Clients from Hell
I work for two hotels, sister sites, in the Caribbean. Clients from both properties asked me to prepare posters to advertise New Year’s Eve parties.
I got started right away, and it should have been an easy job, except the clients continuously changed the information. Every day they’d send me new information that required me to basically start over. Then. when the first was finally ready to roll out after a week of revisions:
Client: We’ve decided we’re no longer advertising either of these NYE dinners.
So that was a big waste of time.
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Client: The site is broken!
Me: The site I’m working on? What do you mean?
Client: I typed my business name into Google and it’s not showing up.
Me: …Okay. I’m still hosting the working draft of the site at a staging URL, and it’s not publicly searchable. I gave you the link so you can look at the latest changes I’ve pushed anytime. Let’s get this design finished, and then we start to worry about making sure you show up in a Google search.
Client: If my customers can’t find the site, then it’s worthless! What am I even paying you for?
I was working for a tech startup managing their content and social media strategy. The CEO was pretty flighty, but after months of wrangling I’d finally convinced him to stick to one plan and build it over time.
He took a week’s vacation, and when he came back:
Client: Scrap everything. I’ve had a vision for how we’re going to change the world.
Turns out his holidays was an ayahuasca ceremony and I had to scrap everything and start over.
Client: That isn’t working for me.
Me: Okay, what don’t you like?
Client: I don’t know. I just don’t like it.
Me: Is there anything about the design that you do like, that I can zero in on and expand?
Client: I’m not sure. It’s not BAD, I just don’t like it.
Me: Do you have an example of another design that you like that I can take a look at?
Client: No, I don’t really pay attention to this stuff.
Client: I don’t know. Try to come up with something.
I logged into a client meeting on Zoom, and forgot that I’d set it to use a beach backdrop in my last meeting.
Client: Hey, where are you? The beach? Jealous!
Me: Haha, yeah.
Client: But is it really safe to travel with the pandemic?
They weren’t kidding. The next fifteen minutes of the meeting were just me demonstrating chroma-keying to them.
I submitted a poster design advertising a sales event to a local client.
Client: This looks great! Really fine work.
A hour later:
Client: …I actually have some reservations about this. I think there’s a lot that can improve.
Me: You loved it an hour ago. What happened?
Client: Well, I showed it to my wife, and she changed my mind about it.
I don’t know what I resent more – that final approval was revoked, or I was unwillingly a participant in a “Boomer Humor” skit about wives being terrible.
I work in the music industry setting up releases for digital distribution. This is a pretty consistent conversation I have on a weekly basis.
Me: Hi! I need artwork in JPG format and at least 3000×3000 px for the thumbnail. There can’t be any copyrighted images on there. The audio needs to be a WAV file: 44.1khz and 24bit. Please send lyrics so I can check if the track is explicit (don’t include a marker on the artwork if it isn’t.)
Client sends me artwork with a BMW sticker, a Hennessy bottle and a Selfridge bag on it, front of stage. The resolution is 500×500 and the file format is .png. It has an explicit marker on it even though the track is not explicit. The audio is mp3, or mp3 converted to WAV.
I had a client who made a typo & didn’t see it until it went to print.
The printers saw it though and instead of contacting my client or me, they went rogue and altered it in the PDF… which changed all the fonts to whatever generic ones they had.
“You’re welcome” they said.
January 29: Initial Draft of Website Provided.
February 5: Sent Check-in Email.
Client had issues logging in, resent access info same day
February 7: Sent Check-in Email as User account still unregistered
February 12: Sent Check-in Email
Client: I am traveling at conferences, will do when I can.
March 10: Sent Check-in Email.
Client: I know I have to get through the draft, sorry, been buried.
March 23: Sent Check-in Email.
April 1: Sent Invoice for Work to Date.
Client: (April 7 response to March 23 email) Later this week maybe, like Friday?
April 9: Resent link to draft site and requested feedback.
April 24: FINALLY received Client feedback/revisions.
April 27: Notified client of updates completed, requested call to answer questions
May 1: Call with Client to review needs to complete site
May 19: Sent client check-in email with list of needs for the site.
Client: Thanks. I hope to spend a bunch of time on it this weekend and get to final edits!
May 29: Sent Check-in Email.
Client: I really didn’t expect to have to do so much myself, and that’s not something I have time available for much, so I haven’t been able to get back to it.
There was no further communication in June, July, August, September, October, November.
December 22, 5:22pm:
Client: I have completed a review that’s ready for you to address.
Me: I’m just on the way out of the office for the holiday, but I’ll get right to it in the New Year.
Client: We finally have time and resources to dedicate to this and you are going to be non-responsive then for the two weeks we have set aside to do this? That is totally unfair, and unreasonable.
Me: Have you had a chance to look at that contract yet?
Client: Not yet. Would you mind if I waited to sign it until after the first deliverable?
Me: Uh… I would mind that. I would mind that very much.
Client: Well then how am I supposed to protect my investment?
A large church blew $7k on a tent, chairs and BBQ enough for 1200 people, but balked at the $800 to print and mail flyers promoting it. Their reason?
Client: Nobody pays that much for flyers.
8 people showed up.Ouch. What’s the worst decision one of your clients has committed to?
I signed up a new client a couple of weeks ago. They showed a number of red flags immediately – negotiated my hourly rate down $3, only discussed things via the phone, and even added me to their timekeeping system and then sent me a brief video screen-share explaining how it works. Remember that tidbit.
Then came the first assignment. The brief was a mess, which was also a red flag. Despite that, I moved ahead:
Me: Based on what you’ve told me here, I’d say the turnaround should be about 4 days.
They didn’t respond, so I set to work with that timeline in mind. Then, two days later, I got an angry message asking where the project was.
Apparently, they ignored my turnaround suggestion and set the deadline as THE NEXT DAY… in their time management system through a private message in an inbox I didn’t know I had.