What is an expert network? Well, an expert network is a platform where businesses can avail the services of subject matter experts on a freelance or on-demand basis.
Let’s go back a few years. The terms ‘freelance revolution’ and ‘digital nomad’ have been around for as long as a couple of decades, with people exploring alternate work lifestyles in a bid to break the shackles of traditional work schedules. However, the pandemic and its subsequent lockdowns have exponentially accelerated the rise of people exploring this avenue. Remote working has empowered both businesses and individuals to seek a win-win situation where talent is sought and hired on an on-demand basis.
What’s really pertinent here is the fact that the erstwhile gig workers that chose the expert network route, such as writers and artists, have been joined by people said to belong to the ‘Knowledge Economy’, such as academics, researchers and scientists. These subject matter experts are making the best possible use of the freelance revolution, offering guidance to companies across various domains, such as product development, regulatory and compliance management and marketing strategy, amongst others.
View Kolabtree’s top freelance experts.
This development has also seen the emergence of multiple expert network sites, aimed at acting as the ultimate liaison between experts and businesses. These networks typically have a large roster of experts across the globe, each skilled at a particular domain, such as medical writing, food science, data analysis or product consultation. Businesses looking for on-demand expertise either post their requirements and receive quotes from experts, or directly contact a freelancer from those listed on these expert networks.
Whether you’re a business looking to hire, or an expert looking to offer your services, here’s a list of the best expert networks in 2021.
Kolabtree offers a simple open user platform, enabling clients to post projects or contact subject matter experts directly for their business needs. Although catering mainly to biotech, pharma and medtech companies, the platform’s success stories also include other domains such as food science, material science etc.
The platform’s USP is its ability to connect clients with very niche expertise, such as when vegan startup Peggs managed to find a food consultant that could help them launch a new ‘vegan egg’ product. The platform also offers access to a variety of other experts, such as medical writers, biostatisticians and data analysts.
The obvious advantages to using this expert network is cost-cutting, and access to a wide range of global experts. As the world’s largest platform for freelance scientists, Kolabtree has the world’s top industry experts within its network, such as co-founders of companies working in the Covid-19 space, and freelancers who have worked with the NHS and the Medical Research Council.
Aside from a money back guarantee if the client is not satisfied, Kolabtree also operates on a no-minimum contract model, which means clients can consult the freelancers on a very flexible and on-demand basis. These factors make it a great expert network to obtain value for money, test ideas and also get in-depth counsel to take products to market.
However, the biggest USP of the platform is undoubtedly its assurance of confidentiality, with clients able to request freelancers to sign NDAs protecting their intellectual property. This makes Kolabtree the ideal expert network to approach in order to obtain consultation for niche ideas that are still in the works before being processed into a product or service.
The only downside for freelancers is the competition, as penning the right response to a project could spell the difference between landing it or missing out to another expert. For clients, narrowing down on the right expert from a global network of PhD qualified experts can be a challenge. However, drafting a precise project description could be the first step, and Kolabtree also helps by ranking their freelancers based on various factors, such as degree of activity and previous projects completed, to give clients the best possible chance of evaluating the experts before the final hire.
If you’re a client looking for a cost-effective solution, and don’t mind coming through a large number of proposals to narrow down on the ideal expert, Kolabtree’s global network of scientists can pretty much cover most of your niche business requirements. The diverse range of experts, ranging from medical writers to clinical trial consultants, cater to a large number of industries such as biotech and pharma, and the company’s foolproof security guarantee is a major advantage over several other platforms.
Guidepoint has a slightly different working model than traditional freelance expert networks. Instead of enabling clients to contact subject matter experts directly, Guidepoint acts as an active middleman, connecting clients with advisors on their platform. These advisors in turn act as consultants to the clients, offering their insights into the specific business case the client is enquiring about.
The obvious advantage for businesses is that Guidepoint acts as a concierge in the transaction, facilitating end-to-end conversations with an expert matching the requirements posted by the client. The platform ensures that it provides the client myriad options, drawing up a sufficient pool of relevant experts the clients can choose from. Although they have a large number of advisors on their platform, they are not averse to branching out on other platforms, such as LinkedIn, to ensure the clients contact experts most suited to their requirements.
However, clients have sometimes raised concerns about the high costs of the advisors on the platform, with the high-end experts charging hundreds of dollars per hour for a quick phone consultation. This might not be the best option for small or medium sized firms, but big companies looking for elite consultations on business strategies will definitely gain value.
For subject matter experts themselves, it can be a bit of a challenge obtaining projects frequently. However, the ones that do have the potential to earn big, even as much as hundreds of dollars for a phone consultation on anything from industry strategy to offering counsel on a detailed strategy for business growth. The flip side, however, is the fact that Guidepoint has almost a million advisors on their platform, and landing projects consistently might be tricky.
Reviews point to Guidepoint being a mixed bag for now, with their model of taking on the concierge model resulting in cases where consultants feel they are not exactly being paired with relevant clients and projects. This is emphasised in cases where advisors are asked to answer extensive questions to see if they fit the project, but are not compensated if they don’t. However, these are balanced out by cases where advisors are matched with relevant projects, giving them a chance to offer relevant expertise in exchange for a sizable monetary compensation.
Like with any expert network platform, the sector in which the clients operate is the deciding factor. With finances, healthcare and CGS being the main industries clients consult for on the platform, experts operating in these domains are likely to get more consistent projects on Guidepoint.
Catalant occupies a very similar niche as Kolabtree, offering businesses access to a global expert network that they can assess and hire for counsel and intel.
Catalant emphasises the ‘independent consultant’ approach, bringing out each individual’s unique background on their website, enabling clients to grasp the expert’s history before deciding to hire them.
Catalant’s expert marketplace provides clients access to over 70,000 independent consultants, giving clients enough options to choose from. In addition, the company utilizes a machine learning algorithm in order to recommend the perfect expert to their clients, increasing the likelihood of each project ending in a successful hire. It has its niches too, with corporate strategy, business development and product marketing consultants sought after more than others on the platform.
For freelancers, Catalant can be a great platform to make money, since it brings in significantly richer companies to its platform than traditional alternatives like Upwork. For clients, Catalant’s use of specialized algorithms to recommend freelancers can help them save significant time and effort to find the perfect expert, especially if you’re looking for a broad-level consultant in corporate strategy or sales.
However, finding truly niche experts might be a challenge on the platform, and you’re better off looking at more exclusive platforms for those skills. Another sticking point could be the platform’s rule that a client and freelancers cannot work together again for a certain period of time upon project completion, leading to hurdles if the client wants to rehire the same freelancer.
For clients falling into the niche that Catalant’s experts occupy, the platform can be a delight to use, with its large expert network and algorithm-driven matching process. If you’re after esoteric experts, however, you’re better off looking at more exclusive networks.
PreScouter comes with a brilliant yet tragic backstory. In 2008, over 300,000 babies were affected by tainted milk samples, whilst the technology that could have prevented that was enclosed in a university lab. PreScouter was subsequently formed to prevent knowledge from being locked up, and ensures that its global network of scientists and engineers help business leaders make crucial strategic decisions.
More than an expert network, PreScouter can be viewed as an open ‘think-tank’ platform that connects scholars and researchers from universities to real-world projects. Comprehensive reports are generated at the end of each project, with the company’s aim being bringing innovations from universities to the real world, as products that benefit society.
However, the company’s Global scholars program has come in for criticism in the past from freelancers, mainly for its modus operandi of picking grad students’ brains in exchange for making them ‘job ready’ with no actual monetary compensation, which the company has since revised.
For clients, the platform is very useful if you’re looking to test ideas or are after some external guidance from post-docs and university scholars on an affordable basis. It might not be the best place to look for detailed consultations, in terms of technical, regulatory or product development consultations.
Clora caters specifically to the life science community, instantly looking to carve out a niche to set itself apart from other expert networks. Their experts range from biochemists and biostatisticians to clinical project managers, covering a wide range of life science expertise required by their prospective clients.
Clora follows the conventional approach, asking clients to post a detailed project before matching them with a wide pool of expertise. With an aim to serve a global range of biotech and pharma clients, Clora recently acquired Legit.ai, a Massachusetts-based organization that developed a natural language processing engine which analyses thousands of publications and profiles in order to narrow down on the right expert for each requirement.
The platform is simple to use and highly effective for small businesses to find multiple services from thousands of experts. Their MI-driven matching process adds a layer of credibility to the shortlisted experts, ensuring that the clients get the best out of Clora’s expert network.
The only downside to Clora is the time it takes to find an expert, with the platform stating that they take upto 5-7 days to provide 3 unique experts matching the client’s requirements. While this is to make sure their experts are vetted carefully, it might not be a practical solution if the project is bound by time constraints, or if that level of screening is not required for that particular project.
A simple and neat platform for life science companies to look at for unique projects, but might not be practical for recurring projects that need to be completed quickly.
Comatch follows a similar marketplace model to most expert networks, matching small and medium enterprises to industry experts most suited to their requirements. These experts are spread across multiple domains and are quite flexible to client needs.
Comatch’s strengths are its ease of use and strong expert network. In addition, Comatch also proposes consultant teams as well as interim managers, encouraging clients that use their services to tap into some sort of hybrid work teams. Clients can use this remote expertise to solve internal business problems. The platform aims to make it really easy for clients to find the right expert, by simply asking them to fill a form in order to send them matching expert profiles.
However, this might be a downside for clients that prefer to browse for the right expert themselves, trawling through a wide range of options before narrowing down on the right fit. Their range of expertise is quite limited, with most of their consultants belonging to the project management space.
Apart from limited diversity, Comatch is a great platform for clients to find the right expert quite quickly, and eliminate high costs and effort along the way.
NewtonX claims ‘sophistication’ as its standout niche, promising to match clients with questions to the only minds that know the answer. Apart from a carefully curated and vetted expert network, the platform uses a specialized algorithm, termed the NewtonX graph, to identify the right expert for that particular client.
The attention and depth of detail is what sets NewtonX apart from other expert networks, with clients pointing out the extent of detailing that goes into the search process before they’re paired with an expert.
However, this could mean a longer waiting time for clients that have technical requirements that could be solved by tapping into the first qualified expert instead of waiting too long for an expert that ticks every box.
Ultimately, the platform is extremely efficient for obscure niche problems that require a precisely qualified expert to work on it, but might not be the best solution if time is a constraint.
Zintro offers curated experts for a wide range of services, including market research, project consultations and general consulting.
The expert network emphasises affordability as its selling point, making it a great option for small businesses looking for reasonably priced solutions.
The platform also offers the services of project managers who liaise with the clients to provide them with the right experts. This makes Zintro a great place to use for companies requiring specific services, such as market research or expert surveys. Whether it’s participants for a market study or consultants to conduct due diligence on a project, the platform acts as a great one-stop shop for client requirements.
However, the services on offer are quite limited, with diversity not really something the platform seems to emphasize on. If you’re looking for expertise outside of market research, financial services or 510k consulting, you might not find too many options on the platform.
A great platform for specific services, such as market research and survey groups, but might not be the ideal network to scout and hire for a wide range of services.
With remote working bringing about a truly global digital disruption to the way businesses view remote and hybrid teams, expert networks could usher in a whole new era of how teams are assembled. Freelancing is quickly turning into an attractive proposition for people operating in the knowledge or expert economy, such as scientists, researchers and scholars. Businesses that are trend- savvy and stay ahead of the curve are likely to be the ones that utilize this global network of top-notch expertise to keep their costs lean and enhance their business holistically.