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.

Secretive Expert Network Industry Sees Soaring Venture Capital Investment

Fat profits and innovative technology drive approximately $350 million of venture investment into the sector during 2021.

After years of soaring growth and hefty profits, the discrete expert network industry is suddenly one of the hottest sectors for venture capital investment.  Rapid industry growth, fat profit margins and a handful of noteworthy liquidity events are enabling a number of technology-focused upstarts to amass significant war chests. 

What are expert networks?

GLG consulting invite
Spend much time on LinkedIn and you’ll probably receive invitations to consult with expert networks like GLG, which recently filed to go public.

Expert networks facilitate deep and rapid research into a company, product or market by connecting their clients – mostly investment managers and management consulting firms – to ‘experts’ with significant and current knowledge of the research subject.  Expert network consulting is frequently used to shape investment decisions, conduct due diligence or set strategy recommendations.

The experts are usually former employees, customers, competitors or key influencers (such as doctors or former government officials) of the research topic.  The typical consulting project is a one hour call between the expert and the client, where the client will want to rapidly download the facts on the ground from people who know the company best.  

Many firms charge clients $1,000 or more to facilitate these consulting calls, with experts often earning hourly rates that can regularly exceed $500.  Many firms also regularly coordinate paid business surveys for clients.  (If you’ve spent much time on LinkedIn, you’ve probably been approached to participate in a paid consulting opportunity with an expert network company.)

The expert network industry was born in the late 90’s, with pioneers GLG and Primary Insights taking advantage of an SEC crackdown on the sell-side research practices of invest banks, following a number of scandals.  The firms grew rapidly by directly connecting investors with executives with firsthand knowledge of the companies that they were considering investing in.  However, the young expert networks soon found themselves at the center of several major insider trading trials and making unwanted headlines of their own.  

While these high-profile cases seemed likely to kill off the industry, it instead responded by building large compliance teams tasked with implementing more rigorous compliance policies and monitoring for clients.  Compliance became a feature to sell to clients (and help justify sky-high pricing).

The industry returned to steep growth over the next decade, with over 100 new firms sprouting around the world.  It remained mostly out of the public eye, with a just a handful of early stage venture capital investments or late stage private equity deals — until the dealmaking floodgates opened at the start of this year:

A dozen firms reported approximately $350 million in venture capital investment this year:

So what’s driving the sharp increase in venture capital dealmaking?

Most of the capital investment went to firms developing technology to better identify and source new experts and streamline the process of matching experts to client’s project criteria.  This should enable firms to scale without hiring armies of recent college grads to endlessly scour LinkedIn for qualified profiles.  Several firms are also shifting towards self-service marketplaces for clients to select and staff experts on their projects at a fraction of the cost of traditional expert networks.

While a new firm seems to now be born every week – many of them touting more competitive pricing – the industry remains enormously profitable.  Many firms still charge $1,000 per hour or more to speak with an expert.  GLG, the largest firm in the industry, revealed eye-popping 73% gross margins in its recent S-1 filing.

The expert network industry reached $1.9 billion in revenue in 2021.  It has recorded double digit growth annually since 2015, with growth accelerating to 20% during 2021.  Two expert networks made the top 20 list of the highest paid investment research providers for the first time this year.  Meanwhile, a number of firms continue to make inroads into the corporate strategy market, which dwarfs the size of the industry’s traditional investment manager and management consultant customer bases.

While most firms in the industry have long been closely held, several firms established a path to liquidity in 2021.  GLG recently filed for an IPO, where it expects to raise $100 million, and Capvision has also filed to go public on the Hong Kong stock exchange in early 2022.  VisasQ debuted on the Tokyo Stock Exchange in 2020 and recently acquired industry stalwart Coleman Research for $102 million, perhaps kicking off a long awaited bout of industry consolidation.

What is an Expert Network?

Quietly, a secretive industry has been growing like crazy, influencing billions – if not trillions – of dollars in investment decisions and creating a lucrative side hustle hundreds of thousands of professionals. If you been invited to participate in a paid consulting opportunity and are wondering what is an expert network, you may have just received your golden ticket. Here’s what you need to know.

Should you consult for an expert network?

I charge $300 – $500 per hour to do expert network consulting, and it is ridiculously easy work. It reminds me of my favorite Lloyd Dobler quote from Say Anything:

“I don’t want to sell anything, buy anything, or process anything as a career. I don’t want to sell anything bought or processed, or buy anything sold or processed, or process anything sold, bought, or processed, or repair anything sold, bought, or processed. You know, as a career, I don’t want to do that.”

If you’re unfamiliar with expert network consulting, you may be missing out one of the easiest and highest paying consulting gigs out there.

Expert networks – such as GLG, AlphaSights, Guidepoint, proSapient and Third Bridge – connect investors and management consultants looking to rapidly do a deep dive into a company or market with “experts” who know all about it. These are typically former employees, customers, vendors, or competitors.

No matter what your area of expertise, there are probably expert networks out there trying to match you with projects. While these industry has some notoriety for paying over $1,000/hour to connect clients with Fortune 500 CFOs or specialized surgeons, there is far more need for everyday folks like marketers, IT managers, sales people, and even potato farmers. (Consulting rates are generally $100 – $250 for people earlier in their careers and $300 – $500 for mid-career professionals, like Vice Presidents.)

The typical engagement is a simple one hour phone call with the client, where you give a data dump and answer their questions. It’s always stuff that is second nature to you, but enables them to peel back the curtain for polished investor presentations and press releases to rapidly understand what’s really going on with a business. Stuff you barely need to think about can be often be mind-blowing information for an investor who is trying to decide whether or not to put (many) millions of dollars to work.

And best of all, as soon as you hang up the phone, your work is done. You don’t need to prepare for the calls or do any research and there is zero follow up. No marketing and no selling; the expert networks do that all for you. Even better, payment will show up in your bank account a week or two after the call.

How do you get started with expert networks?

The expert network industry is growing like crazy. There are well over 100 firms around the world, generating more than $1.5 billion in revenue. They are facilitating over 1 million of these high paying micro-consulting calls per year, and are CONSTANTLY looking for new experts to consult from virtually any field or industry that you could image.

There are three main ways to get started with the expert network industry:

  1. Get found on LinkedIn. Most people discover the secretive world of expert networks when they receive a LinkedIn message inviting them to briefly ‘consult’ with an expert network’s client at an hourly rate of their choosing. These messages can seem a little scammy or spammy, but 99% of the time they are your ticket in. Expert networks employ small armies of young recruiters who spend their entire day scouring LinkedIn to find people who match the qualifications required in project specs.
  2. Register directly with the expert networks. Many expert networks enable you to create a profile with them via their website. They care about what you know more than what you can do, so approach these profiles in different way than you would your LinkedIn profile or resume. List every product, company and market that you can knowledgeable speak about for at least half hour – customers, vendors, competitors, former employers, etc. So much of expert network recruiting is keyword driven (recruiters don’t really know much, if anything, about the subject matter their client wants to learn about), so put the names and phrases they are likely to be looking for into your profile and wait for your email box to fill up with new opportunities.
  3. Get referred. Have a friend or colleague who works with an expert network? Ask them to introduce you! Most expert networks actively solicit referrals, and some even pay a small referral fee for people who complete their first project. And don’t worry about competing with your buddy – oftentimes, clients want to speak multiple people with similar experiences (i.e. a few former employees from the same company) to see if there is consistency in their responses.

How Healthcare Professionals Can Earn Extra Income Through Expert Network Consulting

Expert networks have been around for decades, facilitating thousands of small healthcare consulting projects each year, yet they remain mostly unknown to people who work outside the investment and management consulting circles. These companies have grown in value and influence over the years but remain mostly untapped by medical professionals and companies who could benefit from their knowledge. For a physician, nurse, pharmacist, or even a veterinarian, who spends most of their time taking care of others, you’ve likely never even heard of them. Let’s fix that!

As their name implies, expert networks connect pre-vetted experts in a multitude of fields with clients seeking to gain more insight about a market, a product, or a service in the expert’s area of expertise. The typical engagement is a one-hour phone call with an investment professional or management consultant who is looking to do a deep dive on a topic. The conversations are usually pretty engaging, you can schedule them at whatever time works for you, and you can set your rate at several hundred dollars per hour or more. There is nothing to prepare, no follow up, and payment is usually sent straight to your bank account within a week or two.

These networks operate somewhere between a conventional, big consulting firm and a former medical director who moonlights by explaining the clinical lab testing market to an aspiring entrepreneur. Medical professionals undergo many years of education, followed by specialty training, and possess a depth of knowledge that the uninitiated do not have. The problem is you’re too busy taking care of patients, charting, and conducting research that you don’t have time to seek out other opportunities. One of the best facets of expert networks is that once you’ve created a profile, they’ll generally call or email you with relevant projects!

expert network healthcare consulting projects
Listings for healthcare consulting projects on DeepBench highlight opportunities open to a wide range of professionals.

Expert networks remove the friction in seeking out these opportunities by bringing companies in need of your expertise to you. Consultants often get paid between $200 to $500 per hour for their insights through phone interviews and surveys – others land engagements with more generous compensation for participating in expert panels and teleconferences. (Those few with significant and hard to find experience can charge hourly rates that approach $1,000.) The expert network pays you directly, usually within a week or two, so there are no hassles with billing.

Oftentimes, your introduction to an expert network will be when they reach out to you about a healthcare consulting project they are sourcing qualified experts for. They tend to endlessly troll LinkedIn, looking for prospects who match their project requirements, so a detailed and current LinkedIn profile can help you get noticed. Once you’re invited to register with an expert network, you’ll want to create a detailed profile on their website as well, describing your education, medical training, research activity, publications, or clinical experience. You’ll get an email with a few instructions, and depending on the particular network, your credentials will be verified to ensure the quality of consultants. Most networks will contact you periodically with engagements in your areas of interest.

Typical healthcare expert network consulting projects

The value of these networks is evident in healthcare, which I would argue is so fragmented that you have hundreds of niche industries within it. The opportunities to impact patient outcomes by providing necessary context to those working in the industry’s non-clinical side are limitless. For example, when I first sought consulting engagements, I came across a gig sponsored by a manager at an investment management firm seeking insight into how telemedicine software such as eVisit, Doxy.me, and Teladoc fit into medical practice. They wanted to know how the tools were perceived and what data influenced purchasing decisions at clinics and health systems. After completing an emailed brief, they selected consultants who saw patients or analyzed usage data from these platforms. During a scheduled 30-minute call, the consultants were asked to describe their recent experience using these tools and the features they found most valuable. 

Besides doctors, these types of opportunities are available to various medical professionals such as pharmacists, nurses, clinical researchers, physician assistants, physical therapists, lab techs, veterinarians, and countless others. In another engagement, insight was sought from researchers knowledgeable about a drug in development. Before proceeding with this engagement, the expert network screened the clinical researchers and pharmacists identified by their algorithm to rule out conflicts from prior relationships – either with the company developing the drug or a competitor. The researchers affirmed their agreement to the non-disclosure of confidential data about clinical trials involving the drug before proceeding to a phone call. During the engagement, they discuss the latest trial results and how the drug in question could be perceived by regulatory bodies such as the FDA. From my experience, colleagues who conduct clinical research in a particular disease area, such as diabetes, can use their knowledge to assess drug candidates in other disease areas within endocrinology, such as thyroid or adrenal disorders. Putting their ability to use in a disease area indirectly related to their primary research also helps consultants stay objective and avoid unknowingly disclosing non-public information.

Getting started with healthcare expert networks

So how do you land your first expert network project? You increase your chances of getting invited to participate in projects by first making sure your profile is complete. Don’t just paste your CV, instead be sure to describe ways you excelled and now stand out in your field. If a network lets you see other experts’ profiles (this is rare), you can check out the best performing profiles within your niche for inspiration. Gerson Lehman Group (GLG) is one of the older networks with over 600,000 consultants who they call “council members”. While you may not immediately land a project there, GLG works a lot with investors and will walk you through essential industry regulations that guide physicians lending their expertise to publicly traded companies, for example. Networks such as AlphaSights, Third Bridge, Guidepoint Global, and Coleman Research also offer opportunities to engage in fulfilling work outside of clinical medicine. Deepbench and Catalant boast thousands of professional profiles in every industry. In contrast, others like Apex, Dexter Expert, FirstThought, Medherd, and NewtonX are either newer or more specialized and have their strengths. 

The way these networks pair you with clients may vary. Some will list healthcare consulting projects in their online portals for you to indicate interest, while others handpick consultants based on their profile and work histories. Some networks create assessments in addition to the initial sign up questionnaires to determine levels of expertise, while others use complex algorithms to assess suitability for a project. You’ll rarely see consultants matched with clients based on interest in a subject area alone. Most consultants need practical experience to be matched with a project in their area of interest. Did you spend a summer five years ago working on a project on some obscure topic that is now seeing lots of media coverage? That needs to be highlighted in your profile. Clients want to tap into people who can give them an edge. They value the time you’ve put into mastering the scientific method and building your clinical or research skills through years of rigorous training and specialization.

Each network offers a slightly different flavor in terms of the type of engagements and compensation methods. Most meetings begin with a brief on the project. Your response to this brief would help the client cement their interest in proceeding with the next step. Sometimes the expert network facilitates this through a web interface for easy communication with potential clients. If the client contracts your services, you will schedule a phone call at a mutually agreed time. This call is the most common type of arrangement you can expect from a client you meet through an expert network. Clients may require that you complete a survey, comment on a product concept’s clinical feasibility, provide your expert opinion on a medical product, or create a report based on the materials they provide to you.

In addition to the extra income, you may find many of the healthcare expert network consulting projects you encounter on these networks interesting. I often say a project is a match if a large amount of the engagement intersects with work you would otherwise (voluntarily) do for free. This mindset is so vital in an age when a majority of physicians and other medical professionals have experienced some form of burnout. Through expert networks, you can now effortlessly get matched with projects you would enjoy working on in your area of expertise and make extra income for all that time you’ve spent mastering it.

About the author

Dr. Dozie Matthew Ezerioha is a physician, entrepreneur, and digital health expert. He has worked with startups and life science companies for over a decade and founded the healthcare-focused expert network at medherd.com, which combines insights from clinician reviews with real world data to drive the adoption of the best healthcare products.

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.

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 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 employee 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 to Do a Kick Ass Expert Network Call

Getting paid $5 – $10 per minute for expert network calls can create some stress when you’re just starting out.  How can you possibly make every sentence worth that high rate, and will they slam down the phone and vow to never work with you again if you can’t give a masterful answer?

Of course not.  But it still feels good to shine when someone is coming to you for your expert opinion, and feedback on your strong performance will put you at the top of the list at expert networks like GLG or AlphaSights for future projects.  So relax, and follow these tips for acing your expert network call:

I'm an expert

1. Take a few minutes to establish rapport.  The whole purpose of expert calls is to help clients rapidly get to the deep insights and unvarnished truth that took you years to acquire.  They are paying you well for knowledge, but these calls can still feel like about as a transactional of a relationship as it comes.  Add in the fact that you’re likely being paid by the minute (more on that later!) and you may feel like there is pressure to immediately get down to business.

Resist the urge to go from 0-to-60 and take a few minutes at the start of the call to get to know the client.  Ask a few questions about the client’s firm and try to get an understanding of what they’re eager to learn about and their objectives.  Take a few minutes to walk them through your background and engage in a couple minutes of small talk before you dive in.  It will put you at ease so that you can deliver sharper, more candid responses that better deliver the information that clients are looking for.

2.  This isn’t an interview or a sales call.  The purpose of an expert network call is to provide a data dump of unvarnished information and opinions.  The client wants to know what you’ve seen and done, not what you can do.  You’ve already closed the deal by getting paid for the call, and follow up sessions are uncommon – you’re not selling a product or yourself on these calls.  Give direct answers and honest opinions.  Don’t parrot polished sales pitches that they can find in other places.

3.  Name names.  Clients are looking to get a thorough lay of the land, and do it quickly.  They aren’t interested in hands waving in the air, they are trying to quickly ascertain who’s winning and who’s losing in your industry.  Tell them.  Which competitor is rapidly shedding customers or top salespeople due to bad management or which vendor is winning new business by the boatload with a great new product?  These are the details (and opinions) that they can’t find from a Google search!

4.  They love numbers and rules of thumb.  Again, it’s the knowledge that you may take for granted that they are desperate to rapidly learn.  Investors and analysts tend to be highly quantitative by nature and are often working on financial models to decide if they should invest and at what price.  Many will be excited to validate their assumptions, so when you can share typical approaches to setting prices, estimating unit costs or calculating profits they’ll generally get pretty giddy!  While you need to strictly avoid sharing proprietary information, publicly available numbers or standard industry practices are fair game and easy sources of expert network call gold!

Expert network consulting calls

5.  Opine!  Clients are eager to hear what you really think; tell them.  You likely know much more about the topic you’re covering than they do and they want to know how you think things are going to play out.  Many clients will speak to multiple experts, and they are often most interested in seeing how consistent their opinions are.  This is one of the best parts of expert network calls – you get (well) paid to yammer on about what you think will be successful and what is a total waste of time and money.  

6.  Check in – are you giving them what they want?  You’re getting paid to talk and will usually consume the majority of the minutes in an hour-long call.  Frequently, you may be asked to provide long answers to explain how something works or what you think is going to happen.  Be sure to take a pause once in a while to make sure that you are giving the client the type of information that they are looking for.  

7.  “I don’t know” is a fine answer.  Sometimes it can be a little intimidating holding court as a high paid expert.  You’re bound to get some questions that are outside of your wheelhouse and may feel pressured to fill the air time.  But don’t be afraid to say that you don’t know the answer to that question or that it’s not your area of expertise.  Admitting you don’t know all of the answers helps provide more confidence in the information that you do provide.  Many investors have a finely tuned bullshit detector and they are going to quickly disengage (and potentially complain to the network that connected them to you) if it’s clear that you’re just spewing nonsense.  Clients usually come to these calls with a long list of prepared questions and they won’t miss a beat if they need to skip to the next one on their list.

8.  Don’t be afraid to disagree.  The genesis of expert network calls is often someone trying to verify an idea or investment thesis.  They are investing time and money to explore this idea with you (and usually others) to validate if they are on the right track.  While salespeople or investor relations folks will always look to provide positive spin, clients are coming to you for the truth.  Tell them directly when they are off the mark or if you disagree with their core idea or assumptions.  They won’t be offended – generally the opposite – as your feedback could be a valuable datapoint that prevents a multi-million dollar bad decision!

9.  Know your limits.  Some juicy nuggets just can’t be shared.  Sharing confidential information or non-public information about a public company is a strict no-no (in fact, it can be a pretty severe crime!)  So, you’ll need to get that recipe for the secret sauce to yourself.  Don’t worry, every expert network will require you to complete some brief training on how to identify and avoid sharing things that you shouldn’t.  Many clients will start a call with a reminder that they don’t want you to share any prohibited information either.  Most calls or transcripts are reviewed by compliance teams to ensure that no questionable information was exchanged, so you’re not going to feel any pressure to bend the rules.

10.  They don’t care about the clock.  Just like phone sex, you get paid by the minute with many expert networks.  So, while your stated rate may be $500/hour it can be nerve-wracking knowing that you are really making $8.33/minute and that a shorter call could result in several hundred dollars in missed opportunity.  

expert network hourly rate

Relax, the client doesn’t have their finger hovering over the disconnect button, ready to stop your meter from running up a larger bill as soon as there’s a brief lull in the conversation.  In fact, they usually don’t care how long the call runs because they’ve paid a fixed rate for it and have no clue that you are paid by the minute!  Most clients come into calls with a very long list of questions, so you’ll rarely have trouble filling the hour.  

So there is no time pressure; they go into the call expecting to spend an hour on the phone with you.  Take the time to give thoughtful answers.  Let the client set the pace of the call.  Suggest other, related topics that they may want to explore with you.  When you can, it’s also helpful to leave a little bit of buffer time in your schedule in case a call runs over the allotted time – it’s always fun to earn a few extra bucks by keeping an interesting conversation going a little longer!

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 networks 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.

Next: Learn how to conveniently earn hundreds of dollars per hour with our Ultimate Guide to Expert Network Consulting




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