We tend to think of consultants as people who advise us how to do things, but surely a good consultant occasionally advises you not to do something.
A good lawyer will advise you not to pursue a grievance if he or she can see that it will not be worth the time or the money, let alone the stress. He or she might not even charge for that advice, even though it will have saved you a great deal of money.
At Select Ideas, we were recently asked to quote for building a website. After discussing the project and asking the client exactly what she hoped the site would achieve, we advised her that her money would be better spent another way.
So no website and no fee. We hoped it was worth being thought reliable consultants rather than ones who earn money by encouraging people to do things they don’t really need.
You could ask for a fee up front, before saying anything. After all, in the world of fine art, just saying “don’t buy that picture” might save an inexperienced collector millions, rather than hundreds, of pounds. Such advice, based on years of experience, is surely worth paying for, even before the client knows what it is.
Websites aren’t in the same league as paintings by great artists, but I do know of cases in which a client has spent tens of thousands on a website that does all sorts of things they don’t need, and doesn’t do what it should. Don’t you?