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A collection of anonymously contributed client horror stories from designers.
Updated: 13 weeks 5 days ago

I work as a salaried translator for an insurance company that is connected to a bank. In addition, I...

12 March 2017 - 4:20pm

I work as a salaried translator for an insurance company that is connected to a bank. In addition, I do a bit of freelance translating on the side, mostly through agencies.

One Thursday afternoon I got a phone call from an agency I had worked with many times before; however, the agent on the line was new to me.

Client: Bonjour, we have this small rush job that absolutely must be translated before Monday.  We know you are fast and good - will you translate it for us?

Me: I’d love to help.  Who is the client?

Client: Ah, let me see - oh yes, it is [X] Bank.

Me: I’m sorry to have to decline, but it’s written right in my freelancer profile that I won’t do any work for banks or insurance companies, because I already work for one and there is a potential conflict of interest.  

Client; Ah bon? Well, then, don’t do it for the bank, honey - do it for me!

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12 March 2017 - 2:40pm

This week’s deal is a doozy – 10 gorgeous premium font families with a hand drawn flair for only $9! 

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All together, these fonts are worth $147, but if you act now you can get them all for only $9, or 94% off. That’s an incredible bargain. 

> Check out the deal here. 

"Stretch or squeeze to fit without distorting the creative."

11 March 2017 - 4:20pm
“Stretch or squeeze to fit without distorting the creative.”

I have a client who absolutely cannot imagine anything and needs to see everything. Recent...

11 March 2017 - 2:40pm

I have a client who absolutely cannot imagine anything and needs to see everything. Recent requests include:

Client: Please visualize how this existing page of our website would look if this text was changed from “buy our product here” to “buy this product here.”

Client: Edit this screenshot of our homepage and replace this picture here.

Client: Change it back to the old picture, but zoom in a bit.

Client: Can you show us different options? What would it look like with the new picture and old text; as well as old picture and new text in a different font size?

Every single change, no matter how minor, needs to be ~visualized~ in an edited screenshot first. It usually takes about five revisions with at least three alternative versions until a minor edit gets signed off on. This also usually happens mere days before a big launch of a new product, which, of course, also needs its own subsite. Said subsite will go through the exact same process.

They always pay on time and don’t have any problems with paying for three hours of work for a simple text change that could’ve been done in five minutes. So really, money is not the issue, but this is taking years off my life.


> Want to know if freelancing is for you?

I haven’t done freelance design since I was a teenager. The majority of the work I produced in my...

10 March 2017 - 4:20pm

I haven’t done freelance design since I was a teenager. The majority of the work I produced in my youth were embroidery designs, logos, and websites. These works were for paid clients who were a joy to work with. However, I was under constant pressure from my parents to edit photos and do work for their own business at no cost. Later, I was even guilted into designing a bespoke website, logo, and brand image for my sister’s cake business for a paltry $60. 

After years of this I had the good sense to get a degree in engineering, and adamantly informed my parents that I no longer do design work. I thought it would end there. Now, years later, my mother wanted a redesign for her website:

Me: Okay so how much are you going to pay me?

Client: I’m not gonna pay you for it!

Me: Then I can’t do it.

Client: You did it for free last time.

Me: I have my own house now. I don’t rely on doing work I don’t want to do for no pay.

Client: Okay then can you show me how to just take the code and use it? Isn’t there a way I can just copy their code and put my own pictures in? 

She shows me her competitor’s website. 

Me: Mom… No.

I explained to her that it was illegal to do so but she was insistent on stealing the competitor’s web design. The competitor is a stone’s throw from their own shop and they share the same customer base. She thinks no one would notice, “as long as we change the colors.”


> Want to know if freelancing is for you?

I am a college senior doing freelance web design to scrape up some extra cash. My current client is...

10 March 2017 - 2:40pm

I am a college senior doing freelance web design to scrape up some extra cash. My current client is a well-respected public speaker who needed a professional website. After just starting development the day before, the following interaction occurred Friday afternoon as I was about to leave his office:

Me: Alright, I have created a template of what the home page of the site will look like. Let me know if this is the feel you’re going for and I can expand it from there. 

Client: Looks great! Please finish the website and wrap this up by the end of today!

Me: Err…I just started work on this yesterday. Creating an entire site requires a lot more time that that. Not to mention, you still haven’t sent me any content.

Client: Well, I’ve been told you are a hard-working student, so hearing this from you is disappointing. In the future, please wrap up your projects before the weekend. 

Me: …OK. Would you be able to send me the website content so I can finish?

Client: I will e-mail you the information in a week or two.


> Want to know if freelancing is for you?

Client: I can’t believe you’re harassing me like this! I have dozens of designers that haven’t been...

9 March 2017 - 4:20pm

Client: I can’t believe you’re harassing me like this! I have dozens of designers that haven’t been paid, and I owe them THOUSANDS of dollars! THEY never complain!

Me: And that’s why they haven’t been paid.

When I first started out as a freelance artist, I came into contact with a small startup game...

9 March 2017 - 2:40pm

When I first started out as a freelance artist, I came into contact with a small startup game development group, looking to publish a console game as their first endeavor.  I was intrigued at first by their confidence and solid game concept, so I accepted when they offered to have me work on some of their assets.

Despite a few speedbumps, I tried my best to cooperate with the project lead and wound up creating a few assets that I was rather proud of, given the little amount of direction that I had.  Naive that I was, of course, I created these assets before signing any kind of contract, though thankfully I hadn’t yet willed it away by any other kind of word.  So when it came time to actually review said contract, I was displeased to find that there were no clauses therein that protected any of my rights as the originator of my work–rather, the contract pretty much explicitly stated that all rights of ownership and all claims to creation of these assets belonged to my client.

Willing to try to figure things out, I emailed my client regarding my concerns.

Me: Hey! I’ve looked over the contract, and while it mostly looks good there are a few stipulations I would first like to amend to the contract to ensure some of my rights. 

I then included my stipulations in the email. Within about two hours, I had his response:

Client: Sure thing, here’s the amended contract.

Attached to his email was a version of the same contract with one of my stipulations added, though the other two were nowhere to be found.  So I emailed him again:

Me: Excellent, thank you so much!  But before I can sign, I’m afraid I need to be sure that all of my stipulations are included, again, just to be sure I’m protected under this contract as well.

Client: Nobody else on the project asked for this when they signed that same contract.

Me: I understand that, and I apologize for the confusion, but I must insist on these stipulations.  A one-size-fits-all contract for employees of the company doesn’t work for me, as I’m a self-employed freelance artist doing work for you. 

Client: Well, I’m afraid I can’t make any guarantees for you in the contract, but it won’t matter anyway–you’re already credited in the game.

Me: Thank you for the reassurance, but I need to have my rights specified in the contract in order to have any kind of legal protection in the event of a mistake or otherwise worst-case scenario.

Client: You’re being difficult.  Nobody else had a problem with this.  You’ll never find a company that’s willing to budge on this.

Me: I am sorry to hear that, but if you are unwilling to amend the contract, I cannot sign it nor can I allow you to use any of the work that I’ve produced for the project.

He proceeded to call me on the phone to try and persuade me through compliments to my work, and when that didn’t work, went right back to “informing me” that I would never find a company willing to assure me the rights I was asking for.  After this phone call, I received the following in email:

Client: How about if I pay you?

When I declined the bribe to sign away the rights to my work without any guarantees of my own rights, he proceeded to curse me out and plead with me to continue working with him in the same email.  I refused again, and I’ve never heard from him again since.


> Want to know if freelancing is for you?

Back in the analog video days, approval copies were usually sent to the client...

8 March 2017 - 4:20pm

Back in the analog video days, approval copies were usually sent to the client on VHS. A producer I worked with once sent such a tape of a 30 second commercial he’d just finished. He put the same spot on the tape several times in a row, so that the client wouldn’t have to keep rewinding to watch it again and again.

Client: I like the second version best.

Client: We would like a time-lapse of the city skyline at sunset.Me: I can do that.  Sunsets usually...

8 March 2017 - 2:40pm

Client: We would like a time-lapse of the city skyline at sunset.

Me: I can do that.  Sunsets usually last about 45 mins, so I can give you a final time-lapse anywhere between 4 to 20 seconds long.

Client: No, we want it to be the same length as a sunset. 

Me:  So you want a real-time video of the sunset?

Client: No, a time-lapse video of the whole sunset that lasts for 45 minutes. 

Me: Um…

Me: Ummmm….


> Want to know if freelancing is for you?

I’m an amateur photographer. Sometimes I do shoots for friends and family, but I very rarely do...

7 March 2017 - 4:20pm

I’m an amateur photographer. Sometimes I do shoots for friends and family, but I very rarely do commissioned work. Even so I was contacted by someone who wanted me to do a shoot based on my portfolio.

Client: I would like to book a shoot of my family with you.

Me: I’m sorry, I’m not looking for any clients right now. I could direct you to a professional photographer who’d be happy to do the work if you’d like!

Client: No, they’d charge too much. I want a photo like this one you did.

The photo she was referring to was a model shoot on a set that had since been destroyed.

Me: I’m flattered, but I don’t do commission work. What’s more, I can’t recreate the set that I used for that photo. I think you should look around and find a photographer in your price range as I am unavailable, but thank you for your interest.

Client: Come on, really how much is it for you to do a family shoot for three people.  so how much would it be for a family shoot for 3 people

Me: (caving in) Well… I could schedule a three hour shoot in a garden I have access to. $200 for 10 edited photos, but at that price I would ask you to sign a contract to let me use the photos in my portfolio and website.

Client: Oh, no. I want studio photos for under $60. And would that include makeup, hair and outfits? Also, why would you use my photo? I don’t want to be stalked!  

Me: I’m sorry, all my models do their own makeup and I don’t have access to a studio. It seems like you’re looking for services I can’t provide, so thank you for your interest but I think I have to decline.

Client: YOU ARE SO UNPROFESSIONAL AND RUDE. I came here offering good, paid work and you threw it in my face. You photographers are all the same, you want everything for free.

I’m not sure she was aware of the irony. 


> Want to know if freelancing is for you? 

I am the marketing director for a company.Client: Is there any way we can increase the open rate on...

7 March 2017 - 2:40pm

I am the marketing director for a company.

Client: Is there any way we can increase the open rate on our mailing list?

Me:  I can divide our mailing list into sub lists and every week we could send out several topic based newsletters instead of one general one. That would probably help.

Client: Great, let’s do that.

I started sending out surveys asking our subscribers what they want to see. Everything was going great, I set up separate mailing lists and sorted everyone accordingly (our mailing list consists of 28,000 emails, so no easy task). I’d even started laying out a schedule for each newsletter and made a base template for each one.

When I came in to work this morning:

Client: I signed us up for a new webmailer! I’ll need you to transfer the addresses over.

Me: What about the account I’ve been working on for the past week?

Client: I deleted it. 


> Want to know if freelancing is for you?

Client: Can you put this information into a letter sized poster? I want it to look “cool.”They sent...

6 March 2017 - 4:20pm

Client: Can you put this information into a letter sized poster? I want it to look “cool.”

They sent me four pages FULL of text.

Me: There’s a lot here. Do I need to include all of this?

Client: Yes, all of it.

Client: Oh, and add pictograms.

"I interned for a year for free, as did most of my peers. Don’t act like this isn’t..."

6 March 2017 - 2:40pm
“I interned for a year for free, as did most of my peers. Don’t act like this isn’t common. Some people hustle. Some whine on twitter.”

- via @forexposure_txt

DEAL: 250,000+ Stock Photos for $79 – 84% off!

5 March 2017 - 4:20pm

This week’s deal is an incredible price on lifetime access to a huge pool of stock photos.

Finding appropriate licensed images for blog posts, websites and posters can be a pain  – an expensive one, at that. For $79, you get lifetime access to a HUGE database of stock photos and images that will solve your content problems for life. Covering subjects from food and drink to business and travel, you will find a photo for any purpose. 


Normally, lifetime access to this database would cost you $499 – and save you money in the long run at that price – but for a limited time you get full access for only $79. That’s a savings of $420 84% of the original price. You will not find a better deal on premium stock photos anywhere else, so don’t delay

> Check out the deal here.  

I picked up a call for a colleague working from home. The caller did not introduce himself.Client:...

5 March 2017 - 2:40pm

I picked up a call for a colleague working from home. The caller did not introduce himself.

Client: Hi, can I talk to [name], please?

Me: She’s working from home today, you can reach her via email.

Client: Oh. Do you have her phone number, then?

Me: Sorry, I would rather not give out her personal number.

Client: Oh, sure… It’s about an estimate request, I really need to talk to her.

Me: Yes, she can be reached via email.

Client: Does she have a mobile number?

Me: Again, I really don’t want to give out her personal number to just anyone.

Client: Listen, I have three pretty big jobs running with you at the moment. I need to talk to [name]. 

Me: I understand that, so if you could please just contact her via email. If she’s willing to give you her number, great, but that’s not a call I’m willing to make.

Client: You know what, it’s okay. I’ll drop her an email.

And with that he hung up. He did not then drop my colleague an email.


> Want to know if freelancing is for you?

I was a freelancer for 20 years and recently got a job with a company in my industry, but I...

4 March 2017 - 4:20pm

I was a freelancer for 20 years and recently got a job with a company in my industry, but I still accept freelance gigs from time to time. The other day, I got an email from a client I used to work with as a freelancer. This guy is very demanding and annoying and he’s one of the people I wasn’t sorry to see the back of when I started my new job.

He had a fairly big project he needed help with, which involved writing several small interim reports (2-3 PowerPoint slides) as the work was being done, followed by one big report at the end to sum everything up. The money was surprisingly good and I have some debt I’m trying to pay off, so I told him I was interested in working on it. But first, I told him I thought he should know I was working full-time now in case he was worried about a conflict of interest, and that i would have to restrict my time working on it to nights and weekends. 

Client: I don’t think there will be any conflicts. The small reports probably won’t take much time, you can do them on the weekends. But I think the final report would require your full-time attention. Could you take vacation time off work that week to write the final report?

I politely declined the work.


> Want to know if freelancing is for you?

I am a young but successful composer. I’ve had many commissions from professional ensembles and my...

4 March 2017 - 2:40pm

I am a young but successful composer. I’ve had many commissions from professional ensembles and my works have been performed nationally and internationally. One of my works was recently premiered at a choral festival, and I was in the audience for the performance. After the concert, many conductors came up to me asking if their ensembles could perform the piece as well. I gave them my contact information, and that was that. When I checked my email later that day, I had a new message from one of the directors.

Client: Hello! We met earlier. I’m contacting you to ask about getting copies of the music for your piece.

Me: Absolutely! How many copies do you need?

Client: I’ll need 50 copies of the music.

Me: Okay. That will be $3.50 a copy, for a total of $175. 

It was a few days before I heard back from him.

Client: We’ll be performing your work. I figured the publicity would be payment enough for a young composer. It’s really a good opportunity for you.

Me: I’m sorry, but I simply cannot give you the music without payment.

Client: That’s unfortunate. I really want my choir to perform your composition!

Me: I’d be happy to sell you 50 copies of it for $175!

He never responded. However, four other directors contacted me and purchased the music for their ensembles, and I received commissions from a few more for new pieces. I suppose I didn’t need his “opportunity” after all.


> Want to know if freelancing is for you?

After one month of work and no word from client:Me: Are you still interested in my services?Client:...

3 March 2017 - 4:20pm

After one month of work and no word from client:

Me: Are you still interested in my services?

Client: I am. We have no money. Can we talk next week?

I’d made a website for an author whose hardcover romance novel was due to be available in a few...

3 March 2017 - 2:40pm

I’d made a website for an author whose hardcover romance novel was due to be available in a few weeks.

Client: Hi, can you add this line to my home page? “PRE-ORDER HARDCOVER BOOK NOW: For the first 25 people who register, you will receive a signed copy of my book!”

I knew this client to be very creative, but not what you’d call “detail-oriented.”

Me: Sure, I can do that. But, before I do, it might be helpful to have some additional information. How are you planning to handle the pre-orders? How much are you charging for the book? How much will you be charging for shipping? How will you be collecting the funds? How will you get the customers’ addresses so that you can ship the signed copy to them?

There are quite a few things to consider. Would you like a phone call to discuss them so that we can get it all set up?

Client: Never mind. 


  > Want to know if freelancing is for you?