An in-depth review of GLG, the world’s largest expert network
Overview of Expert Networks
If you’ve ever received an invitation to join an expert network like GLG, you may have been skeptical. These invites offer to pay hundreds of dollars an hour to give phone consults to clients. It sounds too good to be true, but expert networks are real and provide lucrative payouts if you’ve got in-demand industry insights to give.
GLG (which is rebranded shorthand the Gerson Lehrman Group) and other expert networks profit by capitalizing on your subject matter expertise. They are well-compensated middlemen, connecting organizations with consultants within their in-house “community,” aka “expert network.” Why do companies hire consultants? Because a single critical decision can cost companies millions of dollars, so paying a few thousand in consulting fees is peanuts in comparison.
Expert networks like GLG make perfect sense, which is why the industry now has almost 200 similar networks, raking in $1.5 billion in annual revenue. These networks are the bridge between experts and companies who need them. Investors and management consultants need straight talk from people in the trenches who can offer insights before they make an investment or a decision about a strategic direction to take. GLG’s clients need the “real story” from inside experts like you!
In return, GLG tacks on a sizable markup. For instance, the expert’s consulting rate might be $200 per hour, but GLG often charges its clients $1,000+ per hour for facilitating calls with industry experts who can deliver the straight scoop minutes after a phone call commences. Thus, we see the rationale behind those LinkedIn invites offering to pay you hundreds of dollars for an hour of your time. While at first these opportunities may sound too good to be true, for professionals who qualify such projects are real and accessible, with expert networks like GLG facilitating over 1 million high paying consulting calls each year.
What should you expect on a GLG consulting call?
So what does an expert do during a one-hour client call for an expert network project? Essentially, one of three things. They may offer a company deep dive, an industry overview, or a consultation with other consultants (we explore these “knowledge bomb” conversations in more depth in our Ultimate Expert Network Guide)!
A deep dive may be requested from someone outside of a company, like an investor wanting to learn more before deciding what position to take. Such calls dive into hard numbers, insights about management, opinions on what customers like or dislike about a product or service, and other data that can’t be found on reports.
The industry overview is broader. Often, a company speaks with several consultants to form a big picture about an industry, its customers, and its future. They might even ask what questions they should be asking!
The third type of call comes from consulting firms looking to improve offerings to their clients. They are offering expert services to a company but need to “phone a friend” when a new product is launched, or something isn’t going according to plan. Of course, anything they learn from you will appear to be coming from them when they pass it on!
The key benefit to the expert network system is clear—once a consulting call is finished and you hang up the phone, it’s over. They got something they needed, and your obligation is concluded. Then you get paid! It doesn’t get much easier than that.
Do I qualify as a subject matter expert?
After learning that expert networks are legitimate, many struggle to believe they’d have knowledge worth someone else’s money. It’s the biggest question we ask ourselves: “Why would someone pay so much just to talk to me?” Many experts report experiencing a brief period of self-doubt or a sense of “imposter syndrome,” but that fades quickly. When a new consultant starts hearing positive feedback from customers who benefited from the consult, that’s when they appreciate what they can bring to the table.
But how do you know if you qualify? Look again at the main types of calls—the company deep dive, industry overview, and consultation. Have you ever worked for a big company? Or within a particular industry for a long time? Have you ever trained or mentored another worker? If the answer is yes, you probably have something worth selling!
How do I set my GLG hourly consulting rate?
Networks pay a lot, but you don’t want to overvalue or undervalue your services! People in the early years of their careers may charge $75 – $150/hour with GLG, while senior professionals typically earn $200 – $300 an hour. Prominent experts are rumored to ask $5,000 per hour, though it’s unknown how often they get booked at that rate.
Worth noting — GLG pays by the minute, so your hourly rate is only a baseline; you’ll only get half of your hourly fee on a 30 minute call, but the meter keeps ticking if you exceed one hour. Meanwhile, they pay out like clockwork, usually 1 – 2 weeks after the call is completed. Keep in mind, the value of your insights depends on what they’re worth to the companies requesting them. Consider the salary for a professional football player. If a player puts butts in seats, they add massive value to the franchise, and can ask for astronomical salaries. They aren’t just getting paid for the work, but for the value they add.
Deciding on a rate that maximizes earnings without scaring off potential customers is like walking a tightrope. That’s why we’ve written a full guide on how to price your consulting services, covering details of variable and category pricing models commonly used by expert networks like GLG. The more you understand how they earn, the better you can adjust accordingly.
What are the downsides to consulting for GLG?
Consulting for GLG isn’t all sunshine and rainbows. It can be competitive as increasing numbers of qualified candidates enter the arena. Every network has its own internal rules, but if you position yourself well, GLG may send you a handful of project invites each week. You’ll likely only be selected for a quarter or third of them. Responding to invites taks 5 – 10 minutes and yes, it can be frustrating to receive more “no thanks” replies than “yes, please!” For those just getting started, it can seem demotivational.
Let’s take a look at what workers in the field have said about GLG, in terms of pros and cons…
Reviews and feedbacks about GLG
As the 800 pound gorilla of the expert network industry, GLG receives plenty of public feedback, listed on Indeed, Glassdoor, and even Quora. One of the top complaints about GLG is that work is sporadic, as these reviews on Indeed show:
“Consultation business. Work is infrequent but lucrative.
“Consult for top tier companies. Mergers and acquisitions, general consulting and special projects. Work is infrequent but can be lucrative if available in your specialized area.”
Here’s another one:
“Great company, occasionally get interest from clients. Very part term
“From time to time, someone needs specialized help that I’m qualified to help with, probably only about 5 hours a quarter. However, I’m compensated extremely well for this time. It’s very low pressure when deciding whether to take a project or not.”
A thorough review of GLG on Quora points out a few of the pros and cons, such as this quote:
“GLG associates are notorious for aggressively negotiating down rates, despite charging clients some of the highest prices in the industry.”
They are hard negotiators on fees and pay less than many other networks. They charge clients a fixed price (often $1,000 for an hour-long call), so the less they pay you, the more they keep. Alas, you still get to keep a lot!
As mentioned, perhaps the biggest downside to GLG is the process of getting picked up for projects. You’ll have to spend time reviewing and bidding. So how can you boost your odds of getting hired?
How can I win more GLG consulting projects?
Despite recent crowding of the field, there are strategic steps you can take to increase your odds of winning more projects. The first relates to being discoverable, so take time to research keywords you want to be found under, then create a keyword-dense profile.
One of the most intuitive ways to get more work is to be the first person out of the gate, so keep your eyes peeled for opportunities and respond quickly. Being the first person to reply isn’t always going to land you the gig, but it always makes you stand out.
Establish trust quickly by being honest and objective. First impressions count! The worst thing you can do is oversell your experience or abilities. Only apply to projects you are qualified to tackle and be candid when asked questions. Never deliver a promise you cannot keep, or you’ll tank your reputation quickly.
That said, you still have to sell yourself, so be descriptive in all your answers. Provide sufficient detail about things you’ve done related to the project, and include hard data, financial figures, and impact. Show how you added value in previous work situations and demonstrate how you might add value to your potential new client. Convince them that you’re worth the return on investment!
Overview of GLG
Gerson Lehrman Group (GLG) was founded in New York in 1998, originally focused on writing “sector-specific reports for investors.” Within a year, their core trio of Mark Gerson, Thomas Lehrman, and editor Alexander Saint-Amand realized the power of one-on-one consulting, which could often have a deeper impact than a cold, formal report. By 2003, they’d expanded operations to San Francisco, Boston, Los Angeles, and London, receiving a $30 million injection of investment capital to brand out into Chicago, Austin, and Washington D.C., as well.
Today GLG has a staff of over 2,000 employees and 900,000 experts working for them from virtually all business backgrounds. GLG essentially started the expert network industry as we know it, and it remains the largest company in this growing field!
What types of consulting projects does GLG take on?
GLG “serves clients on in-depth engagements and supports GLG’s client base of 1,400+ of the world’s leading corporations, investment firms, and nonprofits.” That client base consists of everything from financial services organizations to corporations and life sciences. GLG has opportunities for a wide range of specialized experts. For large projects, they may assemble a tailored team to work on objectives. In other cases, a simple 1:1 call between a client and an independent consultant (aka Council Member) may be all that’s needed.
GLG’s independent consultants come from all walks of life, with varying experience and seniority levels. They offer projects for people at all levels, across most industries, and from around the world. According to their Why Become a Consultant page, 39% were already working for top consulting firms, and 33% are former execs. Most GLG consultants work remotely and may live anywhere in the world. Indeed, only 31% are based in North America, while 48% live in either South America, Europe, or Asia.
Organizations are willing to pay hourly rates to discuss their strategic and operational problems, get market feedback, and test out ideas. This comes with enormous benefits for you as the consultant! They need to hear your insights and possible solutions, so they’re coming to you. That means you get to schedule appointments when it is convenient for you, you don’t have to prepare anything, and there is no follow up. When you hang up, you’re done except for the getting paid part!
Calls are usually quite interesting conversations that both parties end up learning something from, which is a bonus. Another less tangible perk is simply being considered and respected as a subject matter expert. That’s a status you worked long and hard to earn, so now is the time to reap the rewards.
Things to be mindful of include the handling of sensitive information. Consultants are not allowed to divulge trade secrets or any information they are restricted from sharing. Everything discussed must be authorized for public dissemination and all parties on a GLG call must agree to know and follow all legal and ethical rules and restrictions (GLG was busted in 2008 for their involvement with an insider trading scandal, but they learned their lesson and enforce compliance strictly, which also protects you from being asked uncomfortable questions by clients).
Other than that, there are few guidelines on how a call has to go. You’re the consultant, but the client sets the stage by telling you about their situations and asking questions. Your job is to listen and answer, for the length of the call. Not all calls are an hour long. In fact, technically, GLG pays you per minute, so if your call does stretch over an hour (which it often can if you keep the conversation going by adding additional insights), then you’re compensated for that extra time.
Meanwhile, calls aren’t the only thing you can do with GLG…
GLG uses Council Members to fill out paid B2B surveys (which can take from 10 – 20 minutes for $40 – $75), attend events or small group meetings, or team up with others to tackle small, complex projects. Consultants are free to choose what they work on. Some only want to do calls; others are happy to do surveys, get out of the house to attend events, or collaborate with others. For those seeking a bit more work, GLG also offers their clients interim and longer-term placements.
Is GLG a scam or are they legit?
GLG is a legitimate, global enterprise with almost a million paid Council Member consultants. They thoroughly vet the consultants in their network to ensure their clients receive exceptional service in exchange for the high fees they’re shelling out.
GLG is one of the oldest and certainly largest players in the expert network sector! They have physical offices in major cities worldwide, thousands of employees, and almost a million consultants on tap. You could be one of them!
How much should I charge, and how much can I earn at GLG?
GLG claims to have paid out $1 billion to their Council Members to-date. How can you get your share? By going online, building your profile, and setting your GLG consulting rate. According to the GLG customer service representative we contacted, the best way to get started is to build your profile featuring “a high-level summary of your background, experience, and skillset in the Biography section.”
After that, users can work on their Work History section and list detailed descriptions of their work history. Once registration is complete, that’s when GLG’s rate tool appears. This is where you can set a GLG consulting rate that you feel is sufficiently competitive yet fairly compensates you for your knowledge.
Be warned, GLG associates may try to negotiate your rate down. Do your research on what other Council Members are charging for similar services, then compare against other networks’ going rates. For example, a GLG consulting rate of $300 an hour might run $500 at another company, for a conversation with the same client.
Benefits of working as a GLG consultant
GLG not only pays for 1:1 phone calls, surveys, and projects, but Council Members can professionally benefit from the exposure to so many business execs and fellow consultants, which is invaluable if you use it as a learning opportunity. Another benefit is access to GLG Insight’s library of high-quality research articles, which can help inform your work with clients as well as potentially your own full-time endeavors. Council Members occasionally get to contribute to these pieces, which can lend additional credibility to your profile (which, in turn, always helps justify a rate hike!).
Some firms provide varying forms of free published research as a perk to their consultants; it’s usually pretty high quality (and in some cases, you can publish your own for exposure.)
One of GLG’s biggest selling points is its sheer size, because they have so many projects available. They operate in the Big Leagues of the expert network industry, scoping projects for companies both large and small. One of their bragging points is that they hand-select and recruit 200+ new experts a day. There aren’t many businesses that can say that. And because they’ve been around for so long, they’ve worked out most of the kinks and streamlined their process so it’s straightforward to find work on their trusted, compliance-oriented platform.
If consulting with GLG sounds like the perfect solution to make some extra money on the side from the comfort of your own home (or from some tropical beach with a mojito in your hand), you’re right!
Head over to their Why Become a Consultant page to learn more about signing up to get your high-paying side hustle on!