Clients from Hell

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A collection of anonymously contributed client horror stories from designers.
Updated: 2 hours 35 min ago

The other day, I got a facetime call from my uncle and this was the conversation in its simplest...

6 hours 43 min ago

The other day, I got a facetime call from my uncle and this was the conversation in its simplest form.

Client: I need a video game made.

My boyfriend is a game designer.

Me: Do you know how many people are involved in making those along with how long that would take?

Client: It won’t take that LONG.

Strike ONE. Another five minutes in:

Client: Well can I get a shirt made?

Me: Maybe. My base rate is $25.

Client: Damn! That’s expensive, can’t I get a discount?

Strike two.

Me: No, I have bills and needs too, plus graphic artists are to be RESPECTED up here.

Client: Well can’t I get a discount?

Me: No, that’s my rate and it’s already pretty cheap.

I’m just starting out in this biz and I’m still in college. But he proceeds to whine that he get something “cheaper” and better at Walmart. (He wanted a pic of him and his daughter together, FYI.) I eventually became heated and explained politely as I can that what he was asking for was custom and took time and effort. This next part is solid gold.

Client: Stop acting like ya momma and give me a discount.

Me: No. I don’t do discounts.

Client: This be a SPECIAL discount. The “I’m your uncle” discount.

STRIKE THREE, YOU’RE OUT. I gave the phone back to my mom before I had an aneurysm.

I was asked to “clean up” some very blurry out-of-focus photos. It was a photo taken from a...

8 hours 23 min ago

I was asked to “clean up” some very blurry out-of-focus photos. It was a photo taken from a car window of something moving in the opposite direction, so it has a double motion blur.

Me: There’s not much I can do to make this sharper.

Client: I believe there is something called “Photoshop” that you can use?

Me: …Yes, I know of Photoshop. I’m using it now. You can’t just “unblur” something.

Client: I’ll ask around. Maybe someone else can do it.

My boss asked me to design flyers for her business.Client: Would you mind? I’ll pay you.When I...

18 September 2018 - 3:20pm

My boss asked me to design flyers for her business.

Client: Would you mind? I’ll pay you.

When I finished, she gave me $3.

Turns out, she meant she would pay the printing fee.  

I was laying out a formal press release for a client whose products were going to be revealed at an...

18 September 2018 - 1:40pm

I was laying out a formal press release for a client whose products were going to be revealed at an upcoming expo.

Client: I think we should put quotes on “Big Show”. The owner likes to do a really “Big Show.”

It’s a good thing he explained that over email, or it wouldn’t have made any sense.

Oh, wait.

Client: I got an email saying that I received a “direct message” on “Twitter,” but the email didn’t...

17 September 2018 - 3:20pm

Client: I got an email saying that I received a “direct message” on “Twitter,” but the email didn’t include what it said. If this is some message from Twitter, where is the message to be found?

Me: You can find it on Twitter. Here is your login information.

Client: Thanks, but I wouldn’t even know where to locate “Twitter”. Sounds like something in the “cloud”…

Me:

I’m a freelance event photographer, and a potential client contacted me through a freelancing...

17 September 2018 - 1:40pm

I’m a freelance event photographer, and a potential client contacted me through a freelancing website with a request to photograph a “surprise family reunion” for him. I quoted him a price, then he asked for my email and phone number (which I’d already given him) to talk further, so I sent it along. He texted me.

Client: What is your best quote?

Me: My best quote for 8 hours is $$$ (the same number I’d already given him)

Client: I am willing to offer you 100 less than that.

Me: The price I gave you was already heavily discounted, but, sure, I can do that price for 6 hours instead of 8.

Client: Ok! We are good to go. I hope you won’t disappoint me.

Me: 

Me: Please email me more information about the event and I’ll send you a contract.

He sent me the event information, everything except the address, saying he wants family photos, prints, the works. Then he asksed for my “best quote” again. I repeat the number we had just agreed upon. He offers me $50 less than that.

Ok…sure, whatever. I’m just trying to get work right now so I agree.

Then he asked for my address to send me a deposit so he can “lock me in”. I never asked for this, but I gave him my address anyway.

A week later I received a check, in a priority mail envelope, for more than double the amount we agreed upon.

Me: I received your check, but it’s for much more than my fee. Are you pre-paying for prints or something?

Client: Some is for the coverage and $850 is for the DJ and the rest will be for the printing, hope you can help me transfer $850 to the DJ as well.

At this point, things were completely weird – but, while I didn’t know where this client was from, his English was spotty – maybe this was a cultural difference? Whatever, I thought – I’ll do what he asks. ,

Me: Ok, I can bring cash to the event to pay the DJ.

Client: The DJ needs initial deposit before the event.

What.

Me: So you want me to pay the DJ their deposit before the event for you? Well, it’s not very conventional but if you send me the DJ’s information, sure, I’ll send it.

He texted me the DJ’s name and address. I’m in Michigan. The DJ is in Virginia. The check came from California. I google the DJ and find nothing. At this point, I was becoming more and more certain that this DJ and the event don’t actually exist. As well, the client’s communications became even LESS understandable.

Client: When is done, let me know so I will be in touch with him. Thanks.

Me: I need his phone or email so I can talk to him before I send it.

Client: I too be the one to do that ok.

Me: …Why exactly am I sending this DJ a deposit instead of you?

I never get an answer to that question, but I do get an email address for this DJ which I’m 90% sure is fake.

At this point, I looked at the cheque more clearly. It came with very strict instructions that I was to call a certain phone number before cashing it for “SECURITY PURPOSES.”

Nopenopenopenopenopenope.

I destroyed the check, called the police, filed a report, told him to find another event photographer, and blocked his number.

5000 Fresh design elements for $14 — (technically) 100% off!

16 September 2018 - 3:20pm

This week’s deal is another absurdly large, incredibly useful bundle of resources for a ridiculous price.

> Seriously, at $14, technically this bundle is 100% off. 

Design elements are ultimately only as good as the designer using them, but with 5000 different fonts, vectors, illustrations backgrounds and more in this enormous bundle, a talented designer will save a lot of time and money producing professional products. Featuring a wide array of themes and subjects, this is a one-stop shop for the professional designer

Normally every element in this bundle would retail altogether for $3000 but this week only you can get all 5000 fonts, illustrations, photos and more for only $14, or I repeat, 100% off (with rounding). If one element in this bundle saves you one half-hour of design time (and it will), it’s already paid for itself. 

> Check out the deal here. 

I work at a media company/TV channel. All of our shows are created outside the US because...

16 September 2018 - 1:40pm

I work at a media company/TV channel. All of our shows are created outside the US because it’s cheaper, so I frequently have to deal with the creative team out there. I was tasked with creating a flyer for an event we’re doing with a major broadcasting company. The flyer was simple enough, mostly text with some images of our characters and stuff. I sent out a PDF draft and waited for edits, which I usually just get in the body of an email.

This time I received something a little different.

From what I can gather, the manager created a PowerPoint presentation, screenshotted each page of the PDF, wrote comments in PowerPoint, PRINTED IT, hand-wrote more edits, scanned it, PUT THOSE IMAGES BACK IN POWERPOINT and sent it back.

I’m done.

Client: Can you help me get a banner done for this meeting tomorrow?Me: Sure. What size do you need...

15 September 2018 - 3:20pm

Client: Can you help me get a banner done for this meeting tomorrow?

Me: Sure. What size do you need it?”

Client: I don’t know. We’re taping it to a very big wall. We want to print it ourselves.

Me: Okay, what size does your printer accommodate?

Client: (an hour later, though it’s already mid-afternoon) We have an [insert model here].

Me: (after some googling) Okay, it looks like your printer will accommodate 42” wide. Here’s a 42x60 banner for you.

Client: Thanks! But can we make it 2 feet tall?

Me: …Okay.

…some time goes by as I resize the file to 24x60. As I’m about to send it…

Client: Actually, can you make it rectangular?

Me:

Me: Fine. Here it is.

Client: Hm. Can this be longer?

Me:

Me: ….

Me: ………………………..

I work in Tech Support for a fairly large hosting/domain company on the phone. I was working with a...

15 September 2018 - 1:40pm

I work in Tech Support for a fairly large hosting/domain company on the phone. I was working with a customer on a billing issue he claimed he had and was pulling up his payment information and going over everything with him. From what I could see, there was no problem.

So after about fifteen minutes of us talking and going over it he gets angry out of the blue:

Client: Do you know who you’re talking to? I’ve already been on this call for an hour and I make $300 an hour to do consultation for companies that wouldn’t wipe their a** with you! I don’t have time for this you f***ing moron!

At which point he hung up on me. Which meant the next time he called he had to wait on hold through our queue again until he got an agent who would do the exact same thing as I did and get the exact same result (I know this because I added a note to the account about my results so the next guy doesn’t have to do anything).

Best part of it all, the issue he had was over an $11.20 commission check that wasn’t due until the end of the month. It’s the 28th right now, the check should go out tomorrow or the day after.

I was on a video shoot, covering a live event for one of my clients. As usual with live events, it’s...

14 September 2018 - 3:20pm

I was on a video shoot, covering a live event for one of my clients. As usual with live events, it’s necessary to befriend the sound guy, and get a feed from his audio board. This sound guy was overweight, sloppily dressed, surly, and deep into a big-assed sandwich. I felt bad interrupting his meal, but he was cool about showing me where to plug in, and his audio feed was pristine. He asked me for my card, saying he sometimes needed video sub-contractors, and that he had a lot of jobs coming up. He said he could tell I was “a professional” and “knew what I was doing”, unlike some of the “clowns” he’d hired in the past. Everything he said sounded hostile and belligerent. Even as he was complimenting me, it sounded as if he was upset about something.

Two weeks later he called. As with our first conversation, everything he said sounded abrupt and hostile.

Client: Are you available May 6th?

Me: I’ll check my schedule. What’s going on May 6th?

Client: Are you available!

Me: Uh… yes! I just checked my schedule and I am available May 6th.

Client: Okay. There will also be set-up on May 5th. Are you available then!?

 Me: Let’s see… Yes, May 5th is open. What is the job?

Client: It’s an all-day conference. Two video cameras - one wide angle, one close-up, plus photography, and streaming to the internet, recording of conference, editing. Reception coverage - video and photography…

Me: (breaking in) Hey, this sounds like a big job, maybe you need more than one video person?

Client: I’m reading you what’s on the form!

Me:  What is this “form”?

Client: The request from my client!

Me: OK, there’s a lot of moving parts to this request. Can you email me whatever it is you’re reading?

Client: Why? So you can steal my client?

This is where I should have hung up.

Me: (calm as possible) No. So I can read all the details, make sure I don’t miss something.

Client: (sighing) I’ll just type it in an email. Hold on.

We hang up. 10 minutes later, an email arrives with all of the details. It is indeed a big job, requiring 3-4 video techs. I respond promising a quote ASAP.

I start drafting a quote. Half of me did not want to deal with this guy. My other half didn’t want to turn down potential work. I was thinking that this could be a lucrative job for me, maybe even a series of jobs… and I’d be providing work for my stringer video crew. I decide to quote it on the high side, see what happens.

Meanwhile, I look up my potential client’s business on Yelp. Some positive reviews… and a lot of really nasty negative reviews. And the client has responded to each review with a lot of angry justification, which sounds less justified and mostly just angry. He’s not afraid of conflict with customers. He seems ready for it.

He emailed back: would I itemize the quote? Fair enough. I broke it down, listing each crew person, plus day rate, plus equipment rental and other charges and sent it off.

He emailed back, asking for even more itemization. And he’s attached a Non-Disclosure Agreement for me to sign. I read through it. There is a special provision for what will happen in the event of a lawsuit between me and potential client.

I made a quick call to my a great client of mine, who had previously hired this potential client. He confided they haven’t been happy with this guy’s attitude on recent jobs.

I decided to bow out as gracefully as I could.

Me: (lying) I’m having trouble assembling a crew for his job, and I won’t be able to proceed any further.

I was expecting an angry blowback, but:

Client: Too bad. I get a lot of these jobs.

…Which I interpret as a thinly-veiled insult at me for being so stupid as to turn down his amazing job.

I’m OK with saying no to this client. All the red flags were there, but I have to admit I’m annoyed that now this guy will refer to me as a “clown” just because I realized he’d be a nightmare to work with.

I was hired by a client to develop a membership website. The scope of the work, timescales,...

14 September 2018 - 1:40pm

I was hired by a client to develop a membership website. The scope of the work, timescales, deliverables and my fee were agreed and she even paid a deposit up front. 

A couple of months later, on completion, we had a meeting where I demonstrated the application to her and we went through it thoroughly. A few days later she signed off and paid the remainder of my fee. She was a happy client (or so I thought).

Six months after completion & launch, she contacted me stating that she was not happy with it and demanded a full refund. I refused. She then sent a letter stating that if I did not give a full refund by X date, she would be getting her lawyer involved. Again, I refused.

A few days after her deadline I received a text message:

Client: On my way to my lawyer’s office now. Is there anything you wish to say?

Me: Yes. Good luck.

I did not hear from a lawyer, but the client contacted me a couple of weeks later, asking whether I was in a position to do more work for her!

So, I have a friend who is awesome but does not think things through and sometimes makes insane...

13 September 2018 - 3:20pm

So, I have a friend who is awesome but does not think things through and sometimes makes insane arbitrary decisions out of nowhere. To give you an example of how impulsive and big-hearted he is, he bicycled across the country to raise money for kids who have cancer. 

He asked me to film the whole thing with the idea that we were going to make a documentary. I was fresh out of film school and his promises of fame and fortune sounded decent. They were in a band as well and played for food and donations to the charity.

So, and this is important, there was four of us. Him, his wife, a guitar player and me filming. So we were filming him cycling, his band playing, some charity functions (which were part of the band playing) and basic interactions with all of us.

I put a whole lot of time and effort into this…and much of my own money. Basically, I bought a fast laptop so I could edit on the road and a bunch of hard drives and some equipment and took a month off of my life to do this.

Long story short, we made zero money – meaning I’d spent about $5000 dollars (all my savings) of my own money to do this. 

When we got back I was going to insanely start editing this massive amount of footage. That’s when my friend gave me a few stipulations: 1) Leave his wife out of the documentary because he did not want her to be harassed by fans. 2) Leave the band part out of it because he did not want to look like he was trying to get famous by using the charity.

His wife was in mostly 90% of the footage. The band was in 80%… including the 10% of the footage where his wife didn’t appear.

There was no budget and I was not going to try to make a documentary about nothing so the project died. Live and learn; just because your friend is rad doesn’t mean he’s going to be great to work with. We raised some money for charity.

Client: We’d like you to to give us three choices for different images on main page of our website.I...

13 September 2018 - 1:40pm

Client: We’d like you to to give us three choices for different images on main page of our website.

I provide three choices

Client: We like all of them! We want you to use all three… Cut them up and make them fade into each other.

A friend of mine, who knows I’m new to freelancing after 20+ years of designing, mainly for print...

12 September 2018 - 3:20pm

A friend of mine, who knows I’m new to freelancing after 20+ years of designing, mainly for print and branding, forwarded me this email.

Client: I am looking for a logo design, colour palette and help with the overall look and feel of the company for our business stationery and web pages. We have decided to go out to tender to a few people … and are offering £500 payable if your contribution is chosen. 

So I do pretty much a full branding job for a startup, and they’ll only pay me a couple of day’s pay if they choose my work from a number of people? I declined, very politely. The worst bit is my friend probably thought she was doing me a favour.

Client: Can we fade the TEXT up, then off and replace it with “THE OTHER TEXT…” so it’s less...

12 September 2018 - 1:40pm

Client: Can we fade the TEXT up, then off and replace it with “THE OTHER TEXT…” so it’s less busy? 

Me: Sure! Here’s a proof. Let me know what you think.

Client: There shouldn’t be a crossfade…this doesn’t work. We’ll have to use the previous version since we don’t have time to tweak this and make it work. 

Me:

Me: (internally) Do you even know what a crossfade is?? EXCUSE me for giving you exactly what you asked for, and using up all of your precious time. 

I’m a graphic designer who works full time NOT doing design, doing design work on the side through...

11 September 2018 - 3:20pm

I’m a graphic designer who works full time NOT doing design, doing design work on the side through sites like 99designs. I only participate in blind, guaranteed contests. This one potential client didn’t seem to know what “blind” meant, or what they even wanted.

I submitted my first concept.

Client: It’s too busy. Could you make it more like #1 and #6?

Me: ….

Since I COULDN’T SEE other submissions, I just reworked some of it and submitted a second concept. They rated it 2/5 (with no comments) and then declined my design.

I’d like to point out that their brief said they wanted “a man on a house like he had conquered it” and also referenced some very busy logos and basically said, “this exact thing but with the words changed to these.”

The design they chose as the winner looked identical to mine… Except it had mountains and didn’t have a man on a house like they had asked for.

"It’s not that much art, it should really only take a day to do it all"

11 September 2018 - 1:40pm
“It’s not that much art, it should really only take a day to do it all”

- A client who wanted me to do all the art assets for their game

A client wanted me to illustrate their children’s book. I had a vague idea of what they wanted...

10 September 2018 - 3:20pm

A client wanted me to illustrate their children’s book. I had a vague idea of what they wanted but wanted clarification:

Me: What kind of style do you want for the illustrations?

Client: LOL what do you mean what style? Just illustrate it!

My guess was they wanted something like American cartoons, but in terms of narrowing things down that gets us from “ocean” to “huge pond.”

I never got the direction I needed, and eventually dropped the project.

My advice to clients looking for illustrations: we can’t read your minds. You need to be specific when conveying your vision to us.

I was working as a receptionist at a vet clinic to pay my way through my degree in Graphic Design. I...

10 September 2018 - 1:40pm

I was working as a receptionist at a vet clinic to pay my way through my degree in Graphic Design. I was in my last semester of the program and beginning to accept freelance work in my free time. My boss knew this and approached me with some work: 

Client: Hey, we need a flyer for an upcoming event. Can you whip something up? Here’s the info.

Me: I can’t really do this here – all we have on these computers is Word.

Client: Why don’t you use your designer programs? We need something eye-catching!

Me: Just to be clear, you’re asking me to use programs that I pay for out of my pocket, on my personal laptop that I also paid for, during work hours at a job where I was not hired for my skills as a Graphic Designer, to create a professionally designed product for you, with no increase in my hourly rate? I’m sorry, but no. If you would like, we can certainly discuss my freelance rates after hours. I charge $25/hr and I estimate a flyer of this type would take about 2-3 hours.

Client: Seriously? That’s way too much for a simple flyer! Isn’t there like a Friends and Family discount?

Me: No.

He was silent for a moment and then went back to his office. He later made his own version on Word, using about five conflicting fonts in various colors.

This encounter was pretty typical of the culture there, and I quit two weeks later.

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