, it takes a few clicks on their web portal to trigger payment, and some will even pay you automatically. You can generally choose between direct deposit or a check, and you will usually have payment in hand within two weeks and often sooner (which has bailed me out of an overdraft once or twice!). Remember that expert network income is taxable in the United States (you’ll receive a year-end form 1099), so make sure you account for that.

If you’ve made it all the way through this guide, or if you’ve scrolled to the conclusion to see if I know what I’m talking about (no judgement here, I’d do the same) I’ll leave you with this…

It’s easy to be on the fence about joining the world of expert network calls. Easy to think making money on your lunch break or wearing your pajamas is a pipe dream that’s not grounded in reality.

But the truth is – knowledge is a drug.

If you’ve got it, you better believe someone out there wants it. And when money is on the line – possibly millions of dollars resting on that knowledge – they’ll pay handsomely to get your knowledge out of your head, and into theirs.

It’s not a mysterious industry. It’s simple supply and demand. Now it’s up to you to take what you’ve learned in this guide, and make your expertise count. Take what you’ve learned here and register with some expert networks. You’ll rapidly start receiving project invitations and be on your way to building an interesting and lucrative side hustle in expert network consulting!

Time to get started! Register with the Big Five expert networks here:

How I’ve Earned Over $35,000 from Easy Expert Network Consulting Calls

expert network payments
Expert networks will pay you quite well to chat with their investor and management consulting clients for an hour.

When I first got a random note via LinkedIn, I probably thought it was a scam, if I thought much about it at all.  

I had been identified as an “expert” by a company named Gerson Lehrman Group, which I’d never heard of, and they’d like to pay me to spend an hour consulting their client by phone.  I was skeptical, but didn’t find any major red flags after doing some online research. 

During a brief phone call, the GLG account manager who had contacted me explained that an investment fund manager wanted to learn more about a vendor I used at work, such as how I viewed them versus their competition and how satisfied we were with their services.  I wouldn’t have to do anything to prepare and there would be no follow up work.  

It sounded like easy money (spoiler alert: It was!) and I could set my own rate.  I had no idea what to charge so I went with the account manager’s recommendation of $150/hour – amusingly billed in one minute increments.

A few days later, I took the call over my lunch hour.  The investment manager was quickly trying to get up to speed on my vendor.  Many of his questions were very foundational to me and easy to answer, but he soaked it all up like a sponge.  It was an easy, interesting and pleasant conversation, and a few days later a $150 check from GLG arrived in my mailbox.

I was hooked.  I’d been dabbling with a few side hustles for years, though they always seemed to require more time and effort than I had anticipated and were never quite as lucrative as I had hoped.  Suddenly, I had discovered an incredible world of concise, but high paying consulting work that I could schedule one hour at a time, whenever it was convenient for me.  

I couldn’t wait to do my second call.  And over the next several years, I’ve wound up doing many dozens more, earning over $35,000 in easy extra income along the way.  

I wanted to share some of the secrets to success that I’ve learned along the way:

You know more than you realize.

Calling yourself an expert can trigger a bout of imposter syndrome, but you if you’ve been in the same job or industry for a while, you likely know a lot more than you realize – and certainly a lot more than an investor or consultant who has spent just a few hours or days in getting to know the lay of the land. 

You know what’s going well for your company and what’s not, and you have a pretty strong sense of which competitors are thriving and which are struggling.  You have a strong sense of how a new product or regulation is going to impact sales.  You’ve gone through extensive processes to select vendors and have strong opinions on which ones are doing an amazing job and which ones you can’t wait to replace.  

This is expertise.  Much of it may be so droll or second nature to you that you don’t even realize how much you really know.  What’s standard stuff to you is a firehose of knowledge to an investor or management consultant who has barely passed square one in getting to know what’s really going on in your industry. 

Getting started with expert networks

There are over 100 expert network companies around the world, creating an industry that now generates more than $1 billion in annual revenue.  They typically charge their clients $1,000 for each one-hour call with an expert, meaning that the industry is facilitating about 1 million calls each year – thousands per day!

With that many calls to arrange on an incredibly diverse and ever-evolving range of subjects and companies, expert networks have a voracious appetite for new consultants and thus have their own large teams dedicated to finding and recruiting experts to their platforms. (Expert network AlphaSights hires so many people for this role each year they’ve even cracked the top 20 list of most popular employers for recent college grads!)

So, oftentimes your first exposure to an expert network is when they reach out to you, frequently via LinkedIn.  An associate will be looking to match consultants to an active client request, and they haven’t been able to find candidates with the right fit (or enough of them) in their existing database to present to their client. (Referrals are also a top source of new consultants for expert networks, so if you have friends or colleagues working with a platform that you are not, let them know that you’d love an introduction!)

expert network linkedin invitation
Expert networks heavily recruit new consultants via LinkedIn

The first step is generally a brief phone call with an associate, who can give you a brief overview of their company and the assignment, pre-qualify you for the opportunity and ask you to set your rate.  Even if you’re clearly not a fit for the assignment they are working on, this is a great opportunity to register with a network and create a profile, which will lead to more potential opportunities coming your way.

Every assignment will require you to complete a handful of qualifying questions, either online or during a very brief phone call.  This will take you less than ten minutes, but do invest some effort to show how you match with what they are looking for.  Where you have firsthand experience with companies that they are likely to have interest in learning about, be sure to name them and detail your relationship to them.  

From there, an associate at the expert network will present your answers and profile to the client, who selects which expert(s) they’d like to consult with.  If you’re selected, you’ll generally be asked to find a time that’s convenient for you, and then it’s off to the races!  

From the time you receive that first email about a project to holding the call with the client is usually just a week or two.   At the scheduled time, you’ll connect via the network’s conference calling system.  All you need to do is show up on time.  Most calls tend to still be audio-only, so it makes it easy to take the call from anywhere and is a nice reprieve from unending litany of video calls we all suffer through these days.  

When the call is done, all you need to do is hang up.  There are no further deliverables hanging over your head, no follow-up work to do, and no one to send a thank you note to.  

Getting paid is a breeze!  Most networks have simple online invoicing systems that require just a few clicks to complete, and you’ll usually see an electronic deposit show up in your bank account a few days after that.

GLG Review – Should You Consult for the World’s Largest Expert Network?

Have you received an invitation to consult with expert network GLG? Learn what to expect if you work with the world’s largest expert network, how to set your consulting rate, and land a steady stream short, high-paying projects in our GLG review.

What is GLG?

If you’ve received a paid expertise request from an expert network like GLG, you may have been skeptical. These invites offer to pay hundreds of dollars an hour to share your insights during a one hour phone with GLG’s clients. It may sound too good to be true, but expert networks are a thriving industry and provide lucrative payouts if you’ve got in-demand industry insights to give.  Your invitation to become a GLG network member can be your ticket convenient, high-paying consulting opportunities!

GLG (rebranded from Gerson Lehrman Group) and other expert networks profit by capitalizing on your subject matter expertise. They are well-compensated middlemen, connecting organizations with consultants within their in-house “community,” aka “expert network.” Why do companies hire consultants? Because a single critical decision can cost companies millions of dollars, so paying a few thousand in consulting fees is peanuts in comparison. 

Gerson Lehrman Group Offices
GLG has helped build a massive industry for buying and selling expertise.

Expert networks like GLG make perfect sense, which is why the industry now has almost 200 similar networks, raking in $1.5 billion in annual revenue. These networks are the bridge between experts and companies who need them. Investors and management consultants need straight talk from people in the trenches who can offer insights before they make an investment or a decision about a strategic direction to take. GLG’s clients need the “real story” from inside experts like you! 

In return, GLG tacks on a sizable markup (the company reports sky-high 70% contribution margins). For instance, the expert’s consulting rate might be $200 per hour, but GLG often charges its clients $1,000+ per hour for facilitating calls with industry experts who can deliver the straight scoop minutes after a phone call commences. Thus, we see the rationale behind those LinkedIn invites offering to pay you hundreds of dollars for an hour of your time.  While at first these opportunities may sound too good to be true, for professionals who qualify such projects are real and accessible, with expert networks like GLG facilitating over 1 million high paying consulting calls each year.

Click here to register as a GLG Council Member and start receiving project opportunities.

What should you expect on a GLG consulting call?

GLG calls itself ‘The World’s Insight Network’ and its numerous clients pay over $1,000 per hour to glean insights from experts like you.

So what does an expert do during a one-hour client call for an expert network project? Essentially, one of three things. They may offer a company deep dive, an industry overview, or a consultation with other consultants (we explore these “knowledge bomb” conversations in more depth in our Ultimate Expert Network Guide)!

A deep dive may be requested from someone outside of a company, like an investor wanting to learn more before deciding what position to take. Such calls dive into hard numbers, insights about management, opinions on what customers like or dislike about a product or service, and other data that can’t be found on reports. 

The industry overview is broader. Often, a company speaks with several consultants to form a big picture about an industry, its customers, and its future. They might even ask what questions they should be asking!

The third type of call comes from consulting firms looking to improve offerings to their clients. They are offering expert services to a company but need to “phone a friend” when a new product is launched, or something isn’t going according to plan. Of course, anything they learn from you will appear to be coming from them when they pass it on! 

The key benefit to the expert network system is clear—once a consulting call is finished and you hang up the phone, it’s over. They got something they needed, and your obligation is concluded. Then you get paid! It doesn’t get much easier than that.  

Do I qualify as a subject matter expert? 

After learning that expert networks are legitimate, many struggle to believe they’d have knowledge worth someone else’s money. It’s the biggest question we ask ourselves: “Why would someone pay so much just to talk to me?” Many experts report experiencing a brief period of self-doubt or a sense of “imposter syndrome,” but that fades quickly. When a new consultant starts hearing positive feedback from customers who benefited from the consult, that’s when they appreciate what they can bring to the table. 

But how do you know if you qualify? Look again at the main types of calls—the company deep dive, industry overview, and consultation. Have you ever worked for a big company? Or within a particular industry for a long time? Have you ever trained or mentored another worker? If the answer is yes, you’re probably well-qualified to share your insights as a GLG consultant!

Remember, most clients are parachuting in to a brand new area to them and are eager to quickly learn how things really work. Oftentimes, banal decisions that you’ve been making for years are what that they’re excited to learn about – things like how you allocate budget, what goes in to pricing decisions, or which products do you expect to spend or less on are valuable insights to them. A good rule of thumb if there’s a topic that you could give a 30 minute prevention on, then you are probably qualified to consult on that area for GLG.  

How do I set my GLG consulting rate?

GLG consulting rate

Networks pay a lot, but you don’t want to overvalue or undervalue your services! People in the early years of their careers may charge $75 – $150/hour with GLG, while senior professionals typically earn $200 – $300 an hour. Prominent experts are rumored to ask $5,000 per hour, though it’s unknown how often they get booked at that rate.

Worth noting — GLG pays by the minute, so your hourly rate is only a baseline; you’ll only get half of your hourly fee on a 30 minute call, but the meter keeps ticking if you exceed one hour. Meanwhile, they pay out like clockwork, usually 1 – 2 weeks after the call is completed. Keep in mind, the value of your insights depends on what they’re worth to the companies requesting them. Consider the salary for a professional football player. If a player puts butts in seats, they add massive value to the franchise, and can ask for astronomical salaries. They aren’t just getting paid for the work, but for the value they add. 

Deciding on a rate that maximizes earnings without scaring off potential customers is like walking a tightrope. That’s why we’ve written a full guide on how to price your consulting services, covering details of variable and category pricing models commonly used by expert networks like GLG. The more you understand how they earn, the better you can adjust accordingly. 

What are the downsides to GLG consulting?  

Consulting for GLG isn’t all sunshine and rainbows. It can be competitive as increasing numbers of qualified candidates enter the arena. Every network has its own internal rules, but if you position yourself well, GLG may send you a handful of project invites each week. You’ll likely only be selected for a quarter or third of them. Responding to invites taks 5 – 10 minutes and yes, it can be frustrating to receive more “no thanks” replies than “yes, please!” For those just getting started, it can seem demotivational.

Let’s take a look at what workers in the field have said about GLG, in terms of pros and cons…

GLG consulting reviews and feedback

As the 800 pound gorilla of the expert network industry, GLG receives plenty of public feedback, listed on Indeed, Glassdoor, and even Quora. One of the top complaints about GLG is that work is sporadic, as these GLG reviews on Indeed show: 

Consultation business. Work is infrequent but lucrative.

“Consult for top tier companies. Mergers and acquisitions, general consulting and special projects. Work is infrequent but can be lucrative if available in your specialized area.”

Here’s another one: 

Great company, occasionally get interest from clients. Very part term

“From time to time, someone needs specialized help that I’m qualified to help with, probably only about 5 hours a quarter. However, I’m compensated extremely well for this time. It’s very low pressure when deciding whether to take a project or not.”

A thorough review of GLG on Quora points out a few of the pros and cons, such as this quote: 

“GLG associates are notorious for aggressively negotiating down rates, despite charging clients some of the highest prices in the industry.”

They are hard negotiators on fees and pay less than many other networks. They charge clients a fixed price (often $1,000 for an hour-long call), so the less they pay you, the more they keep. Alas, you still get to keep a lot! 

As mentioned, perhaps the biggest downside to GLG is the process of getting picked up for projects. You’ll have to spend time reviewing and bidding. So how can you boost your odds of getting hired? 

How can I win more GLG consulting projects?

GLG consulting projects
Sharpen up your profile with GLG and other expert networks and project opportunities will come pouring in!

Despite recent crowding of the field, there are strategic steps you can take to increase your odds of winning more projects. The first relates to being discoverable, so take time to research keywords you want to be found under, then create a keyword-dense profile. 

One of the most intuitive ways to get more work is to be the first person out of the gate, so keep your eyes peeled for opportunities and respond quickly. Being the first person to reply isn’t always going to land you the gig, but it always makes you stand out. 

Establish trust quickly by being honest and objective. First impressions count! The worst thing you can do is oversell your experience or abilities. Only apply to projects you are qualified to tackle and be candid when asked questions. Never deliver a promise you cannot keep, or you’ll tank your reputation quickly. 

That said, you still have to sell yourself, so be descriptive in all your answers. Provide sufficient detail about things you’ve done related to the project, and include hard data, financial figures, and impact. Show how you added value in previous work situations and demonstrate how you might add value to your potential new client. Convince them that you’re worth the return on investment! 

Overview of GLG

Gerson Lehrman Group (GLG) was founded in New York in 1998, originally focused on writing “sector-specific reports for investors.” Within a year, their core trio of Mark Gerson, Thomas Lehrman, and editor Alexander Saint-Amand realized the power of one-on-one consulting, which could often have a deeper impact than a cold, formal report. By 2003, they’d expanded operations to San Francisco, Boston, Los Angeles, and London, receiving a $30 million injection of investment capital to brand out into Chicago, Austin, and Washington D.C., as well. 

The expert network industry (or insight networks, as GLG is attempting to rebrand it) is booming, and as the dominant firm, GLG keeps getting bigger. In fact, GLG just announced plans for an IPO, revealing that it generated $322 million in revenue during the first half of 2021 – 14% year over year growth and eye-popping 70% contribution margins! Today GLG has a staff of over 2,000 employees serving 2,600 clients and more than 1,00,000 expert consultants from virtually all business backgrounds.

What types of consulting projects does GLG take on? 

GLG “serves clients on in-depth engagements and supports GLG’s client base of 1,400+ of the world’s leading corporations, investment firms, and nonprofits.” That client base consists of everything from financial services organizations to corporations and life sciences. GLG has opportunities for a wide range of specialized experts. For large projects, they may assemble a tailored team to work on objectives. In other cases, a simple 1:1 call between a client and an independent consultant (aka Council Member) may be all that’s needed. 

GLG’s independent consultants come from all walks of life, with varying experience and seniority levels. They offer projects for people at all levels, across most industries, and from around the world. According to their Why Become a Consultant page, 39% were already working for top consulting firms, and 33% are former execs. Most GLG consultants work remotely and may live anywhere in the world. Indeed, only 31% are based in North America, while 48% live in either South America, Europe, or Asia. 

Consulting Calls

GLG consulting invite
GLG recruiters frequently reach out to new consultants via LinkedIn

Organizations are willing to pay hourly rates to discuss their strategic and operational problems, get market feedback, and test out ideas. This comes with enormous benefits for you as the consultant! They need to hear your insights and possible solutions, so they’re coming to you. That means you get to schedule appointments when it is convenient for you, you don’t have to prepare anything, and there is no follow up. When you hang up, you’re done except for the getting paid part! 

Calls are usually quite interesting conversations that both parties end up learning something from, which is a bonus. Another less tangible perk is simply being considered and respected as a subject matter expert. That’s a status you worked long and hard to earn, so now is the time to reap the rewards. 

Things to be mindful of include the handling of sensitive information. Consultants are not allowed to divulge trade secrets or any information they are restricted from sharing. Everything discussed must be authorized for public dissemination and all parties on a GLG call must agree to know and follow all legal and ethical rules and restrictions (GLG was busted in 2008 for their involvement with an insider trading scandal, but they learned their lesson and enforce compliance strictly, which also protects you from being asked uncomfortable questions by clients). 

Other than that, there are few guidelines on how a call has to go. You’re the consultant, but the client sets the stage by telling you about their situations and asking questions. Your job is to listen and answer, for the length of the call. Not all calls are an hour long. In fact, technically, GLG pays you per minute, so if your call does stretch over an hour (which it often can if you keep the conversation going by adding additional insights), then you’re compensated for that extra time. 

Meanwhile, calls aren’t the only thing you can do with GLG…

GLG surveys and other projects 

GLG uses Council Members to fill out paid B2B surveys (which can take from 10 – 20 minutes for $40 – $75), attend events or small group meetings, or team up with others to tackle small, complex projects. Consultants are free to choose what they work on. Some only want to do calls; others are happy to do surveys, get out of the house to attend events, or collaborate with others. For those seeking a bit more work, GLG also offers their clients interim and longer-term placements. 

Is GLG a scam or are they legit? 

GLG is a legitimate, global enterprise with almost a million paid Council Member consultants. They thoroughly vet the consultants in their network to ensure their clients receive exceptional service in exchange for the high fees they’re shelling out. 

GLG is one of the oldest and certainly largest players in the expert network sector! They have physical offices in major cities worldwide, thousands of employees, and almost a million consultants on tap. You could be one of them!

How much should I charge, and how much can I earn at GLG? 

Benefits of working as a GLG consultant

GLG not only pays for 1:1 phone calls, surveys, and projects, but Council Members can professionally benefit from the exposure to so many business execs and fellow consultants, which is invaluable if you use it as a learning opportunity. Another benefit is access to GLG Insight’s library of high-quality research articles, which can help inform your work with clients as well as potentially your own full-time endeavors. Council Members occasionally get to contribute to these pieces, which can lend additional credibility to your profile (which, in turn, always helps justify a rate hike!).

Some firms provide varying forms of free published research as a perk to their consultants; it’s usually pretty high quality (and in some cases, you can publish your own for exposure.)  

One of GLG’s biggest selling points is its sheer size, because they have so many projects available. They operate in the Big Leagues of the expert network industry, scoping projects for companies both large and small. One of their bragging points is that they hand-select and recruit 200+ new experts a day. There aren’t many businesses that can say that. And because they’ve been around for so long, they’ve worked out most of the kinks and streamlined their process so it’s straightforward to find work on their trusted, compliance-oriented platform. 

If consulting with GLG sounds like the perfect solution to make some extra money on the side from the comfort of your own home (or from some tropical beach with a mojito in your hand), you’re right! 

Click here to register as a GLG Council Member and start receiving project opportunities.

Watch our GLG video review:

Mosaic Research Management Review

Have you been contacted by an Associate from Mosaic Research Management with a request to participate in a paid consulting opportunity? Earning a high hourly rate for simply speaking on the phone with a client can sound too good to be true – are you worried it may be a scam?  Learn if this is a legitimate opportunity, what to expect, where to set your hourly rate and more in our Mosaic Research Management review.

What is Mosaic Research Management?

Mosaic Research Management logo

Mosaic Research Management is an expert network, a firm that specializes in the custom sourcing of subject matter experts for short-term consulting engagements. Expert networks are a $1.5 billion industry that aids institutional investors in their market research. Expert network opportunities generally take the form of a 1-hour phone consultation between the subject matter expert and the client, typically investment managers or management consultants.  

Clients turn to expert networks like Mosaic to quickly perform first-hand research on products, companies or markets for the people who know them best, such as former employees, customers, vendors, competitors, or other key influencers.  Working with expert networks is a great way to capitalize on your industry experience, enabling you to earn hundreds of dollars per hour by participating in concise and convenient consulting calls with their clients.

Mosiac is a mid-sized, New York-based expert network that provides various services in addition to the subject matter expert recruitment that is the industry standard: data services, and an expert network vendor management & aggregation tool, similar to proSapient.  The firm specializes in healthcare, travel & airlines, retail & consumer, web & online analytics, and social engagement.

Mosaic was founded in 2010 by former employees of Vista Research, an early pioneer in the industry that was taken down by an insider trading scandal in 2007 and which was later absorbed by Guidepoint.

Mosaic had a business line called Stream that provided a library of recorded and transcribed interviews between experts and industry analysts. It sold that business, now known as Stream Research Group, to AlphaSense in 2021.

Consulting with Mosaic Research Management

Mosaic Research paid consulting opportunity via LinkedIn

If you’ve been contacted by an associate from Mosaic, then it’s likely that you are a mid- to senior-level industry professional with specific company, product, or industry experience that matches what a client is looking for on a project.  Oftentimes, a Mosaic recruiter will reach out to you with a brief message via LinkedIn, though they will occasionally introduce themselves via email or a phone call as well.

You’ll usually be invited to have a brief conversation with the associate, where they’ll introduce you to Mosaic and provide a very high level overview of the project.  While they will share the topic of the project with you, you won’t know the client’s name until you’ve been selected for the project.  If you’re interested and it sounds like you may be a potential fit, the associate will ask you a few short vetting questions to gauge your qualifications, and just as importantly, ensure that you are eligible to participate without triggering any compliance concerns.

Here’s a breakdown of the basic eligibility criteria for project participation:

  • You are at least 6 months and no more than 3 years out of a job where you were a senior manager (Director level or higher) at a company their client is trying to learn more about.
  • You currently (or formerly) work for a competitor of a company the client is looking to learn more about.
  • You are currently or were formerly a customer of a product or company the client is looking to learn more about.

The associate isn’t looking to learn about what you’ll share about the project’s topic, they want to make sure that you match with the client’s requirements.  If it seems like you may fit the bill, they will then ask you to set your Mosaic hourly rate (more on that in a moment!), provide your upcoming availability and create a profile.

Behind the scenes, the associate will present your profile, rate and screening question responses to the client.  If they client selects you for the project, they associate will usually send you a calendar invite for your client call.  Note that industrywide, it’s typical to only be selected for about one-third of the projects that you apply to.  So, even if you don’t get chosen for this project, participating in the initial vetting process registers your profile in their system and increases the likelihood you will be selected for future projects.

Mosaic Consulting Rates

Consulting rates for expert networks vary widely and are determined by a variety of factors, such as the seniority and how recent your relevant title is, how niche the industry is, and demand for your insight. In general, you can expect to be offered a Mosaic consulting rate of $100 – $200  per hour if you are a director level or below, $200 – $350 or above for director-level professional, and $500+ for senior executives and physicians. 

While these rates are pretty standard, you should know that you can renegotiate your rate if you find you are getting inundated by project participation requests. Many C-level executives with a history of successful calls command rates of $500. Some in-demand experts (think Fortune 500 executives, former government officials or specialized surgeons) charge as much as $1,000 – $1,500 a call, but you should know that it is not common and demanding a super high rate right away will likely mean your profile will never be sent to the client. 

It’s important to keep in mind that your Mosaic hourly rate will be pro-rated based on the amount of time that spend on the phone with the client, so it’s in your best interest to keep the conversation flowing freely. If the client is eager to learn more and asks you to extend the call by 10 or 15 minutes, you may easily earn an extra $50 or $100.  Conversely, calls that take less than an hour are pro-rated downwards.  Expert network calls typically last 45 minutes to an hour.

Acing Your Mosaic Consulting Call

Ready for showtime?  Your client call will often happen just a few days after you received the initial invitation.  Mosaic will send you information on a conference call line.  Most expert network calls continue to be voice-only – so no need to dress up or find a professional-looking background – but do be sure to find a quiet place to talk with a stable phone or internet connection.

The client will open the call with a brief introduction, an overview of their objectives, and will then take the lead in steering the conversation.  They are looking to rapidly download your knowledge in order to confirm or refute their understanding of a company, industry, or product of interest in order to perform due diligence prior to making an investment. The client has usually done extensive research beforehand and it should make for an interesting conversation.

The types of clients you will encounter are will be institutional investors (strategy consulting firms, hedge funds, private equity funds, etc.) and are bound by strict compliance policies that prevent them from soliciting proprietary or confidential information. This policy should also be laid out to you in a document prior to the call, so you understand what you can and cannot discuss in the call. It’s rare that you’ll be asked to share any non-public information, and you should decline to answer any questions you feel moves into this territory; clients won’t press you to share things that you shouldn’t.

You should not feel the need to overly prepare for the call. The client is not expecting a deliverable or a presentation. The format is highly conversational, and you should be able to answer the questions easily based on the years of experience that you have in your role and industry.

What’s Next?

One of the best part of consulting with Mosaic Research is that once you hang up the phone, your work is done.  There is no follow-up or deliverables, and Mosaic will pay you via direct deposit within a week or two. 

Now that you’re part of the Mosaic expert network, don’t be surprised if you are regularly contacted for many more projects. Expert networks are a great way to capitalize on your industry experience.

If you haven’t already been contacted by Mosaic Research Management about a project, you can get on their radar and create a profile by reaching out an an associate at [email protected]

Watch: CEO Troy Lavinia on Building Mosaic Research Management

stream research group

Stream Research Group Review

Have you been contacted by an associate from Stream Research Group to record an interview with an analyst? Stream boasts that these calls can get your valuable exposure and help you land high-paying consulting calls with their clients…but unlike most expert networks, you won’t be paid for it. Learn if this is a legitimate opportunity, what to expect, and if participating is worthwhile in our Stream Research Group review.

What is Stream Research Group?

Stream Research Group logo

Stream Research Group is an expert network, a firm that specializes in sourcing subject matter experts for recorded interviews with industry analysts and short-term consulting engagements. Expert networks are a $2 billion industry that aids institutional investors and management consultants in making investment decisions, devising corporate strategies and developing new products. Expert network projects are most commonly a 1-hour phone consultation between the subject matter expert and the client.

Clients turn to expert networks like Stream Research Group to quickly perform first-hand research on products, companies or markets for the people who know them best, such as former employees, customers, vendors, competitors, or other key influencers.  Working with expert networks is a great way to capitalize on your industry experience, enabling you to earn hundreds of dollars per hour by participating in concise and convenient consulting calls with their clients. While these calls are usually 1:1 between the expert and the client, Stream is one of several upstart expert networks that is building a library of recorded and transcribed expert interviews that is available to its entire roster of approximately 2,000 clients.

Stream was originally a product offering developed by Mosaic Research, a mid-tier expert network founded over a decade ago.  Mosaic sold the Stream business to business information service AlphaSense in October 2021. (Don’t confuse AlphaSense with the large expert network AlphaSights).

New York-based Stream has recently used several names, including Stream Research Group, Stream by AlphaSense, Mosaic Stream, and Stream by Mosaic. Don’t be alarmed by these name changes – AlphaSense is a legitimate company and an invitation to participate in an interview with Stream is not a scam.

Mosaic continues to operate its traditional expert network business and is no longer connected to Stream.

What to expect on an analyst call with Stream Research Group

Stream by Mosaic invitation to consult

I was first invited to participate in an interview for Stream Research Group 2021 and was disappointed with my experience at that time.

Rather than speak with a Stream Research Group client, your call is instead with a third party analyst.  The call is recorded and transcribed, then made available to Stream’s client base.  The analyst that I recorded with call with was engaging and well-prepared; my conversation flowed like a typical expert network call. I was told that my name and exact title would be removed from the call and transcript to provide me with anonymity.

Experts usually are not paid for participating in Stream calls, though the analyst is compensated for interviewing you.  According to the invitation I received from Stream, “This conversation with our partner analyst is intended to allow you to market your expertise to a group of Stream’s clients who value speaking with experts about [the target company and industry].”

Stream’s associates have been disorganized across several interactions with them. In multiple instances, they have reached out to introduce me to Stream despite that I have already completed an assignment with the company. When I let them know that I have an experience and an existing profile with Stream, they seem unsure what to do with this information and want to again in engage in the onboarding process from the very beginning.

Perhaps because of the modest disarray, I didn’t receive any follow up updates from Stream following my first recorded interview.  I wasn’t provided with access to the recording or transcript, don’t have any information on how Stream ‘marketed’ me as an expert, and several months passed before I was invited to participate in another project.  My view is that I contributed a piece of specialized content to Stream’s high-priced content library without receiving any compensation or perceived benefit.  

In addition, I’ve twice received outreach from associates who want to register me with Stream for a specific paid client call. When I respond that I already have a profile with Stream, the response has been, “I don’t want to waste your time with another intro call.  We will be in touch as soon as we have a client interested in scheduling a call.”

Stream clearly has some work to do with their CRM system. As I’ve personally had this experience several times, it also raises questions if Steam is being a bit overly aggressive in building its expert database by reaching out about potential paid calls that aren’t yet on the books yet.

Stream is working at better serving experts

Since I first published this review – which included a recommendation to not participate in unpaid interviews with Stream – I have seen improvement in their treatment of consultants.

Shortly after publishing my review, an executive from Stream reached out to me to me to better understand my frustrations. He took feedback well, stated that Stream is striving to improve the value it provides to experts, and apologized for any bumpiness caused by the transition of the business from Mosaic to AlphaSense.

He stated that Stream does now offer compensation for initial analyst interviews in some cases, and is working to better promote experts and provides them access to its content library, and the Stream website has been updated to more clearly convey this. However, my recent interactions with Stream associates continue to be inefficient and a bit janky.

I would certainly give Stream another chance and work with them again, though I am not enthusiastic about creating valuable content for a high-paying subscriber base without cash compensation and continue to have some frustration with introductory outreach from a firm that I already have a relationship with.

Stream Research Group consulting rates

stream research group consulting

The typical expert network experience is to connect directly with a client for a roughly one hour long consulting call, at a high hourly rate. Things work differently at Stream.

Your initial experience will usually be a recorded interview with an expert analyst, typically an investment manager with deep experience in your industry. Your name will be removed from the recording and transcript to provide you with anonymity (though there are often enough clues for a curious client to figure out who you are) and it will be made available to Steam’s clients.

You usually won’t be paid for this initial call, though I do recommend that you ask for compensation. Stream will provide you with a shareable copy of your interview and free access to its content library of over 10,000 interview recordings and transcripts for six months. Clients who reviewed your interview may also connect with you via Stream for paid consulting calls, though it’s unclear how frequently this occurs.

While Stream generally does not pay for initial analyst interviews, this is not the standard industry practice. Tegus offers similar transcript subscription products where you are paid for all consulting calls. Many traditional expert networks, such as Guidepoint Global Advisors, produce a limited number of analyst interviews, and generally pay 1.5 – 2.0X of your regular hourly rate for participating in these recordings

Rates for consulting calls (or paid interviews) with Stream’s clients seem on par with most other expert networks. Your hourly rate is based on factors like your seniority and how recently you’ve held your relevant title, how hard it is to find an expert on the topic, and demand for your insight. In general, you can expect to be offered a Stream Research consulting rate of $100 – $200  per hour if you are a director level or below, $200 – $350 or above for director-level professional, and $500+ for senior executives and physicians. 

Getting started with Stream Research Group

Stream Research Group paid consulting opportunity via LinkedIn

Stream adds to its content library every day, so you may have found this review after an associate reached out to you record an analyst interview or do a client call. You can also propose a topic to Stream, and if they think it will be of interest to their client base, they’ll match you with an analyst and record and distribute an interview with you. Though I’d like to see Stream provide compensation for all calls with experts, this may be a worthwhile route to bolster your personal brand or gain free access to Stream’s extensive content library.

You can propose an interview topic and create a profile with Stream Research Group here.

Watch our Stream Research Group review

Tegus Expert Network Review

Have you been contacted by an associate from Tegus inviting you to participate in paid consultation request? Wondering what’s involved, how much you can earn, or if this is a legitimate opportunity or a scam? Our comprehensive Tegus review will show you what to expect and how to land high-paying projects.

What is Tegus?

Tegus logo
Tegus is named after a South American lizard.

Tegus is an expert network, a type of firm that recruits and connects subject matter experts with clients doing deep research on a product, company or market. These experts are sourced from countless industries and at all levels of experience. They are typically former employees, customers, competitors, or key influencers of the business that the client is researching.

Tegus’s typical consulting project is a 45 – 60 minute call between the client and the expert, where the client wants to rapidly learn the ‘facts on the ground’ from people with significant hands-on experience. Working with expert network consulting with firms like Tegus can be an attractive source of extra income, since the firm offers high hourly rates, schedules calls at times that are convenient to the consultant, and projects are usually extremely concise with no preparation or follow up required.

While some expert networks have a broader client focus, Tegus works exclusively with investors, such as hedge fund and mutual fund managers, and venture capitalists. Tegus claims to have facilitated over 25,000 client calls on its website, and is currently arranging more than 900 each month. In an unusual twist on the expert network model, transcripts of most Tegus client calls are made available to its entire client base.

Tegus was founded in 2016 by Michael Elnick, a former AlphaSights associate, and his identical twin brother Thomas Elnick; the two serve as Co-Founders and Co-CEOs. The company raised a $90 million Series B funding round led by Oberndorf Enterprises and Willoughby Capital in November 2021 and $1.5 million in venture capital investment in 2017. In late 2021, the company acquired acquire BamSEC, a platform that makes it easy to access and work with SEC filings and earnings transcripts.

Tegus is based in Chicago, with a European office in Waterford, Ireland. The company has over 300 employees to service its more than 1,000 clients.

Is Tegus legitimate — or a scam?

A Tegus consulting request can sound too good to be true. A stranger reaches out to you on the Internet – often via LinkedIn – praising your expertise and offering to pay you hundreds of dollars an hour for simply having a brief phone call with their client.

While you should always be cautious about people reaching out with unsolicited offers (Tegus will never ask you for payment to participate in consulting projects!), Tegus is not a scam. It’s part of the rapidly growing expert network industry that encompasses nearly 200 firms around the world which are collectively soaring past $2 billion in annual revenue. If you’re looking for a way to leverage your experience and expertise, an invitation to work with Tegus may be your entryway to the easy and lucrative world of expert network consulting.

What to expect if you consult with Tegus

Tegus employs a small army of recruiters who spend their days searching for experts who fit the criteria for client project requests. LinkedIn is their favorite hunting ground, so if your profile seems to match what they’re looking for, they’ll often reach out via LinkedIn messenger, email or a phone call to introduce you to Tegus and provide a brief overview of the consulting opportunity.

If you’re interested and look like a fit, you’ll be asked to create a profile on the Tegus platform and answer a few short screening questions about your qualifications for the project, which generally requires a few sentences about your relevant work experience knowledge of and relationship to the subject of the call. You’ll also be asked a few yes/no compliance questions to ensure that you are permitted to speak about this topic and meet the compliance requirements set by both Tegus and the client. You’ll then have the opportunity to set your Tegus hourly rate (more on that in a moment!) and provide a list of times for a client call that are convenient for you. Getting set up with Tegus should only take 20 – 30 minutes of your time, and then you’ll only need a few minutes to respond to additional consulting project invitations in the future.

The Tegus associate will then present your profile, screening answers, rate and availability to the client. If they’d like to speak with you, the associate will send out a calendar invite for the call. From initial contact to client call often takes less than one week. Don’t get discouraged if you’re not selected for the first project that you apply for – landing about 1/3 of the relevant projects that you respond to is typical with expert networks. Refining your profile and answers to screening projects can help improve your success rate.

Tegus business model
Tegus’s unique business model seems to be successful!

Tegus has an unusual business and pricing model for its clients. For most calls, the client just pays a $75 markup on the expert’s consulting fee; this compares to rates of $1,000 or more for a consulting call at the largest firms, like GLG and Guidepoint Global Advisors. This fee covers sourcing and managing the expert, compliance checks and monitoring, and recording and transcription.

Tegus earns most of its revenue by selling access to its platform, that includes a rapidly growing library of over 35,000 client call transcripts. Approximately two weeks after your call, the transcript will be published and available to all Tegus clients on its platform. (Access to the platform starts at roughly $20,000 per year so transcripts are not shared publicly!) Your employment history and bio will be included in the transcript, but your name will be redacted. You do not receive any additional compensation for other clients accessing the transcript of your call. (Stream Research Group also provides a library of recorded and transcribed calls to all clients, and often doesn’t pay experts for their initial call!)

Tegus Hourly Consulting Rates

How much should I ask for? How much can I ask for?

Expert network companies like Tegus often pique your interest by touting hourly rates in the hundreds of dollars or more, and the ability for you to name your own price. Some in-demand experts, like Fortune 500 executives or specialized surgeons, do regularly command $1,000 hourly rates or even higher. However, for those whose resumes aren’t quite platinum-status yet, you’ll generally want to aim for typical bands within the industry.

For non-managers or people earlier in their career, a $100 – $200 hourly rate is usually the starting point. Your Tegus hourly rate can quickly climb to $200 – $350 for director-level employees or professionals with strong credentials, such as doctors or engineers. Vice Presidents and C-level executives at mid-sized firms can often achieve $500 hourly rates or a bit more. The typical rate for Tegus consultants is $300 per hour, according an interview with the Co-CEO. Rates are pro-rated to the length of the client call, so a 45 minute call will only yield you 75% of your hourly consulting rate, while your meter keeps running on a good conversation that extends beyond an hour.

Keep in mind that scarcity certainly plays a role in your rate and odds of being selected for a project. If the client wants to speak with users of a popular software package where hundreds of potential experts can easily be sourced, you may be passed over for lower cost consultants. However, if the client wants to speak with senior finance managers who recently worked at a particular company you may be the only game in town and have leverage to command a higher rate.

You may want to set your rate towards the lower end of your target band until you’ve landed your first couple of projects and established a reputation. It’s then easier to negotiate a higher hourly rate with Tegus for future projects.

How to ace your Tegus consulting call

Client calls tend to be easy and engaging conversations. It’s always nice to be considered an expert in something, and things that can be banal to you, such as how you set budgets or make purchasing decisions, can be valuable information to clients that generates unexpected enthusiasm!

Most client calls are centered on a particular company, industry, or product. The client is not expecting you to prepare a presentation or deliverable for the call; they are looking to rapidly download industry knowledge via your many years of experience. You can expect that clients have done their own basic research, reviewed publicly available information, and perhaps heard a management presentation prior to speaking with you. They have come prepared with specific questions to confirm or clarify aspects of the business.

Oftentimes, the client is researching a particular company, especially those with a recent IPO, major announcement or volatile stock price. The client will be eager to learn your honest opinion about the company’s prospects, ability to execute, and management quality. Common questions will be about how the target company compares to its competitors, product and feature differentiation, pricing strategy, quality of management, etc. These types of calls will often resolve around your former employer or a major vendor that you worked with frequently, with emphasis on the key factors influencing your decisions.

You should have an easy time answering the questions during the call – the client often wants to learn about something you’ve been doing regularly for years.. Even so, you may not have all the answers, or know figures off the top of your heads. Be honest and say you don’t know, and you should never make up answers. Clients are usually quite skilled at parsing fact from fiction, and manufactured answers can quickly result in a short call, if not a short career with an expert network.

It’s important to note that you will never be asked to share non-public or proprietary information during a client call, and doing so can be illegal in more extreme cases. One of the key responsibilities of expert networks is to ensure that improper information isn’t exchanged on a client call, with both parties bound by strict compliance standards (which you will receive prior to the call). All client calls are recorded by Tegus and reviewed by its compliance team (and often the client’s compliance team as well) to ensure that no improper information is shared. Clients are often very well versed in compliance requirements and strictly adhere to them so they are not prohibited from pursuing an investment idea or.

What’s Next?

Tegus payment options include ACH (US-only), wire, physical check, or PayPal. After you complete a call, you will be prompted to provide payment preference and details. (Be wary of anyone asking you to provide account information prior to your first call – be sure to confirm that they are indeed a Tegus employee.). Payments are issued within 15 days of the client call.

Now that you’re a part of the network, you will periodically be contacted for participation in new projects, especially as you build a history of completing successful client calls.

Expert networks are a great way to capitalize on your experience. If you’ve been contact by a Tegus associate, you’ve already been identified as a good potential fit for an active project. Otherwise, Tegus does not offer online registration but you can contact Tegus here to express your interest in working with them.

Watch our Tegus review

proSapient Review

Have you received an invitation to participate in a proSapient paid consultation opportunity? Are you unsure what this opportunity is, or if it’s even legitimate? Learn what to expect if you work with this rapidly growing expert network in our comprehensive proSapient review.

What is proSapient?

proSapient logo

ProSapient is an expert network, which are recruiting firms that specialize in custom sourcing subject matter experts (SMB) for short-term consulting projects. Expert networks cater to institutional investors (management consulting firms, private equity, hedge funds, mutual funds, etc.) doing market research or performing due diligence on a company or subset of companies in preparation for an investment. The industry has grown rapidly in recent years, with more than 100 expert network companies now generating close to $2 billion in annual revenue. Expert networks are a great way to capitalize on your industry experience, even after you leave! Expert network opportunities generally take the form of a 1-hour phone consultation between the subject matter expert and the client.

ProSapient is one of several up-and-coming expert networks that are capitalizing on new technologies such as machine learning, artificial intelligence, and robotic process automation. London-based proSapient offers the typical product mix such as surveys, and 1:1 expert consultations, but also offers a multi-vendor platform for clients in it’s bid to be a software-as-a-service (SaaS) for expert networks. ProSapient raised $10M in Series A funding in 2021 after achieving 100% year-over-year revenue growth. It plans to use the funds for a larger expansion into the United States as it seeks to offer a more technology-driven approach than industry stalwarts GLG, Guidepoint and AlphaSights.

Is proSapient fake or a scam?

is prosapient fake or a scam?

ProSapient is a legitimate, newer company in the large but secretive expert network industry — it is not a scam. 

As with any interaction with strangers on the Internet, it is always a good practice to confirm the identity of the person you are interacting with. They should email you from a prosapient.com address and/or have prosapient listed as their current employer on LinkedIn. proSapeint (nor any other legitimate expert network) will ever ask you to pay them to participate in a project. They will need your payment information, such as your bank account or PayPal ID (as well as a social security number for U.S. residents) to send you payment following completion of a call or survey; you can delay providing this information until after you’ve completed the project.

As a rapidly growing business, the company has gone through some growing pains, and there are a smattering of online complaints about slow payments and associates who don’t always seem respectful of consultant’s time. proSapient has been responsive to many of these complaints and over 90% of the online ratings it receives is positive.

What to expect if you consult with proSapient

proSapient paid consulting opportunity via LinkedIn

ProSapient associates are tasked with sourcing experts for client projects, so if they reach out to via LinkedIn or email, they’ve already identified you as someone who may be a good fit. Why? It’s likely that you are a senior level industry professional with experience with a company, product, or industry their client is looking to learn more about. Here’s a breakdown of the basic eligibility criteria for project participation:

  • You are at least 6 months and no more than 3 years out of a job where you were a senior executive (Director level or higher) at a company their client is trying to learn more about.
  • You currently (or formerly) work for a competitor of a company the client is looking to learn more about.
  • You currently or formerly were a customer of a product or company the client is looking to learn more about.

Now that you’ve been identified as a candidate for proSapient paid consultation, the associate will want you to register for their site and participate in a short vetting call to make sure you’re a fit before proposing your profile to the client for review. The vetting call will consist of some pretty general questions in order to judge your knowledge and confidence level in discussing various topics of interest to the client. This vetting process does not take the place of the client call and you can keep your answers high-level.

During the vetting process, you’ll be asked to provide a list of convenient times when you could participate in a client call, generally over the next week or two. Providing as flexible a schedule as you reasonably can will greatly increase. your chances of being assigned to the project. If the client does choose you for the project, you’ll generally receive a calendar invitation for the client call within a day or two of the vetting conversation.

Even if you don’t get chosen for this project, by completing their compliance procedure, you will be registered in their system and likely vetted for future projects, as networks tend to source in-network before custom sourcing for out-of-network experts. Most expert network consultants only land about 1 out of 3 or 4 projects that they apply for, so don’t get discouraged if you aren’t selected for the first few that you respond to.

ProSapient Consulting Rates

How much should I ask for? How much can I ask for?

You may have read articles online about how some experts make thousands of dollars a call. While that is true, the higher you price yourself, the more likely you are going to get priced out of a client interaction. The experts who can charge $1500 a call are usually very high-profile professionals with very recent experience in a niche industry.

In general, if you have been contacted for participation in a 1-hour 1:1 phone or video consult, you can expect to be offered a $100 – $200 if you are a Director level or below, or $200 – $350 for above a Director level. While you can absolutely negotiate your rate (or set the stage by letting the associate know your price floor), if you ask for a proSapient consulting rate above $500 per hour, you risk your profile not being seen by the client, or a client balking at your rate and going with a cheaper expert. You can always renegotiate your rate for subsequent projects you are contacted for, especially if you find that you are getting inundated by project participation requests.

The rate you actually receive for participation in a client call will be determined by the amount of time both you and the client are in the call. It’s in your best interest to keep the conversation going (with more insights, tidbits, analysis, or small talk), as an extra 10-15 minutes can bump up your rate, but conversely, any call that is more than 5 minutes under the 1 hour mark can be penalized with less pay.

How to ace your proSapient consulting call

Most client calls are centered on a particular company, industry, or product. The client is not expecting you to prepare a presentation or deliverable for the call; they are looking to rapidly download industry knowledge via your many years of experience. You can expect that clients have done their own basic research, reviewed publicly available information, and perhaps heard a management presentation. They have come prepared with specific questions to confirm or clarify aspects of the business. You can see some examples of expert consultation use cases on their website.

If the call is centered on a particular company, the client will want to know how the target company compares to its’ competitors, product and feature differentiation, pricing strategy, quality of management, etc. These types of calls will often resolve around your former employer or a major vendor that you worked with frequently, with emphasis on the key factors influencing your decisions.

Alternatively, if the call will be centered on a particular issue or problem they have been tasked to solve. The client may be looking to develop a marketing strategy, solve chronic operational issues, or restructure an organization. These types of calls will often center your approach to an issue, your impressions of various products, factors that influence budget and purchase decisions, or to provide feedback on potential new products or solutions.

You should have an easy time answering the questions during the call- after all, the client wants to learn about an area via your experience. Even so, you may not have all the answers, or know figures off the top of your heads. You can always be honest and say you don’t know, and you should never make up answers. Clients often have multiple calls on the same subject and if it becomes apparent that you lied, you may be blacklisted.

It’s important to note that you will never be asked to share non-public or proprietary information during a client call, and doing so would be illegal. One of the key responsibilities of expert networks is to ensure that improper information isn’t exchanged on a client call, with both parties bound by strict compliance standards (which you will receive prior to the call).

proSapient will generally record and transcribe consulting calls for further use by the client, particularly for internal compliance reviews; you will not be provided with a copy. These recordings are not published or publicly shared, and are not available to other proSapient clients. (Some expert networks, such as Tegus and Stream Research Group make recordings available to all clients as part of a content library.)

What’s Next?

ProSpaient offers payment via PayPal or ACH direct deposit, and you can expect payment within 45 days of the completion of the call.

Now that you’re a part of the network, you will periodically be contacted for participation in new projects, especially as you build a history of completing successful client calls.

Expert networks are a great way to capitalize on your experience. If you haven’t been contacted by an associate from ProSapient, you can still register to be added to their network by contacting them here.

Learn more in our proSapient video review:

Arbolus Technologies Review

Have you been contacted by an associate from Arbolus Technologies via LinkedIn, email or phone call with an invitation to participate in a paid consulting engagement? Are you wondering if it’s a scam, or a legitimate opportunity? Our Arbolus Technologies review details what to expect, and how to land high paying hourly consulting projects.

What is Arbolus Technologies?

Arbolus consulting logo

Arbolus is an expert network, a custom recruiting firm focused on connecting subject matter experts (SMEs) with institutional investor clients looking to better understand an industry, company, or product. Expert networks typically rely on LinkedIn and company websites to identify current & former employees, competitors, customers, and key opinion leaders who can add value to a client’s market research via their professional experience and opinions. A subject matter experts’ expertise is typically rapidly downloaded via a 45 minute to 1-hour call with the client. Working with Arbolus, and other expert networks, can be a lucrative alternative stream of income, requiring little to no preparation, that can be scheduled around your existing employment or other responsibilities.

Founded originally as CiQ Group in 2017, the firm was rebranded as Arbolus Technologies in 2019. Arbolus was founded by two managers from AlphaSights, Sam Glasswell and Will Leeming. The firm has been experiencing rapid growth, acquiring Waterside, another budding expert network, in 2019. The London-based firm employs 100 people and also maintains offices in Barcelona, New York, and New Delhi. The company raised $6M in venture capital investment from Fuel Ventures and Plug & Play Ventures in 2021 and an additional $15 million from Element Ventures and Fuel Ventures in 2022. 

One of the company’s unique offerings is a video Q&A platform, which enables clients to quickly ask multiple experts the same question and review their brief responses (typically 2 – 3 minutes). These short videos may be used for project screening as well as used as part of the client’s research.

Experts are not compensated for providing these short responses. On one hand, you may find them easier to complete than the written screening questions usually required to land an expert network consulting call. However, unlike those screening questionnaires, Arbolus actively markets these recordings – including searchable transcripts – as part of the value the firm provides to its clients without providing compensation to experts for participating in them. (Arbolus joins Tegus and Stream in finding ways to further monetize content provided by experts without providing additional compensation; a worrisome trend.)

Arbolus also facilitates surveys on behalf of its clients, on topics such as your awareness and opinion of certain product categories or your budget and spending expectations. Expert network surveys generally take 10 – 20 minutes to complete, with compensation ranging from $40 – $70.

Is Arbolus Technologies a scam— or a legitimate opportunity?

Arbolus — and expert networks in general — are not a scam. Expert networks are a $1.9B industry, and typically serve as a professional service for the financial services industry by sourcing subject matter experts for their clients. Arbolus serves a wide variety of clients, from start-ups & corporations to consultancies, hedge funds, and private equity.

Typically, associates from an expert network will use LinkedIn, or publicly available contact information such as email or phone number, to recruit potential experts for a project. You can optimize your LinkedIn profile to increase your chances of being recruited for a project by expert networks. Expert networks are an extension of the gig economy and are a great way to monetize your professional experience!

What to expect if you consult with Arbolus Technologies

Arbolus consulting reviews

Recruiters for expert networks rely heavily on LinkedIn to identify potential experts for a project based on their employment history. If, based on your LinkedIn profile, the associate believes you could be a good fit, they will reach out you with a brief introduction to themselves, their firm, and the project.

If you’re interested and think you could contribute to the topic, the associate will invite you to fill out a profile on their platform, which will cover all the basics about your employment history and expertise.

For each project, you’ll also be asked to respond to a few project-specific vetting questions. Most expert networks ask you provide a few two or three sentence responses to a few questions to demonstrate your qualifications for the project. In some cases, though, Arbolus will ask you to provide some more detailed video responses through their Canopy technology platform. Based on these videos, the client may select you for an hourlong consulting call, however, even if you are not selected, the client will still have access to the information that you provided. This creates a tough scenario for expert consultants, as you don’t want to ‘spill the beans’ during the (unpaid) screening process, but at the same time, if you don’t put your best foot forward you may not be selected for the project.

You will also be asked to review a compliance document to make sure you understand that no propriety or confidential information can be shared during the call. You will also be able to set your rate and availability at this time.

The Arbolus associate will then submit your profile to the client for review. If the client chooses to move forward with your profile, you will receive a calendar invitation with dial-in information for the call. While the review and scheduling process usually takes only a few days, it can take up to two weeks. 

If you don’t receive a calendar invitation within a week or two, it’s safe to say your profile was not chosen. Don’t worry— now that your profile is in the Arbolus system, you’re more likely to be contacted for future projects. In the meantime, you can increase your chances of being chosen for a project by following these tips.

Arbolus Hourly Rates

Arbolus— and other expert networks— compensate you for your time and expertise spent on a client project. Sometimes, a starting rate will be communicated to you in the initial reach out. Othertimes, it will be communicated to you in subsequent reach outs. 

In general, you can expect the hourly rate to depend on a variety of factors, including the scarcity of your expertise (how many other experts can discuss the topic intelligently?), how far removed you are from the topic (how many years has it been since you were in the industry?), and how far you are in your career. 

For early career professionals, you can expect to be offered $100- $200; director level or similar professionals can expect $200-$300; anything above director level can easily command rates of $300- $500. Some experts can command fees of  $1000 or more an hour, however, these professionals are often expert network veterans who are at the top of hot or niche industries, or executives at Fortune 500 companies. You can also negotiate a higher rate for further calls.

Setting your rate exceptionally high can also dissuade a client from moving forward with your profile, even if you are a good fit for the project. This is most common in situations where there are many potential experts who can speak to a topic.

Most expert networks will compensate you based on the amount of time you are in the call. This means that even after you negotiate your hourly rate, if you are on the call for less than 60 full minutes, your fee will be pro-rated based on the number of minutes you are in the call with the client. Therefore, it’s best to keep the call going for as long as you can so you can maximize your fee. Similarly, you will be compensated for time spent on the call beyond the agree-upon hour. An extra 15 minutes on a call can easily translate to a higher fee via Arbolus!

How to ace your Arbolus consulting call

You should not feel the need to overly prepare for the call. The client is not expecting a deliverable or a presentation. The format is highly conversational, and you should be able to answer the questions easily based on years of experience in your industry. 

You can expect that the client has come prepared with specific questions as a result of their own in-depth research on the topic they’ve contracted you to speak on. Clients use expert networks to rapidly download industry knowledge (via your many years of experience!) in order to confirm or complicate their  understanding of a company, industry, or product of interest in order to perform due diligence prior to making an investment or strategic movement. The client has done extensive research beforehand and it should make for an interesting conversation.

The types of clients you will encounter are will likely be institutional investors (strategy consulting firms, hedge funds, private equity funds, etc.), however, Arbolus also offers services to corporate and start-up clients. You should know that financial services clients are bound by strict compliance policies that prevent them from soliciting proprietary or confidential information. Client calls are likely always recorded by Arbulus in order to be made available to customers of their platform, so you can expect that the call will be reviewed internally to ensure compliance. It’s rare that you’ll be asked to share any non-public information, and you should decline to answer any questions you feel moves into this territory; clients won’t press you to share things that you shouldn’t.

What’s Next?

Arbolus payments are made via ACH, wire, or physical check. You should be prompted to enter your payment information immediately after the call.

Now that you’re part of the network, you can use the Arbolus platform to participate in further calls by keeping your information up to date and periodically checking in.

If you have not yet been contacted by an Arbolus associate, you can register as an expert on their platform here.

Watch our Arbolus Technologies Review

FirstThought Review

Have you received a LinkedIn message, email or phone call inviting you to participate in a paid consulting opportunity with FirstThought?  Are you worried if this is a legitimate opportunity or just a scam? Our FirstThought review shares what to expect, how much you can earn and how to land high-paying hourly consulting projects with this upstart expert network.

What is FirstThought?

First Thought logo

FirstThought is an expert network, specializing in life sciences and healthcare. The company connects investors and management consultants performing in-depth research with experts in the field, such as physicians, researches, administrators from throughout the healthcare, insurance and therapeutics fields.  FirstThought’s network covers most aspects of life sciences and healthcare, including niche areas like market access, regulatory affairs, and reimbursement.

Like most expert networks, FirstThought’s primary way of connecting clients with industry experts is a one hour ‘consulting call’.  Clients will rapidly take a deep dive into the research topic during these calls to get your viewpoint on how things work, what your opinion is of key players, and your thinking on how trends will play out.  Rates FirstThought consulting calls usually start at several hundred dollars per hour and can climb significantly higher if you have specialized or hard to find expertise.  FirstThought also arranges paid surveys, events and more traditional consulting projects for its clients..

FirstThought was founded in 2020 by several alumni of Guidepoint, one of the largest expert networks. The company is headquartered in New York City and employs approximately 50 people, according to LinkedIn.

Is FirstThought a scam or a legitimate opportunity?

FirstThought is not a scam.  The two year old company is a fast growing expert network, which connects subject matter experts in the life sciences and healthcare industries with its clients such as investment managers and management consultants.

Your introduction to FirstThought will generally be through a call, email or LinkedIn message inviting you to participate in a high-paying consulting opportunity. While you should always perform due diligence on lucrative offers from strangers on the Internet (which may be what brings you to this FirstThought review!), working with FirstThought may be a great way to create a lucrative source of additional income by simply sharing your expertise.

What to expect if you consult with FirstThought

FirstThough paid consulting opportunity via LinkedIn

FirstThought’s clients are performing primary research as part of an investment decision, due diligence process, or to formulate a new strategy. They want to speak with people who have deep first-hand knowledge of the product, company or market that they are looking at to help shape their thinking or get feedback on their hypothesis. Experts are typically former employs, customers, vendors, competitors, or key influencers (such as prescribing physicians) of the research subject. Clients will often want to speak with a handful of experts to get different perspectives.

Once a project has been created with FirstThought, an associate will start recruiting potential experts to speak with their client. LinkedIn tends to be the most popular tool for sourcing expert consultants.

If your profile seems to match what the client is looking for, the associate will reach out to you with a brief note, inviting to have a brief call so they can tell you more about FirstThought and the project they are working on, as well as learn about your qualifications and background.  Keep in mind that the associate usually has limited knowledge of the topic that the client is researching – they are mostly trying to gauge your fit with the client’s requirements.

If you’re interested in the opportunity and look like a good fit, there are three brief steps to formally apply for the project.

First, you’ll need to complete a brief profile about your background; this will help you land future projects with FirstThought as well. Expert networks want to know what you know aren’t terrible interested in your soft skills. So, unlike your resume, make sure you are very specific and liberally use keywords and product and company names. A good rule of thumb is that if you could give a quality 30 minute presentation on something (such as how you selected a vendor or allocate budget) you are likely qualified to participate in an expert network consulting call on this topic.

Next, there will be a few short screening questions about the project you are applying for. You just need a few sentences to answer these, but again be as specific as possible. The client will want to know that you have strong firsthand experience with the topic they want to speak with you about.

Finally, you’ll set your hourly rate for the call (more on that in a moment!) and provide a handful of time slots that are convenient for you. 

All of this should take you less than an hour, and once you’ve applied for your first project responding to additional invitations should only take you 5 – 10 minutes.

The associate will present your information, along with other profiles, to the client.  They’ll often select a number of people to talk to so that they get different perspectives.  If you’re selected, the associate will send you a calendar invite during one of the time slots you’ve provided and it’s off to the races.

Setting Your FirstThought Hourly Rate

Conversations with FirstThought clients tend to be interesting and engaging, plus it’s rewarding to be considered an expert. But what’s even more exciting is the high hourly rate you can charge for sharing your expertise!  Your insights will often help shape a multi-million dollar decision, so clients will gladly pay hundreds of dollars (or more) for an hour of your time.

The two key factors that go in to finding your ideal FirstThought rate are how much of an authority are you on the topic and how many other people could they can find who have similar expertise.  For example, if the client wants to speak with a former senior finance executive of a specific company and you are the only person who fits that criteria, you’ll have significant leverage in setting your rate.  However, if there are dozens or hundreds of people with similar expertise to you, then experts with more affordable rates will generally have a leg up in being assigned to the project (and the associate will often steer them in that direction).

While ever situation may differ a bit, here are some rules of thumb for setting your expert network consulting rate:

If you’re earlier in your career or have knowledge that’s easily found, you’ll usually be steered towards $100 – $200 per hour; director level or similar professionals can expect $200 – $300; very experienced professionals and senior executives  often charge rates of $350 – $700. Some experts can land projects at rates of $1,000 or more per hour, though these tend to be reserved for elite-level experts, such as Fortune 500 executives, specialized physicians or former elected officials. If you’re new to FirstThought or expert network consulting, it’s generally a good plan to put your rates towards the lower end of your target range to make it easier to land your first few projects. It’s not hard to negotiate a higher rate with just a short track record.

For paid surveys, you’ll be presented with the fee when you are invited to participate; $40 – $70 is typical for a 10 – 20 minute expert network survey.

How to ace your FirstThought consulting call

Consulting projects with expert networks like FirstThought are extremely concise and compact.  You provide your availability – which may include before or after work or during your lunch hour. Since you’re talking about what you’ve been doing day-in and day-out for years, you don’t need to do anything to prepare for the call, and once you hang up the phone, your work is done – there is no follow up and no deliverables.

Consulting calls tend to be very conversational, and about topics that you likely know like the back of your hand.  Many calls do deep dives into somewhat droll topics where your explanations can cause wide-eyed excitement for the client, such as purchasing decisions or budget allocation.  

The client will come the call with an agenda and a crisp set of questions for you. Calls will generally start with brief introductions and a couple minutes of small talk to build rapport. Generally, the client will want rapidly download your industry knowledge to help them confirm or challenge their understanding of a company, industry, or product of interest.  Your insights are usually a key factor in a significant strategic or investment decision.

Prior to the call, you will be asked to review FirstThought’s compliance policy and brief compliance training to make sure you understand that no propriety or confidential information can be shared during the call.  You’ll often be asked to affirm that you understand the compliance policy at the start of the call as well, and a member of the client’s compliance department may even listen in to the call or read a transcript after it is completed.

This is for both your protection and the client’s.  The entire expert network industry was nearly destroyed by a major insider trading scandal over a decade ago, which has fortunately led to the development of robust compliance policies and procedures.   Clients are tightly monitored by their own firms and don’t want to receive non-public information which could prohibit them from making a planned investment or lead to disciplinary action within their firm.  If you are ever unsure information is ok to share, simply say so and the client will simply move on to the next question. 

What’s Next?

FirstThought’s suite of research and consulting services

FirstThought will process your payment shortly after you complete your call or survey – no clunky invoicing or chasing down multiple clients for payment. Be sure to keep your profile updated for additional consulting opportunities!

If you’d like to become a FirstThought expert and haven’t yet connected with an associate, you can indicate your interest here.

logos of several dozen expert network companies

139 Expert Network Companies with Direct Signup Links

Looking to land more high-paying expert network calls, projects and surveys? Creating profiles with multiple expert network companies is one of the best ways to increase your exposure and land more project invitations. Click on the company name to open their expert registration page in a new tab.

Choosing which expert network companies to work with

While expert networks are infamous for recruiting consultants on LinkedIn, most searches start with their internal databases. Creating quality profiles with a good handful of expert networks doesn’t take long and can significantly increase your project volume. A few tips to help you get started:

  • Be sure to signup with the largest firms in the industry, include GLG, Guidepoint and AlphaSights. These firms arrange thousands of calls and surveys each week!
  • Don’t disregard expert networks from outside your region. Though the volume is lower, I’ve done calls with clients and firms in Japan, Hong Kong, South Korea, and Italy in the past year despite having no experience doing business in those countries. Clients may be interested in getting your perspective as part of a cross-border investment decision or to understand market dynamics in your home country.
  • Once you start working with multiple expert networks, you’ll occasionally start receiving invites to the same project from more than one company. It’s often beneficial to respond to each invitation to increase your chances of being staffed on the project. You won’t know which firm is going to submit their list of candidates first or if you’ll be included on that list. Having your profile presented to the client two (or more) times can make it more likely that you’re selected. Exclusivity is rare in the expert network industry, so take advantage of the chance to get multiple bites at the apple with some quick copying and pasting.
  • Your expert network profile should be structured differently than your resume or LinkedIn profile. Harried associates aren’t interested in your skillset; they want to know if you can provide the information that their client is looking for. So be specific in your job titles and primary work functions. Name names (lots of them) of former employers, key vendors, competitors, and products where you have deep knowledge and/or are the purchase decision-maker. Go heavy on keywords to make your profile show up often in searches, though ensure that it is fast and easy to read.

If you would like your expert network added to this directory or to have a featured listing, please contact us.

Guidepoint Global Advisors Review

Receive a paid consulting request from Guidepoint and wondering if it’s a legitimate opportunity and what to expect? Our Guidepoint review will help you learn about the expert network consulting process, where to set your hourly rate, and how to land more projects with one of the largest firms in the industry.

What is Guidepoint? 

guidepoint global

Labelled as the “experts at finding expertise,” Guidepoint Global Advisors is a world leader in the burgeoning expert network industry. Alongside top firms like GLG and AlphaSights, Guidepoint operates on an international scale that significantly expanded after its 2015 acquisition of the German-based company Innosquared. Guidepoint has has over 1,000 employees spread across 16 offices on four continents. The company boasts that it has over 1 million subject matter experts in its networks (though only a small portion of that number has worked on a project for the company.)

Founded in 2003 by chemist Albert Sebag under the name Clinical Advisors, the company initially focused on the healthcare industry before expanding into other sectors. Rebranding as Guidepoint Global (and later simply Guidepoint), the New York-based business quickly opened branches worldwide, including in New Jersey, Connecticut, San Francisco, Boston, London, Düsseldorf, Athens, Dubai, Singapore, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Seoul, and Tokyo. Guidepoint connects business clients in a wide range of industries to advisors who can offer business insights via direct, private phone consultations or through surveys that provide information to drive decision-making. 

Click here to create your advisor profile and start consulting with Guidepoint.

Expert Networks – a rapidly growing $2 billion industry

Expert networks comprise a rapidly growing and highly profitable industry that’s approaching $2 billion in annual revenue, yet few people know that it exists!  Businesses demand a high level of discretion when seeking help from outsiders since they don’t want to give away clues about their strategies or problems. But expert networks have existed for decades, flourishing and gaining more exposure with the rise of the Internet. 

Their business model is simple. An expert network identifies areas where businesses could use knowledge-based support; then, it sources applicable subject matter experts. Next, from its talent pool it draws suitable consultants to connect to its business clients’ projects. These expert advisors charge a set fee to advise clients on their respective issues. Meanwhile, in exchange for arranging the consultations, the expert network company charges a markup to the advisor’s consulting fees. 

Who uses expert networks? Mainly investors or corporate management consultants looking for extra guidance to do their jobs. Why do these individuals need such counsel? Because, if you think about it, a single business decision can impact a company’s trajectory for years. In a worst-case scenario, a wrong move could lead to bankruptcy, but a savvy move at the right time could potentially launch earnings into the stratosphere. Either way, it’s well worth the investment for clients to utilize outside experts’ services, even if a call runs into the hundreds or thousands of dollars per hour! 

What should you expect on a Guidepoint consulting call?

Guidepoint LinkedIn message
Guidepoint heavily recruits new consultants via LinkedIn messages

Do advisors really make hundreds of dollars or more just for a phone call? Yes, many do. As mentioned, Guidepoint’s primary service is a “direct, private conversation between a client and an appropriate subject matter expert.” So if you’re selected to join their network, what would a phone call be like for such an expert network project? Calls usually go one of three ways:

Deep dive — The client might be an investor in need of a “deep dive” that provides intel on a given company’s potential for growth or the negative consequences of problems it could be facing. 

Industry overview — Companies often solicit expert opinions on the bigger picture, so they can gain a broad overview of an industry’s landscape before making any crucial decisions. 

Consulting with consultants — Many companies maintain in-house consultants or they work with agencies, but there is always room for additional insights for targeted issues that need resolution. Consultants often reach out to chat with subject matter experts who have no skin in the game and thus can offer objective guidance. 

Keep in mind, all calls are confidential and must comply with strict legal and ethical standards related to such discussions. For example, an advisor cannot divulge protected insider information, nor can customers ask for such non-releasable data. You can learn what’s permissible to discuss or not on Guidepoint’s FAQ page. To learn more about the types of consult calls you might be asked to do, check out our Ultimate Expert Network Guide, which covers the main types of calls in greater detail! 

Do I qualify as a subject matter expert? 

What does it take to qualify as a subject matter expert? There’s no hard answer to that question! If you worked for a specific company or within a particular industry for several years, you probably gained a certain level of knowledge and expertise that others might be willing to pay for. But then again, that would make many of us “experts,” right? Yes, it would! 

Guidepoint serves clients in an extensive range of sectors, so they need an equal variety of experts to advise those clients. They vet every applicant, keeping note of specialized skills and roles from the applicant’s background. Then, when a client submits a project, Guidepoint draws up a pool of potential advisors from their applicable pool and lets the client decide who to try. The point is, let them decide if you are “expert” enough. 

If you’re worried about “imposter syndrome,” don’t! It might seem odd at first to be getting paid just to talk on the phone, but people just like you do it every day, raking in a nice side income.  You know a lot more than you think you do…and certainly a lot more than a client who just started diving into this topic a week ago. There are so many things that are rote to you in your day job that simply blow clients’ minds.

Remember, hardly any clients are operators. They’re investors or management consultants who don’t really know how things are done and are parachuting in to quickly get the real scoop from people who deal with the topic they are researching day-in and day-out!

A good rule of thumb is that if you could give a quality 30 minute presentation about something, you’re probably qualified to consult as an expert on that topic.

How do I set my Guidepoint consulting rates?

Guidepoint hourly consulting rates vary widely, based upon the expert’s specialty and level of experience as well as supply and demand for the project. Professionals who are early in their career will generally be slotted at $100 – $200 per hour, while mid-career professionals at the Vice President level or higher can often command $400 – $700 per hour. Elite level experts, such as C-level executives at major companies, specialized physicians or former government officials can achieve hourly rates of $1,000 or more!

Your rate can impact how often you are selected for projects, as Guidepoint associates tend be highly focused on managing profit margin. For projects where a large number of qualified experts is easy to find, such as administrators of popular collaboration software, you’re less likely to be selected with a high Guidepoint hourly rate. However, for projects where there are few qualified experts, such as former marketing executives at a company that recently had an IPO, there are few eligible experts and you have good latitude to name your price.

Remember, Guidepoint’s clients aren’t “bargain hunting!” They’re coming to Guidepoint because they need precious insights and are willing to pay a premium for them. It’s a logical return on investment if the information they learn informs a better decision that could save or make them money. 

Guidepoint also offers a high volume of paid industry surveys, which generally take 10 – 20 minutes to complete and pay between $40 – $80.

Read more on our strategies for setting your expert network consulting rate.

What are the downsides to consulting for Guidepoint?  

Are there honestly any downsides to earning hundreds of dollars an hour for a phone call? Not many! But of course, the most obvious is that this is a competitive business. Guidepoint’s network is already packed with highly qualified advisors (~800,000 and growing) working in over 190 countries. Some of them get a lot more work than others. 

Consulting for Guidepoint (or any expert network) isn’t a regular job with guaranteed hours. You put in your application and hope it matches with clients’ project needs. If it does, you won’t be the only one that matches with it, so you’ll have to spend 5 – 10 minutes to submit a proposal or answer a few screening questions. 

It can be frustrating if your proposals aren’t getting replies, but consultants with the most success are the ones who adapt and keep trying. Yes, it’s sometimes a case of “feast or famine,” so don’t quit your day job! You might go months without a bite, then suddenly find yourself hit with a handful of gigs close together, especially if you have experience in an unexpectedly hot industry or company. 

When it comes to Guidepoint’s reviews by current and former advisors, opinions are all over the place. Many reviews on Glassdoor lambast the company as a “scam,” while others offer rave reviews. It could be a matter of some workers not landing enough projects, even if they are getting matched and submitting proposals. 

Meanwhile, some consultants love it, even though they wish there were more work. 

How can I win more Guidepoint Global consulting projects?

If there is a magic formula to winning projects, it’s something like this: Qualification + Persuasiveness = Work. 

If you aren’t qualified for a particular project, don’t apply and you can avoid disappointment. If you are qualified but cannot convince them, you might need to work on your writing skills to get more projects!

Most of Guidepoint’s business comes from the following sectors: 

  • Consumer Goods and Services
  • Energy, Industrials, Basic Materials
  • Financial and Business Services
  • Healthcare
  • Legal and Regulatory
  • Tech, Media, and Telecom

When Guidepoint vets and accepts new candidates, you enter a talent pool. When clients submit projects, Guidepoint staff search around in the pool to find relevant qualified candidates to suggest. If you’re suggested, a client might scan your information, or you may get a chance to answer a few questions as they screen for the most suitable advisor. 

Having an optimized, keyword-enriched profile will make you stand out if they peek at that. Providing thoughtful, value-added responses to screeners will help you seal the deal. It takes a bit of work upfront to get chosen, but consider it a return on investment. The more legwork you do to stand out from the crowd, the more you up your odds. 

Over time, as you get picked up more frequently, you’ll establish your positive reputation on their platform. That credibility will, in turn, lead to more work! That’s why expert networks are sometimes described as “feast or famine.” Once you get some momentum, it’s easier to keep it going.    

Guidepoint’s Advisors page lists further information on how it sources and matches experts to clients in over 150 countries. With a 90%+ client retention rate, they’re very careful to keep customers satisfied! If you land a few projects, but then suddenly the lines go cold, it could mean that even though you’re matching with clients, you aren’t giving them everything they need, and it’s impacting your feedback. You must make customer service a top priority and treat your consulting as a tiny business. And, of course, you have to be providing value during the calls. The better your reviews, the more likely you are to keep getting gigs! 

What types of consulting projects does Guidepoint take on? 

Guidepoint offers more than just phone consults; they can provide teleconference meetings for broader insight delivery, as well as conduct surveys, offer data products, or even legal services. But calls are what they’re often known for, so let’s explore those a bit more before moving onto the broader service catalog.  

Phone Consultations

Guidepoint works with consulting firms, corporations, hedge funds, professional services, private equity firms, and law firms, connecting them with professional advisors for calls that may last an hour or more. Every client request is unique, but they generally fall within one of the three main types we talked about earlier, i.e., company deep dives, industry overviews, or consultations with other consultants. 

There are strict rules in place to avoid legal or ethical breaches. You can read more about the conservative compliance guidelines on the Guidepoint Compliance and FAQ pages. For example, Guidepoint instructs advisors to decline any invitation to consult concerning their current employer. However, if there is no confidentiality agreement in place, advisors could discuss suppliers or customers of their current employer.  

Clients will steer the conversation, but you as the consultant are legally obligated to comply with all of Guidepoint’s rules regarding information disclosure (and don’t worry, they’ll make sure you are fully aware of the rules and you’ll sign your concurrence before starting!). Indeed, advisors must end consults that violate compliance rules, and will be compensated for the entire scheduled time if that ever happens. 

Besides staying within the boundaries of these rules, you should answer questions to the best of your ability. If the call goes longer than an hour, so be it. You’ll get compensated per minute, so try to keep the knowledge flowing! 

Other Client Services 

Guidepoint utilizes analyst teams to offer their branded Insights services through client teleconferences, live roundtable events, or group meetings timed with conferences or tradeshows. Other offerings include surveys, polls, “Qsight” data products, and legal solutions. Most of these are not typically areas where contracted advisors will play a role; however, once you get on board, who knows what you might be tagged for once you’ve established a name for yourself with the platform!

Is Guidepoint Global Advisors legit or is this a scam? 

Guidepoint Global Advisors is one of the largest and most established firms in the $2 billion expert network industry. If you received a LinkedIn message, email or phone call inviting to participate in a paid consulting opportunity with Guidepoint, you should treat it as a legitimate opportunity and not a potential scam. (As with any stranger approaching you online, it is still prudent to confirm that the sender isn’t impersonating or spoofing a Guidepoint employee. Note that Guidepoint will never ask you to pay them to participate in a consulting opportunity.)

Guidepoint is a legitimate business with offices around the globe and roughly 3,250 current clients, of which 200+ are hedge funds, 100+ are private equity firms, and 100+ are public companies. 

Guidepoint vets applicants to ensure high-quality talent is joining their network and adding value to customers. Applicants must complete a training tutorial and agree to a list of Conservative Rules before talking to clients. They also suggest a review of their Summary of Key Rules and Terms and Conditions. 

Once subject matter experts are screened and trained, they’re eligible for Guidepoint to start matching them up with potential client projects! There is zero promise of work, and applicants should set expectations accordingly. As we’ve seen above in the reviews, naturally consultants get frustrated and might leave negative reviews if they aren’t snagging gigs. But keep in mind, that is probably just those reviewers venting. It’s not evidence of Guidepoint being a “scam.” It is a legitimate entity that has created a competitive free market environment where eligible consultants can potentially thrive if they have applicable knowledge and experience and know how to convey that fact to potential clients.


If earning hundreds of dollars to talk with customers on the phone seems like something you’d like to try, we think Guidepoint is an excellent place to start! They describe exactly what they’re looking for on their advisor welcome page: “Guidepoint Advisors is an exclusive network of academic and industry professionals who consult with business decision-makers and leading investors around the world. Guidepoint Advisors enjoys a reputation for excellence. We are actively seeking the most qualified practitioners and thought leaders to join our network.” 

If that describes you, head over and fill out your application. You’ll never know how much you can earn unless you try!

Click here to create your advisor profile and start consulting with Guidepoint.

Learn more in our Guidepoint video review

How an Insider Trading Scandal Nearly Killed GLG (and the Entire Expert Network Industry)

It’s not surprising that investors are willing to pay $1,000 or more per hour to expert networks to gather insights on multi-million dollar investment decisions. This is the essence of investment research, and it’s what professional investors are paid to do. 

GLG insider trading

But any time that big money and high stakes are involved, the temptation to step into the grey area – or fully across the line – will be too much for some people to resist. And that’s a line that needs to be carefully navigated, since on the other side is insider trading, two words guaranteed to kill the mood and conversation at any party involving financial folks.

The official definition of insider trading is divulging information that is both non-public and material. In other words, information that would affect the stock price if it were publicly known.

As we’ll see, you’ll have ample opportunity to get acquainted with the ins-and-outs of what is legal and illegal before you reach the stage of having to part with any information under the auspices of an expert consulting agreement.

It’s important to stress that expert consulting is not a “minefield” when it comes to this sort of issue. Expert networks facilitate over a million client calls per year, and compliance breaches are extremely rare. 

Once you are familiar with the rules, it’s not difficult to follow them, and almost everyone involved does. Especially clients, who if anything have more on the line than the experts, as they are playing with their company’s reputation.

All that said, it’s also important to know the example of what happens when people ignore this advice. 

The following story (covered at length in this New Yorker article) not only ruined the lives and reputations of the expert and client involved, but also threatened the very existence of the expert consulting industry.

If you don’t want to end up as Pulitzer-fodder, read on!

SAC Insider Trading Scandal Ropes in GLG

Up to 2012, although there had been some rumblings in the press about insider trading cases tied to consultants at expert networks such as Primary Global, the expert consulting industry as a whole, and in particular its largest player, GLG.  Still, the nascent industry had largely avoided both scandal and scrutiny during its first decade of rapid growth.

Then came the court case that the press dubbed the greatest hedge fund scandal of all time, that still ranks highly among the exploits of Bernie Madoff and the fall of Galleon Group. And unfortunately, GLG was – if not at the center – very firmly in the vicinity when the proverbial hit the fan.

The historic debacle that unfolded in 2012 involved hedge fund trader Mathew Martoma (the client) and Dr. Sidney Gilman (the expert).

Martoma had been working as a portfolio manager at CR Intrinsic, which was affiliated with SAC Capital, a giant investment firm known for its stellar returns, whose boss, Steven A. Cohen, is the current owner of the Mets, and the inspiration behind the character of Bobby Alexrod in “Billions”.

The case hinged upon a relationship the trader Martoma built with the clinician Gilman over the course of more than 40 consultations relating to a new Alzheimer’s drug, then in the trial phase. The press reported that Gilman earned over $100k from the consultations, charging a rate of $1,000 per hour.

The drug in question had shown promise in its initial tests, drawing considerable interest from the investment community. Later, disappointing results led to a decline in the stock price of the firms involved. In other words, access to foreknowledge about the drug’s progress at each stage could definitely be classified as ‘material’.

The FBI accosted Martoma at his home several years later, and confronted him with information they had gathered about his past, which included evidence that he had illegally obtained proprietary information in his former dealings with Gilmen.

Gilman, who was involved in leading the drug trials, later testified that he had indeed divulged non-public data during the consulting sessions regarding trial outcomes while speaking with Martoma. 

Martoma, in turn, had allegedly used the information gathered from his calls with Gilman to make his firm $276 million in profits by speculating on shares of Elan and Wyeth, the firms behind the new drug.

The official SEC complaint made it clear that the expert network for whom Gilman was working (in this case GLG, whose name was not mentioned explicitly) was not at fault, and that both Gilman and Martoma had circumvented the network’s compliance procedures by, amongst other things, deliberately misrepresenting the discussion topics of their meetings.

Apart from anything else, Gilman had violated the terms of the confidentiality agreement, in which he stated that he would ‘share only information that is openly available’. GLG also provided email evidence in which they had explicitly told Gilman that Alzheimer trials were out-of-bounds for discussion with Martoma.

So how did it all go wrong? 

The calls were not recorded, and so we will never exactly know. All we have is the testimony of Gilman, who stated that it was difficult in retrospect to identify the precise moment in the relationship when the line was crossed. Using his words, at some point the answers just ‘slipped out’.

While Martoma and SAC both maintained that no illegal actions had taken place, Martoma was the eighth employee of SAC to be charged with Insider Trading. A federal investigation later concluded that the culture of SAC not only tolerated but encouraged the gathering of inside information. 

Upon conviction, Martoma’s assets were seized to settle a part of the multi-million dollar fine, and he began a nine-year sentence in federal prison, from which he was released earlier this year. Dr. Gilman resigned from his position at the University of Michigan, and his name was scrubbed from the institution’s records, including the hospital wing that had been named after him. 

Expert Network Compliance Expands in Response to Insider Trading Scandals

The resulting exposure clearly had the potential to inflict long-term harm on the reputation of expert networks, and GLG in particular. It may have seemed, briefly, that the future of the industry was in doubt. 

As it turned out, this was not the case. GLG turned a potentially bad situation around, not only by redoubling its compliance efforts to ensure that similar incidents would be preventable, but also by diversifying its focus, brand and client base beyond Wall Street and into Fortune 500 companies and major law firms. The industry as a whole has followed their lead by making rigorous expert network compliance screening, training and monitoring a cornerstone of their product offerings.

The key takeaway for us is that compliance procedures are not – repeat, *not* – a meaningless formality! They are there to protect the reputations, livelihood, and integrity of everyone involved.

There are guidelines that each network will have in place that govern client-expert relationships. Here are some example guidelines from GLG’s compliance framework:

  • Employees may not engage in projects about their own company
  • Employees may not consult with known competitors of their company
  • Extensive or ongoing projects, which may ‘entail a deeper relationship with clients’ are subject to a special qualification process.

More generally, the rules and procedures that expert networks put in place typically include:

  • Who can and cannot participate in projects where conflicts of interest might be present
  • Topics that certain consultants may and may not address in consultations with certain clients
  • Training for both clients and consultants in all relevant protocols and guidelines.
  • Tools to assist compliance departments (e.g. call transcriptions and recordings) and provide documentation to protect those involved in case of a subsequent allegation.

You will likely be required to sign and annually re-affirm a document that states you have reviewed any agreements you are subject to and are permitted to take part in expert consulting, and that you will decline to take part in any project that would violate these agreements. 

The onus is partially therefore on you to pre-vet any engagements that may turn out to have conflicts of interest involved, although the network is obviously incentivized to help you identify them.

Annual, sector-specific training may well also be mandatory, whereby you will reacquaint yourself with what constitutes confidential information in your area of expertise. This will help to hone your spider senses for any edge cases you might come across.

Separately, the network will be liaising with the client and making it as easy as possible for their own compliance departments to pinpoint potential issues with candidates.

Above all, if you suspect that you are being asked to provide non-public, material information, you should always err on the side of safety: politely end the call, and notify the network. Many networks, including GLG, Prosapient, Guidepoint and Alphasights, will incentivize you to act conservatively in this way by reimbursing you for the full-time slot.

Expert Network Compliance Training and Monitoring Helps Keep Everyone Out of Trouble

It is incredibly rare for compliance failures to occur – let alone criminal activity – in the ordinary course of expert network consulting.

You will likely never face a situation where you feel pressured to give confidential information. This is for the very simple reason that clients are subject to the same insider trading laws as everyone else, and crossing the line is not worth the risk. Most firms also make a heavy investment in compliance, which in turn place a heavy scrutiny on expert network calls to keep both the firm and its employees out of trouble.

As with all things, it comes down to a combination of knowledge and common sense. Learn what you can and can’t share on an expert network call. Take your training, trust your senses, and when in doubt, play it safe.