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A collection of anonymously contributed client horror stories from designers.
Updated: 30 weeks 3 days ago

DEAL: Premium wireframe kit for $19!

12 February 2017 - 4:20pm

This week’s deal is 72% savings on the Platforma Ultimate Wireframe Kit — only $19!

Wireframe mockups help ensure that you and your client are on the same page, and Platforma gives you tools that will make it fast and easy to produce an interactive prototype for any website. Platforma comes with over 200 elements, gives you drag and drop customization and supports Sketch, Photoshop AND Illustrator. It’s never been easier to produce wireframes. Whether you’re producing a blog, a corporate website, or an ecommerce site, Platforma gives you the tools to build it right from the ground up.

Platforma’s suggested retail price is $68, but for a limited time you can save $49 — 72% and unlock this powerful asset for only $19!

> Check out the deal here!

SE-Woe

12 February 2017 - 2:40pm

One weekend I received numerous missed calls and a Facebook friend request from someone I didn’t recognize. I rarely take business calls at weekends, and don’t answer calls from unknown numbers unless I’m expecting them. I figure if it’s something important, they’ll leave a voicemail. Against my best judgement, I wrote back to see what he wanted.

Client: Thanks for getting in touch, we’re looking for someone to rewrite 10 pages for a business website, and optimize each page for Google, using keywords provided

Me: Great - that sounds like something I can do, send me the details. 

We agree on a time frame, price, etc, so I send him the first page of text, just to make sure it’s exactly what he’s looking for. This is what he sent me. NOTE: While I’ve edited this to make it anonymous, otherwise this is what he wrote.

Client: Thank you for your first page but this is not what we need, there are pros and cons. I like the way you use blocks of info that I can switch the order without altering the info, but the info of first paragraph doesn’t promote the service. Why our services? because they are reliable, professional, secure, easy to booked, all that king of jargon when you are talking about a service provide for a company. Also you forgot to use the related keywords in the body content.

(For the record, I absolutely did use the keywords.)

Client: I think you  should give a quick look to these links, surly you will identify the format easily. my client wants simple but easy to the promotion of his service. the page you create is an article mention at the very end who they we need to promote a service. To tell people.  

At this point, he sent me three example websites that his company had done for clients previously. In each example keywords were stuffed into every sentence so that it was pretty much unreadable.

Me: Thanks for the feedback. I have included the related keywords, although perhaps not repeated as many times as in the example articles. In my experience of SEO, it’s better to only use the keyword sparingly, especially in headers and at the beginning of paragraphs, which is what I’ve tried to do. Overusing the keyword makes the piece unreadable, and will deter any customers who may land on the site. It is better to provide informative and useful text, which is far more valuable.

Client: I appreciate your input, however valuable customer information isn’t what we require. We only want to rank on Google. These example pages all appear on the first page of Google for their relative keywords. 

Reluctantly, I went back and completed the task as he asked. It was like my whole body was screaming “NOOOOO!” 

It was actually painful for me to write, but I got it done and got paid. 


> Want to know if freelancing is for you?

I’m currently working with an elderly, computer illiterate client whose understanding of what a...

11 February 2017 - 4:20pm

I’m currently working with an elderly, computer illiterate client whose understanding of what a computer can do seem to be wildly inconsistent.

First she asked me to Photoshop an entire person out of a photo as if it were a simple task. Then literally five minutes later was absolutely amazed to learn that you can draw a line on a computer. She thought I had to hand draw lines and scan them in.

I recently undertook an animation project for a large corporate. My client was actually the media...

11 February 2017 - 2:40pm

I recently undertook an animation project for a large corporate. My client was actually the media production agency that they had hired, so I was providing work for the end client through an intermediate client that I had worked with before. My previous experience with this media production agency had been “mixed,” to say the least, but I’m all for second chances.

It all looked good at the start – they sent me a production schedule with a bunch of review dates and interim deadlines which would keep the whole thing ticking along nicely with the minimum of downtime.

After about a week, said schedule went out the window. No effort was made to replace it and the whole thing became a shambles of “when the client gets around to it” which meant that I had huge tracts of time where I wasn’t working, couldn’t charge but had to stay available “in case changes were needed.”

In the end, the project that had been scheduled to take six weeks ran on to seven months and counting. Despite this fact, it was difficult to get any extra money out of my client. What’s more, if the end client wasn’t happy with ANYTHING in the project, they would blame me and demand that I make the changes for free. To add insult to injury, even though the client would sit on changes for weeks, I was expected to react instantly when they came in, at one point having to leave my friends in a restaurant because they “desperately needed” me to FTP a file to them at 10 PM, due to a supposedly unbreakable deadline.

Eventually, the job was signed off by the end client, I was paid, and I uploaded all the source files to my immediate client. That, I thought, was the end of my involvement and I promised myself I would never work with this media production agency ever again. 

Give them an inch, they’ll take a lightyear. Two months after the supposedly final deadline, my client contacted me saying that two of the files needed re-rendering because they were encoded wrong. I pointed out that I had sent them the source files and it would be easy for them to do it themselves. They demanded I do it immediately.  So I dutifully rendered the files, put them in an upload queue and went back to my paying clients. The next morning, I checked everything was uploaded successfully. It was, so I sent the client an email to tell him so.

Client: The new renders were uploaded onto the FTP 19 hours ago. You should have notified us that they were there at that time so we could send our client the project as soon as they were ready. They’ve been waiting long enough. 

If that’s not clear: they hadn’t sent the project to end client at all yet. They’d hassled me endlessly to complete the project for a deadline two month earlier, and then sat on the files for weeks. Then they demanded that I re-render them and upload them FOR FREE and had the gall to complain that I didn’t do it fast enough. 

If that’s not enough to complain about, for some reason my skin has turned green, my purple trousers have ripped, and I have an overwhelming urge to SMASH.


> Want to know if freelancing is for you?

I’m a 3D Game Artist, doing some freelance work on an app for a huge toy company. The following...

10 February 2017 - 4:20pm

I’m a 3D Game Artist, doing some freelance work on an app for a huge toy company. The following describes my last year. 

  • A feature for the app is planned
  • Discuss ideas for a design
  • Ideas approved
  • Make concepts for the designs
  • Get feedback on the concepts
  • Change concepts to match feedback
  • Concepts approved
  • Create 3D-models from approved concepts
  • Get feedback on 3D-models
  • Change 3D-models to match feedback
  • 3D-models approved
  • 3D-models integrated into app
  • Days later, another guy from huge toy company butts in
  • Other guy doesn’t like the designs
  • Redo the entire process from scratch
  • New 3D-model finally done
  • Feature is dropped by client due to patent issues and/or marketing problems
  • Replace with new feature, and new design
  • Take it from the top, again, ad infinitum et absurdum

I get paid all the same, but geez.

I worked for fifteen nights and two months of pre-production for a passion project feature...

10 February 2017 - 2:40pm

I worked for fifteen nights and two months of pre-production for a passion project feature film, only making  an honorarium of $300. The director was a friend of mine, and was paying out of his pocket, so I cut him an incredible deal because I wanted to be a part of the film.

When it was time to get paid, I invoiced for my transportation to set.

Client: I’m not paying so you can drive your vehicle.

Me: So when the contract said the company will reimburse me for “any and all costs incurred during and for the production”, it meant everything except for gas used to get to the set?

Did I mention I also transported a car full of set dressing and props to set every day? You’re welcome for making your film look good. On my own dime, apparently.

I was just starting out as a graphics designer, fresh out of college, and my mom was getting more...

9 February 2017 - 4:20pm

I was just starting out as a graphics designer, fresh out of college, and my mom was getting more serious with her eBay page, selling some old collectibles. She asked me to make her a business card “pro-bono”.

I’ll never work with family again.

Client: I don’t know what colors, fonts, texts, or pictures I want. Just give me samples and we’ll go from there.

Me: Well, okay. I’ve made four samples, each with the same general “thanks for your purchase” look. Each looks different and I can make them in almost any colors.

Client: I want number 3, but with some changes.

Me: Sure, I can do that easily enough. Do you want the wording, fonts, placements, or color changed?

She then gave me a laundry list of changes that made it look nothing like my original design. Eventually, she settled on a white card with the eBay logo and “Thanks for your purchasing” [sic - she wouldn’t let me change the wording] in red comic sans and her username in one corner so small you couldn’t read it.

Needless to say, I won’t be putting this one in my portfolio.


> Want to know if freelancing is for you?

Freelancers from hell and getting a client to pay you

9 February 2017 - 12:00pm

How to get a client to pay you, how to get a testimonial from a client, and what to do when your work is stolen by another freelancer.

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

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

Freelance FAQ: How do I ensure a client pays my invoice?

Always start with a deposit – typically 50%. This guarantees your time and services. Before sending over the final project, ensure you collect the remaining 50% first.

  • (You don’t need to do this exact split, but collecting 50-100% upfront is the most straightforward way to ensure timely payment and a quality client)

Use a contract, and in it, stipulate that the intellectual property is yours and usage is illegal until payment in full is received.

  • Clarify your payment schedule and refund policy in the same contract
  • Attaching payment to milestones is an excellent practice for larger projects
  • If a client is curious why you don’t offer refunds, clarify the time investment and that you have to turn down other work to complete this project.

Make it as easy as possible for the client to pay (e.g. Paypal, Stripe, Bonsai).

Automate reminders for the client to pay.

Until the client signs the contract and pays your deposit, do NOT start work.

  • This stage is where you spend your time understanding, evaluating, and explaining things to the client.
  • Once they pay, you should take a more active role.

As always, don’t give them any legitimate reasons not to pay you. Communicate, be on time, and produce quality work.

Clients who have issues paying at the start are likely to have issues paying you at the end of a project. Trust your gut in these instances.

As you get more experience, learn what to charge for, and what to offer as a free bonus.

Friendly emails and phone calls will cover you the vast majority of the time. The more direct the communication method, the harder it is to ignore.

Freelance FAQ: How do you get testimonials from clients?

Ask for one after a successful client engagement.

Reach out to past clients a few weeks or months down the line; see how the project is doing. While you have their ear, ask for a testimonial.

Make it as easy as possible for clients to give you a testimonial.

  • Make your request short and to the point.
  • Offer some light direction
  • Follow up if you don’t hear back within a week.

If a client reveals they’re dissatisfied with your work and they won’t give you a testimonial, don’t treat this as a loss. Follow up; ask about the issues they experienced with you and what you can do to improve.

Feedback from the Inferno: What do I do about another freelancer who stole my work?

(This segment originally premiered over at The Freelancers Union.)

I know you’ve addressed clients stealing work before, but I’m in a slightly different situation. Another photographer – one who I’ve never met – has one my pieces in his portfolio and he’s claiming himself as the creator.

What should I do? Do I have any recourse, or should I just let it go?

– A picture-perfect freelancer

No need to take the Elsa philosophy; there are three things you can do.

Start by writing a polite request for them to take down your work.

After that, you can file a DMCA takedown. Here’s a basic breakdown from the NPPA on how to do that. All you need to do is find the ISP hosting your image and draft your takedown notice.

Finally, you can hire a lawyer to send them a cease a desist. I wouldn’t recommend this one; it’s not going to be worth your time and effort, and attorneys – in addition to being expensive – tend to take cases like this one in very specific circumstances, e.g. if you’ve registered your photo before the infringement.

One thing you should not do is go straight to shaming the perpetrator online; take the high road before you consider the low one. It’s important to stick up for yourself and take necessary steps to protect your work, but it’s unlikely that this will in any way cost you work or somehow tarnish your reputation. Starting an online mob, however, has the potential to do both these things, so tread carefully.

– 

Questions? Episode ideas?

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

Clients From Hell on iTunes | Soundcloud
Subscribe on iTunes | Android | RS


Download here!

Exactly the same... but not a clone!

8 February 2017 - 4:20pm

The website brief from the client used two sites as her main inspiration.

Client: I love these websites. I want a lot of the same functions and style in my website… but not a clone.

So I build the initial concept based on them: sleek lines, monochrome color palette and large amount of whitespace.

Client: Looking good so far, but can you make these three changes to the hero slideshow?

The three changes make it exactly like one of the sample websites. Two days later, she then sends me about a dozen changes that make the website look like the lovechild of the other two sites, everything from the image sizes, fonts, mouseover actions, button textures, and the format of the footer widgets.

I was recently hired by a small local library to help with advertising the events they held. I...

8 February 2017 - 2:40pm

I was recently hired by a small local library to help with advertising the events they held. I was surprised at how many great things they sponsored, since I live in the area and had never heard of any of them. The first one I went to, two people showed up outside the library staff.

Me: Well, whatever ads you were putting out before aren’t very effective. What have you been doing to get the word out?

Client: We put out a sign in front of the library the day before and of the event. 

Me: Okay, what else?

Client: That’s it.

Sure enough, as I was leaving I spotted a 3'x3’ sign standing in front of the library. It wasn’t even visible from the main road.

I guess this means they’re actually perfect  clients because I can really help them out, but I still can’t believe it.


> Want to know if freelancing is for you?

Client: I need Grammar editing / proofreading of 250 pages. What’s the prise ? [original...

7 February 2017 - 4:20pm

Client: I need Grammar editing / proofreading of 250 pages. What’s the prise ? [original mispelling]

Me: I would need more information to prepare a quote – for example, an idea of the total number of words, the genre of writing, and a sample chapter or two. However I am fully booked with editing work until the end of July, so if you need the work done before then you would need to find someone else.

Meanwhile, I Google the guy and discover he’s a well-known plagiarist.

Client: Okay, what about a Fiction Action/Adventure book - 90,000 approx. word count? I need to be sure if you could help me for real, so I need you to edit a test section before I hire you. If I’m going to pay you 1,500 Euros for editing 200 pages, I need a sample correction first.

Me: As I said yesterday, I am too busy to take on any more editing clients in the next few months. You will need to find a different editor.

I didn’t hear back, but my freelancer’s senses were still tingling so I asked around. He contacted nearly everyone in the local editors’ professional association. My guess is that he asked each person to do a different “sample edit”, in an attempt to get his book edited free of charge.


> Want to know if freelancing is for you?

I was working as a freelance contractor, fixing up care homes for a while. It was a cash-in-hand...

7 February 2017 - 2:40pm

I was working as a freelance contractor, fixing up care homes for a while. It was a cash-in-hand sort of job and people always wanted to get away as cheap as they could. One particular job took the cake!

Me: A job of this magnitude will cost you about £XXXX.

Client: I’ve worked construction my whole life. I know this won’t cost more than £300 in materials. What do you want for just the labor? I’ll pay the materials!

Me: I want £XXXX [a third of my original quote] for labor, but unless you have the same kind of contacts I do, you won’t get away cheaper if you buy materials yourself.

Client: Nonsense. I’ll pay you £XXXX (£400 under my lowest quote). I bet I won’t even spend £300!

Me: Ok, but I want £200 deposit.

Client: I don’t have more than £200 on me right now. You’ll have to wait until Monday for the deposit. Use these 200 today for materials!

I had traveled across the country for this job and already spent £50 on travel just for the quote, so I begrudgingly accepted what I thought was a 4 day job, starting over the weekend and ending on the Tuesday.

Monday comes, and the client takes me to buy more materials.

Me: What about that deposit? I really need that money now.

Client: Well, this cost more than I thought. I don’t have that much cash on me, it all went to materials.

At this point we had spent more than £1000 on materials, and weren’t even halfway there. Because the client insisted on only bringing £1000 at a time, we could only get so much materials each day, and had to work on a day-to-day basis with what we got. At the end, we spent 8 days working that job, because the materials kept trickling in, instead of getting it all at once. I finish up and head home, leaving an invoice on the client’s desk along with all receipts. A week later I call to see why I hadn’t gotten paid yet (and this includes the deposit).

Client: Well, you took twice as long as you said you would and the materials cost more than 10 times what we agreed on, so I’m not going to pay you.

This is why I’m no longer working as a freelance contractor!


> Want to know if freelancing is for you?

Neon Noir

6 February 2017 - 4:20pm

I was doing design for a card game company that will remain nameless. 

Client: I’m designing a “noir” card game. I’m going to need it to be colorful and have hardly any shadows. Can you do that? 

Me: I can do that, wouldn’t it not really be “noir” then? The whole point is limited colors and heavy shadow, isn’t it? 

Client: Yes, it would. Just figure it out. 

"Both of my parents have never believed in me and i wish that some of you good-hearted people out..."

6 February 2017 - 2:40pm
“Both of my parents have never believed in me and i wish that some of you good-hearted people out there would. No pay.”

- via @forexposure_txt

Defining 'good work' and wearing many hats

6 February 2017 - 12:00pm

Bryce helps you decide whether your work is good before discussing the numerous skills a freelancer needs to succeed. 

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

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

Freelance FAQ: How do I know if I’m doing good work?

Freelancing can leave you feeling isolated; soliciting feedback and getting outside of your bubble is crucial.

Join online groups related to your craft.

  • Offer (solicited) criticisms.
  • Request criticism

Solicit feedback from past clients

  • Ask after more than the work itself (e.g. how communicative was I? What would the client prefer I do differently?)
  • You can do this with non-clients do, but if you do it with friends, offer them anonymity (e.g. a google document or a typeform)

Regularly produce work related to your craft.

Regularly try to improve your craft.

Stay up-to-date in your field

  • Sign up for newsletters
  • Follow influencers

 Freelance FAQ: How do you deal with being a jack of all trades?

Your focus should remain on your field or primary skill, but to succeed as a freelancer, you need to learn about business, marketing, and quite a few fields that overlap with your own.

The two best pieces of advice for needing to work outside of your specific skill set is this:

  • Keep it as simple as possible
  • Don’t invest the time and anxiety until you’re ready to address the issue

My advice for the two skillsets every freelancer needs are below:

  • Marketing: Reaching out to potential clients and building steady work should be your foremost concern
  • Business and Finances: Calculate your minimal hourly rate and never dip below it.
    • If you have a lot of work, charge your next client more. Keep doing this until you get push back.
    • One of your first investments into your business should be invoicing or contract software. Bonsai is a great place to start.

Finally, if you have some affinity for it, educate yourself on fields that overlap with yours as soon as possible. This elevates the value of your primary skill while increasing your overall value.

  • E.g. Design + Copywriting / Coding
  • E.g. Writing + Design / Coding / Marketing
  • E.g. Development + Writing / Design / Front end or back end

You don’t need fancy tools or expensive courses to succeed, but you do need to invest the time. Specifically, you need to invest it wisely. Focus on skills that promise the biggest, most immediate returns, and work the rest out from there.

– 

Questions? Episode ideas?

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

Clients From Hell on iTunes | Soundcloud
Subscribe on iTunes | Android | RS


Download here!

DEAL: Make 2D Photos 3D in 4K! Only $17 (60% off)!

5 February 2017 - 4:20pm

This week’s deal is one of the coolest programs we’ve ever featured on Clients From Hell. FotoForm takes your high-res photos and creates animations that make them look 3D. This program retails for $43 dollars, but for a limited time you can save $26 — 60% off — and grab it for only $17!

Designed to harness the power of Adobe After Effects, FotoForm transforms your photos into dramatic and powerful moving images. It’s easy to use and makes your work seem like it’s jumping out at your customers; whether you’re promoting a product, showcasing your creative work or making the best travel slideshow that’s EVER BEEN, FotoForm will transform the way you present images.

FotoForm’s full price is $43, but if you act now you can save 60% and license it, and all future updates, for only $17.

> Check out the deal here!

I’m a web designer making a mockup of a site for a client who has literally no idea how websites or...

5 February 2017 - 2:40pm

I’m a web designer making a mockup of a site for a client who has literally no idea how websites or mockups work. He’s having me make a bunch of content changes within the mockup – even though I’m not a writer and this is making the design process take about 3x longer. Then again, I’m being paid by the hour so I’m not complaining. Still, he can’t seem to grasp that the mockup is just a static picture, not a dynamic website.

Me: I will put those animations and hover states in the website. This is an image so that you can approve the look of the website. Once you okay this, then I will move again with coding the page.

Client: Well at least make the links work.  

This may be the straw that broke the camel’s back, though:

Client: Could you make the text darker?

Me: It’s already dark blue. The only way I can really make it darker is to make it black.

Client: Do that. Also, please remove the space between these two sentences.

I did, and sent him back a new image.

Client: I don’t see any change. You didn’t change the text, and it still needs to be darker.

It’s black. It doesn’t get any darker. The space is deleted. 

Currently banging my head on the desk. 


> Check out the deal here!

"The artists I’m friends with aren’t snobby controlling assholes. If you punish the person stealing..."

4 February 2017 - 4:20pm
“The artists I’m friends with aren’t snobby controlling assholes. If you punish the person stealing your art you’re the biggest douche.”

- via @forexposure_txt

Client: Hi! I know we haven’t spoken in a while, but I’m trying to start a business and need a logo...

4 February 2017 - 2:40pm

Client: Hi! I know we haven’t spoken in a while, but I’m trying to start a business and need a logo designed. I’ve asked a few people and am offering offering £40 to the person whose design I like most. Are you interested?

Me: You know we haven’t talked because you owe me £400, right?

Client: ….