How to Get Recruited by Expert Networks on LinkedIn

expert network secrets

Have you received an intriguing message from an expert network recruiter on LinkedIn? It could be your ticket in to the high-paying world of expert network consulting. A top associate at Third Bridge shares a behind-the-scenes look at how she pinpoints candidates for consulting projects on LinkedIn and the simple steps you can take to make sure our profile gets found and land more assignments.

Most people I recruit for my expert network have the same question: How did you find me? Why me?

Understanding what expert networks are looking for when they staff consulting projects can help you get picked for many more opportunities. From GLG and AlphaSights to the newest upstarts, the majority of expert network recruiters use LinkedIn to identify potential consultants for their relevant projects – at Third Bridge, it can sometimes feel like we’re sifting through LinkedIn profiles all day long!

Recruiters often rely heavily on LinkedIn Sales Navigator, which is a more powerful search tool that enables us to quickly shortlist a handful of relevant candidates by applying a few key filters. These filters include tons of attributes, starting with your seniority level, function, title, and geography. If your profile matches well with the search terms and filters we use to search for experts, you’re likely to receive a message inviting you to join our expert network and participate in a project.

LinkedIn Sales Navigator
LinkedIn Sales Navigator is every expert network associates’ best friend.

Here’s how to show up on our LinkedIn radar:

Expert networks look for keywords, not stories

LinkedIn provides plenty of space for you to build your profile and capture the interest of recruiters. Yet, we’ve all seen LinkedIn profiles that devote the top summary section to sharing personal stories or even worse, are kept absolutely bare. If securing new opportunities is your main objective, telling recruiters who may view your profile about your new pet dog doesn’t shed much light on your skills and experiences and we will very quickly move on to the next person.

Instead, I would recommend first coming up with a list of your work responsibilities, technical skills (e.g. SQL, UI/UX, Python) and non-technical skills (e.g. communication, time management). Once you have your list, begin populating your LinkedIn profile with them. This means in your About section, your headline, and under each of your respective jobs. Even though this may seem repetitive, it is a crucial first step to getting your profile into the hands of a recruiter. 

Here’s why. 

All consultations with an expert network are focused on learning about a product you have used, a company you have partnered with, or a particular industry you are in. 

For example, consider an expert network recruiter who needs to identify someone with at least 4 years of UI/UX experience for a design interface project. The first thing the recruiter will do is input “UI/UX” into the LinkedIn SalesNavigator filter and the LinkedIn algorithm pulls up the profiles that it deems relevant.

This is the first cut of LinkedIn profiles. Even if you have 10 years of UI/UX experience, if you do not explicitly keyword UI/UX in your experiences, your profile will not show up at all.  

Provide Clarity 

Don’t stop at just ensuring UI/UX is keyworded on your LinkedIn profile. Your LinkedIn profile needs to be specific in highlighting your experience with UI/UX. Recruiters want to know which specific UI/UX products you have experience with, which regions you had UI/UX experience, how recent is your experience with UI/UX, and how experienced you are with UI/UX. This can be done not only in your headline (e.g. 10 years of UI/UX experience!) but also in each of your job titles. For instance, I especially like the LinkedIn profile below. 

Immediately in this candidate’s headline, a recruiter is able to see that this candidate is an “Interface Designer” and has worked for top tier firms. This headline will entice the recruiter to keep reading on. While this candidate could have done UI/UX 5 years ago and is no longer relevant, a recruiter is instantly able to double check through the candidate’s job titles. In each of this candidate’s job titles, the candidate emphasizes “UI/UX”, even in the candidate’s current role as an “Interface Director”. This clearly is a candidate with 10 years of UI/UX experience, decision making authority on the topic, and is still working with it up until today – a slam dunk for a recruiter. 

Differentiate yourself 

Another important reason why you should be descriptive is because it helps you to differentiate yourself from all the other candidates that hold similar titles to yours. In the United States alone, there are over 140,000 LinkedIn profiles with the title “Product Manager”. Even if you work at a big reputable technology firm like Microsoft and believe recruiters will know that you manage a product that’s technical, it’s not enough. 

After all, a Product Manager title is still pretty vague. Even if you don’t wish to write a long paragraph detailing your day to day responsibilities, a simple few bullet points identifying which areas you actually work on is sufficient. In the profile below, even with 6 words, a recruiter will instantly be confident that this candidate can speak on M365, Azure and Virtualization projects. The rule of thumb is the greater the number of similar positions at the same company or in the same industry, the more specific you have to be with your job and specializations. 

The most common push back I hear about doing this is the desire for a “clean-looking” LinkedIn profile. When people say this, they usually mean they want their profiles to only have their company and titles on display. No words or descriptions. These detractors argue that it appears more professional, but the truth is, expert network recruiters are typically fresh college graduates. This means recruiters typically only have a brief understanding of who they are looking for (e.g. 10 years of UI/UX experience), but ultimately are still just matching desired keywords to your experiences. If you don’t provide enough information on your LinkedIn profile, a recruiter will either never come across your profile or move on the next one in ten seconds or less.

Polish your Linked profile

Making your Linked profile look good has more than just cosmetic benefits. It helps make you look a bit more professional, and perhaps more importantly, enables recruiters to quickly understand your background and get a sense of your fit for their client’s needs with a simple glance.  Focus on these areas to create a clean and compelling profile:

Your listed companies: Make sure you’re using the company tag already registered with LinkedIn. This is the one with the company logo, a brief company page that all of your colleagues are associated with. Most recruiters use these tags to find candidates, and your profile will not be shortlisted if you used a variance of the company name (E.g. The Walt Disney Company vs. Disney).

Spelling & Grammar: Carefully proofread your entire profile for spelling mistakes for the same reason. If keywords are misspelled (e.g. Tableau vs. Tablaeu), your profile won’t even show up in a recruiters’ search! So, you could be the right candidate, but who would ever know?

Experience timelines: Unless you are working at more than one company at a given time, having your LinkedIn profile list multiple companies as current employment is extremely unprofessional. Recruiters not only have to figure out which companies you have already left (even the one you listed with the start date of 1980!), but also where you currently are.  It also may disqualify you from a project because of the strict compliance guidelines expert network recruiters have to follow (companies on a Do Not Call list, poaching from a rival company, etc.). This is the sort of guessing game recruiters hate to play; it’s a huge waste of time, so recruiters move on to the next profile. 

Keep it professional: The general rule of thumb is if something on your profile isn’t make you look professional, fix it or remove it entirely from your LinkedIn. Save posts with funny gifs or pictures of your cat for Facebook.

Make it easy to contact you

I cannot stress this point enough. If you want to consult on projects, you have to make yourself easily contactable. Keep in mind that expert network projects typically only last for a week, so you need to ensure that you not only allow recruiters to contact you but that you also respond quickly to their requests.  

What you should not do is make yourself hard to reach. I’ve had my fair share of great profiles that would be instant selections by my clients, however, there was no way to contact them. Some LinkedIn profiles list themselves as ready for new opportunities but set their LinkedIn contact requirements to make it necessary to input their email in order to send them a message or invite. Others even disable all forms of outreach! These are red flags for recruiters, who are generally trying to take the path of least resistance – unless you’re Bill Gates or someone worth going the extra mile for.

You should set yourself open to receiving LinkedIn Mail, which enables recruiters to reach out to you directly without jumping through a few hoops. Setting this feature up also entices recruiters to contact you even if they have doubts about your profile. This is because recruiters will not have to spend their precious LinkedIn Mail credits. You read that right! Recruiters have limited LinkedIn Mail credits every month, and so recruiters prefer to pass on mediocre profiles and use their credits on great profiles instead. It only hurts you not to provide recruiters this option. 

Is your profile worth spending a precious LinkedIn Mail credit on?

Of course, the fastest way is to list an email or even a number in your LinkedIn Contact link. Make it easy for recruiters to understand your background and reach you, and you’ll be rewarded with a steady stream of consulting opportunities being delivered straight to your email account!

Setting Your Expert Network Consulting Rate

expert network secrets

Wondering where to set your expert network hourly consulting rate? With expert networks paying rates that range from $100 to well over $1,000, nailing down a lucrative, but not insane price for your time is a difficult question. A top associate at Third Bridge shares a behind-the-scenes look at how your consulting rate impacts your odds of landing a project and where to set it to maximize your earnings.

Getting invited to do an expert network consulting call through companies like GLG, Alphasights, Coleman Research, or Guidepoint can be exciting!  Someone values your expertise enough to pay a hefty fee for an hour of your time.  But deciding what to charge can be a stressful and confusing question.  Do some quick online research and you’ll quickly find (uninformed) opinions on hourly consulting rates ranging from $100/hour to well over $1,000/hour! (In fact, GLG has no official cap on the rates you can charge and is rumored to have a number of big name experts who charge $5,000 for an hour of their time!)

So what should you charge?  Set your expert network consulting rate too low and it’s quite possible to leave hundreds of dollars on the table, while if you ask too much you could not only lose out on the project, but burn your relationship with an entire expert network.  

It’s not a simple question to answer, but if you learn how to thread the needle, you can maximize your earnings by landing the most opportunities at your highest average rate.  

setting your hourly rate for expert network consulting calls
Ummm… No!

In order to understand how to price your consulting services, you need to first understand how expert networks make money and how clients in search for your expertise choose to spend their money. Expert networks are a highly profitable business, and you are their cost of goods sold.  While they add valuable services like recruiting, administration, compliance, and transcription, *you* are generally the most expensive part of every call or project.

As such, it is always in an expert network’s interest to have their client schedule the most profitable consultants. Yes, that means even if you are a great fit for the project, your consulting rate may exclude you from being shown to the client.

In addition, as your rate goes higher, clients are often charged a higher markup to speak with you. This is great for the expert network, as they are able to earn higher gross profits for consultants with higher rates. However, every client has a budget, and as the total price to speak with experts climbs, clients may choose to speak to fewer and/or lower priced consultant to manage costs.  

expert network pricing and markups

In the expert network industry, this is known as Variable Pricing, and it’s how the majority of clients are charged.   In variable pricing, your consulting hourly rate will directly determine the amount that clients are charged to speak with you on a sliding scale. Expert networks each have their own pricing algorithm to translate your rate into the final charge that the client sees (clients will never know your actual rate.)  

While less prevalent, some clients are billed under Category Pricing, where your consulting rate falls within a range that translates to a pre-determined set cost to engage you.

expert network consulting hourly rates by category

In Category Pricing, your consulting hourly rate will fall within a range pre-determined by the client, and the client has already agreed upon the same charge per category. In this scenario, it is crucial you price your rate within the lower category ($199 instead of $200) to increase your profile competitiveness. More on this later. 

Keeping this in mind, here are some guidelines to help you set your own consulting hourly rate. 

Set your baseline expert network hourly rate

Anyone interested in consulting with an expert network is in it for something – whether financial remuneration or just the sheer enjoyment of having someone other than your significant other listen to your perspectives on a seemingly boring topic. Either way, you need to know the lowest hourly rate that makes doing these calls worthwhile to you. For some C-level executives with multiple speaking engagements at the World Bank and are squeezed for time, it’s $1,500/hour. But if you have a lot of free time on your hands and work an Average Joe job, consider your baseline around $100/hour or lower. Each time a consulting opportunity comes by, if it meets at least your baseline, take it – if not, pass on it. 

Additionally, if you’re just getting started with expert network consulting or doing your first project with a new network, think about your first few projects as an investment in business development. Setting your rate on the lower end can help you land your initial projects, and you can ask to raise it to your target rate once you’ve established a bit of a reputation.

Higher seniority = higher consulting rates

Of course, the more senior you are in your relevant position, the more valuable your experiences are. This is because with greater seniority comes decision making authority and deeper insights into topics. Generally, you can increase your consulting hourly rate as you transition into bigger roles, but here is a loose guideline for your consideration. 

GLG hourly consulting rates by seniority

Get top dollar for being THE expert

The best path to the highest possible rate is relevancy. If the consulting topic is on a company or topic where you have deep, current and hard-to-find expertise, this trumps everything.  If we can present you to clients as a top expert with specialized knowledge, they will gladly pay rates much higher than your current seniority would indicate. 

Take a look at a recent search that I conducted for experts in OTT streaming services, and these sample potential consultant profiles that would be presented to a client: 

expert network consulting profiles

Comparing the profiles of John and Jane, both senior executives at top OTT streaming services (and equivalent in seniority), it is clear that Jane’s high hourly rate may not only be well worth it, it could even be a bargain considering the enormously valuable insights she may provide. Instead of taking a gamble on John, who may have limited or outdated experience with OTT streaming, a client will typically fork out the extra money to engage Jane (as long as their budget allows). 

Make sure you invest time in providing detailed highlights in your areas of expertise in your LinkedIn profile, expert network profiles, and screen calls or questionnaires.  It will not only help you land more projects, but also achieve a higher hourly consulting rate for them too.

Consider the competition

Ever feel like you were the perfect fit for a project, but then found out that you haven’t been selected to participate in a call?  You may have lost out to someone who can provide similar perspective…but at a lower rate.

One of the most important considerations you need to have is how other consultants on the same project are pricing themselves. They are the last obstacle you need to get past to be selected for a consulting engagement. Clients will always be presented with an extensive list of available consultants, including their backgrounds and prices, so you need to make sure that your hourly rate is competitive. 

This may seem like an impossible task in the opaque world of expert networks, but if you ask the expert network associate working to staff a project to provide guidance on your rate, they will often happily do so.  They know the average consulting rate of the project, their client’s budget, and who you are competing with for the consultation.

To be honest, most expert network associates try to offer guidance before the advice is even solicited, since optimizing your rate (and their profitability) is a key part of their role. Most of the time they are already trying to guide your rate (usually lower) to match the client’s budget. So all you have to do is make their lives easier and write or say something like, “I would really like to secure this consulting engagement, would you happen to know what rate would make me competitive for this project?” This is also a great way to learn if it’s variable pricing or category pricing, and expert networks will help you price your services accordingly. 

Which brings me into some insider tips! 

Be Flexible

The most successful consultants are willing to change their rate to increase their chances of client selection. If your ultimate goal is to consult for the project, you absolutely do not want to lose out to other consultants. I would recommend coming up with a consulting rate range, for example $150 – $400/hour, and be willing to take projects that fall within that range. In addition, if you see a project through multiple expert networks, consider lowering your price the second time that you respond.

This is because some expert networks compete based on price, and it’s not uncommon to see the same project shopped around via more than one network, especially when the client is carefully managing their budget. For example, you may have been passed over for a project with GLG at a $500 hourly rate, but a few days later you could land the same project through Alphasights by offering to do it at a $400 hourly rate. (This is also a good place to note that GLG is notorious for fiercely negotiating rates lower with their consultants, so you may find that you’ll need to charge a lower hourly rate with GLG than you do with many other expert networks.)

Build a Case for a Higher Consulting Rate

The best time to ask for raise is when you’ve just delivered some highly valuable work. Though client feedback to expert networks happens infrequently, word does get around when you’ve done a great job – especially if the client requested a follow-up call or you seemingly bent-over-backwards to help an associate make a call rapidly come together under a tight deadline.

With a few positive experiences under your belt, you’re well positioned to ask for a higher consulting rate. Try to establish rapport with an associate and call (or less preferably) email them to talk about adjusting your rate going forward. Put a clear, concise and compelling rationale together and have a reasonable ask. For example, you may want to remind the associate that you agreed to start doing calls at a more moderate rate to establish yourself, and now that you’ve gotten great feedback on your first few projects, your track record is starting to become clear. Provide a good reason why ‘need’ more money to do more projects for them, such as aligning your consulting rate with what you’re being paid by other expert networks or that you’ve gotten extremely busy at work and it’s getting harder to carve out time for calls, so you’d appreciate a bit higher incentive to squeeze them in to your schedule.

Be Accommodating

While it is not common practice, some consultants choose to impose additional restrictions to engage their consulting services, such as one-hour minimums and cancellation policies. However, doing so puts you at a disadvantage to all of the consultants with no personal policies. The majority of expert network clients are private equity firms and top consulting firms, and their schedules are often constantly changing. Take note that clients are informed of a consultant’s restrictions beforehand in order to ensure they are abided by. However, as it is difficult for clients to commit to a time as well as guarantee a 60-minute consultation (some prefer a quick 30-minute consultations), you often hurt your chances of consulting with unnecessary restrictions. 

Research the Competition

Most expert networks aren’t known for being transparent, especially since keeping their cards close to their vest helps them maintain top-shelf pricing and fat profit margins.

However, there is a new breed of expert network starting to gain traction by replacing armies of associates with software-powered and fairly transparent marketplaces where clients and experts can more directly connect with each other. Some of these marketplaces even allow you to search the profiles of your fellow experts – including their target hourly rate – which can be a goldmine of competitive pricing information.

For example, search for State Farm agents on DeepBench and you’ll find profiles of nearly two dozen current and former agents available for projects, with hourly rates ranging from $60 – $300. If you’re a State Farm agent, slotting your hourly rate at $250 – $300 will probably position you well to maximize your earnings without pricing yourself out of most projects.

Be Upfront

One of the top pet peeves of expert network associates is consultants who try to renegotiate their rate after winning a project. Consultants agree to a particular rate when they respond to a project invitation, but then after being assigned to a consulting call, they seek a (sometimes much) higher rate or back out from the project stating that the rate was too low. When probed, some consultants dive into long stories about how much they usually make per hour, or how much they make with other expert networks or even how much they previously made on a similar call.

In all honesty, these are some of the most frustrating conversations that expert network associates have with consultants, and they are more likely to get you uninvited from the project and tagged as someone who is difficult to work with than to land you a few hundred extra dollars.

The only thing expert networks care about is what your final consulting rate is – and one that will guarantee you will turn up during the scheduled time. I recommend using the screening conversation with expert networks to bring up concerns about your rate and once that conversation is over, your rate is internally set up and sent to the client. Once the client has scheduled the consultation at the rate sent over to them, any updated changes in rate will have to be accounted for, which is a long and tedious process. So pick a rate for a specific project and then keep your word!

Setting your consulting hourly rate may seem confusing, as you neither want to underprice nor overprice yourself, but following the guidelines above will be an excellent start. After doing your homework and finally deciding on your rate, you should be willing to experiment with your rate! After some time at your chosen rate, try increasing or decreasing it to see if the difference changes the number of successful consultations you have. After all, you’re trying to secure as many consultations as possible in the long run. 

Getting Started With Expert Network Consulting

expert network secrets

Looking for the real secrets to success with expert networks? We asked employees at major expert networks and their leading consultants to share the inside scoop on becoming in-demand expert. A recruiter at Third Bridge shares a behind-the-scenes look at how to establish yourself and land your first projects with a new expert network.

You’ve been approached to do short term consulting through an expert network. Whether you have your doubts about participating in the industry or if you have done a few consultations already and are looking to do more, expert network consulting is an extremely profitable side gig that is accessible to anyone. Who doesn’t enjoy being the star of 30 – 60 minute phone discussions with clients from around the world who are willing to pay top dollar for your knowledge?

Third Bridge Office
Founded in 2007, Third Bridge Group is one of the largest expert networks, with over 1,000 employees across the United Kingdom, United States, China, and India.

As a recruiter for Third Bridge, I recruit specialists (expert consultants) for an average of 15 projects every week. Most times, many new recruits feel insecure about their intrinsic value because they aren’t a CEO at a Fortune 500 company. The reality is that while I have done projects with C-level executives at Google, Apple, and Facebook, I have done even more projects with veterinarians, category buyers and nurses. So here are a my insider tips and tricks to earning your first few dollars or even expanding this income stream. 

How does an expert network project begin? 

A large majority of projects are an expert network’s clients looking into a target company, whether to help with an ongoing internal issue or to decide if it is worth acquiring. These clients are typically a private equity firm, a management consulting firm helping a corporate client, or a management consulting firm trying to identify attractive businesses for future engagements. In order to do so, the client needs to speak with currents and formers at the target company, competitors in the space and customers of the target company. The number of consultations vary between projects: 5 – 20 calls if the client is doing an RFP to win the projects and more than 50 calls if the client has won the project and needs to do strategy work. The breakdown of calls among the three categories is decided ultimately by the client. 

Once a client begins a project, they send out a brief to their top 2 – 3 favorite expert networks to schedule their first consultations. These expert networks will first use their internal database of available consultants and send over an initial list to the client with the hopes of covering as many consultations required by the client. If the client does not like these first group of consultants or needs more consultants than the ones listed, expert networks begin custom recruiting for new consultants. For instance, if a client requests for 10 consultations for their project and select 6 in-network consultants, new consultants are sourced to meet the remaining ask of 4 consultations. So how do you increase your chances of getting paid consultations? 

How to get noticed by an expert network

These expert networks use LinkedIn, The Ladders and Monster as their primary means of identifying potential consultants. The Ladders is a website for white collar workers to upload their resumes for employment opportunities, and Monster is for blue collar workers to do the same. Expert network recruiters, such as myself, spend our entire work day sieving through an endless number of profiles to identify promising candidates. Due to our tight deadlines (as most projects only last just over a week), we prioritize profiles we know would be a good fit for the project and solicit a quick response. In order for you to up your chances of being reached out to, you should ensure that your employment history is up-to-date, your companies are associated with the LinkedIn approved ones (not misspelled or manually entered), and you have a description of your expertise. 

For instance, a client wants to speak to someone at Disney who procures Learning & Development software and can discuss LMS vendors. An expert network recruiter will set the search to only “The Walt Disney Company” and keyword “Learning & Development”. Hence, if you are currently employed with Disney but you have misspelled your company name or you’re using another variety of the Disney name, you are cut from this first process. Needless to say, if you are currently involved in Learning & Development or LMS but did not include it in your LinkedIn profile, your profile will not be shortlisted as well. 

Now, let’s take a look at two similar LinkedIn profiles that come up with these search settings. 

Profile #1: 

Ineffective LinkedIn Profile of Expert Networks

Profile #2: 

Great LinkedIn Profile for Expert Networks

Keeping the client’s brief in mind, profile #2 is clearly the winner. Even though both profiles have a manager title, it’s clear that the person with profile #2 does the decision making when it comes to LMS solutions. In fact, profile #2 will appear for a variety of different recruitment searches for projects spanning from operations to data management. As expert network recruiters have limited time, they will always choose the profile that clearly matches their client’s brief rather than take a gamble on an ambiguous profile that may be who they are looking for. After all, the larger your company, the larger the pool of people who will have identical roles as yourself. So be as descriptive as possible! 

Pro-tip: Many people want to be recruited for these consulting engagements, but ironically, make it extremely difficult for recruiters to contact them. Things like requiring an email to send you a connection or providing no contact information on your LinkedIn profile will slow a recruiter’s process, making the decision easy to skip over your profile for another similar profile that guarantees a quick response. 

Work with multiple expert networks

Getting active with multiple expert networks is one of the best ways to expand the volume of opportunities you’re invited to apply for. Expert networks often have an overlap in clients, but there’s also a high chance they have their own unique clients. Instead of working exclusively with just one expert network, you should aim to set up a profile with as many expert networks as possible to expand your consulting chances. Contrary to how expert networks market themselves, there is no selective invite to join. Instead, it is in an expert network’s best interest to have a huge network of readily available consultants to meet a client’s request as quickly as possible (and to beat out the other networks).

I often get concerns that a consultant doesn’t want the client to receive his name from 3 expert networks, and this is often attributed to the fear of making themselves look bad to the client. The truth is, this is a transactional business and clients often read the blurb describing your experiences rather than fixate on your name and where you may work at. In addition, clients are aware that the best consultants are on many different networks. Read: the client doesn’t care, and neither should you! These clients are prioritizing hitting their consultation targets and you are prioritizing getting those consultations, so it’s a win-win.

You should respond to every single consulting request even if you have a hunch they are for the same project. This is because even if it is the same project, expert networks vary on how they pitch your experiences to the client, which profiles they choose to submit to the client for review and the time that they send those profiles. With that said, clients schedule profiles on a first come first serve basis until they hit their quota. This means that by submitting your responses to all 5 networks, your profile is guaranteed to be looked over by the client in the earlier stages, increasing your chances of getting selected for consultations. 

As you are already familiar with the concept of consulting through an expert network, you should now reach out to one person from each expert network you can think of to set up your profile. Start with the major ones such as GLG, Third Bridge, GuidePoint Global, AlphaSights, and Coleman Research. Next, there is a growing list of rapidly growing networks that you should take a look at as well, such as proSapient, Atheneum, Dialectica, NewtonX, and DeepBench. All you need to do is send them a note explaining that you’re a seasoned consultant looking to get more projects and attach your email, your phone number, and your hourly rate to be added into the network. 

Pro tip: Reach out to the most junior people at expert networks – young associates who have just joined the company. Even if you don’t match their current project requirements, they are more likely to set up your profile than busier, more experienced associates working on a bunch of projects you are not relevant for. 

In order for you to secure more consulting engagements through the networks you are working with, you have to understand how your profile is selected by project managers from the internal database. These project managers typically scour their expert network database the same way they recruit on LinkedIn, using keywords and shortlisting strong profiles to send over to their client. However, during the first initial creation of your internal consulting profile, only 10% of recruiters actually record the products and softwares you note you are familiar with on LinkedIn. Hence, if your internal consulting profile is as bare as 90% of the others, project managers are doing a guessing game when sending you over a consulting project! In fact, if you often get project requests that are a bad fit for you, this is a clear indication that your profile is not filled up to match your expertise. 

Landing the assignment

Strong profiles are not only the ones that have the same keywords in and meet the needs of the brief, but are also guaranteed to accept the consultation if selected. You should offer to build out your internal consulting profile with expert networks. Upon request, most expert networks will send you a link to access your consulting profile with them.

Invest some time detailing which geographies you can cover, what products and softwares you have used, and which sectors you are familiar with. Consulting engagements are often looking to hear from customers, a product you have directly used and can do a short review on, or from decision makers, who can speak to the decision making process, selection criteria, and how they chose the vendor they did. As projects span a variety of topics and can be anything under the sun, the general rule of thumb is if you can speak to the topic for at least 30 minutes, list it in your profile!

It is also crucial to note that most expert networks do rank their consultants. For instance, how likely you are to respond, how interested you are in consulting, and how many consultations you have done. In addition, it is also recorded if you have ever missed a scheduled consultation, been impolite with a client or caused any trouble with the network. As expert networks prioritize their client’s satisfaction with the consultation, project managers will always choose to send over profiles with better feedback. So it truly doesn’t hurt to be responsive, responsible, and a decent human being. 

Since expert networks only get paid if their consultants get compensated for successful consultations, responsiveness and availability are highly valued. Given the time pressure expert networks are under to deliver, these are a few key aspects we will need from you to secure a consultation with you: responses to screening questions, a week’s worth of availability for the consultation, quick response times to our first email and any additional questions we may have, and quick confirmations to your scheduled consultation time. If you are able to meet an expert network’s needs, your internal consulting profile is bound to be frequently picked over the other profiles. 

A final note

Short-term consulting through an expert network is definitely what you will make of it – nothing at all, side gig to make pocket money or your entire source of income. It is easy to fall into the comfort of passively waiting for expert networks to send over consulting engagements, but if you’re not Elon Musk or Tim Cook, the number of consulting projects you get will correlate with the effort you put in. In order to be successful in expert network consulting, you need to do the initial legwork starting with the tips mentioned above. It may seem tedious and repetitive to do so with each of the expert networks, but your investment will pay off, and you will find yourself consulting on more projects than you ever have. 

Getting Picked for Expert Network Projects

expert network secrets

Looking for the real secrets to success with expert networks? We asked employees at major expert networks and their leading consultants to share the inside scoop on becoming in-demand expert. A Client Associate at Third Bridge Group shares a behind-the-scenes look at how they find experts for a project and the factors that go in to whether you’re picked or passed over.

Starting out as an Associate at Third Bridge, I sourced new experts for each project I was staffed on. That meant understanding what types of questions the client wants to get answered, figuring out ideal profiles of people who can answer those questions, finding people who match this profile, figuring out a way to contact them, convincing them to consult, and then selling them to the client. To find a single expert, I typically had to speak with over 15 people – and on some projects a client would want to speak with up to 100 experts!

After getting to know the ropes, I’ve been promoted to Client Associate, so now I work directly with clients. I still custom source experts, but my focus now is on screening experts already in the network to match them up to projects.  

Third Bridge Office
Founded in 2007, Third Bridge Group is one of the largest expert networks, with over 1,000 employees across the United Kingdom, United States, China, and India

With a couple of years under my belt, I’ve sourced so many experts for so many projects at Third Bridge that I’ve lost count! Make life easy for me and and my colleagues and we’ll try to staff you on as many projects as you can handle. Here’s my advice on how to do that.

Make yourself easy to find

Start by making sure your LinkedIn is up-to-date. Associates don’t rely solely on LinkedIn, but we lean pretty heavily on it. If you’re a department or category manager specify which department category you manage. If you’re a CIT/CTO or a high level IT executive, call out by name every software you’ve used, implemented, or researched. If you’re a buyer or procurer, specify what products you have procured. It’s always better to be specific. Instead of saying “in charge of procuring soft drinks”, say “procured Fanta, Gatorade, Lipton and Dr. Pepper”.

One of the under-the-radar places we often look to source experts is customer testimonials, which are a great place to source prominent customers of a product who were willing to offer up there opinion. For example, if a client is researching the CCaaS (Contact Centre as a Service) industry, then they will want to speak with the decision maker behind the choice of provider of this service.

To get started on a search like that, I’d often go the websites of top providers to find their testimonials page (if they have one), and figure out which companies use their services. If there are a few customer testimonials with name, title and company listed, it is incredibly easy to reach out to those people to ask them to hold a call with a client. Oftentimes, though, these reviews don’t have a full name attributed to them, so if you do provide testimonials, authorize use of your full name so that it’s easy for us to find you. (If you don’t want to do that, a first name, title and company makes it relatively easy to track you down; never be anonymous.)

Be responsive

Most importantly, you have to be very responsive. Our projects are very, very time constrained. Experts typically think we’re exaggerating when we say that the project is urgent but our clients change priorities (i.e they go from wanting to speak to a customer from x company, to an executive from y company) within 1 – 3 days. So if you’re sent an email about a new project, make sure to reply within the hour if possible or at least within the same day for the highest chance of selection. 

Nine times out of ten, the project proposal emails you receive include screening questions. Clients provide these questions to us so that we can find experts for them to talk to who are on point. While a few clients are cool with an expert just confirming that they can discuss the topic of the consultation, but the majority of clients are much more picky than that and want brief, but very specific answers. You may be a great fit for a project, but If you respond to screening questions with skimpy answers, we’re generally too busy ask you to provide more details and you won’t land the assignment.

Clients don’t need an essay, but they don’t want yes/no answers either. A few thoughtful, descriptive sentences is all it really takes. For example, if one of the screening questions is “can you discuss the competitive landscape?”, a “yes” isn’t enough. Instead reply with “Yes, I can discuss company X, company Y, and company Z in detail”. Clients are looking for company names and figures (averages, percentages,etc). If you provide us with this information, it makes it so much easier to sell you. Selling experts to clients is the most important aspect of the associate’s role, so the faster and more thoroughly you reply, the more likely we are to put you at the top of the list of people that we present to our clients.

Get the same project twice? Apply twice.

Sometimes, you’ll receive very similar looking project invitations from multiple firms. Be sure to respond to all of them!

When larger clients submit projects, they sometimes bulk send them to every firm that they work with (some use as many as 15 networks). When the initial project pitch comes in, many clients provide very minimal information, such as their general goal for the project, some companies advisors/consultants may have experience at, and some job titles that may be best suited (outside of the obvious like VP of sales but more niche like “Director of federal sales” and such).

The networks will quickly flip this information back out to experts like you, sometimes with verbatim project descriptions. You should respond to any and every project invite for which you’re qualified. You don’t know which firms are going to submit your profile to the client, nor if they’ll even have the opportunity to present candidates before the project is fully staffed. There are no risks to you in submitting your profile to multiple networks, only increased odds of landing assignments.

Additionally, most networks have internal notes that allow them to see how you’ve responded to previous project invitations and questions (this is all internal). This allows them to reference your profiles going forward and see your responses. So if they asked three months ago if you were a customer of X company, they can reference this down the road and confirm you are still a customer or proactively flag your profiles if you responded recently.

Note that multiple requests often come from the hungrier, second tier networks, many of which are growing quite rapidly. It’s worthwhile to create profiles with some of these, such as Dialectica, Atheneum Partners, proSapient, DeepBench, Ridgetop Research, Magellan Research, and NewtonX.

Your rate plays a role.

Third Bridge Group Top Earning Consultants
The highest earning experts at Third Bridge Group, through mid-2020

As you can see, experts have a pretty wide range of rates, even amongst the highest earners. There are many factors at play here, but ultimately it’s a function of supply and demand, with industry and seniority being the largest drivers. Some industries are really easy to find experts from (i.e music industry), others aren’t (i.e mining industry). If an expert has experience at a niche/difficult industry, they’re harder to replace and therefore can negotiate higher rates.

The average rate for most experts ranges between $250 to $500/hour, with a typical expert offering 2+ years of experience at a specific company. Many experts, especially higher earning ones, hold managerial roles because clients are interested in speaking with decisions makers.

Have a logical hourly rate. The majority of the projects we receive are market research or due diligence projects, which means the client is looking to understand the trends, dynamics, competitive landscape and future outlook of the industry. Less common are the strategy projects, where the client is looking to enter a market, or to invest in a market, where they are looking for an expert to solve problems.

If the project is a market research project, an hourly rate of $500+ does not make sense. It really doesn’t. It’s literally an hour of your time, that you’re not required to prepare for and that you can make while driving, while chilling by the pool, or while laying in bed. If your rate is too high, it’s not just that the client might not select you but it’s also that we might not even submit your profile over to the client.

One of the most important KPIs for associates at Third Bridge is cost. An expert with an hourly rat above $500 will drive the project cost to the roof and negatively impact an associate’s KPIs. So, we will look for someone with a lower rate, someone with a rate between $100 -$500. The rate for manager-level experts (account managers, sales managers, etc) ranges between $110 – $350. The rate for C-level executives ranges from $350 – $1,000. The $1,000 hourly rate is very rare, however. Typically they’re experts with 30+ years of experience in a super niche industry.

If you are new to an expert network or have only consulted a few of times, keep your rate at the lower end of the ranges provided above as you’re getting started. Once you’ve completed about five consultations and received positive feedback from the clients on all of them, ask for an increase of 100$ – $150.

Experts tend to assume rates aren’t negotiable, because associates make it seem like they aren’t. They are, but don’t take it too far. I once on-boarded an expert and explained that he will be compensated at 110$/hour. He was fine with that rate initially, but then he emailed me an hour later to tell me he won’t consult for anything less than 500$/hour. If he had said that had had thought things over, done a little research and felt that $200/hour was more appropriate, I would have increased the rate to 150$/hour. But to rudely demand an instant jump from $110 to 500$/hour when you’ve never consulted with us, and never consulted with any of our clients before? It ain’t happening. 

Be professional.

Additionally, building a relationship with expert network associates can also affect your project selection rate a bit. At Third Bridge, associates can add comments and feedback to the experts’ profiles. If you were ever rude, mean, or inappropriate, the associate will likely make a comment about it which will discourage others from contacting you about new projects. Similarly, if you were very nice and approachable, associates will leave positive comments that will encourage others to contact you.

I once called someone for a project, and explained to them how Third Bridge is a global company with offices in China, India, London and the US. He proceeded to make a racist comment. I highlighted this on his profile and he’s never been contacted for a project again. On the other end of the spectrum, I once spoke with an expert who asked me where I’m from. Turns out he has previously visited my country, and loved it very much. We spent much of that phone call chatting about his visits. I made sure to recommend him for every single project in the nursing homes industry as it was his industry of expertise (he had great experience as well, I wouldn’t recommend him just because I like him.)

Associates also add clients’ feedback to your profile. When our clients tell us that they loved speaking with someone, we definitely make a note of that. However, if you consulted on a project and received negative feedback, it’ll be added to your profile and you’ll receive fewer opportunities to consult. 

Name names on your profile

Make sure to add as many details to your profile at the expert network as possible. Add every industry you’re knowledgeable about, every company you can speak about, every product/service/solution you’ve purchased or been a part of the selection process of, and add your CV. We use keywords to find people through our network, so use them in your CV or profile.

Something you might have noticed as an expert is that in one month you’d receive 10+ consulting requests, and then months would go by without a single consulting request. The main reason for that is that instability and change drive our industry. If you’re suddenly receiving a lot of requests, it’s probably because a company in your industry is about to IPO, be acquired, is raising money, or there is a lot of investor interest in your industry. A month later, our clients’ interests have moved elsewhere.

Take advantage of that. You know what the ‘hot’ companies in your industry are, and if your are talking about a big piece of news from one of them at work, odds are that many expert network clients are too. Make sure that you continuously update your profile to include new companies that you know about, as well as your relationship to them (employer, competitor, customer, etc.) Read up about what’s happening, and accept every project sent your way. You have nothing to lose. You’re ought to be selected for at least one of these projects.  


To wrap up – being an expert at an expert network can provide you with many opportunities, besides just great compensation. It’s an opportunity for you to network with the most prominent investment and consulting firms in the world. Many people consulted a couple of times with our clients, providing them with great insights that the client decided to work with them on a long term basis. Other people found a full-time job through being part of an expert network. The current Head of HR at Third Bridge Group was initially an expert, and was then offered a job at the company. This is just to tell you to stay open for opportunities, you never know what’ll come your way.

How a “Regular Joe” Regularly Earns Several Thousand Dollars Per Month Through Expert Networks

Though expert network consulting opportunities tend to come in waves, I’ve consistently earned a healthy 5-figure sum from calls and surveys over each of the past six years – I can’t imagine that there’s an easier or more lucrative side hustle out there.  Turns out that you don’t need to be a Fortune 500 CEO to land these opportunities by the bucket load!  

I’m happy to share the strategies that I use to regularly land high paying calls from the top expert networks:

First, Get Found

When investors and consultants turn to expert networks to do a deep dive into a topic, they usually want to get a bunch of different perspectives, which includes opinions from current and former employees, customers, and competitors.   Three quarters of the projects I’ve done tend to revolve around a specific company, with the rest being broader overviews of a market or niche.  

Thus, when an expert network goes hunting for people to speak with their clients, it tends to be very keyword driven.  If the client wants to speak to former salespeople who worked for XYZ  company, they are going to immediately reach out to you if your LinkedIn or expert network profile says “salesperson at XYZ company”. 

Pretty straightforward, right?  

Expert Network Introduction
Drop in the names of the companies, industries and topics you’re familiar with into your well-crafted LinkedIn profile, and you’ll soon have a continuous stream of expert network consulting opportunities.

So think about ALL of the companies that you know fairly well and have interacted with meaningfully over the past year or two and make sure you specifically call them out, too.  Your current and former employers are obvious.  But what about your competitors?  If you spend a lot of time explaining to customers why your product is better than the other guy’s, you’re probably an ‘expert’ on that company, too – at least as far as an investor looking to get a broad variety of insights is concerned!

And don’t forget all of the products and services that you use in your work.  Say there’s a certain piece of software that you use regularly at work.  If you can articulate what you like and don’t like about it and if you anticipate using it for years to come or feel that it’s terrible and can’t wait to replace it with a new product that’s rapidly gaining traction, then you could be an expert in that as well.  Did you recently go through a big evaluation process to select a new vendor?   You’re probably qualified to speak about that whole product category, including valuable perspective on the companies that you didn’t choose to go with!

Make sure you list and regularly update all of these companies and experiences on both your LinkedIn profile and all of your expert network profiles.  It can (and should) be as straightforward as something like, “I am a customer and regular user of Product A, Product B, and Product C.  I recently led my company’s search for a new widget provider, where I evaluated Company X, Company Y and Company Z; I recently signed a new $100,000 contract to buy Company Z’s widgets.”  When I changed all of my profiles to this format, it probably tripled the volume of opportunities that started coming my way!

I want to offer one more important note on listing companies on your profile.  If you’ve had some success with expert networks, you’ve probably done multiple calls on the same topic or company.  Companies or niches that are attracting a lot of investor attention – often because they are about to announce an IPO, acquisition or key earnings release – quickly generate a large need for experts at multiple networks, so it pays to be in the right place at the right time.  If you can provide good insights on a hot company, make sure you clearly detail that front and center on your profiles.

Ok, now that your email is filling up with new opportunities, it’s time to focus on the next step:

Landing the Call

Getting contacted about a bunch of consulting calls is great, but unless you land the assignment they’re not going to help pay for that weekend away.  It doesn’t take much effort to differentiate yourself from the competition and land 50% or more of the relevant expert network opportunities that come your way.

Start by taking a step back and thinking about the two people you need to convince to hire you at sky-high rates for an hour of your time.  There’s the paying client at an investment or management consulting firm, and there’s the beleaguered associate at the expert network.  

It’s pretty easy to make them both happy.  Be responsive, be descriptive and be available.

When an expert network associate kicks off a search for experts for a new project, they shotgun out dozens of emails, texts and calls at a time.  Responding as quickly as possible gets you to the front of the line so there are lower odds of a project filling up before you are even considered.  It also signals to the associate that you will be responsive and make their lives easy for any follow up questions and scheduling.

When answering screening questions, invest a few a minutes in writing complete, detailed sentences. Again, provide the company/product names and keywords that you think they are looking for.  Never provide yes/no answers to questions about your experiences.

For example, a common screening question will be along the lines of, “Do you have experience buying XYZ products for your company?”

A strong, yet simple answer is, “Yes, I directly manage the $5 million budget for XYZ products at my company.  I have been a customer of Company A three years and Company B  for six months, plus I recently met several times with Company C to evaluate their offerings.”

Now, if the expert network or their client are trying to decide between two candidates for a call, are they more likely to pick the person who provides those kinds of details and specifics or the one who simply replied “Yes”? 

As I often get very similar screening questions time after time, I’ve created a document where I’ve pasted every answer that I’ve given.  This makes it really easy to provide quality responses to screening questionnaires in just a couple of minutes.

Finally, now that you’ve made them want to speak with you, make it really easy for them to schedule with you.  Provide your availability for the next seven days with your response and try to provide the largest blocks of time as you can; don’t forget about before and after your normal working hours if that’s feasible for you.  Making it convenient to schedule a call with you will absolutely help you to land more of them.

With your call all set, it’s time for the final step:

Make them Love You

Like any service, if you establish a reputation as a top provider, you’ll always have a steady stream of people looking to do business with you.  Expert networks are no exception, and associates tend to turn to well-regarded experts first when they have a project to fill.

GLG Consulting Projects
It only takes a few quality calls to establish yourself as the top expert in your field – and for the opportunities to start pouring in!

One of the simplest, but most important traits of a good expert is to be reliable and punctual.  I’ve heard from a quite a few associates that I work with that there are few things they hate more than experts who reschedule at the last minute or don’t show up for a call.  It’s embarrassing for them and adds to their workload.  It can take just one missed call or client complaint for them to blacklist you from their entire network.

So find a quiet place, make sure you have a good headset and connection and show up on time.  I also always try to block out some extra time, in case calls run long.  Services like GLG that pay by the minute will keep paying for calls that extend past the allotted time, so it’s always nice to be able to pick up a few extra bucks if the client wants to talk beyond the 60 minute mark.

Finally, I do like to go against the conventional wisdom that you don’t need to prepare for these calls. 

As calls tend to mostly revolve around the same few companies, I like to jot down a quick framework of everything I want to cover with the client so I can lead the call in a comprehensive and authoritative way.  I want to make sure that I deliver a few key nuggets, examples and rules of thumb, as those tend be the deeper insights that clients are so eager to get at.  During the call, I also like to check in a few times to make sure that I’m giving them the type of information that they’re looking for

Ahead of a call, I also like to spend a few minutes checking to see there are any recent news about a company that I may unaware of, so I don’t lose credibility if I’m unaware of a major news story that just broke.  If a company just put out a financial report, I’ll give it at least a good skim so that I know the key numbers and any new strategic developments.  It helps me provide sharper insights on calls, plus I often pick up useful tidbits for my day job as well.

I believe that some expert networks have formal rating or ranking systems that help determine the types and volume of project opportunities you get access too, and perhaps even the rate they are willing to pay you.  They certainly all make note of both good and bad client feedback about you.  So put in just a little bit of extra effort to stand out and you’ll often be rewarded.