Clients from Hell

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Horror stories from freelancers
Updated: 1 hour 30 min ago

We’re paying you less than we agreed because it took an hour to edit

22 June 2021 - 3:00pm

A year ago or so, I had a small PR firm as a client. While there seemed to be alignment in terms of the types of client they served (and who I typically write for), it became very apparent that they were… rather price-sensitive to say the least. This didn’t bode well for the future of the relationship, but I decided to agree to a pilot.

After a couple of frustrating test projects, I decided that I didn’t see a future working together and informed said agency that we’d be wrapping up after this project — unless they were prepared to be less parsimonious about the budget. As I expected, they weren’t.

As a vengeful parting gift, after sending in my closing invoice, the client informed me that they were (unilaterally) deciding to subtract two hours’ work from my monthly invoice. Their rationale?

Client: Usually we approve your pieces instantly, but this one took me an hour or so to edit.

Rather than get paid nothing, I accepted, receiving an insultingly low payment for a difficult job.

Apparently, the client didn’t get the fact that the taste in my mouth was now rather sour. A month or so after this, they got back in touch, asking me if I would like to take on more projects. I didn’t respond. 

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Excuses, excuses.

22 June 2021 - 2:00pm

Client: This program is missing half of the information we need to provide.

Me: I’ve asked you multiple times for that information, and done my best to design around it because you’ve resisted giving it to me for weeks.

Client: That sounds like an excuse to me. 

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Since I already paid you (barely anything)

21 June 2021 - 4:00pm

I agreed to design a friend’s album art at a 95% discount. After 6 studies and 8 revisions, I got my minimal fee and all was well. 

One year later…

Client: Hey, my album is about to launch. I was thinking, since I didn’t use your design for my album, maybe you could design me some posters or maybe a tarpaulin since I already paid you. 

A “never work for friends” moment from the Clients From Hell archives!

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Keep it the same but it needs to look fancy and high-end.

21 June 2021 - 3:00pm

Client: We’d like to completely redo our website and integrate an online store.

Me: Sure, here’s the proposal.

Client: On second thought, we like our existing website the way it is.  Can you just integrate a store.

Me: Sure.  Here’s the revised proposal with a significantly reduced budget.

Client: Looks good, let’s move ahead.

Me: Great!  Store’s ready.

Client: We don’t like it. The website needs to look fancy and high-end.  Could you make it look more like this one?

Me: You specifically requested that I keep your existing website’s design and simply integrate a shop with no customizations. Remember when I slashed the budget in half and removed all of the custom design work from your proposal upon your request?

Client: I’ve seen this before, the challenge of balancing the artistic and the pragmatic. Your job is to deliver a great looking website with class and get reimbursed for your efforts.

Me: There is no challenge! There is no artistry here!  There is no “great looking” website to deliver! You said you like your existing design (which is terrible)! You specifically requested I remove the redesign from the proposal which we spent an hour going over together!

Client: As with every relationship, there is always compromise. It’s your job to come up with compromise without being judgmental or prejudicial.

Me: FML…

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Everybody’s working for the weekend… by which we mean Friday night and Saturday night

21 June 2021 - 2:00pm

Client: I know it’s the weekend, so have fun and let me know when you get this tomorrow.

Me: Thank you for respecting my weekend! You said “tomorrow,” though – it’s Friday evening. Did you mean Monday?

Client: Oh, I thought you’d relax Friday night and work Saturday afternoon. 

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Design with flair FAST with 395 seamless patterns for $8!

20 June 2021 - 4:00pm

This week’s deal is on nearly 400 beautiful patterns and textures for only $8.

> They’re gorgeous, and incredibly useful.

Whether you’re designing products, packaging, or just need a bit of zazz for a background, you’ll use these textures again and again. Ranging from tasteful watercolors to fun designs, one look and your mind will race with possibilities. These textures could be one of the most useful parts of your toolkit, and all 395 are under ten dollars.

Normally, every pattern in this bundle would cost $32, but this week you can save 75% and pay only $8 for the whole shebang

> Check out the deal here!

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Rotate the coffee

20 June 2021 - 3:00pm

On a recent project, we submitted a press package that included a stock image (JPEG photograph) of a coffee machine facing the camera. They came back at us with this feedback:

Client: We really like everything, just one thing is bugging us : Can you rotate the coffee machine photo so it will be in profile?

A hidden gem from the Clients From Hell archives.

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We Have an Understanding

20 June 2021 - 2:00pm

Me: I will be unavailable during the next two weeks because of midterm exams.

Client: Okay, I completely understand.

Midterm exam weeks follow.

Client: I am disappointed in your lack of commitment to this project, I am terminating our contract.


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Round pixels

19 June 2021 - 4:00pm

Client: The image is a bit fuzzy… Can you make the pixels rounder?

A ridiculous request from the Clients From Hell archives!

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19 June 2021 - 3:00pm

In 1995, our small internet company called on a potential newspaper client, The Tuscaloosa Times.

Me: (Talking with a publishers exec. assistant) Is your newspaper being published on the World-Wide Web?

Client: I’m not sure but if it is, I doubt it’s world-wide.

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One size fits all

19 June 2021 - 2:00pm

Client: Why is this font a different size?

Me: It’s the title. 

Client: Why is this a different size, then?

Me: That’s a footnote. 

Client: Shouldn’t they be the same size?

Me: No.

Client: Make them the same size. 


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Content content

18 June 2021 - 4:00pm

The client sent me two word documents with the same content, for me to use on the website.

Me: Both the documents have the same content. Am I missing something?

Client: Use the second document. The font is smaller

A ridiculous request from the Clients From Hell archives!

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Not if you paid me

18 June 2021 - 3:00pm

When I was just starting out as a website developer, I took a government-sponsored business course and met a few contacts through that.

My very first job was for a woman who already had a WordPress website, she just needed it ‘tweaking’ in exchange for a testimonial, which I was happy to do. One of the things she wanted me to change was the main colour of the theme. It was a dark teal, and she wanted dark blue.

I did the changes and let her know I was finished.

Client: I don’t like it. Change it back.

Me: I’m sorry, I seem to have misplaced the original color code. Do you have it available?

At this point she started violently berating me, yelling over the phone and asking how I could be so unprofessional. Chagrined, I apologized and changed the color back to what was very close, if not the same, as the original. I sent her an email to let her know.

That was the last contact I had with her, she never acknowledged the email or gave me a review (probably for the best!), but I was kind of glad not to have to deal with her any more.

Years have passed since then. The other day I received an email from the same woman. It said in its entirety:

Client: can you do me a favor

I didn’t even bother to reply.

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Dream big, pay little

18 June 2021 - 2:00pm

Client: *spends an entire hour meeting detailing the investors interested in this company, the moving and shaking he’s been doing to “disrupt the sector,” criticizing competitors for missing the mark and messing it up and stating how he’s going to fix everything and emerge the clear leader sooner rather than later and how the marketing campaign I’m going to provide is going to be the cornerstone of that success*

Me: Wow, very exciting. Based on what you’re describing, I think you’ll need a broad range of services. I’m going to suggest a retainer contract at $3,000 per month.

Client: I was thinking more like $500 total. 

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17 June 2021 - 4:00pm

Client: I want this site to go viral! Do what you need to do for it to go viral!

Me: This is an intranet portal intended to be seen by approximately 25 people. Why do you want it to be viral?

Client: …Okay, I actually don’t know what “viral” means. I heard someone at lunch talking about viral sites and thought it sounded cool. 

That’s a pretty big misunderstanding – but we know you’ve encountered worse ones

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Wrong side upside down

17 June 2021 - 3:00pm

A hotel chef asked me to photograph some plates of food. I had a rostrum set-up for photographing the plate of food from above against a white background with no cutlery/crockery – as requested by the chef. Then I sent the prints off to the client.

Two days later, I get the head chef screaming on the phone at me.

Client: These photographs are rubbish!

Me: What’s wrong with them?

Client: You have photographed all the dishes upside down!

Me: Rotate the print by 180 degrees and they will be the right way up.

There was quite the silence before he hung up. 

An upside-down story from the Clients From Hell archives!

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17 June 2021 - 2:00pm

Client: Just so you know, I didn’t pay the last programmer because he didn’t deliver to my standards – so if you want full payment, make sure you do a good job.

MeSo you let this other guy do all the work and then didn’t pay him because you didn’t use it?

Client: No, we’re using it – but it’s not up to our standards. We expect better from you.

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The very height of sophistication

16 June 2021 - 4:00pm

Me: So do you have any ideas or colors you want to use in the background of your site?

Client: Yes, I’d like a bulldog incorporated.

Me: Okay… Maybe we could do a silhouette? Or –

Client: I’d really just like a bulldog photo tiled over and over again in the background of the site.  You know – to make it look sophisticated.

A skewed notion of sophistication from the Clients From Hell archives

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I want them fired!

16 June 2021 - 3:00pm

This was about 10 years ago. I was working at a company that built applications used by state governments. This particular application was around getting your birth, death, and marriage certificates. Nothing super fancy, but was my first real dev project.

The app hadn’t been live for two weeks when I got a very urgent phone call from my manager on a Friday night. I was being called into a meeting with our VP of IT, a few devs, the admin of the records facility, the Attorney General and Governor of one of the states that used our app. I had an email with redacted emails and chat logs with the customer.

My stomach was in a knot as I read that a customer had gotten access to somebody else’s personal information. I was reading through the attached emails trying to figure out what had happened. Long story short, customer ordered a certificate and he received somebody else’s birth certificate as well as an email with all the personal information of this other person. I was in full panic mode. We had our QA team frantically trying to replicate this, Sr. devs going through the code trying to figure out where this could have happened. I was still reading through chat logs with the upset customer and checking audit history for when this order was placed. But the weird thing was I couldn’t find the rep who helped him in the system at all.

The customer kept referencing how he called and talked to Karen, but nobody was in our system named Karen. I had to stop digging and call into this meeting with all of these people.

As soon as I announced who I was and what I did for the application I was yelled at by the Governor who screamed “I want this developer fired, it’s all his fault that we had this happen!”

Luckily I had a decent manager who defended me and explained that I was needed to troubleshoot. So instead of getting fired I just got an earful for 20 minutes. Only then I was asked if there was anything else I needed to say.

Me: So the customer says Karen helped them place the order. Who is Karen?

Client: Yeah, I thought that was weird too, but I didn’t think too much of it. Are you going to fix your code or not?

Me: Hold up, somebody is accessing the system that you don’t know who? Did anybody ask the customer what website or phone number he called? I’m not sure he even used our system. Can I get the unredacted emails from the customer where the email addresses are still visible?

This resulted in a lot of silence until the governor finally said “we’ll get back to you.”

Once I got the unredacted emails, it was super easy to see what happened. Turns out the customer had gone through a third party that the Attorney General was trying to shut down for years. He went through them, they scammed him out of a few hundred bucks but ordered the certification through our system. When entering his information, autocomplete put in the other customer’s information on the order form. I was told that the Attorney General thanked me for helping them build a case. Never did get an apology from the Governor, though.

What’s the highest rank you’ve ever been yelled at from

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Finished rough

16 June 2021 - 2:00pm

Client: This isn’t finished at all.

Me: No, I know. It’s a tough concept. Like you asked for.

Client: Well it has to be more finished before it goes to print.


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