Clients from Hell
One of my first creative direction jobs was with a medium-sized agency. The client was a construction firm, and the agency owner offered to do a logo for them pro bono. First red flag.
Things were slow in the shop, so the owner threw a lot of resources at the project. She gave me three designers to work with and, as this was their only project, they really went at it.
For internal review, we went through an amazing number of sketches and from these showed the agency owner probably twenty different directions. She was delighted with the work and picked a dozen for presentation. I argued for less, but she insisted on showing the client “how hard we are working for him” (by confusing him, apparently). Second red flag.
So we tightened up the concepts and I went to the client meeting with the senior designer. When we got there, in addition to the client, he had surprised us by inviting his five (!) vice presidents too, “just to get their feedback.” Third red flag.
Most of the group were pretty easy. They made normal, reasonable client comments, we took a lot of notes and asked clarifying questions. But consistently, there was one guy at the end of the table who hated all 12 directions
“That just sucks,” he would say. Or “I can’t believe you’d be willing to show something this horrible.” But best of all was “That looks like a dog pissing on a flat rock.”
Punchline: Turns out the flat rock guy had a wife who almost went to art school, and he was trying to get the project for her.
We never did finish the logo, but at least the dog-pissing-on-a-flat-rock comment became a staple of internal review meetings for years afterwards.
When I was starting off as a freelance copywriter, one of my first clients wanted a one-page ad written. They wanted to do design and production in-house, which should have been a red flag right there.
So, typical ad– concept, headlines, a couple drafts, and minor corrections. I quote the job based on my hourly rate.
Client: This seems like an awful lot of hours. Do you really type that slow?
Client: Needs less white space.
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I was working on a site for a private equity firm that deals in healthy living consumer packaged goods and was asked to change the banner to something “food or healthy living focused.”
First I tried a photo of a lady doing yoga on a cliff:
Client: We want there to be food in it.
So then I tried an image of a fancy smoothie with fruit on top.
Client: That’s LITERALLY food, not what we’re looking for.
I’m still not sure where to find stock photos of “figurative food.”
- Referring to text on a flyer that is A) black on white and B) bold.
Client: We have a problem.Me: How can I help?Client: I just emailed all of this information over to...
Client: We have a problem.
Me: How can I help?
Client: I just emailed all of this information over to you but I wanted to call just to be sure because this is bad. REAL BAD.
Me: OK, what’s up?
Client: At about 2:30 am this morning I got an automated email from my ISP saying the internet in my area is down and they do not know when it will be back up. This is real trouble. We have a ton of stuff we have to get done today.
Me: This email says it was sent from your Outlook.
Client: Yes, I just sent it to you.
Me: From your office?
Client: I’m stupid.
Me: Happens to the best of us.
Client: We want all three of our websites to be shut down immediately!
Me: May I know why?
Client: There are some typos in the text.
For the record, they gave me the text. I just published it.
Let’s imagine that, say, the Washington Post shutting down because there are some typos in the content.
I’m a designer who specializes in cover artwork. This client was really excited to work with me after seeing with my portfolio, and wanted a cover image for an upcoming project. He wanted a mixed media, “painterly” vibe.
Me: Because of the scope of this cover, it will take at least a full week for me to be able to get you the first version.
Client: That’s fine, take your time no rush. I like your work and we’ll like you to take your time.
Me: Here’s what i’ve come up with please review and let me know if there’s anything you’d like to change
Client: I love the concept and all the sleeves, my only concern is that the guitar used on the front cover is not the right one.
Me: Ok no problem please send me a picture of the exact guitar you want to see on the cover and I’ll make some modifications.
Me: Please send me the exact image of the guitar you’d like me to use.
Client: I’m heading to a gig. I send it to you tomorrow
Day 7, the client finally sends that image.
Client: Here’s the guitar I’d like you to use.
Me: No problem, I’ll get to work.
Me: Please have a look at this updated draft of the front and confirm that this is the right guitar. And I will proceed with the sleeves
Me: Did you get my message from yesterday? I sent you a draft. please confirm that the guitar is the right one.
Client: (sends same image again) Here’s the guitar I want you to use.
Me: Did you get my last two messages and the drafts I sent you? Can you please confirm that this is the right guitar? I need to know before I put in another set of hours into the cover and I can’t take back.
Client: I am sorry but I’m getting frustrated. I’m running out of time and the guitar is still the same.
Me: I’m sorry you to hear that. Did you get the drafts? Please Confirm.
Day 18. Still waiting for response…
I collect data and arrange reports for a company. After five years of constantly training my clients...
I collect data and arrange reports for a company. After five years of constantly training my clients in several data collection programs and failing miserably (due to fear-of-scary-computer problems), I finally decided to make this easier on them and set up a data collection spreadsheet on Google Sheets. This way they can just log in, put their data in and I can see it in real time. It’s the simplest thing I can think of and I thought I wouldn’t get any more problems.
Client: Okay, I’ve finished my data entry for June. How do I save?
Me: You don’t have to, Google saves it automatically.
Client: Oh, really? Cool!
Client: I’ve finished my data entry for July. How do I save?
Me: Wait, what? I told you, Google saves it automatically.
Client: Oh right!
Month after that.
Client: I’ve just finished my data entry for August. How do I save?
This week’s deal is on Celestial, a Victorian typeface with TONS of extra features!
Celestial isn’t just a font; it comes packed with hundreds of ornaments and borders, making it easy to make a beautiful, intricate Victorian-era design! And that’s not to mention all the OpenType features you expect, nay, demand. It’s the perfect typeface for beer labels, grooming product packaging, steampunk convention posters… this one’s got possibilities.
Normally Celestial retails for $18, but if you buy this week you’ll only pay half that. $9 is nothing when you sell a design using it for 50x times that amount (or more!).
"What do you mean you need to talk with the lawyer to get the details of the case? Look, I have a..."
"Can you help with the website, I have no idea what I did yesterday, I think I clicked on updates. I..."
I’m a freelance web designer, many of my clients are small businesses or individuals who aren’t particularly tech-y and I enjoy helping, but my patience is running thin with this one…
I am currently sending out my (not expensive) hosting invoices for the year. The client is relocating to a new town, but doesn’t seem to understand how the internet works. I’m afraid my answer was a bit blunt.
Client: Would it be possible to have a temporary freeze of the website so I just have web page based in (new location)? Until I build up enough clients, I will struggle with your fees. I would be grateful if you could advise me to what is viable at a challenging time.
Me: For the website itself I can either take it offline and not charge you any hosting or keep it online and hosting charges will apply. I can’t make it live just in (new location), or partially live, it is either live or not. While I sympathize with moving being a challenging time I can’t change the way the internet works.
Never again will I make the mistake of not looking at my check before I leave a meeting. When I get...
Never again will I make the mistake of not looking at my check before I leave a meeting. When I get home from a meeting with the client, I pull out the check to e-deposit it; and notice it’s short by more than $60. I shoot her a text:
Me: My check is a $X short of what we agreed on. Can you drop off a check at my office as soon as possible please? I’ll be holding onto the work I was supposed to send over this evening until the balance is paid.
Client: Please send work product now, I’ll pay the balance on your next check in 2 weeks.
Me: I can’t send anything over until the balance is paid. Sorry, but this is pretty standard in the industry.
Client: Hold off on all further work. I will mail the check. We will be ending it here for now.
Me: Okay… as soon as I receive the check I’ll send over the files.
So… she fired me because I called you out on blatantly trying to short me? At the meeting she said “I’ve rounded your hours up a bit to give you a little bonus.” So obviously she knew what she was doing. She was just hoping I wouldn’t say anything.
A client submitted a photo to be used on a cover for a report about an event. They requested that the cover show that the event was well attended. The photo submitted is landscape and taken down the middle of an aisle. It focuses on the speaker and shows a crowd of people sitting on either side of the aisle.
Me: If we use this photo, it’s not going to look like there were very many people at the event. Once we crop it to fit your cover (portrait orientation), it’s going to remove most people and only show your speaker.
Client: Well can’t you just move the people over with Photoshop?
Me: That’s not something you can do with Photoshop without it looking terrible.
Client: Okay, what about this photo?
Me: That would work except that dead center of the photo is a guy prominently staring off to the right of the frame for some reason. It makes it a little awkward to use.
Client: Oh, well just Photoshop his head so he’s looking the right direction.
Me: I can’t do that.
Client: What if I find his head from another photo pointing in the right direction? Then can you do it?
We did eventually find a suitable photo, but I was waiting for them to suggest I just make a brand NEW photo “in Photoshop.”
Me: So here’s the code. This will make it really easy to update our data.Client: (looking at screen)...
Me: So here’s the code. This will make it really easy to update our data.
Client: (looking at screen) That’s a Word document.
Me: No, that’s code. It pulls all the info together.
Client: That’s just a Word document. Anyone could type that in.
Me: No, I can type that in, because I know how to code. It pulls information from spreadsheets and compiles it. It saves us hours of time.
Client: It’s a Word document. Just give them the spreadsheets.
Me: There are 156 main spreadsheets with around 3000 data items on each. That’s why we’ve been doing this work.
Client: Well I don’t know why you’re wasting your time. That’s a Word Document.
Client: Hey can you put these products up?
End of email. No attachments. No follow-ups.