Clients from Hell

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Horror stories from freelancers
Updated: 2 hours 44 min ago

Charity work is so rewarding.

5 hours 54 min ago

I’ve been pro bono work for a charity recently. I created and updated a website, ran the social media (whenever they remembered to send me any updates, which was never), and even get involved with fundraising.

The founder is… not tech-savvy, but this text conversation (verbatim!) took it to a new level…

Client: Hey [my fairly common name misspelled] I need access to the account now so I can see who has donated to send a thank you email

Me: [my actual name, for the 100th time]*. The PayPal login is [this] and the password is [this]. 

Client: How do I login? Lol!!!

Me: Open PayPal and click login.

Client: The donate button on the website?

Me: No, the PayPal website.

Client: What is PayPal?

Me: Are you joking?

Client: No, can you send me a link?


Client: [googly eyes emoji]

Several minutes later I receive a screenshot of the PayPal login page. It seems the founder has locked us out.

Helping a charity is good, right? RIGHT?

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You Know What’s Trending and Cool – Right?

6 hours 54 min ago

I had recently graduated after studying art and print production and was doing freelance design work. I agreed to meet with an old family friend who said he was interested in picking my brain for advertising.

Client: We’re thinking about designing and creating new product variations based on these niche trends. It’s expensive, but it might work out. It’s very unique. What do you think?

Me: That’s not really my area of expertise, but I guess that could probably work. 

Client: What do you mean? Do you think people will like the designs? They could be more memorable than what’s already out there. There are a lot of details involved, though, that would take a while to design and develop. What would you do here?

Me: I mean, I’m a print designer, not a manufacturing designer. I don’t know, maybe produce a small amount and test them out to see if people like them?

Client: It takes a lot of time and money to develop a new product design like this. We need to make sure it’s worth our time.

Me: …and you’re asking me if it is? 

He got angrier and angrier the longer the meeting went on because I wouldn’t just say “yes, you should do this.” If he really wanted someone to just say “yes” than he would have gotten just as productive a response from the kid who mows his lawn.

Or, you know, an actual product analyst. 

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How creatives can crush crowdfunding: Nalin of Crush Crowdfunding

4 August 2020 - 6:45pm
How creatives can crush crowdfunding: Nalin of Crush Crowdfunding

For many of us, crowdfunding holds a certain magical allure. It’s the silver bullet, the golden ticket, the decision that can change EVERYTHING… IF we can get it together to finally put together that dream project.

For Nalin Chuapetcharasopon, crowdfunding is a part of everyday life. That’s because she runs Crush Crowdfunding, a consultancy that helps businesses succeed on platforms like Kickstarter and IndieGoGo. She talks with host Kyle Carpenter about why freelancers absolutely SHOULD be thinking about how to get a product crowdfunded – and why it’s not as easy as you might think.

Topics include: early adopters, crowdfunding strategy, and how to start building crowdfunding buzz BEFORE you debut! 

Today’s links: 

  • Theme song by!

Want to support the show?

Think you’d be a great fit for the show? Let me know at

Leave us a review on Apple Podcasts or recommend us to a friend. It helps immensely.

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You Mean – We’re Not in the 80’s Anymore?

4 August 2020 - 3:01pm

I discussed potential digital marketing opportunities with the manager of a big business in town. I saw a path to a significant ROI, but the client didn’t understand the value of what I was presenting.

Client: We’ve already done a lot of marketing ourselves.

Me: I see that, but a lot of it is very outdated. Effective marketing changes over time. Your primary strategy is outdoor billboards, and I think you need to turn your attention to online spaces.  People are very influenced by what they see online, via e-mail campaigns, blogs, events, and more. Traditional marketing techniques still have value, but if you aren’t exploring these other avenues you’re doing yourself a disservice. 

Client: We’ll think about it.

Months later, I found that they posted a job listing for a “Secretary” with “social media skills.”

To this day, I drive by the same cheesy billboard. It has garish colors straight out of the 80s and hasn’t changed in three years. 


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You Know, ON BRAND

4 August 2020 - 2:00pm

When I started out in my graphic design career, I accepted a project with a team focusing on marketing a rather abstract concept. They hadn’t done much graphic design or marketing work before for their organization. My first assignment for this client was to design a banner for an event – under some shaky circumstances.

Client: Sorry this is last minute, but can you design a large banner that we’ll print for an event that’s happening 5 hours away? We’ll have it printed near the event center so we can pick it up on the way there.

Me: Uh – well. I guess we could make it work. If you want to be in charge of the print logistics to make sure it prints how you want it, within your timeline. I can’t guarantee how it will turn out, but we can try.

Client: Sure, sure. I’ll go ahead and start talking with the printer about what they need and when.

Me: So, how would you like this banner to look? Besides the basic info that you sent?

Client: Just make it look on brand.

I had the Client’s font and a couple of main color options, but other than that, they didn’t give me any information about the overall vision or message for the banner.

I suppose they were hoping for the best, since most things just “happen on their own.”

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User Submitted Post

3 August 2020 - 3:00pm

I freelance as a web designer/developer. A new client, a lawyer, engaged me to design and build a new site for a start-up she was launching.

Client: I want this site to be really striking. Bold, warm, rich colors, eye-catching! Here are some images I love that have the sort of colors I’m after.

She sent me several stock photos of spices and vegetables. She was right – they were definitely bold and eye-catching and I quite liked them. I developed a palette from these colors and put together a rough design mock-up.

Client: No, it’s too much. I didn’t actually want those colors on the site, it was just a guide. Here are some more photos of colors I like.

Well, she did ask for those colors on the site but I bit my lip. The new photos were more of the same. I tried to compromise, reducing the use of the bold colors a little, introducing some more white space, and muting some other colors a tad. I sent her the redesign.

Client: No, no, no. Why are you using those colors? That’s awful!

We parted ways and moved on. Months later I took a look at her launched site. The color palette was a very cold, very bland, very common 20-year-old white/black/blue corporate combination. Nothing at all like her brief to me. C’est la vie.

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Making Money Out of Thin Air is On You

3 August 2020 - 2:00pm

Client: We can only pay you around xx per hour. That’s not enough to live on, though.

Gee, thanks for telling me? So I suppose it’s my responsibility to figure out how to make up the difference between starvation wages and a livable, decent full-time wage.

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Get vintage with 329 retro vectors for only $17!

2 August 2020 - 3:00pm
Get vintage with 329 retro vectors for only $17!

This week’s deal is on over 300 retro-styled vectors that will save you time and money when making logos!

> There’s a lot here for $17. Sell one logo to one client, and you’ve made your money back. 

You don’t have to redesign the wheel with every logo. If you’re looking to turn around a fast job with a limited budget, then having templates ready to go will save you time and money. This set of over 300 rustic elements gives you what you need to make a fast, retro-styled logo in minutes

Normally, this bundle would sell for $85, which is already not a bad deal, but if you buy this week you get everything for 80% off at an amazing $17!

> Check out the deal here! 

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User Submitted Post

2 August 2020 - 2:00pm

A client reached out to me to make her a website. Her budget was extremely limited and well below my normal rates, but I helped her to pick out a template she could afford and offered to take care of uploading it and all her initial content for a low price. 

Client: Great, please send your invoice. 

I sent the invoice and the client paid in full right away. How nice.

Me: Your site is ready to be uploaded! Please look at the link I sent you for the staging site and let me know if I can go ahead. 

Client: Oh no, this will absolutely not do! My website looks exactly like a template. It has none of my brand personality. 

Bear in mind her only “branding” was a logo with a generic and very overused medical symbol that did not fit her business at all. Even worse, it used Papyrus.

Yep, you read that right folks… it’s 2020 and we still haven’t escaped good old Papyrus. I even offered to redesign her logo for free. She refused.

Me: Well yes, you paid for a template. Did I not use the correct one?

Client: It’s just I thought if I pay for the template you would redesign it to look like something completely unique.

Me: I’m sorry but that was not the agreement. Plus you were clear that you could not afford my rates for custom development, which is why I offered you an alternative at a VERY reduced rate. 

Client: Just make it look like my business card with a huge logo on the front page and my contact details. 

Me: OK, I must advise though, that is not considered a very good design. It won’t help your brand.

Client: Do it.

Luckily, doing this only took about five minutes – which is why I agreed in the first place.

Client: Was that so hard? Jeez, I don’t see why I should pay you anything since I told you everything that needed to be done. I basically designed it myself!

Me: No problem, you paid me in advance though so we’re good. In fact, if you want to take credit for this one, be my guest. I don’t need my name on it. 


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User Submitted Post

1 August 2020 - 3:00pm

I’m a web designer. I met a new client in a meeting for a completely different business and ended up chatting about his web development needs. Long story short he asked for a quote on an e-commerce store that I sent right away.  The client took a week or so to consider then signs the agreement and paid a 70% deposit per my terms.

However, he refused to give me ANY details on how to access his Cpanel or anything to do with his site – probably because he didn’t know how. Frustrated, I tried sidestepping him to get the job done. 

Me: I have spoken to your host and they agreed to install WordPress on your domain and provide me with the login details, but they need you to phone and authorize this. I see no other way to help you without access to your Cpanel. Please note this means you are NOT hosting with me and will not have to pay my hosting and maintenance fees, however, this also means you will NOT qualify for the perks listed in my contracts under my hosting. No hard feelings, just making sure you are clear on this point.

Client: This is ridiculous, why do I have to make a call this is part of what YOU are supposed to be doing!

Me: Picture this, if you ask your mechanic to fix your car and you agree on a price but you refuse to allow him to access your vehicle, do you still expect him to magically be able to fix it for you? 


Client: Ok fine I’ll call them. 


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I Need to Know Your Personal Habits

1 August 2020 - 2:00pm

I had a meeting with a prospective Client who was looking for a contract Account Executive. He e-mailed me some details about his business that I thought were odd. It seemed like a high-pressure business with some shady aspects to it. I thought I would give the Client the benefit of the doubt, though.

During the meeting, he came across as boastful, condescending toward his current employees, and somewhat angry.

Client: I’m looking to replace one of my current employees. She’s just not up there in the IQ department, you know?

Me: …I see.

Awkward… We continued to talk. Toward the end of the conversation, I received this question:

Client: Listen, you sound like you could be a good fit for this role. However, I do need to ask: you’re not a gambler or addicted to drugs or alcohol, are you? We tend to have a lot of those types of people who come through our doors.

Me: Uh – no. Not at all. I am very conscientious about how I live.

Client: Good! Let’s move on. 

Wow, that was an inappropriate question.

I looked into the company afterward, and there were numerous negative reviews from former employees specifically citing this walking red flag. 

I passed. 

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User Submitted Post

31 July 2020 - 3:00pm

Second day at a new design job, two hours by train from home, in the middle of a cold wave. Salary of a waiter, workload of 3 designers.

Client: Well, I’m leaving for lunch, start packing your stuff. Today I want you here for the afternoon for three more hours, so I need you to stay.

Me: Okay! Even tho I didn’t bring lunch because usually I work only 4 hours during the morning, can I stay working here meanwhile?

Client: NO! I don’t want you in the office while I’m not there. You could steal clients.

Wow. Weirdly specific paranoia.

Me: Well, okay, then when you will be back? I didn’t bring lunch and it’s December, so it’s pretty cold outside. Thirty minutes? An hour?

Client: I’ll be back in 3 hours.

Me: …but it’s freezing outside.

Client: Not my problem.

Me: and I can’t go back home, is 2 hours away!

Client: Not my problem.

Me:  also, you’re telling me my working day won’t end until 7pm and won’t be home until 9pm? That’s too much without even a day of notice.

Client: I said it’s not my problem! I want you here at 4pm. Don’t be late.

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User Submitted Post

31 July 2020 - 2:00pm

Client: What is this PDF? We need to send a vector file to the printer! Give me a vector file! 

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Learning New Things

30 July 2020 - 3:00pm

I was meeting with a Client, and he had a random question towards the end of our conversation. He had been working in his Administrative job for about 20 years.

Client: Oh, by the way, how do you e-mail a group of people? I’m trying to figure out how to do that for work.

Me: Um… have you tried copying and pasting their e-mail addresses into an e-mail?

Client: No, I’ll try that. That makes sense.

Me: Yeah, or you could Google how to e-mail a Group based on the e-mail that you’re using, such as Google or Outlook.

Client: OK, that’s helpful too.

Before you ask, yes, this happened THIS YEAR. He asked this a question in 2020. 

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An online shop, but they can’t buy it online.

30 July 2020 - 2:00pm

Client: I would like a website to promote a book that I’ve written, so people can buy it.

Me: Okay, so you need an eCommerce platform so people can buy it from the site?

Client: No. They can fill in a form and then I can invoice them, and they can pay by cheque. No one buys things online, it’s not secure.

Me: I assure you, people do, and we could set it up with a very secure payment processor.

Client: No one who wants to buy MY book would be stupid enough to enter their card details online.

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User Submitted Post

29 July 2020 - 3:00pm

Client: I want you to call the +200 contacts on this list and make new clients. Also, I want you to design this brochure, some Facebook ads, and 5 banners for my website.

Me: Okay, what should I work on first?

Client: Both. You need to design while on the phone! All the previous designers did that, don’t be unprofessional.

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User Submitted Post

29 July 2020 - 2:00pm

Client: Can you link our page to our Wikipedia page?

The company has an “About Us” page. I still can’t figure out why you would want to direct traffic away from your own website and toward a third-party site that has no stock in painting you in a positive light.

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User Submitted Post

28 July 2020 - 3:00pm

I was doing some contract work for a company, building their new website. It was a WordPress site and required a lot of specially programmed PHP customization.

I was placed under the head of IT. He was running the project and had written most of the code for the project.

Or so I was told.

Client: I wrote this plugin that integrates with a third party service and this cron script. They’ve suddenly stopped working. Can you fix them?

I took a look at his plugin. It did much of the required task but just stopped before the full task was done. It had no error checking whatsoever, just assuming that the third party service would always send a good result back. It was also spotted with comments like “I’ve added this here in case you need it later – Nish”, and “Not sure why you want this, but it’s done now – Raj.”

I didn’t say anything. I just fixed it and moved on to the cron script. Same thing. Half done, no error checking, and odd comments.

While the Head of IT was collecting a nice wage and claiming authorship of all this work, it was clear he was subbing it out on the sly to much cheaper, not very competent coders from overseas.

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Cautious of watermarks

28 July 2020 - 2:00pm

I work for a company that sells Christmas display ornaments to businesses.

Client: So, these won’t have your faded logo on them, right?

Me: That’s the fourth time you’ve asked. No, we don’t print a logo on these displays. Why do you ask?

He sent me a cellphone pic of his screen. It was our e-com site, and a mock-up of the product – which had our watermarks all over it.

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User Submitted Post

27 July 2020 - 3:32pm

A potential client asked me to make some edits to his blog. I requested he added me to the users, and because I would need to make some changes to the site I asked him to make me an administrator

Client: I set you up as an editor. Hopefully, you have all the access you need.

Me: Not quite, actually. To make a few changes I’ll need to be an administrator, at least for a day.

He not only removed my user access, but he also blocked me from his website.

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