Clients from Hell

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Horror stories from freelancers
Updated: 1 hour 31 min ago

You sent us the wrong format. You gave us…

8 June 2021 - 4:00pm

Client: You sent us the wrong format. You gave us a JPG but we need JPEG.

A bit of idiocy from the Clients From Hell archives

 

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If You Put In The Effort

8 June 2021 - 3:00pm

To preface, I am a 2D character animator. Think like cartoons on TV sort of stuff, but on occasion I help make medical information videos more appealing and easier to digest. I am not part of a studio or a team – it’s just me.

Client: I want this 15min PowerPoint presentation put into an animated theatrical video format, with a cute character that leads us through an environment as he explains our text. But I don’t want this to be an explainer video. Think of it like a documentary.

Me: Okay, that sounds great. We can start with some character designs, then move onto a storyboard by the end of the month. Once that’s approved, I can have a finished product to you the month after.

Client: Oh, I have this presentation in 2 weeks. I thought that would be enough time.

Me: No, unfortunately, that is not enough time. I would be happy to work with what you have and make a more basic explainer video.

Client: Are you sure you’re not just limiting yourself to an unnecessarily broad timeline? I think if you really put your effort in, you could get what I want done in 2 weeks. 

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This on you, by the way

8 June 2021 - 2:00pm

I met a client to go over a brief over lunch. They suggested it. 

Fifteen minutes after our food arrived, they got a phone call and had to take off. Problem is (and I only figured this out shortly after) they didn’t pay for their meal. I had to cover it before leaving.

I texted them to let them know, thinking it was an honest mistake. Moments later I got a reply:

Client: With what I’m paying you, I think you can afford to buy me lunch!

At that point, I got paranoid that they whole reason they asked to meet for lunch was to do this. I’ve even started to suspect that the call that interrupted their meal was faked.

Two can play at this game, though. Their meal is getting stuffed into my invoice SOMEWHERE – with a massive tip. 

What’s the cheapest client you’ve ever had

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Pay for our mistakes

7 June 2021 - 4:00pm

Client: We need this animation finalized in less than a week. Here’s all the info.

Me: That turnaround is too tight and I’m booked with other stuff.

Client: Push everything else aside. This is top priority.

After finishing:

Client: It looks good, but we sent you the wrong script. Please revise. And hurry. We need this tomorrow.

A turnaround from the Clients From Hell archive

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Very, very urgent

7 June 2021 - 3:00pm

A few years ago, I travelled to a large European city for a congress. The embassy from my home country also occupied an exhibition stand there. I’m a copywriter, and the embassay sent me a very last minute e-mail, that they knew I was going to be there and needed an interview with the ambassador for an online publication directly after the event. I was a bit annoyed, since I was planning on networking instead of writing. But ok, I decided to take it on.

I spent hours and hours interviewing the ambassador, doing background research, writing, fine-tuning etc. When I sent the final document to the ambassador’s assistant (who was my contact person and very strict on the deadline), I didn’t get any response.

Slightly annoyed, I tried to follow up on my e-mail multiple times. No response. Weeks and weeks went by without answer. Finally, I tried getting a hold of the assistant via phone. To no avail: they told me he relocated weeks ago, to a completely other part of the world and couldn’t be reached.

Never got response, nor did I receive any payment. The article was never placed.

 

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The thingy less

7 June 2021 - 2:00pm

Client: Can you make the thingy less?

Me: Uh… 

Client: You know, the thingy, can you make it less?

Turns out she was asking if I could make the logo smaller. 

This conversation took four minutes. 

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Save over 99% on 2000+ stylish and cute vector elements!

7 June 2021 - 1:01pm

This week’s deal is an enormous bundle of high-quality watercolor design elements!

> They’re cute AND elegant. Top that. 

You’re a great designer and a solid illustrator, but that doesn’t mean you’re great at watercolor. That’s where this bundle by Mikibith Art comes in. Harness their skill for your designs!  Deploying subtly beautiful flowers, adorable pets and stylish and adorable characters. The seamless flower textures alone make this bundle worth it, and the rest of the 2000+ add incredible value. Need a “girly” touch to a design? This bundle will get you there, fast. 

The variety this bundle gives you is normally worth $1000, but for the next week you can save over 99% and get all 2000+ elements for only $9. That’s less than half a cent per element. Get this brand new look for your design arsenal at the cost of only two premium coffees. 

> Check out the deal here. 

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Catch me, if you can

6 June 2021 - 3:03pm

A client was three months late in paying. I suspected it was due to additional charges for requesting changes after a project had been finalized. They claimed to have sent a check after paying online didn’t work out, but it never arrived. I arranged to meet in person at a coffee shop near my 9-5 job (which is not related to my freelancing services).  The client didn’t show up.

On my day off, my boss from my 9-5 calls and tells me to come to work immediately. I arrived and my client was there, chatting with my boss; they handed me an envelope and kept chatting. I excused myself while they continued to talk.

I opened the envelope to find a check for a little over half the amount owed. Suspecting shenanigans, I took a second to print out a copy of the signed work order and caught my client as they were about to leave.

Me: Hi there, it’s been a while. Is it ok if we go over this real quick before you leave?

Client: Sure.

Me: I just wanted to verify if this envelope contains the $XXX for the project here in this work order.

Client: Yeah, that’s the correct amount.

Me: Ok perfect. Is it ok if I open it now to double-check or can I trust that it contains the correct amount?

Client: You can check. It’s the correct amount.

I pulled out the check.

Me: Oh, I’m glad we looked. The check is written for $XX. I need an additional $XX to complete the total of $XXX for the project as agreed here on the work order.

Client: It’s $XXX!? No, let me see the work order. I don’t remember it being It’s $XXX.

Me: We went over it just now and you agreed that was the correct amount.

Client: Let me see if I have cash.

The client took back the check and paid the full amount in cash. I later found out they had a habit of bouncing checks.

What’s the most creative way you’ve called out a client for non-payment? We want to know!

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I wrote the book

6 June 2021 - 2:14pm

Client: I’m actually a designer too – I even wrote a book on the subject! I just hired you because my business is growing so fast I need to be fully hands on with all the other stuff.

I looked up his book. Or rather, eBook. A thirty page free pamphlet with embedded links from where they’d copied and pasted other people’s Instagrams.

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Black on black

5 June 2021 - 4:00pm

Client: I don’t like the T-shirt design. I’m going to want my money back.

Me: Why?

Client: The logo turned out black

Me: Well, yeah – that’s what you asked for. 

Client: It doesn’t show up on a black T-shirt.

Me: You said it was going to be printed on a white or coloured T-shirt.

Client: But the black T-shirts were cheaper…

Me: I’m sorry, but I was pretty clear you needed to print on a coloured or white shirt. 

Client: Yeah, I remember now. But to afford ordering more T-shirts, we have to cancel your payment nonetheless. 

A head-scratcher from the Clients From Hell archives!

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Photo shop.

5 June 2021 - 3:00pm

Client: These photos don’t look quite right.

Me: Oh, these are the raw files. I’m going to fix them up a bit in Photoshop.

Client: Which photo shop do you use?

Me: Um… Adobe?

Client: Do they deliver?

This was in 2019. 

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Faulty Keyboard

5 June 2021 - 2:00pm

I used to be a software developer who also did technical support for a highly niche market (churches).  After several minutes of going through the application with one of the church ladies, we get to this point in the conversation:

Me: Ok, now use the left arrow key to go to the beginning of the line.

Client: You mean the Enter key?

Me: No, ma’am, the left arrow key?

Client: You mean the Backspace key?

Me: No, ma’am, the left arrow key.

Client: I don’t have a left arrow key.

Me: You don’t have a left arrow key?  Do you see the Enter key?

Client: Yes

Me: Now move your finger down one row, and over to the right a little bit and you should see four arrow keys.

Client: Oh, you mean the left arrow key!

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I work for a hotel amenities company designing custom…

4 June 2021 - 4:00pm

I work for a hotel amenities company designing custom toiletries, like shampoo and conditioner. We offer free design services so our clients get an idea of what their custom program will look like before they commit to a contract.

One particular client forwarded us a design done for them by one of our competitors. They said that they “didn’t like that the logo was just slapped onto the bottles.” They were giving us a chance to take their project and create something more “designed”. 

Please keep in mind most of these products are 1oz with very little room to design on, so it’s not always the easiest to really do much. Still, I felt up to the challenge. I began working right away comparing my designs to the competitors and making sure I displayed the logo in an interesting way. I finished the presentation and sent it to the client for their review.

A few weeks passed and they finally sent us feedback. They loved one of my options and would like some changes on another one. Unfortunately, the option they loved was my least favorite. In fact, I was almost hesitant to send it because the logo was on the front underneath the ingredient name – nothing “designed” about it.

The second design they wanted “changes” to was, in my opinion, the most unique and designed. I had taken the logo and cropped it into a frame, creating a nice graphic that fit very well with their bathrooms. The client wanted me to take it out of the frame and just “place it on the tube.” Or, in other words, to “just slap it on the bottle.”

At that moment I felt all of the creativity just drain out of my body. Then I went home and poured a glass of wine. And another. And another.

I feel better now.

From the Clients From Hell archives!

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Spam or SEO?

4 June 2021 - 3:00pm

Client: Look, I got this email via my contact form on a website.

They sent me a spammy message where the sender says he analyzed their website and could improve ther SEO and traffic. 

Me: Oh, this is a spam message, I will try to enhance security in forms to avoid such messages.

Client: I dont care, spam or not. I dont care about that message. Why does somebody analyze my website? And why my SEO and traffic is not improved? I want my website to be found on Google as they are suggesting!

Me: Your website is among the best Google results in your market, and your traffic is huge by the way. You can see this in monthly reports we send you.

Client: I don’t need your excuses, fix it.

So I enhanced form security and they stopped receiving those spams. After a month without any spams:

Client: Thank you, it seems my SEO is OK again.

What’s the dumbest “fix it” demand you’ve ever received?

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I still can’t believe this happened

4 June 2021 - 2:00pm

Client: Your portfolio is quite strong, but we’d like some assurance; could you give us some references, your strategy, your credit score…

Me: Sorry, did you ask for my CREDIT SCORE?

Client: We would find it reassuring to know how responsible you are. 

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What you see is what you get

3 June 2021 - 4:00pm

Client: So is WYSISWYG what the website is built in?

That’s kind of funny, but harmless. Not everybody knows what a WYSISWYG editor is.   The only problem is that this was the company IT Director.    From the Clients From Hell archives!

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Science is hard

3 June 2021 - 3:00pm

Despite appearances, this story is extremely pertinent to creative client work.

Back in college, I had a part-time job bagging groceries at a little mom and pop health food store. A little old lady was buying a significant number of items: a gallon of milk, a bag of flour, several canned goods, eggs, fruit and veggies, etc. As I’m strategically placing her items into two bags, paying attention to the weight distribution and trying my best to make it easy for her, she turns to me and says “Just put it all in one bag, but don’t make it heavy.”

Uh… Ok, lady. 

Back then, I was baffled. Now, twenty years later as a designer, I realize that this was the basis for half the client interactions I’ve ever had. 

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How little can we pay you?

3 June 2021 - 2:00pm

A potential client contacted me about an extremely technically demanding software project. Seems they were earning tens of millions of dollars a year from it, but due to them hiring bad software developers, they couldn’t get it to scale. Now they wanted someone to keep developing it while they simultaneously rewrote it in a different programming language it was easier to find software developers for.

No problem. I specialize in this. After a short period of time discussing what their problems were, they were very excited because I quickly figured out the primary bottlenecks, how to fix them, and explained that it would take me a few months of work to stabilize things, given the size of their codebase.

They said “yes”, but promptly offered me part time at a junior developer’s hourly rate. I’m one of the top experts in my field. I politely said no.

They came back a year later. Seems the $100/day developer they hired from a lesser-developed nation wasn’t very good and stopped responding to their email.

They again offered me part-time at a junior developer’s hourly rate to maintain software they were making tens of millions of dollars from.

Last I checked, they pivoted their entire business in a different direction because their competition finally caught up with them.

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Why not? That’s why.

3 June 2021 - 12:34am

Client: (upon reviewing his site) Why didn’t you use any of my company pictures on here?

Me: Did you send me any pictures? 

Client: No. 

From the Clients From Hell archives!

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Dysfunctional Priorities

2 June 2021 - 2:00pm

I was working for a company in a completely dysfunctional team. While looking for options to find a path out of that team, I learned that IT was going to be implementing a new tool that I had experience with. I took a few more courses and certifications with the aim of freelancing myself to the other team and eventually gain enough trust and experience to move out of my dysfunctional department.

It turned out the tool was going to be implemented on MY team, so I was the only one in the unique position of knowing my job inside and out plus having certifications on the tool. I managed to get myself onto the project, and jumped on the first conference call to plan how the tool should be used.

Boss: The information we need isn’t currently in the system, so we can’t tell it to send emails.

Me: Let’s just add a table so w…

Boss: It’s too hard and expensive to add new tables to our existing systems.

Me: I didn’t mean add to the system. You can create a simple table in Excel and upload it to the tool, then just tell the tool how to incorporate the information.

Boss: This tool can’t DO that.

Me: (irritated at being interrupted) Yes, it can.

I explained how and why.

Everyone:

And that was how I was kicked off of a program implementation and given the silent treatment when I was the only one who knew both the tool and how my department worked.

Apparently, it’s more important to not offend a director than to properly implement a new expensive IT tool.

I left a few months later, I’m curious how/if the rollout went.

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