Clients from Hell

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Horror stories from freelancers
Updated: 1 hour 47 min ago

Waiting on you

4 hours 22 min ago

As a designer, my coworkers sometimes come to me needing designs for their side-hustles. It usually works out pretty well and I can make some extra scratch on the side. Usually.

Client: Since you do logos and stuff, could you make a logo for my son’s fishing business?

Me: Sure, I just need to know a few things.

I give him the usual pitch and tell him to email me. He doesn’t. One week later:

Client: Hey, do you have anything for me yet?

Me: I hadn’t heard from you, so I’m still waiting on a brief with the information I asked for.

Client: Oh, okay, I’ll send it.

He still doesn’t. He never does send me anything and I never end up doing it.

A year or two later another coworker comes to me and asks about some branding. He revealed “Oh yeah, [other coworker] told me not to go to you. He said he thought you were too lazy to do his logo.”

What a surprise.

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User Submitted Post

5 hours 22 min ago

I work as a Dangerous Goods Specialist for a major shipping company. My job consists of inspecting packages and ensuring they comply with all regulations before they enter the system and are shipped. Most times I reject shipments due to incorrect labeling or incorrect paperwork. I’ll normally ring the client as well to explain and 99% take the advice on board and all is good. I get the odd customers who argues about how a product isn’t classed as a dangerous good to get a cheaper shipping rate.

Me: Hi, you’ve tried to send this product, but you haven’t declared it as a dangerous good so we have to return it to you.

Client: What’s wrong with it? It’s just hand sanitizer

Me: True, but it contains alcohol and is flammable.

Client: I don’t see why it is because it’s only a small bottle.

Me: Yeah, but if you have a look at the back of the product there’s a note saying in bold letters HIGHLY FLAMMABLE, and the safety data sheet you’ve provided even states it is a dangerous good. It’s regulation, I’m sorry. 

Later that afternoon, I got a phone call from customer services saying I’d been “rude to the client.”

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Thanks, that was useful.

8 July 2020 - 3:00pm

Client: We sent you the PDFs, but we thought that you should have the artwork files for our project for the best results.

Me: The PDF files will be fine for production, but it never hurts to have the original artwork in case we need to make any tweaks for you.

Then the client sent the PDFs again, with no actual artwork files. 

I’m not mad, but they brought it up. 

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Client wanted the address changed on their website.

8 July 2020 - 2:00pm

Client: Change the address on our website.

Me: Done.

Two months later:

Client: I thought you changed the address on the website as I asked! It’s still showing the old address.

Me: I did.

Client: Then why does it look like this?

He sent me a screengrab of their Google business listing, which I had nothing to do with setting up, with the old address.

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Words Are Hard

7 July 2020 - 3:00pm

I work as an admin in the southeast US. I made a call today to a vendor (a small, privately-owned, hardware store). I called them to check about an error.

Me: Hi, I think we might have gotten a credit memo by mistake, the person who signed for it doesn’t work here, and the PO number doesn’t match anything in our system. I have the invoice number if you need it.

Client: You got a credit memo?

Me: Yes, but I believe it was sent to us in error. [repeats reasoning]. Do you need the invoice number? I have it here.

Client: Do you have an invoice number?

Me: …Yes.

Client:You should have an invoice number, it should start with A123.

Me: Yes, I have it, it’s [full number].

Client: Yep, that’s the invoice number. Says here it was issued to [says a company name similar to ours, but not the same.]

Me: That must be the confusion, we’re [Other Company Name].

Client: So your name isn’t on the invoice?

Me: Well, it is, in the Bill To and Ship To sections, but I think that was entered by mistake. Someone probably just searched the other company and came up with us.

Client: So wait…this isn’t your invoice?   Me: *Sigh*

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Why is the file so big

7 July 2020 - 2:00pm

A non-profit I work with had an upcoming fundraiser and they needed a 24×36 inch poster. All my fundraiser designs have high res graphics, but I sized the PDF down for email and sent it. It’s still fairly large, 

Client: I think there is something wrong with the size. If this is the stand-alone event poster why is the file so big?

Me: It’s high-res, and high-res graphics mean a heavier file.

Client: Can you make it smaller?

If I could without losing quality, don’t you think I would have already?

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User Submitted Post

6 July 2020 - 3:00pm

I requested that a client give me access to their social media profiles so I could access them.

The client sent over instead a spreadsheet of user/passwords. Or so I thought.

It WAS a spreadsheet, technically, but it was also a PNG screenshot of another spreadsheet, embedded into one cell. 

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<p>Client: I don&#8217;t like the

6 July 2020 - 1:59pm

Client: I don’t like the design.

Me: You did yesterday!

Client: People grow. 

Me: In a day?

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Expand your design vocabulary with 80 handmade typefaces for every style! Only $17!

5 July 2020 - 3:00pm
Expand your design vocabulary with 80 handmade typefaces for every style! Only $17!

This week’s deal is on 80 handmade typefaces and 100 graphics to fit any style!

> They’re bold, they’re beautiful, and they’re only $15.

Each of these fonts is perfectly suited to wildly different design styles, and will expand your toolkit exponentially. Harness the synthwave cool of Violence, the kooky, creepy Halloween vibe of Dreadful, and the retro-kitsch cool of the Winter is Coming font family! This bundle is brimming with possibilities – just take a look! 

Normally, if you added everything in this bundle together it would sell for $540 but for this week you can save 97% and get it all for $15.

> Check out the deal here!  

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User Submitted Post

5 July 2020 - 2:00pm

Client: We’re a boutique digital media company and we need a WordPress site.

Me: Sure, I can help with that! Do you have a theme picked out?

Client: We’ve found a few that look good.

Me: Great. Once you’ve decided on a theme I can go ahead and customize it with your assets. I’ll follow up with an estimate.

Client: Sounds good.

We agree to a scope of work.

Client: On second thought, we need a custom CMS and a custom WordPress theme modeled on this major cable network’s home page. Is this within scope?

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“It’s Better When They’re Cute.”

4 July 2020 - 3:00pm

I was working for a client to install a sign. One of their clients stopped by while I was there and left. 

Client: She was cute, wasn’t she?

Me: I guess so, yeah.

Client: It’s better when they’re cute. It’s no fun when clients are old or fat.

WTF? Why share? 

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“She Doesn’t Fit Our Demographic…”

4 July 2020 - 2:00pm

I was working on an ad for an area hospital using a photo that depicts a married couple with a child sitting on a porch. In the photo, the husband was white, the wife was Asian.

Client: The ad design looks great! But we’re not sure about the photo you chose.

Me: If you want, I can search for a different photo, or if you have a different photo in mind, I can replace it with that one.

Client: It’s just that the wife doesn’t match our target demographic. Could you maybe find a different face and Photoshop it over hers?

Me: …I’m sorry could I what now?

Client: Could you find a different face and replace hers with it? Maybe someone more in our demographic? We don’t want to lose such a perfect photo.

I’m sorry to admit that I proceeded to make up a bunch of reasons why it would be much more affordable for them to just pick a different photo, INSTEAD of calling them out for being grossly racist, which is what I wanted to do.

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You can’t charge more, it’s illegal.

3 July 2020 - 3:00pm

I increased my hosting charge months ago after being told by the hosting company I use that hosting will be going up. It should be noted that I make about $3 per month on each account that I have. 

Client: I received your recent invoice. You have been charging me $8 per month, not $11 per month, for my web hosting for *website* so please correct that on your invoices. So I pay $48 every six months, not $66. Please correct your invoices.

Note: I have no idea where the “6-month” charge came from. My CC processor hits him every month.

Me: You’re correct. I used to charge $8 per month. Take a look at the email I sent recently; the increase is due to an increase by the company I use to host all of my clients. Have a great day!

Client: An increase on your end is not an issue on my end. Please correct your invoice.

Me: I use a hosting company to store the code for your website. I don’t actually have servers running in my home. If they increase prices on my end, I adjust accordingly.

Client: I agreed to pay $8 per month. I won’t agree to more.

Me: You are welcome to explore other hosting options. Let me know if you find something cheaper. I’m happy to move your site. As long as you provide me with the user name and password I’ll be able to log in to make the changes you request.

Client: If I changed, I wouldn’t just hand out my user name and password! Any dummy knows NOT to give out this information! If you increase my rate, I will be looking and I won’t be giving you this information!

Me: …I’m really trying to work with you here. If you change hosts, I’ll need to know your login credentials in order to work on your website.

Client: I will agree to pay $8 per month, as you promised me.

Me: Let me know when you find another host. I’ll go ahead and move your website over to them.

Client: I have found another host. They are taking over my website and they have agreed to your current price! You have until *date 10 days from now* to agree or they will take over. Agree to the current price or you will lose me as a client. If you increase without my permission you will hear from my lawyer!

$3 a month, of course, is a litigious amount.

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In the Clouds

3 July 2020 - 2:00pm

We were migrating a massive official correspondence database from a completely outdated system to one that was just really clunky but cheap. The database included protected personal details in millions of pieces of correspondence and our primary worry was ensuring that the new system was as secure as we could make it.  We’d also decided on grounds of cost to stop storing the information on our own servers and use a commercial provider. As an end-user, I went along to the meeting where this was outlined:

Me: Thanks for explaining the new system, can you tell me where the servers will be located?

Client: There are no servers, it’s on the cloud.

Me: No, there’ll be servers, just not ours, but where will they be, and will they be backed up?

Client: It’s on the cloud!

Me: The servers have to be somewhere. If we don’t know, can we find out?

Client: It’s on the cloud!

Me: The cloud’s just a concept. I’d like to be sure we’re not using servers based, say, in Russia?


So I stopped. The Boss from Hell was the Director of Information Technology. 

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Event Management Hell

2 July 2020 - 3:00pm

I’m a freelance event manager, working for a tradeshow. Even though it’s been scheduled for the last year and I’ve been prodding them this whole time, SOMEHOW my clients only managed to get me names for badges THREE DAYS before the event.

They also gave me their list of sponsors three days before the event, and the finalized agenda on the day of the event.

I’ve been working non-stop to get this all done. Even worse, they’re in a different state; we are literally flying documents over in a plane to make it in time.

Somehow, I just know something else is going to pop up and it’ll be “my fault” because I couldn’t “edit fast enough.” 


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User Submitted Post

2 July 2020 - 2:00pm

I set up a quick artist profile taking commissions for digital portraits of pets to bring in some extra money for the month.

I’ve already had one person ask if I can work for exposure, another who claims their PayPal was hacked and won’t be able to pay me for a few days” and another who has inquired about my services but has failed to answer any of my questions regarding their project.

I’ve been freelancing for less than 24 hours.

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<p>I used to work for a publishing

1 July 2020 - 3:00pm

I used to work for a publishing company and got laid off after 3 years. Despite that, the CEO liked my tech skills and would often call me to his house to do tech support for him.

His wife, while not tech-savvy, knew tech more than him. They were about 60-70 in age. She became aware of my skills when I helped him redo his home network one time, connecting up a network printer and helping change the screen of a computer.

One of the last visits I was there, his wife pulled me aside when he stepped into his home office to take care of something.

Client: You’re real handy with computers! I know lots of people who can use your skills.

Me: That’s good to know. I’m glad I impressed you.

Client: Do you think you would mind if I can call you whenever I have a tech problem?

I sensed a red flag but proceeded while being on guard.

Me: I don’t mind helping out, but it depends.

Client: Well, I got friends all over in our little community who needs help with their computers and stuff. Whenever they have a problem, I wonder if you can just come on over and help them out?

My CEO lived in the backwoods of the Appalachians about 35 miles from where I lived. It took well over an hour one way to go there on dinky little country roads you couldn’t drive over 40mph on. I immediately saw where this was going and set her straight.

Me: I’d love to help, sure. But I’ll need some sort of payment coming out this far. I help your husband out because he pays me. It’s a job. If it’s a little thing over the phone as a favor maybe, but for visits, I’ll need to be paid for. It takes a while to drive out here if anything.

Her face turned quite sullen, realizing that she wasn’t going to get free help for all her friends.

Client: Oh.

She didn’t ask again, but she definitely acted like I hurt her feelings for not agreeing to drive for over two hours to help her and her friends, for free, at the drop of a hat.

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kill me deadline

1 July 2020 - 2:00pm

An old client got in touch with me about illustrating her children’s book. She contacted me first in July:

Client: The publisher’s deadline is October.

Me: I’m afraid that won’t work for me. I’m starting my master’s degree in the fall and I won’t be able to tackle any large projects after that time.

Client: Well what if I get you everything you need before then? Can you do it then?

Me: Sure.

Of course, she waited until October 14 to send me anything. Not wanting the paycheck to go to waste, I decided to let it slide and got straight to work. She paid half of the cost up-front, and I (somehow) had her book fully illustrated by late afternoon on October 30th. I sent her low-resolution, watermarked copies of all the illustrations, featuring my email and username printed in solid black across every page. She paid the latter half of the cost, and I delivered the high-resolution, non-watermarked final copies.

She disappeared for two weeks, and then returned to me with revisions and a revised deadline of… the following day. I was about to decline, but then I saw her three-figure offer. I didn’t have any IMMEDIATE deadlines, but I did have some impending ones.

Me: Okay. I’ll turn it around for tomorrow, but please know I can’t work on this schedule in the future.

I drew up a few new designs for her and edited her work as much as possible to fit her requests.

She disappeared for another week, and then:

Client: Can you make these changes for tomorrow? I have an AMAZING idea for the front cover.

Me: I’m sorry, I really can’t. I have a number of important deadlines coming up and I don’t think I can continue to work on this project.

Client: I am just really excited with how this will come out. Please confirm that you can complete these new requirements by tomorrow.

Me: No, really. I can’t continue this working relationship, and will have to stop doing illustrations for the foreseeable future.

Client: My idea for the cover is adorable, I can’t wait to see how you interpret it.

I ignored her emails at this point, and buried myself in my work.

She got in touch with me a few weeks ago.

Client: I thought you’d want to see the book. I’m so happy with it.

I opened the PDF.

It was the 16 page, finished book… with my low-resolution, fully watermarked images, featuring my username and email in solid-black 72-px size font.

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DO Worry, Be Happy: Ben Lee on maintaining a creative business in pandemic

30 June 2020 - 6:50pm
DO Worry, Be Happy: Ben Lee and maintaining a creative practice in pandemic

We’re all going through A LOT right now, and it’s not always easy to stay on track with your business, or even your creative practice. In this week’s episode, host Kyle Carpenter speaks with illustrator and designer Ben Lee about what creative life looks like during the pandemic, and even what it means to be creative when the world is, you know, basically on fire. It’s a frank and kind conversation that grapples with topics we’re all facing, in one way or another! 

Today’s links: 

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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Badly Urgent!

30 June 2020 - 3:00pm

Client: We need to put this poster in our Social Media Accounts before Monday.

Me: Yes, I know. I cleared my schedule and I’m working on it.

Client: Like, we need it before the end of the day.

Me: Finished! Just sent it. 

Tuesday night:

Me: I thought you need to post it before Monday to promote the event? Why can ‘t I see it in your account?

Client: Oh, we just really need it by Friday. No rush!


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