Project Idea: Consultant Market for PhDs

For academics with doctorate degrees, consulting on the side is pretty common.  But it’s mostly the gray beards who do all the consulting.  They’ve been in their field a long time and have had years to network their way into a steady stream of side gigs.  For younger PhDs, getting into the consulting world is a mysterious step.  Kind of like landing your first job, how does a PhD get into consulting if they’ve never been a consultant before?

Then there are the companies that need to hire a PhD for a short project.  I can’t find a good place for these companies to go.  One option is to call their local university, rely on alumni connections or cold call an academic department.  But it seems like a crapshoot, who knows if there will be anyone there that is even interested, has the time, or relevant experience.

I’m thinking a solution would be something like rentacoder.com or elance.com, but for PhDs.  So rather than a job board, it’s project based.  PhDs post their profiles, including academic resume, past consulting experiences, rate, etc.  There could also be a rating system as well.  Companies could approach individual users and request an interview.

On the flip side, companies could post projects and request applicants.

Unlike a rentacoder type site, the focus would be on quality and not price.  So there would be no multiple bidding for projects.  It would be more like a match making service.  I’m not sure any kind of escrow payment system would be needed either, but perhaps so.  Would make more sense to start without one, and see if the need is there.  I’m sure PhDs are bad at invoicing, so integration with Fresbooks or something similar could work.

I would charge companies to post a project.  PhDs would be able to post their profiles for free.  I would also give the PhDs the option to make their profile public, or only show it to paying customers.

The only competition I can find is typical job boards, and phds.org, but their focus is on full time jobs and don’t have too many project based posts.

The question is whether or not there is a big enough market for this.  To serve the existing base of PhD consultants, maybe not.  You would want to focus on bringing in younger PhDs into consulting, which is the most interesting to me anyway, to grow the market.

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