Clients from Hell
I’ve been a video editor for 15 years. I have a full-time editing position, but I also freelance on the side. I’d already edited a few videos for a new client who wanted to develop a long-term relationship and basically use me for all of his editing work. My contract states that half of payment is due after I send the first draft, with the rest due when they approve the final product.
One week I was working on a video for him, and after I sent him the first edit, he put that project on hold and asked me to produce five logo intros ASAP.
He sent me 5 complex After Effects templates, and I turned around the first 3 intros within two hours. Basically, I had to resize their 200×200 logo in Illustrator, drop it into the templates, change some colors, and speed up some of the animations. No big deal. The export/render took the longest time because of the sheer number of effects in each project.
However, the other two templates wouldn’t load correctly. They required a third-party plugin that I had to install, and after installation, neither project would save or export and my computer ended up crashing several times. I’ve never had this problem before, and although I stayed up all night troubleshooting, I couldn’t figure out what the issue was.
Meanwhile, the client had approved the first three videos, and I explained exactly what was going on with the other two videos and how I was trying to resolve it. He finally (less than 24 hours after dumping the project on me) contacted me with the following:
Client: We don’t have time for this. I need this project turned around in two hours. I suggest you learn how to do this type of editing.
Me: I DO know how to do this type of editing, but as I’ve said, there are technical issues with these last two templates, which I’m attempting to resolve.
Client: Do you know how to make this animation? If so, just replicate it yourself.
Me: This is an incredibly complex animation. I CAN build it, but not in two hours.
Client: Then we no longer require your services. The quality and level of expertise are not what we expected. Here’s some feedback for you: Do your own research and learn more about how to edit. You do have potential, but we will not be continuing a relationship with you until you improve your skills. Also, we’re not paying you for this project OR the project you abandoned halfway through.
Me: OK, but you ARE paying me for the three intros I completed, per our contract. I obviously won’t charge you for the other two, but there were technical issues with those templates, which have nothing to do with my expertise or editing skills. You’ll also pay for the other project’s first draft, per THAT contract, as you were the one who canceled the project after I’d already given you a useable product.
Client: We’re not paying for anything.
Me: You WILL pay me because it’s in the contract, or I’ll open a case against you.
Client: I don’t care! In fact, I’M opening a case against YOU.
Me: Sounds good. I’ll go ahead an open my case now.
Client: Fine, fine, never mind, we’ll pay you! But we do logo intros all the time and have never had any problems before.
We agreed to a price, and I washed my hands of them. A few months later, they contacted me again.
Client: Hey, remember that first project you did for us? We’d like some changes, and think you’re the best person to make them!
Me: Sorry, I’m not interested.
Client: But we LOVE your work! And you have the files already. It’ll take like 15 minutes.
Me: Sorry, I’m still not interested.
Client: We will pay you DOUBLE! We loved working with you!
Me: I’ll be more clear: After the way you treated me during the last project, I have no interest in working with you again.
Client: Fine. We WERE going to give you another chance. But we’ll find someone else.
Client: BTW, YOU were the one who couldn’t fulfill the job requirements.
Client: I can’t believe you’re still taking this personally.
I have zero regrets.
A client hadn’t paid me in months. Luckily I had a contract:
Me: If you don’t pay immediately you’re going to start incurring late fees.
Client: All right! All right! Jeez. I’m putting it in the mail right now.
It didn’t dawn on me until later that all our transactions had been online to that point. Three days later I received a check – postdated three months later.
Jokes on him, though – I deposited it in an ATM and the bank accepted it that day.
Ever gotten the best of a sneaky client? We want to know about it!
I have this client who asked me to do him a website exactly like someone else’s, even suggesting that I copy their text verbatim “to be changed at a later date.” I fought back, but he would eventually insist.
This has been going on for months. I sent him an email:
Me: Look, I don’t think I can continue with this anymore. I suggest you find another web designer whose professional ethics don’t prevent them from plagiarizing a site, because I won’t do it. I still think you shouldn’t, but if that’s what you demand than at least it won’t be with me.
Several weeks later was my birthday. The client sent me a voice message:
Client: Happy birthday! Hey, thanks for being so patient with me. I haven’t been able to read the last few emails you sent me but I’ll get to that later.
I think he’s in for a surprise. I don’t feel bad, though. Who communicates via voice message and not email?
Back when I started at my current job in construction, I never expected to use any of my graphic or design training, However, when our company started doing more charity type work eventually it got out that I was semi-competent with some design software and I became the guy who designed the posters/flyers/etc for client companies without assets.
It was, and still is really enjoyable to use my skills to help, but one thing really sticks in my mind as a perfectly legal revenge story.
One of the first things I worked on was a mock-up poster for a local council. They were running an event for our charity partners. They sent over any resources they could find and it was a typical mash of some really low-res pictures with nonsensical text but I soldiered on.
After trashing my original artsy draft they settled on the mockup with pretty solid color choices and a nice clean layout (Which looking back I now much prefer). That was a good first step, but what you need to understand is that this was only a mockup to be finished later – the assets were unfinished, text was not aligned correctly, the works.
As you can probably guess, they steamrolled ahead with the mockup anyway saying it would do, and it went to print. To this day, and with bitter glee, I still enjoy seeing they are using one of the assets I created for that mockup, the “high res” logo. See, it was actually a scan taken of an old newspaper, from back when they did a cover piece on the council.
I shrunk down a high res scan and used that as my placeholder for their logo (the original sent during the project was a 200kb jpg). But it still has the dots from the printing press visible, they rushed ahead before letting me vectorize it.
And now, every letter they send out, any time they bill another company or provide a “high-res” logo copy, they send my 10-year-old newspaper scan. And, everytime I see those tiny dots I smile a little.
I could tell them. I could send the vectored one and tell people, I made that when I see it. But instead, I leave them using the crappy one and remind myself to use a watermark on any mockups.
I contract as a project manager for overflow clients with an online event provider. The platform facilitates virtual events for corporations, universities, etc.
I don’t want to say this one university had low-performing staff, but on the event day, numerous professors messaged me in the event’s Tech Support channel asking how to access the University Open House they were literally logged into and attending already.
I’ve added the school to the list of places I’d never send my kids.
I was engaged by a health authority to run a project for a new family doctor center in a run-down area. I went along one October to the initial meeting with the guy who would be doing the actual project management. It wasn’t really what we expected. Firstly, there were about 25 people there from the health authority, always a bad sign. Secondly, they spent an hour going over the sketchy project brief we’d already seen, but which turned out to be missing even more things than we’d expected. Then the fun started. They announced they wanted it open the following April – five months away.
Me: You’ve already secured the land for this?
Client: No, but we know where we want to build!
Me: So… no planning permission, no change of use granted then?
Client: No, but you’ll handle that!
Me: Well, just securing the plot and permissions could take anything up to a year – but you already have the design for the health center?
Client: No, we thought you would have an architect as part of the project team.
Me: We aren’t architects. You can add another six months minimum.
This continued in the same vein for a while. Eventually, we broke it to them that starting from where they were, they had a two to three-year project on their hands. It didn’t go down well, and it turned out they’d already announced the health center opening “next April” in local media. Then we had the best one, saved until last.
Client: But we’ve already hired the doctors!
And they had. The only thing they’d actually done was to employ four very expensive doctors (c. £500,000 pa total cost) who had nowhere to work. Incidentally, the center still hasn’t been built.YIKES. Do you have a client who counted their eggs before they hatched??
I’ve been browsing open design positions on and off for about a month. Nothing super serious, mostly watching to see if anything pops out. I applied to a really interesting publishing company with a fantastic aesthetic and got a preliminary interview via email. He sent a couple of standard interview questions along with an assignment (which is normal for this field).
Client: Nice to meet you! We send applicants an assignment to get the conversation started. Could you design 1 header image and 3 exit modal images for our “How to publish a book” post?
For the modals, here are 3 tests we would be running:
Version A: Sign up to our “How to self-publish a book” learning course
Version B: Sign up to hire a professional editor.
Version C: Free Book Launch Checklist
Feel free to be as creative as you like but please follow a similar style to what we currently have across the site. The key objective of the modals is to convert visitors into users.
I spent a decent amount of time crafting really thought out answers to the questionnaire but gently turned down the assignment.
Me: While I absolutely love having prompts that allow me to showcase my abilities unfortunately I don’t feel comfortable creating work that would be applicable to the company. In order to protect my IP, I must decline this specific ask however I would be more than happy to provide work for a non-applicable prompt. Alternatively, you can also view examples of my work via my portfolio.
He responded 20 minutes later with zero acknowledgment toward the rest of the questionnaire.
Company: Thanks for getting back to me. It’s impossible for us to review applications without the design assignment so I’ll leave it up to you whether you’d like to do it or not.
It took me an hour and a conversational rant or two to figure out how to respond.
Me: I must apologize as I cannot complete the given assignment as it is currently stated. In my professional experience, it is standard practice to be given assignments during the interview process however the goal is to provide the company and team members an accurate assessment of the interviewee. In order to protect the IP of the interviewee, the company provides an assignment that is similar in style but unrelated directly to the company. For example, a UX position at a software company provided a brief for a research outline on a grocery store redesign. A Web Design position at a candle company asked for a mock landing page for a wedding invitation. In both of these instances. That way the company can’t just use the “trial” work directly without paying the applicant.
I’ve had no response since. I’m wondering how many of the supposed “30 applicants per day” they claim to be getting from their job listings are providing them essentially free work.
The listing has been live for three weeks and is still going strong.
Me: Do you already have photos or will you need me to purchase some stock images on your behalf?
Client: I was just going to grab them from Google.
Me: Those aren’t free to use, those belong to someone.
Client: (whispering) Well we won’t tell if you won’t.
A passing acquaintance of my dad needed an editor for a show she was producing & directing for a smaller national TV station, which had been picked up by the largest national station.
I was in my late teens, but she assured me, again and again, I’d be treated with the same respect as any adult, as she despised people in the industry who took advantage of kids.
Client: I stuck up for kids who’d been taken advantage of by a TV crew not being paid due payment. Don’t worry, I’ll take care of you. I’ll never stiff you on payment.
I thought it weird how much she kept repeating it.
The smaller network was still in the fledgling stages and budgets were tight, and so editing involved getting picked up and taken to her house to edit for most of the day. She was really happy with my work and asked me to jump in on some other smaller projects for her. I obliged, but my parents saw I’d finished the main project and now was working side projects, and still hadn’t been paid.
She felt hurt when I informed her I’d finish the three side projects but that I was backing out of more editing work, but she accepted it. for the next few months, I’d contact her and invoice her for payment and she’d keep asking for a new invoice and assuring me I’d get paid.
About a year and a half later she informed me she won a trip overseas to a large Film and Television conference.
Client: I feel so bad that I didn’t pay you – would you accept these tickets to make up for it?
I gave her my info so she could send the tickets. She never did.
It’s been years, and I know she’s had some health problems over that time. I’ve absolutely forgiven her. That said, forgiveness doesn’t mean I’d trust her again after she stole over 2K from a kid.What’s your Clients From Hell origin story?
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Client: I found this image in a magazine, I’ve scanned it and sent it to you. I would like to use this as a banner on our website.
Me: Sir, but this is an image of Kylo Ren from Star Wars. It’s copyrighted material. How about we use a stock image instead?
Client: Nah, I got this from a magazine so it should be fine. I really like this image, plus it will appeal to the teens.
It was a website that sells printers.
A former friend from a church I used to attend approached me and asked if I was still doing graphic design.
Client: Can you please design a logo for me?
Me: Of course! What are you looking for?
Client: What do you mean?
Me: What kind of logo do you have in mind? Text, Shape, form, color, Bible verse, if any?
Client: That’s the thing. I don’t know what the logo should look like. Ask God to show you and He will. I’ll pay you when you’re done.
I dedicated 10 hours to sketching some things as a way to “search for God’s guidance.” I sent her emails and text messages with pictures of my progress and I never heard from her again.
I doubt she will pay me for those 10 hours of experience. Next time I get asked to ask God for guidance, I want the money upfront.
I both love and hate working with musicians.
Me: I’m pretty busy right now, this might take me 2, even 3 weeks at this point. Is that okay?
Client: Yeah man, I totally get it, what with the pandemic and all. That’s all cool, we’re not really in a rush.
About 10 days later on a Sunday…
Client: Bro WE ARE ON DEFCON-4 WITH THIS, we need it SOON!
I crank it out. Radio silence for more than a week.
Client: Sorry dude, mental physical and spiritual health week. No phone max chill total escape.. sent the stuff to the guys get back to you soon always nice to have options. Thanks again man!
Wouldn’t want DEFCON-4 to interfere with Spiritual Health Week.
I worked in an office where all the phones were connected. If you didn’t answer a call, it would divert to the next phone, and the next, and so on. On this day I was the only person left in our part of the office as it was standard to have one person stay back at lunchtime in order to cover the phones while everyone else was out. I was the second-in-command in our marketing department and at this time was working on an advertising campaign for the Guardian newspaper with an ITV television spot, so I didn’t mind working through lunch to get it finished.
The CEO only worked in our office once a week and was a fairly well-known personality in our industry. Thus, people often tried to get his attention to invest in things or help their family members start a career. On this day, a call for his phone came through to mine…
Caller: Hello, can you put me through to [CEO]? He’s expecting my call.
Me: (knowing this is a lie, because CEO never works in the office on this particular day) I’m afraid he’s not here at the moment.
Caller: Right, can you give me his mobile number? I’m a close personal friend so he won’t want to miss my call.
A close personal friend who doesn’t have his personal number? Sure.
Me: We’re not able to give out his personal number, but I can put you through to his other office in case he’s there.
Caller: Just put me through on his direct line, he’s expecting me.
Me: I can’t do that from here as it’s not an internal number, we need to direct you through reception at the other office.
At this point I’m thinking the guy is trying it on and knows he won’t get through a receptionist because he doesn’t know the CEO at all and doesn’t have an appointment. I’m already determined not to give him anything, but then he digs himself even deeper.
Caller: What’s a little girl like you doing answering his phone, anyway?
Me: Excuse me?
Caller: Little girls shouldn’t play with the boss’s phone. Put me through on his direct line or you’ll get in trouble!
Me: Okay, have a nice day, sir!
I cheerfully hung up. Thankfully, he didn’t call back.Yuck. Has a client ever made you feel like you just went for a swim through an oil slick?
I’m a freelance voice actor and get my fair share of bad Customers. Many of them don’t have a clue about the job and thus don’t offer to pay fair prices.
Client: Hi There.
Me: Hi. What can I do for you?
Client: Came across your gig and I like your voice! Would love to have you for my Project.
Me: Thank you. I appreciate it. Tell me about the Project.
Client: I want to start a YouTube channel on health, I wanted to know if you can do a voice-over, I will provide the script. Each video will be about 10 Minutes. I will pay you per video. Can you do that?
Me: I can do that. My rate depends on how much text I will need to record for each video and the Rights Buyout. Before we move forward, what exactly is your budget for the project?
Client: I’m looking at $5 per script
Me: Oh. Good luck with that.
Client: Thank you! So when can you start?
I didn’t respond and sincerely hope, no one will take that job offer. This is a joke.
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I found this guy on Craigslist a few months ago asking for an illustrator for his book for prices that were basically laughable. I reached out with some suggested prices that were still extremely, extremely cheap. Then this little debacle happened:
Client: I hope you are doing well. I am not one to “beat around the bush” so let me get straight to the point. You have sent me 3 emails and I will address each one within in this email response. Before we begin, I want you to understand, I am using this as a teaching moment and I hope that you are not offended by my words, but I understand it is likely to happen and I apologize in advance. I know you do not know much about me, but I do have a Business Management Degree and I run my own business. When I said I would help you become a professional artist, I meant it. Part of that process will be how well you handle critics and how well you take that information and either improve your crafts, or simply give up and become like the majority who gave up on their dreams and now live a monotonous life of get up and go work for someone else (making the business owner wealthy in the process), wondering why they’re not happy with their existence.
Your first email:
“Thank you, sir! But I would to be paid per drawing this time & I’d like to negotiate the prices. Please let me know if these are fair for you:
B/W sketch- $5
Colored drawing- $15
Book cover- $25
I find your request to renegotiate your options to be quite rude, hint at a level of greediness, and based on a complete lack of understanding of our business relationship. Therefore I do not accept your offer and believe the price quotes to be outrageous.
I do not believe you truly understand our business relationship. I am not your boss, I am your customer. My part in this business relationship is writing stories, your business is creating illustrations. If I hire you for a job, you are a cost to me with a certain value amount, and I am your customer paying you for a service that you provide. In order to receive any form of payment, the value (need/want) must always exceed the costs. This is true in every transaction that every happens. For example, you pay for food because the value (or need/want) is greater than the cost (the amount of money or the feeling of being hungry). When you choose to purchase anything, it is because the value (or need/want it fills) is greater than the cost (the money or your desire to be without the need/want).
You have requested an increase of what you will cost me (your pay) by a total of 225%, but you have not increased your value to me by 225%, or even by anything for that matter. Requesting a raise by a specific dollar amount is how mundane people do it, and are almost always denied. Request a raise by a percent and then justify it with why you deserve the percentage increase. Let me clear this up for you… I have in my contact list over 25 different artists from all over the world who responded to my ad. These artists have a tremendous more amount of skill than you do and by this I mean they have each sent me links to their websites, various commissions, and examples of their skill which ranges from 5-15 different styles of drawing, depending on the artist. This means at the lowest level, you are competing on a world-wide market, and your competition can draw anything from stick-figures to still-life, and from Manga to 3D rendering, which includes actual animation sequences. Have you increased your skill level by 225% so that the increase in pay you demand is justified? Have you added 225% more to your repertoire of different drawing styles and techniques? Remember, you have only shown me variations of one style and openly admit not being able to draw some things, curly hair, buildings, horses, things in motion, etc. In order to request additional money, you must increase the value of your service. There are 3 criteria in which you should excel before you ever request a raise from any employer or justify an increase in cost to your customer…
This tirade continued for another 700 words. He was so offended at the thought of paying $25 for hours of work that he wrote an entire TEDx lecture.Eff this guy. Have a former client who deserves our collective anger? Let us know!
I do a little video editing as a hobby, not as an actual job, but it’s something I’m moderately good at.
My class in college was hosting a party and the people responsible for it wanted to hire a guy to make a short promotional video for it. They were complaining that they couldn’t find anyone who charged less than $200, and then one of them remembered I do this kind of thing.
Client: Can you make a quick little video?
Me: Sure, but I’m not a professional, so it definitely won’t come out looking professional.
Client: That’s okay! We just don’t have the 200 bucks to spend on this!
Me: Oh, well, I’m only gonna charge you a ticket to the party!
Tickets were $50.
Client: …But you do this as a hobby.
Me: Yes, but it’s gonna take time and effort, and I’m just asking for the price of actually going to the party.
Client: You know, you’re really lacking in school spirit. If you’re not gonna do this for free, we might as well hire a guy and pay the $200. At least it’ll be high quality.
They ended up not hiring anyone and there was no promotional video. The party, predictably enough, flopped.