Negotiating a fee with an SME

Hi all

How much should one expect to pay for the services of an SME? I know this is quite an open-ended question but I would like to focus with particular reference to reusable course content and one-off bespoke courses.

If I ask an SME to write me a generic course that can be sold to many different companies, how much should one pay when compared to the writing of a course which can only be used by one company?

For generic, resaleable course content, my current thinking is to either pay nothing or a small upfront fee and then a commission/ royalty for every time the course is sold. Is this the done thing?

If I were to pay a one-off upfront fee with resale rights, I imagine the fee would be much higher but by how much?

What do SME's in the industry expect and how protective are they of their courses? I imagine a lot.

Any feedback would be appreciated.



4 Replies
Cathy Moore

Obviously, this would all depend on the SME.

For example, if you approach a famous SME, you'll have an easier time selling the course ("Written by Dr. Famous!"). If the SME is interested in selling the course to their own clients, then it might be feasible for both of you to just contribute your time to the writing and development and divide up the sales. This would require a lot of trust on both sides.

If you approach a less-famous SME who isn't interested in helping to sell the course, you might need to pay an advance plus royalties or buy the content outright. For ideas, you might look at online forums where writers talk about the advance & royalty deals that they get.

You might consider repositioning this as "How do I approach consultants in [field] and offer to develop elearning for them?" It seems like a lot of consultant/presenter types are getting interested in elearning, and they certainly have content. For example, you could offer to develop online versions of their materials for them in exchange for the right to also sell those materials through your site.

Rob Tait


I agree. I've been thinking about it more and it will depend on the SME. I don't think there will be a "one-model-fits-all" method. It will depend on the SME's personal circumstances, how old the courses is and does it need updating, etc?

I think for those courses that need updating every year (as new legislation comes out for example), a royalty based approach would be best. For permanent, unchanging courses a fixed upfront fee could work but I imagine all SME's would want a cut of future sales of their work. However, as you rightly say, it will involve a lot of trust and the method used will also depend on my track record of selling so the method used could change over time as I can provide more evidence of successful sales.

Thanks for the feedback.