I previously asked a question as to whether or not StackExchange hurts a consultant's business because of all the free advice one can readily obtain here. Some felt that the advice given was for basic things and not of the nature of a true consultation. I think there is some merit to that view and now I am wondering if the opposite might be true. Do potential consulting customers actually hire consultants because they met them through StackExchange?

I have only been on for slightly over 1 month but I helped out someone with problems related to the binomial distribution and he subsequently contacted me to see if I would be interested in possibly doing some consulting for him in the future. I don't know if this proposed offer will ever come to fruition but it does lead me to believe that maybe some of you, particularly if you have been with StackExchange for over one year, have gotten any consulting jobs through StackExchange.

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    $\begingroup$ If residual consulting opportunities come your way due to your participation, that is one thing. But, I think the general philosophy of the network is such that someone who is actively promoting themselves in an effort to procure outside work is looked down on. This is even mentioned (tangentially) in the site FAQ. The consultants on stats.SE are usually pretty low key. I've seen the occasional attempt to take things off-network and I think that should be generally discouraged. $\endgroup$ – cardinal Jun 5 '12 at 18:40
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    $\begingroup$ It appears in my bio that I do private consulting. I do not adverties on the site unless this question sounds like advertising. The potential opportunity was initiated by the OP strictly because he liked the way i handled his question. $\endgroup$ – Michael Chernick Jun 5 '12 at 19:25
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    $\begingroup$ Yes, I know Michael. My comments weren't directed at you; it was a wholely general and abstract statement. In fact, if anything, what I was attempting to express was that what's happened in your particular circumstance seems perfectly fine and appropriate, in my view. $\endgroup$ – cardinal Jun 5 '12 at 19:29
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    $\begingroup$ I am still not sure anything will come of it. It is not uncommon for people to say that they plan to use you and never follow up. But it did get me to think of this question and i am interested in other people's experience here. $\endgroup$ – Michael Chernick Jun 5 '12 at 19:41
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    $\begingroup$ A friendly suggestion: @whuber (+1) has given a very nice answer, but leaving a question unaccepted for a suitable amount of time tends to draw more responses. If you think you've not yet heard the last word on this topic, you might leave the question open for a few days. :) $\endgroup$ – cardinal Jun 5 '12 at 19:44
  • $\begingroup$ Yes cardinal I understand that. $\endgroup$ – Michael Chernick Jun 6 '12 at 13:09
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    $\begingroup$ @MichaelChernick, after 5 years since asking the question, what is your opinion on the subject? Did you get any work through CV channel? $\endgroup$ – Aksakal Aug 21 '17 at 18:07

Good marketing is long-term.

Long ago I learned a new discipline (GIS, if anyone's curious) partly by participating actively first on a listserver (1996), then with my own listservers (1999), and finally on a Web-based Q&A forum (2002). I can trace a small amount of my consulting business (about 5% annually) directly to those contacts--but only beginning after four years of constant activity. However, I can trace a much larger amount (almost 100% in one year) to work obtained due to the reputation established in that fashion. That work has taken me physically to other continents and professionally it has allowed me to enter radically different application areas (ranging from the environment to telecommunications to real estate to medical studies).

I do not expect to make any direct business contacts through my activities on SE, but I do expect that if I generate a sufficient stream of high quality, visible, and memorable contributions over 4-5 years or longer, then people I would never otherwise contact may come to me with interesting consulting engagements.

Almost 30 years ago, when I left academia to start this journey, I worked for a struggling small company that almost daily asked, "What do we want to do? Why are we here?" This was both a corporate and a personal question. My personal answer always was, "I want to have the door to my office open so anybody can drop in and ask questions. I want to help them solve their problems." The Internet has enabled that to come true. On SE, my door is always open.

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    $\begingroup$ "I want to have the door to my office open so anybody can drop in and ask questions. I want to help them solve their problems." It sounds like academia lost a rare gem. $\endgroup$ – Graeme Walsh May 24 '13 at 2:09
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    $\begingroup$ It's all about credibility. Internet marketing has been my job for many, many years now. After trying so many things (and I wish I was more of an expert in something besides such a cliche' topic), I can say, especially after witnessing it myself repeatedly throughout the years, that Whuber "gets" it. He genuinely wants to help people and thus cannot "fake" credibility, enthusiasm, or genuinity. That's rare. It's easy to recognize users that are here for other reasons. Anecdotally, I've found users like this = bad quality. Special experts like @Whuber or Glen_B are searched long and hard for. $\endgroup$ – Taal Sep 10 '13 at 11:41
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    $\begingroup$ Heh, there's so much more to say in how I agree with this post so much, but I'll just try to leave it at that. I'll be referring anyone trying to "make it" in almost ANYTHING to this post as for some reason whuber seems to have a way of wording things in just the exact right way. $\endgroup$ – Taal Sep 10 '13 at 11:43
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    $\begingroup$ So, whuber, does your answer still stand after 5 years since answering it? $\endgroup$ – Aksakal Aug 21 '17 at 18:09
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    $\begingroup$ @Aksakal Very much so! I get several inquiries a year to work on projects or collaborate on research from people who specifically mention this site. I have also been able to use my posts (as well as those of others) as references or additional support for claims and explanations in my reports. More generally, the broad exposure to what's going on in ML and stats afforded by years of reading a large portion of the posts on this site has enabled me to engage in significant projects that I would have turned down or not even understood before. $\endgroup$ – whuber Aug 21 '17 at 18:18
  • $\begingroup$ @whuber, that's great to know, thanks $\endgroup$ – Aksakal Aug 21 '17 at 18:19

I endorse @whuber's answer.

In addition - in my role I am a hirer of consultants rather than looking for such work myself. I would be unlikely to go directly to someone on SE and ask them to do a consultancy task, as we have other ways of sourcing such people and SE is explicitly not set up for this purpose.

But hiring consultants (or staff for that matter) is difficult and high risk. If we were looking at several candidates, and one had a range of consultant-like work available on SE, I would certainly take the quality of this into account. If they were a high frequency SE contributor whose name I recognised I would certainly do so. I have been known to search for people on SE (and elsewhere on the web) to see examples of their statistical work.


As someone who is the owner of an online business which relies heavily on consultants of many different types and flavors - I'll summarize by saying ABSOLUTELY.

Why? Cross-validation. Or, at the risk of being semantically reprimanded for using that word in a more general sense, they've done forms of "work" or "their art" in a raw form and it's peer-reviewed. It's packaged into a points system and a useful profile I can view with links to other things questions/answers. Pending there's enough data, I don't know what more I could ask for in terms of determining their specific expertise(s) & the level(s) of it/them.

True expertise isn't the end all be all, but it's much harder to find than the ideal general qualities of someone you want to work with such as judging their enthusiasm for what I need them for, consistency, follow through, availability, communication, etc.

In fact, I wish it was more "acceptable" to contact others in this way on StackExchange...but that gets delicate. I don't want to dirty the spirit that drives the actual experts here to contribute by mixing it with consulting or business opportunities. I don't want to be that person violating the integrity of things. In a way, the way StackExchange inherently has drawn the knowledge and expertise it has is because of people's passion for the topics discussed as well as perhaps a few other reasons (the psychological value "points" may have).

I actually have used and continually use consultants from several different fields of expertise with all sorts of skillsets for many different quoted prices, from different countries, with different backgrounds and reviews, and even age ranges (one time I found a genius 14 year old programmer who was one of the best people I had ever hired...a year later he got offered a 6 figure salary from some company, lol). I have a tremendous amount of experience in figuring out who the right person is for the task I need accomplished - quickly too.

But, do you believe me? Should you believe me? All I did was write that paragraph.

Exactly. Maybe you want to figure that out though. How would you do it? In the same way someone could have a Ph.D. in a field I need help with or "worked for X/Y company" with references...that's nice but what did they DO? What have they done?

I care about watching them in action and seeing exactly what they've done. I want to review it and also, especially, have it peer-reviewed. And really, that's what makes the most sense. Get the rawest form of data and cross-validate it. Of course, I consider if someone has a Ph.D. or not, has experience at a company, etc. on their resume...but I don't believe it's anything like getting that "raw" work data.

I've been burned very badly by some consultants - to the point where...well to be honest...they could have broken my entire business. For example, with regards to programming specifically, I actually now require viewing a potential consultant's GitHub account (don't have one?...that means something already) to view projects they've coded. Then, I review their work in addition to having a few independent consultants I've hired purely to review a candidate's work (other experts in the domain) as well as other competing candidates review that person's work (I never have people do work for me for free of any form though) - which, especially with the latter group, yields interesting & extremely practical information in terms of their motivations as well as other qualities I need to know.

In saying all of this and considering the culture of the site....that if the person's profile insinuates somehow that "their door is open for business" I will take advantage of that and see what happens. I would do that MUCH, MUCH more than someone I met on Upwork, was referred to me, or I met in absolutely any other manner possible besides, perhaps, the authors of academic research...who tend to usually be busy with academia instead of consulting work.

  • $\begingroup$ Did you ever approach posters here with consulting opportunities? $\endgroup$ – Aksakal Aug 22 '17 at 0:13
  • $\begingroup$ @Aksakal I am going to attempt to soon. For example, I need math.stackexchange.com/questions/2395394/… solved. I also need the statistical validity of a research paper analyzed...although the statistics are written in C++ and also include aspects of biology. $\endgroup$ – Taal Aug 22 '17 at 10:58

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