This has happened to every consultant. You nurture a lead and gain their interest. They are interested in your services and have reached out to you about learning more. Excitement! You correspond back and forth for some time to realize that what they want is not something you are interested in or are unable to provide. Disappointing isn’t it?
From here you have a few options. If the potential client seems totally unreasonable in what they are looking for. They best thing you can do is send them an email explaining why what that are looking for won’t fit the budget that they have. Include some suggestions as to what what they want might actually cost. Offer some strategy or tips that they can implement on their own.
Another option, if the potential client seems reasonable, but what they want is beyond your abilities, consider referring them to a consultant that can meet their needs. This is a great way to build relationships with other consultants and maintain a positive relationship with that would-have-been client.
Tact is necessary in declining work with a potential client. Do not ever completely burn a bridge but instead try to work with the client in other ways be that offering a bit of advice or referring them to a different consultant.