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, AlphaSights, and Coleman, then identify smaller players as well. 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.

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.