Clients from Hell
I was doing some freelance editing work for a large, respected organization when they outsourced their project management to an overseas company rather than hiring freelancers directly.
This company approached me with an offer of a big editing project on behalf of the organization. I kept the dates they specified free for the job, but there were delays at their end and the work didn’t materialize until the end of that time. Eventually, they sent me a huge nested zip file with about 2000 files in it, including 3 different files at different levels in the hierarchy all claiming to be the instruction brief. It took me over an hour just to look through the files and figure out which bits I was supposed to edit, which bits were older versions and which bits were just general background reference material.
They still hadn’t sent me a contract, so I chased them for it:
Client: Would you be willing to start editing before we settle the contract?
Eventually, the contract arrived. It was written in very bad non-native English. It required me to install the latest “virus software” (not anti-virus software, so presumably the viruses themselves) on my computer. It forbade me to make any copy of the client’s files on any form of cloud storage, CD, USB drive, local hard disk, or any other storage medium (so not only would I not be allowed to make backups, but I wouldn’t even be allowed to store the files on my computer’s hard disk in order to work on them). Worst of all, it contained no mention anywhere of paying me anything.
I pointed out these problems, and I even sent a marked-up amended version of the contract for them to approve, to save their legal team some work, and move more quickly towards a start date since it had taken them so long to provide the contract in the first place.
Client: This is a standard contract. We can’t approve any changes to it.
I did what I should have done sooner and walked away.
I work as a freelance proofreader, and there’s this one client who wants me to proofread her scientific work. There are lots of red flags, but I’m too soft for saying no, I guess.
Client: I only have half the budget. Can you do it anyway?
Me: No, I can’t do it for that price.
Me: Honestly, I already declined another good offer because I had this job lined up, so I do need the money. I can do a superficial proofread of the text, but there’s no way I can also do the layout.
She sent me the chapters one by one and for each gave me a strict deadline. One time she sent me a chapter while I was on vacation. I asked if it would be okay if I finished it four days later and she insisted I do it right then and there.
And then the following happened. Twice.
Client: I see the layout isn’t as I expected, will you do this at the end of your proofreading?
Me: As I already said, your budget is way too small for an extra layout. What I can do is to prepare the different formats in Word, so you can layout the document yourself.
Client: Ah, sorry, I’m not very experienced with all that.
Mind you, she’s about to become a professor! A few weeks later, the same thing happened. I had to explain to her that her money wasn’t enough to get a layout from me, and that I was already doing work for free.
Client: Please? I have no idea how to do this myself!
She wasn’t kidding. She didn’t even know how to underline text. Long story short, I wound up doing a full layout, no additional cost, because I’m too soft.
After sending her the finished text along with my invoice, wishing her all the best and good luck – nothing. No answer, no confirmation the documents arrived, and no payment either. She’s still got some days to go, but I find this very irritating. Always contacting me, getting me to drop a third of the actual costs, getting me to work for her during my vacation, and once I’m finished – not a word of thanks, nothing.
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A friend asked me to design a logo for a musician friend of hers. She offered 50 bucks in cash. While it wasn’t a lot of money I accepted the deal since I was just starting freelancing and thought it would be a nice portfolio piece and she was well connected in my city.
My friend, the musician and I met on a Saturday at my house to work on ideas together. We scribbled the first two or three ideas when it started:
Client: Let me take a picture, I’m going to send this to my sister.
While the client was liking my ideas, her sister didn’t. None of them. As soon as her sister rejected an idea, no matter how rough the scribble was, she didn’t like it anymore as well.
We probably sat together for 8 hours and at the end of the day she liked an idea and wanted to think about it for a day before I did the fine-drawing. She gave me the 50 bucks we agreed on and left.
On the next day:
Client: I don’t like your work. Give me my money back.
Me: I’m sorry you changed your mind, but I already spent an entire day working on this for you. Frankly, $50 is pretty cheap for 8 hours of work even if you don’t like the final result.
She caused a huge scene and even threatened to file a lawsuit. That obviously never happened but she contacted me half a year later and requested an invoice for the 50 bucks.
One day I wake up with serious pain in my shoulder. It was bad enough for me to call into work and tell them I will be late since I was heading to the doctor. Work stated that it was fine and asked it I would still be able to make a meeting later that day. I agreed thinking that my shoulder wasn’t anything serious.
Client: We want you to create a “Disney level” 3D short feature animation with several characters by the end of December.
It was September and I was the only person working on this.
Me: That’s impossible for just one person. I don’t think I can do this project within the timeline nor without a team.
Client: Let’s take a short break to give you some time to think it over.
I don’t see the point but I take the break anyway since the pain relentless. It is during this break that I listen to the voice call left by my doctor stating that there were lumps in my chest and I needed to get to the hospital immediately.
The next day, I called my manager:
Me: Can I talk to you> Something happened and it will have a serious effect on my projects.
Manager: Okay, I’m just about to meet with the client and we can roll both meetings into one.
Me: This is a private matter – can I speak to you alone?
Manager: No. You’ve been rude enough to this client. If it is really so important you can tell us both.
I walk to the meeting room having given up and still in pain and as soon as we sit down I start.
Me: I’m sorry to tell you this but I have Hodgkins Lymphoma Cancer and I need to start my treatment immediately. I will be going on sick leave immediately and from then on I would like to discuss if it is possible for me to work from home during my treatment period.
Client: This is great news! This is the perfect time for you to throw yourself into a project! It even allows you to spend more time on the project while you’re at home.
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A “friend”/former work colleague who’s since launched a startup asks me to write a keynote speech for him to give a major industry conference.
I somehow managed to write a pretty decent speech on an extremely technical topic based on short notice. I sent the client the piece, who never responded.
Knowing that this colleague was a disorganized stressful nightmare to work with (and that another previous freelance project I foolishly agreed to do for him turned out to be a disaster) and that the rate he was paying for the speech was already a massive, massive discount on what another speechwriter would charge, I let things slide while I worked on other, more profitable accounts.
Naturally, I heard back two days before the conference began… which just so happened to be Thanksgiving weekend, as I was about to host a 40 person party.
Client: I just got around to reviewing your speech and made a number of comments. Could you please turn this around by tomorrow morning? I’ve also included a friend’s 40-page keynote speech – could you edit that as well?
I had no choice but to explain to the client that, as he fully knows, the workweek is over and between now and tomorrow morning I will be hosting a Thanksgiving party and then sleeping. And even if that were not the case, there is simply no way that I could review two 40 minute keynotes and send a V2 in the space of 8 hours.
Client finished his project himself, and withheld payment for not “finishing the job.”
I saw a video of the speech, which was 95% exactly what I wrote for him.
Client: I love your designs! They are so unique & look so professional. It’s so nice to see a real graphic designer that doesn’t just use clipart & camera filters. I need a logo for my business & whatever you come up with is just fine. And take your time with it…I don’t need it for another 3 months.
Me: Oh yeah… so whatever I design will be just f-i-n-e with you? That’s what you’re telling me?
Client: Yes, just make sure it’s red & black.
Me: Just red & black huh?
Client: Red & black that pops. Oh, and a fancy font. I don’t know anything about fonts so your decision is fine.
Me: So what’s the name of your business?
Client: Oh, I forgot to tell you that didn’t I?
I didn’t say this out loud, but I thought “this isn’t a real job.” I guess I’m not too far gone… yet.
The next day:
Client: Hope you haven’t started yet, I saw a design online I kind of want my logo to look like. Can you give me something similar?
Me: I thought you said you liked my past work & wanted me to make something special for you. I thought you wanted whatever…in red, black & fancy font.
Client: Well, it is my design. I know you can make it happen. Just be creative.
The next day:
Client: Can you add a little pink, I think that’ll really stand out.
Client: And be sure to make it POP!
Me: (to myself) There is NO WAY I’m starting on this yet.
The next day, again:
Client: Hope you haven’t gotten too far, I need to change a word in my business name.
The next day, again again:
Client: I need the logo by Friday.
Me: I thought you didn’t need it for 3 months?
Client: I can pay extra for you to put a rush on it.
Me: No, I think you need to find another designer to better fulfill your needs. I’m afraid I’m not it. Maybe you need a concept artist to help get your ideas out. Best Wishes.
Client: No you’re who I want. And the design is just evolving. Just add a little pink to whatever you have & send it over before Friday.
I’m an illustrator, and I took on illustrating a children’s alphabet book for a client, who was the writer.
Client: I had the epiphany for this book back in the 70s when I was high on LSD.
She went into pretty lengthy detail about her drug history and those “wild times,” and how this made her qualified to write a children’s book. About the alphabet.
Which, whatever. not a big deal. But she was terrible in other ways. When she came to me with another job I was too busy to take on, she claimed that I “ruined Thanksgiving.”She had absolutely no idea how to publish a book, or open emails, or PDFs, or send files over email. She would text me at all hours of the night – sometimes as late as 4 AM – would get very frustrated if I didn’t answer an email within a few hours of her sending it. At one point, she told me that it was my fault that her PayPal account not being hacked. Because of all this (and many other reasons), I eventually had to fire her.
Client: You’re firing me? This is very unprofessional of you.
A client asked me to review his logo and make a complete new one.
A client was looking for a new logo. I gave him multiple versions in both rectangular and square layouts, each with 5 different type sets. They were designed in black and white, but I explained to the client that we could talk about the color once he was happy with the basic design.
Client: I don’t like them too much.
Me: There are over 30 versions here. Are there any you like more than the others? What don’t you like?
Client: I don’t know. I’m just not feeling these.
A client of mine had a new logo designed for her organization in February of 2018.
Me: Can you send me that logo ASAP? I want to update your website right away, and I have a very busy window coming up. If you get it to me right now I can do that work immediately.
I continued working for this client. Periodically, I would check in with her about the logo and see if she could send it to me so that I could add it to the website. I would never receive a response to the logo email. But instead, she would always find time to reply to these specific emails with other things she needed done. I was happy to do the other work for her. But she still hadn’t answered my questions about the logo.
This was the case for TWO YEARS.
TWENTY FOUR MONTHS after the logo was designed, and after I asked her for the logo more than 25 times. I decided that I wanted to fire this client because she was always late with deliverables, and expected last-second miracles.
Me: I’m going to stop this working relationship. Don’t worry, This is my two month notice so you can find a new designer/developer.
Client: What? Two months isn’t nearly enough time!
Me: Well, if this was a full-time job I’d only be obligated to give you two weeks notice. Two months is quite generous.
I went back to work and trusted her to find someone else. When there were only a few days left in the two months notice, she emailed me:
Client: I need you to redesign the entire site. Here’s the new logo; base it on this.
Yes, the new logo I had been asking for from her for over two years.
My response? I sent her the final invoice in my response email and never answered her last question. Taste of her own medicine.
Client: In Windows, the graduation hat appears as blue, in iOS it appears in black. Please could you make sure that it is black everywhere? That’s one of our corporate colors.
Sure. I’ll just change all emojis across platforms to suit your branding.
I am a freelance designer and have a great client who unfortunately likes everything done on his premises.
Client: I’d like you to redesign my flagship publication. Can I come to the office to discuss my ideas?
When I got to his offices after a 45-minute drive, he logged into Pinterest and showed me 5 images.
Client: Draw inspiration from these.
That’s right. I drove 45 minutes each way, just so he could spend 5 minutes showing me images he could simply have emailed to me…
The post Pinterest images look so much better when I explain them to you… appeared first on Clients From Hell.
I work as an analyst for various clients, generating reports based on their specifications and their data from their building automation systems. This requires knowledge of their systems, which I have from 10+ years of experience in the industry.
One client last year (when their contract was up for review):
Client: Your report doesn’t have enough actionable data.
We had them define what they considered actionable and wrote it into the contract. For the past 12 months I’ve provided them a monthly report with the top sites that fit their “actionable” criteria for faults, alarms, etc.
New year, new contract review.
Client: There’s not enough actionable data here.
They offered no other information on what in the report is not actionable or what they consider to be actionable, and are threatening to cancel the contract. What’s worse is the salesperson won’t ask them for further information for fear of angering them and losing the contract.
I was working at an online school and I would be lent out to the writers, patching up old content that was clearly made with that deadly mix of inexperience and haste – it was a mess.
I was a B.Sc. student at the time and occasionally I found problems in the high school physics’ math course, which I always triple checked before I brought it up.
The physics writer didn’t take kindly to that.
Each of these emails took at least a week to get a reply.
Me: I found an issue with one of your true-or-false answers, from this lesson. Here’s the math explaining the solution. If you can double check and authorize it I can have that patched up for the students in a minute.
Client: The answer is fine and here’s why. Please leave the learning content to me.
Me: I understand why that would make intuitive sense, but could you please check the math I sent because it’s a bit counterintuitive.
Client: Oh, you have a point – but it’s still fine because of [reason].
Me: Actually that’s already in the math I sent in the first email, please check it again.
Client: Yes, but I’m pretty sure it’s a different answer entirely. We were both wrong but I think I’ve figured it out.
I was getting a little annoyed after a month of not being able to fix an error students were actively using, and the tone of trying to find an out that protects his ego didn’t help.
Me: That’s in the math from my first email too. Please. Check again. Would you like me to explain the physics once more?
Client: Oh. You’re right. Huh.
Me: Cool. Am I authorized to fix it?
Client: No, how about we just add it to an errata section hidden at the bottom of the page beneath a button students never click.
Down the line he edited out another mistake I found, then told me it wasn’t there. I could plainly see he had edited the page that day.
Me: Look, you don’t have to lie to me. I don’t really like being gas lit, even if it’s minor.
Client: Well, you hurt my feelings too with your corrections so now we’re even.
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I arrived at a corporate event to take photos. It was in a cool space I had photographed in before, and it was a party for a local non-profit.
Client: I want you to just take candid shots, not posed.
Me: Great! Candid shots really help to tell the story anyway.
I went about my night, finished up, and was told I did a great job covering everything. I sent them the photos two days following the event.
Client: None of the people are smiling in the photos.
Me: You asked for candid photos … which is me being a fly on the wall. I can’t make people smile.
Client: Typically I hold up the camera, wait for them to see me and smile, before I snap the photograph.
Me: … those aren’t candid photos.
Since then, I always explain what candid means to clients when they ask for that. Because there’s always one.
I just finished a three month HR project for a client, complete with new policies, procedures, and training their staff on the new ATS software. I sat down with the CEO on my last day to review what has been completed.
He dropped this gem:
Client: I don’t know too much about who you are, what you did, or how you came to be here, but this was a very large project to us. Remind me again as to which part you completed and why you think it is worth the amount you’re asking for?
After showing him my contract, he refused to believe I was a one-man show. Eventually, the VP got involved and I was, thankfully, paid.