Why do we feel guilty when we have to say No!

SEO AuditThis is a very common scenario for us: We receive many requests from potential clients asking for advice which they think is simple, quick and easy, when in reality the request requires the attention of an experienced developer and SEO practitioner to answer the question’s posed. Here’s an example.

Hi Mick – We have a website but we don’t seem to get enough visitors, can you have a quick look at our website and advise us on SEO and other ways to get more visitors to our website?

The question is honest and well-meaning but…. My answer has to be as follows…

Sorry; but I can’t just have a quick look because to answer your question meaningfully I will need to spend around one hour inspecting your website, its technology, content, meta-data and other resources and once I’ve done the initial audit I’ll need to write a report for you that adequately answers your questions which will soak up another hour of time.

When you receive the report you will likely have more questions and we’ll speak on the telephone, Skype or emails and this will soak up a more time.

We get at least one request like this per day and if we “had a quick look” at every website we’d be working 10 hours per week for free, and like you, we can’t afford to work for free.

Common outcomes following a website audit:

  1. More often than not the audit uncovers such a multitude of errors and problems that we have to advise the client that it would be more cost effective to start from scratch with a new website…
  2. The cost of remedial SEO work and content creation needed to make a significant improvement is restrictive for many small businesses so they seek “cheaper” alternatives (which don’t really exist).
  3. The client takes our free advice and implements it themselves (which is cool). Except that they profit from our knowledge and experience and we don’t benefit at all.
  4. The client accepts our advice and commissions us to carry out the remedial work or to build a new website for them.

It goes without saying that option 4 is great for both parties, but in reality most people who ask the above question have either bought a cheap website or built their own DIY website and they take the “free” advice and implement it themselves and do not become clients. That’s just the nature of the beast and we accept that.

So why do I feel guilty when I have to say No?

Given that its accepted businesses charge for their products and services I have two questions:

  1. Why do people think that valuable advice should be freely given at the expense of the consultant
  2. Why do I feel guilty when I have to say NO – I’m sorry, we can’t offer that service for free?


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About Mick Say

Mick Say is an Online Business Development Consultant. Mick's goal is to help UK businesses to develop meaningful online marketing strategies via the development websites and digital marketing resources engineered to inform and sell.


  1. Phil Whomes says:

    All good points, but before I even looked at the site I would ask what their business objectives were and how their online presence fitted in with these and their other routes to market.

    • Absolutely agree with that Phil – but all that and many other questions are part of a deeper website or content etc, audit which is needed if the question is to be answered meaningfully.

      Have a great day Phil and thanks a million for commenting.


  2. Not entirely sure why this is, but some industries just seem to fall into the ‘we expect you to advise us for free’ category. Digital marketing definitely falls into that. I know many companies who have experience with clients who have been really affronted because they wouldn’t freely hand out this knowledge.

    You wouldn’t expect your dentist or your mechanic to work for free.

    • Hi Jo – True enough.

      The catalyst for me was two years ago when I presented to a successful catering company. Following my SEO and Content Audit (and technical issues) with their website which was created by a third party. They asked for a copy of my research and notes. Which like an idiot, I gave them. It came to my attention later that they gave my Audit and Technical notes to the original development company who used them to repair and improve the website.

      Once bitten 🙂

      Have a great weekend.. Mick