Clients from Hell
I’d had a client skip out on paying me for literally five months.
Client: What’s your availability in the next month?
Me: I can take on a project, but not before you pay me.
Client: Oh, have I not?
Client: Sorry, I must not have seen that email.
I’d sent an email every week after the first month for a total of 18 emails that they’d just “not seen.”
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I work on a lot of record packaging, and sometimes when bands choose to press vinyl, the new possibilities kind of go to their head.
Client: The photos for the record are in the folder.
There are 55 photos in the folder.
I explain why faces need to be large, etc. and that 55 photos would be a nightmare to lay out on one panel of the record.
Me: Can you pick out maybe 10 or 12 of your favorites and we’ll run with those?
Client: Sure! Let me make a folder and I’ll put them in there.
The new folder only has 48 photos in it. FML.
I’m a grantwriter. I help non-profits and charities put together applications to government and other funding bodies to finance their programs. It’s a good gig – people tend to be nice, but… scattered.
Most applications have STRICT WORD LIMITS that must be adhered to. Part of my job is making sure that a response is to a question is 300 words, not 302 or 310.
Me: Okay, here’s a draft of the full application. Please go through and let me know if you want me to change anything.
Client: Oh, don’t worry about that – I’ll edit it myself.
Me: Great! Just be mindful of the max word counts when making changes. I can edit them down a little but the more I have to cut, the longer it will take.
Two hours later, and they’ve added 200 words to every response comprehensively covering topics that were already covered by other questions. I edited the new, longer responses back down… and they did it again.
I came on board to design a new website for a clothing brand. The owner’s husband was ‘technical’ and had managed the initial build out. Keep in mind that I had no access to this old site or any of the login information.
Client: We had a customer try to purchase a suit and they said that it was really hard to navigate the website.
Me: What? Can she elaborate? Our site was tested multiple times, we haven’t had any feedback like this before.
Client: …She also said she entered her email in the pop-up for the 20% off discount and she never got the email with the code so I sent it to her and she said it didn’t work.
Me: Is this the old website? We don’t have a discount code or pop-up window on our new website.
Client: This is ridiculous. This shouldn’t be happening this late into this project. Everything needs to be tightened up, this code should be working on the website.
Me: I added it to the new website, but the customer was on the old website.
Client: The old website was taken down, it’s the new website.
I checked and sure enough, the old website is up and there is a pop-up window for said discount
Me: The old website is still up, I just checked. They were on the old site, that was the issue.
Client: Yeah, the site will be taken down next month. Make sure this doesn’t happen again.
This was two months ago, the old site is still up. Thankfully, I learned and just added the same discount code to the new site.
I had a client who was a strong businesswoman, but every time we meet would use me as a shoulder to cry on. She’d complain about her husband, her mother, anything in her life that was going wrong. She always told me that she appreciated the “girl time,” but I can’t say that I did – I just wanted to work.
One day, she was asking for my opinion on some marketing materials:
Me: Honestly, both are good options. It’s really up to you.
She looked at me for a few seconds and said.
Client: …You know, you could really be more supportive.
IT’S NOT MY JOB TO BE SUPPORTIVE. I wonder who she complained about to me.
The client, at 11 PM Saturday night, after having agreed to that being the end of our weekend availability before their annual meeting on Monday:
Client: You should have just received the final three PowerPoint presentations for our meeting on Monday. We’ll be there at 8am to pick them up on the way to the airport.
I have a client who likes to keep his office atmosphere “fun.” His big thing is “silly monkey” – he uses this as an adjective to describe everything as if he’s the host of a kid’s TV show. “Silly monkey coffee,” “silly monkey meeting,” you get the picture. His employees tolerate it because while he is embarrassing, he’s not the worst.
I happened to stop by the office one day when he was having a meeting with someone – I’m not sure what about – but what I remember CLEARLY was when he asked one of the people he was meeting with if she was a “silly monkey woman.”
She was black, and the look she gave him still gives me spasms of shame and anxiety years later.
I don’t think he noticed.Ooof. Ever had a client give you “shame spasms” by proxy?
I wrote an ad campaign for a client targetting millennials back when that was a thing. It was personable and authentic, and a big success when we ran it. The client got loads and loads of clickthroughs and I even won a local ad award for it.
After the first week, though, when the campaign was already a big success:
Client: You know, you should really make your ads more professional. This was way too casual. Just a little tip for the future.
I was flabbergasted. I’d just done a REALLY GOOD JOB and the client was still trying to give me career/life advice. Obviously he’d missed the point of the campaign, but IT WAS WORKING. You’d think he’d shut up at that point.
Me: I’ve picked three stock images that could use this space. Please pick which one you want, as I will have to purchase a license to use it. I’ve included the prices with each selection.
The client, a week later, having clearly not read what I said.
Client: Yup, they look good. Go for it.
I work in a central London architects practice. Every time I establish a fee for work for housing developers the conversation goes something like this…
Client: Hi, I’ve bought an option on a site, can you do a planning application for me? I need it quick before the option expires.
Me: Sure, that’ll be £X and we can have it done in Y months.
Client: Hmm, seems steep. How’s about I take 20% off but I give you a bonus if you get more than Z homes on the site?
Me: We don’t recommend that approach sir, it means we can’t give you the best service as we might be trying to get more on the site than is likely to be permitted. That means you’re likely to pay us 80% £X and ultimately not get the consent at all.
Client: OK, come on man, share the risk with me here – how’s about 80% fee up to planning and 20% if it gets consent?
Me: But in that scenario I do 100% of the work but might only get 80% of the value of that work?
Client: Development is a risky business man, I’m going out on a limb here – I need you to get this, you need to share the risk.
Me: Sure, OK, I’ll do the work for 80% but you give me 20% of the profit you make when you sell the site with consent.
Client: Are you crazy? What’s the point of me doing this if I’m going to share so much of my profit with you? That’s outrageous!?
Me: So why am I sharing the risk if you’re not sharing the rewards?
Client: 90% £xx?
Me: F*** it, ok then.What’s your biggest headache freelancing? We want to know!
Years ago, when I was working for a Johannesburg weekly newspaper, a colleague asked if I could edit the stories for a Nigerian businessman’s unofficial African Union magazine. I agreed – the pay was about R3,000, a lot of money for a few hours of work – but the stories were littered with multiple glorifying names whenever an important person was mentioned. And it seemed everyone in the entire newspaper was sufficiently important to be labelled “The Right Honourable, His Excellency, The Finance Minister, Doctor Jimmy Dlamini, Esquire” or something like that. Half the magazine would be taken up by these fancy titles because every time the minister said something the attribution would have to include his title (“he said” was not good enough). Often the minister’s title was longer than what he had said, so much of the magazine would be made up of long-winded VIP titles.
Well, I got the job done, if only because the money was quite good. Then came the problem of squeezing payment out of the client-publisher. At first the man couldn’t be reached, then he was out of town, then he returned and had misplaced his cheque-book (those were the days when people still issued cheques). When Uchie, the businessman, finally found his cheque-book it had no cheques left and he would need to get a new cheque-book, so could I wait a day or two. No problem, but he then couldn’t find his pen when he finally got his new cheque-book. That wasn’t the end of the story: when he eventually found his pen, it had run out of ink!
I’ve never heard so many nonsense excuses to withold payment. Eventually they did pay me, and asked me to come back for the second edition. I graciously declined.
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I’d been asking for a high-res copy of a client’s logo for weeks, and they kept giving me a black and white, 47 kb version of it.
Me: I’m sorry to keep bugging you, but this copy really isn’t good enough. Your website HAS a better version than this on it – can you send me the best quality copy you have?
Client: That IS the best quality I have.
After some prying, it turns out the client didn’t pay their designer’s last invoice so they refused to hand over the files. One had been uploaded to the website, but the client hadn’t made a copy before stiffing the last guy.
Long story short, I got paid in advance, extracted the PNG from the site while feeling weird doing it, and found a reason to say goodby to this client ASAP.
I helped to design the slides for a college professor’s class. He also had an academy of business techniques in which he calls himself an engineering “guru”. He would prepare presentations by first recording the audio and video as a normal lecture and then sending them as a class to his students.
I was not allowed to know the context of his presentation or the contents of his class as it was “confidential”.
Almost all the slides were text dumps of more than one paragraph in 10 pt that probably nobody will read since he switched slides way before anybody could pay attention. These are common mistakes, but the problem was the following exchange:
Client: Could you make the box where I’m going to put my webcam screen bigger?
At this point, he sent me a photo captured with his phone of his screen. You could see a slide with a blue box that occupied 80% of the center of the screen. It covered all his text.
Me: Sure, I’ll prepare a template for you and paste it between the slides you want to appear bigger.
Client: No, no. I want my face to be predominant on all slides. It would be easier to edit on Camtasia.
Me: If I do that, it would be almost impossible for all the text to be readable. There’s just no room to follow the design guidelines you sent me earlier. Is there a reason for the camera to be on all slides? I would have to shrink your screen a bit.
Client: It is a requirement of the university to appear on all slides.
Me: The email you sent me with the design standards of the university state that the use of audio without video is allowed. If you don’t want to constantly change the size of your screen between each slide and let it on one place, I will need to resize your screen or delete part of your text, you just can’t have both!
Client: Work your magic! I just want my students to remember my face well! That way it will be easier to advertise my academy.