The expert network industry is growing, and physicians are in a prime spot to take advantage of this. This article is all about how you can earn income from consulting with an expert network.
A brief intro to expert networks
An expert network business connects experts (aka advisors) with companies (aka clients) who are seeking information about a particular subject, industry, or product. Very generally, an expert network organization works as a recruiter to find an expert based on the client’s need. They then arrange a phone call, written interview, or in-person meeting with the two parties. The client gains information and pays the expert network in return. After taking their share, the expert network pays the advisor as an independent contractor.
The demand for expert network services has grown steadily in the past decade. It’s expected to continue to grow, based on this projection:
As physicians, we’ve had specialized education that you can’t get by doing a Google search. And we have a depth of knowledge and experience that an average business executive doesn’t have. This can be valuable to investors or companies looking to expand their products or services.
Not only can you earn some additional income by joining an expert network, you’ll probably find that the work is interesting and satisfying.
The best expert networks for physicians
Here are three of the largest and most popular expert networks that are easy for physicians to join. All three continuously offer engagements in the healthcare, medical products, and insurance industries.
If you’re interested in joining any of these expert networks, you can sign up contact me for a referral or sign up directly on the platform sites.
Coleman is the smallest of these three, but has an online portal that’s easy to peruse for engagement opportunities.
How to find an expert consult engagement and what to expect
Getting assigned to an expert consultation
The ways that you’ll get paired up with a client for a consultation vary by expert network. Some, such as GLG and Coleman, have online portals listing all their available projects. If you think one is a fit for you, you can apply. Other companies, such as Guidepoint, hand pick experts based on their profiles and past projects. In these cases, you simply have to wait for Guidepoint to contact you about a specific project. Having a detailed profile that highlights your expertise is critical to getting assignments.
Once you find a project in an online database or are contacted about consulting for a particular project, you’ll likely be asked to fill out a set of screening questions. You should expect this to take around 10-20 minutes. Rushing through the questions and providing vague information decreases your chances of being selected for the engagement. If you put thought into providing complete and helpful responses, the client is more likely to expect that you’ll give useful information to them during a call.
Some of the questions you may get asked in a screening are:
- Whether you’ve worked for a certain company or had involvement with the company in another way
- What your expertise is related to a topic
- What positions you’ve held in a certain industry
- Whether you can speak about a topic
- How you gained knowledge in a certain area
- Whether you can provide educated estimates about the trends our outlooks of an industry or product
After you’ve completed the screening, the client has a chance to review it. The expert network will contact you if the client is interested in setting up a call, and they’ll probably ask you for your availability.
Once you’ve landed an assignment
There’s nothing that you need to do to prepare for a scheduled call with the client. In fact, you’ll probably be told that you can’t do any research prior to the call or contact anyone else about the topic area. You should be providing your pre-existing knowledge.
At the time of your scheduled meeting, you’ll call in and may be asked to state your agreement to certain terms (for example, that you won’t give information that you’re not at liberty to provide). Then you’ll answer a series of questions from the client. In my experience, this is more like a conversation than an interview. The client wants to get information from you, and the best info tends to come during a discussion rather than an interrogation.
The calls I’ve completed have been scheduled for an hour. The actual time varies based on the area of focus and how verbose you are. After the call, be sure to check for instructions on how to receive your payment.
You can earn a high hourly compensation with expert networks
A client call through an expert network is likely to be worth your time. In many cases, the amount you can earn in an hour is comparable to the hourly rate that an expert witness might charge in a lawsuit case. You’re generally not allowed to do any prep work or research for the call, so your time spent outside of the paid phone call is minimal.
Expert networks typically pay their experts an hourly rate. You’ll usually be asked set your own rate, but some companies have a cap (though this may be flexible if you have an area of expertise that is uncommon but sought after by clients). When asked to provide a rate, don’t undersell yourself.
With a rate on the lower side, you may get more work (depending on your expertise). However, with a higher rate, you’ll make more in less time. It’s a supply and demand type of balance that you need to strike, depending on your own interest in expert consulting, how much time you have, and what you feel your time and expertise are ‘worth.’
Be aware that the expert network is charging the client significantly more per hour than you’re getting paid. That’s how they make their money. This shouldn’t necessarily impact your decision of whether to do expert consulting or how much to charge.. it’s just something to keep in mind.
A word of caution
Before you take your first call (and, in some cases, even before you make a profile), the expert network will require you to agree to their terms and conditions. This will include information on conflict of interest. Read the compliance information carefully, and revisit it before every consult.
If you have a conflict of interest, decline the engagement. If you’re not sure whether you have a conflict of interest, you should have a low threshold in declining an engagement or speak with a staff member from the expert network about your concerns.
Some expert networks have unfortunately been involved in allegations of insider trading. You don’t want to get involved in that. So read the fine print, be completely honest when writing your profile, and answer screening questions fully and truthfully.
Other options for earning income by expert consulting
These are only a few out of many expert network companies that accept physician advisors. You may find another with a certain process, mission, or industry focus that’s better suited for you.
The expert network industry is evolving, too. DeepBench is a new organization offering traditional expert consult, but with the aims of being completely transparent and offering an open marketplace for knowledge.
Another option is the online platform clarity.fm, which allows you to make a profile highlighting your areas of expertise and set a rate for consultations. Anyone – individuals or businesses – can then set up a call with you through the site. If Guidepoint, GLG, and Coleman are the full-service vacation rental management companies of expert networks, Clarity.fm is the Airbnb.
Some physicians have both the expertise and business acumen to remove the middle man entirely from expert consultations. It’s possible to set up and run your own business and charge an hourly or engagement-based rate for your expertise. This is most likely to be successful if you have a large network, are a well-known thought leader in a particular area, or are willing to put significant effort into establishing an online presence to advertise your services.