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A collection of anonymously contributed client horror stories from designers.
Updated: 21 weeks 4 days ago

Don’t miss your chance!

21 March 2017 - 3:20pm

Today’s the day.

In just a few hours, our editor-in-chief will:

  • Give you step-by-step advice for filing your freelancer taxes
  • Answer your specific money questions
  • Wear a funny hat? Who knows! Register to find out

The author of Hell to Pay and an unlucky freelancer who has to file taxes in two countries – Canada and the USA – Bryce, our editor-in-chief, wants to share his straightforward and to-the-point advice for dealing with your freelance finances. 

Because if there’s one thing more compelling than filing taxes, it’s listening to someone talk about them. 

We’ll be honest: Bryce isn’t an accountant, and there are over 30,000 pages of federal tax law in the USA. He won’t be able to address each and every hypothetical scenario for filing taxes, nor will he be able to outline the minutiae of specific state laws and loopholes. 

What he can do is give you all the advice you need and the guidance necessary to file your taxes quickly and successfully. 

> Don’t miss your chance!


This live event is free! If you can’t make the scheduled time, you can still access the recording by registering for the event. 

Client: we want you to draw this house, try to keep it close to the reference image we sent you....

21 March 2017 - 1:40pm

Client: we want you to draw this house, try to keep it close to the reference image we sent you. It’s very important that the house has to be recognisable to the test readers as a house in Uganda.

I did a bunch of research about Ugandan homes, they approved the final sketches, but when I sent them the finished drafts:  

Client: Can you make it look more like a summer beach house?

Me: Uganda is kind of inland. If someone had told me that was the look we were going for, I would have done a lot of this differently…

Client: Well, we just thought of this now.

Should you be working for profit or pleasure?

21 March 2017 - 11:00am

Defining success, setting expectations, and avoiding clients from hell. Chris Hawkins of the 100K Freelancer Podcast joins Bryce to discuss all these things and more. 

S'a good one this week, guys. 

Do you have a question of your own? Shoot us an email

Want to support the show? Leave us a review on iTunes!

Questions? Episode ideas?

Talk to Clients From Hell or Bryce Bladon on Twitter. Or shoot us an email

Clients From Hell on iTunes | Soundcloud
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Client: Why do I have to pay a monthly fee for the module? Me: That’s the official pricing, set by...

20 March 2017 - 3:20pm

Client: Why do I have to pay a monthly fee for the module? 

Me: That’s the official pricing, set by the company.

Client:Can’t I just pay the fee once?

Me: Well, this is the official pricing. I can forward your request to the management.

Client: I spoke to them already, I’m not optimistic.

Me: I’m sorry, then there’s nothing I can do.

Client: I pay for the main app already! Why do I have to pay additional monthly fees for this module?

I took on a freelance gig for a friend of a current client. I’d not had any issues with the current...

20 March 2017 - 1:40pm

I took on a freelance gig for a friend of a current client. I’d not had any issues with the current client and since this is one of her close friend I assumed this would be similar: I was wrong. It was a job involving close to 100 double sided cards, explaining a very obscure concept to children: I didn’t understand the language used on the cards, which should have been my warning sign.

Client: I want to see what all the cards look like but I only want to pay for 1 to start with. 

Me: That’s not really how this works, however because you have a tight deadline, here are some rough mockups of the others for you.

Client: GREAT! I am happy with all of these so let’s proceed. I’ll send you all the content.  

She then disappeared and did not respond to any emails for week. Then, when she did resurface, she ignored all my questions and pushed back, asking why I “haven’t been doing anything.” All while completely ignoring our work timeline. 

I continue on with what I can do (50+ card backs of text layouts). 

Me: I have a significant portion done that I’m ready to send, but I’m waiting for your deposit before I send them over. Where do we stand on that? 

Client: Just so you know, I have your commencement invoice but I’m not prepared to pay that because you haven’t provided me any of the final print ready files and I want to have all of those before I pay anything.  

Me: One: I have sent multiple drafts and mock-ups, so you know that I have completed a great deal of work. Two: I will not release the full print ready files until I receive some sort of payment. Three: that is really not how commencement payments work. Four: I went over my payment terms with you several times and you agreed to them.

She then sent me the longest text message chain known to man explaining why this project was a disaster. It ended with:

Client: THIS IS YOUR FAULT. I am not going to skip out on paying you but I am not paying you! 

I wished her the best and informed her that I will not be working with her any further.

Then I blocked her number, just in case.

DEAL: Vintage font family for $9 — save 82%!

19 March 2017 - 3:20pm

This week’s deal is one badass font family for $9  — that’s a savings of $40 on its regular price of $49!

The Eveleth font family is 16 complementary fonts that bring a faded, vintage look to your designs. With several different fade effects and weights, support for multiple languages as well as design extras like spurs, shapes, icons and icons, these fonts will immediately up your vintage design game. 

Normally these fonts sell for $48, but for a limited time you can save 82% and pay only $9 for the whole set!

> Check out the deal here!

I’ve been a freelance writer for 21 years and a freelance book ghostwriter for 10, and even I still...

19 March 2017 - 1:40pm

I’ve been a freelance writer for 21 years and a freelance book ghostwriter for 10, and even I still make stupid mistakes… like giving clients a break on my fee. Never, ever do this. I had an author from the West Coast with a really interesting book idea and a comprehensive outline. Outlining is a big part of my task, so when he sent me the outline and asked if I might drop my price a bit, I said “What the hell.” First mistake. 

I should note that this gent is quite affluent, so he could have paid my fee with no trouble. 

Predictably, over the coming weeks, his entire outline got thrown out and we went back to square one.

Second mistake: I mentioned that I could throw together a quick book proposal for him if he wanted to seek a publisher. This turned into him guilting me into doing a full-length proposal, a project for which I usually charge $8,000. Did he offer to pay me for the extra work or even thank me for it? Perish the thought. 

Over the ensuing months, this hell-client managed to get me to edit speeches for him and even design a reader quiz, all without fee or even thanks, simply because I had established myself as a pushover to an author who was an entitled narcissist. The final straw was the seventh draft of an initial book chapter that we both agreed I absolutely crushed. It was perfect. No more changes needed. Until the next day when my client sent me a page of them. 

Your faithful idiot (me) went back to my contract and, to my horror, realized that when I had updated my work for hire agreement, I had removed the typical “three rounds of revisions” clause, leaving myself unprotected from the client’s endless changes. 

Camel’s. Back. Broken. I fired the client the next day, ate the remaining fees I had coming, and breathed a sigh of relief. To my knowledge, he’s still editing his chapter two months later. 

The moral of the story: we’re all susceptible to wanting to be kind, but to quote Admiral Akbar, it’s a trap. Clients who want to work with us can pay our full fees and pay us for any extra work. To do otherwise opens us up to being taken advantage of. In fact, I’m raising my fees. 

So this client tells me he doesn’t want any blue on his site. After some changes, I call him...

18 March 2017 - 3:20pm

So this client tells me he doesn’t want any blue on his site. After some changes, I call him back.

Me: I removed all the blue and replaced it with the desired colors, as you’ve mentioned.

Client: No, no, no. This is all wrong. I said no blue, why is there blue in there?

After 2 hours of terrible explanation, I find out he wanted me to change the blue hover in the dropdown menu ( the <option> tag).

Client: For my logo, I’d like the company to be listed as “[Company Name] Law”.Me: Great sounds...

18 March 2017 - 1:40pm

Client: For my logo, I’d like the company to be listed as “[Company Name] Law”.

Me: Great sounds good, I’ll put some concepts together.

Me:
 Here you go. Let me know your thoughts.

Client: I love this one, but it can’t say the word “law” after our company name.

Client: Any update on that banner?Me: Yes, I actually sent it over a week ago.Client: Send again,...

17 March 2017 - 3:20pm

Client: Any update on that banner?

Me: Yes, I actually sent it over a week ago.

Client: Send again, never got it.

Re-sent and another week goes by.

Client: Hello? Where’s that update?

Me: I sent it two weeks ago. I’m sorry it’s not going through – I’ll resend.

This happens a third time.

Client: All I’m seeing is this….

He sends me a screenshot of the google-drive invitation to the use the banner.

Client: None of the flyer changes I wanted made were made. Also, a word is still spelled wrong on...

17 March 2017 - 1:40pm

Client: None of the flyer changes I wanted made were made. Also, a word is still spelled wrong on all the flyers, which is UNACCEPTABLE considering this is the THIRD time I have asked it to be changed. 

Me: You’re looking at the original flyer draft, not the one I sent you this morning.

Also, it was the first time she noticed a spelling mistake, not the third. 

"I didn’t want you to design my website! I wanted you to teach me how to do it because I want to..."

16 March 2017 - 3:20pm
“I didn’t want you to design my website! I wanted you to teach me how to do it because I want to design it myself! You’re a terrible professional!”

- An e-mail from an ex-client.

I was designing brochures for an upcoming conference for accountants.Client: I think it looks okay,...

16 March 2017 - 1:40pm

I was designing brochures for an upcoming conference for accountants.

Client: I think it looks okay, but it’s not very “glamorous.”

Again, this was a conference brochure for accountants.

Accountants.

I slapped a red carpet and a big gold star cropping the skyline and re-sent.

They loved it.

I had been working with two people at the one business. One person ‘on the ground’ and another at...

15 March 2017 - 3:20pm

I had been working with two people at the one business. One person ‘on the ground’ and another at head office who my conversation below occurred with. This business is relatively well known in the industry I work but this is the first time I have invoiced them directly.

Client: Hey! Thanks for the invoice, just one thing - can you please put the tax amount in dollar figures on a separate line? Thanks again!

I completed this, then sent it.

Client: Thanks for the update. Can you please put the percentage amount tax in brackets after the description of the tax? 

Seems odd as the GST amount is 10% and is standard across the country. Anyway, I completed and send it through

Client: Thanks for doing that. Just noticed - you forgot to put “The” in front of our business name. Can you fix that and send it through? 

A little red flag went up in my head at this point, but I complied and sent it through.

Client: Sweet! Now, can you update the address? You’ve included our street address, but it needs to have our mailing address on it instead to be paid. 

That flag got a bit larger, but I made the change.

Client: Cool. Sorry to be a pain, but our accounts team won’t pay it unless you put the department you worked from on the invoice as well. 

I then put the client who I’ve been dealing with’s name, city and then all the details needed into the invoice and send it through as a PDF like the previous four versions.

Client: Awesome, slight hitch - accounts hate getting invoices as PDFs. Can you send through as a Word doc? 

That flag was now high in the sky and waving madly. I complied. 

Client: That’s perfect, thanks. Because you’ve put the name of the guy you’ve been dealing with on the invoice, it is now an invoice directed to him. It’s now up to him as to whether or not it is paid because it’s no longer a business invoice, as it has his name on it. 

Me: Sorry about that, I can remove his name and resend it if you like. 

Client: No, that’s not how it works. Invoices are a “one shot to get it right thing,” surely you know that by now. I’ll be in touch next time we need your services. Thanks! 

No replies since, and no - I still haven’t been paid. 

I had a client who was upset that I charged for meetings after the initial few. Apparently he...

15 March 2017 - 1:40pm

I had a client who was upset that I charged for meetings after the initial few. Apparently he misinterpreted me telling him that I’m usually “pretty free during the day.

Here’s an excerpt from his (long) email where he expressed his frustration.

Client: When I suggested that we meet in person to discuss, I was a bit surprised to see that such a meeting would be billed at a rate of $XX/hr and that your reason was that it is more efficient for you to communicate by email. My reason for suggesting an in person meeting was that I believed it would save us both significant time if we were both in the same place looking at the same thing versus trying to get to agreement over several emails over several days. 

I have also taken the time to review your contract and it only mentions the $XX/hr fee for work outside of scope.  This meeting would be regarding work within scope and during normal business hours.

I guess he thought as long as we were talking about the website we were “within scope.”

The weirdest thing was that this client was also a freelancer.

Last year, a client approached me with the desire to create his own non-profit website. We...

14 March 2017 - 3:20pm

Last year, a client approached me with the desire to create his own non-profit website. We had worked together in the past and those experiences left a positive impression on me. I was happy to work with him again! 

I expected the venture to take a month, maybe two. What I didn’t expect was over half a year of “urgent” messages in the early hours of the morning with a list of changes he wanted for the following day, ignoring the fact that this was a side job for me.  

He ignored suggestions, drafts, tips and any form of collaboration. I learnt increasingly as the months went on that, while he had a desire to create a site, he didn’t actually know what he wanted the site FOR. He said he wanted it tailored to a specific audience but he didn’t know what that audience was.

Towards the end of six months of flailing, he hired his FOURTH professional artist (after being dropped by the other three) to create “beautiful adverts” for his new site also “as soon as possible,” a service costing him several hundred dollars.

In the closing week, he asked me to write recommendations for his site promoting my competitors, removed credits (both for the artist and myself), and approached me about writing and maintaining the site for free, indefinitely.

Client: I don’t want to pay anything to own a site.

The only times he would mention my name in conjunction with the site is if someone didn’t like one of his design choices, because he would scapegoat me.

Last I heard, he was using this site to launch four simultaneous and unrelated “careers.” I’d say I wish him good luck, but, well… I don’t really.


> Want to know if freelancing is for you?

I had written a TV ad for a Government client that mixed live action of people with animated...

14 March 2017 - 1:40pm

I had written a TV ad for a Government client that mixed live action of people with animated woodland animals to convey that happy, zip-a-dee-doo-dah vibe of someone benefitting from tax credits (as you do). Think Disney cartoon bluebirds and cutesy bunnies and you’ve got the picture.

At the customary pre-production meeting, everything went well, with client approving our casting, location and costume selections. She did, however, have one question as she flicked through the shoot schedule -

Client: Where’s the vet? There’s no mention of a vet on set?

Me: We don’t need a vet.

Client: Legally, we do. We need to ensure the rabbits are properly treated.

Me: What rabbits?

Client: (jabbing finger repeatedly on to the script) It says here that “our hero is surrounded by rabbits.”

Me: They’re animated rabbits.

Client: I don’t care how lively they are, we can’t film them without a vet.

I was working on a site for a client that was eventually going to sell hand-made crafts, but...

13 March 2017 - 3:20pm

I was working on a site for a client that was eventually going to sell hand-made crafts, but initially just wanted something to showcase her work.

I produced a really nice page for each of her products, and a gallery side-bar that opened into a slideshow.

Me: Hey! Give me a call and we’ll hash out the fine details and fix anything that’s in error. I’ve added some filler text but we’ll replace that soon enough. I also added the events listing you gave me.

Client: It looks good. I noticed an extra apostrophe somewhere, so maybe fix that. Other than that, I think it’s fine. I’ll give you some updates on the text later.

She then took up the rest of the meeting complaining about non-site related issues. I did some editing, fixed the extra apostrophe, and thought we were golden.

A week and a half later, I got this text:

Client: Do not do anything else to the website. I got booted from a vending spot because you listed the event before the coordinator OKed it and I have people complaining about the FALSE INFORMATION that YOU PUT UP.

Me: You mean… the stuff that you went over and said was fine for now?  That information?

She still owes me hosting fees and is claiming they should be deducted because of “potential income loss.”

Taxes are hell

13 March 2017 - 1:40pm

Luckily for you, the Clients From Hell team knows a thing or two about dealing with hellish situations. And we want to help. 

On Tuesday, March 21st, our editor-in-chief – the author of Hell to Pay: A Freelancer’s Guide to Finances – is hosting a free webinar on taxes and all things freelancer finances. 

Here’s what you need to know:

  • We’re not going to waste your time: the tax stuff should be covered in the first 15-20 minutes. 
  • Registrants can ask their personal finance questions during the live event
  • There are all sorts of bonuses for registering, like a short, step-by-step guide to filing your taxes. 

So if tax time is giving you trouble – or you want to learn how to charge your clients more money – join us on March 21st. 

As always, only registrants will receive access to a recording after the event finishes. 

> Let’s show the taxman who’s boss

A freelance DJ and video producer's tangled web of deceit

12 March 2017 - 8:26pm

Transitioning from full-time radio jobs to becoming a freelance video and audio producer: Steve Folland of the Being Freelance podcast joins Bryce to discuss his freelance journey. 

Find Steve on YouTube, Twitter, and Instagram

Do you have a question of your own? Shoot us an email

Want to support the show? Leave us a review on iTunes!

This week’s episode is sponsored by the new edition of Hell to Pay: A freelancer’s guide to making good money. 

Bryce’s popular guide to freelance finances has a brand new edition out, featuring…

  • An expanded tax section with step-by-step instructions for filing your freelance taxes
  • More money-making advice
  • New tactics for negotiating a higher rate

As always, Hell to Pay teaches you:

  • How to determine your rate
  • How to charge your clients
  • How to earn better money with less work

Buy now and get the new edition when it launches in late March! 

Podcast listeners save 40% with coupon code: CFHPodcast

> Let’s make good money!

clientsfromhell.net/helltopay

Already bought a copy? No problem: you get the new edition for free – expect an email regarding that soon. 

Questions? Episode ideas?

Talk to Clients From Hell or Bryce Bladon on Twitter. Or shoot us an email

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