Clients from Hell

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Horror stories from freelancers
Updated: 55 min 25 sec ago

Get that Victorian feel for only $14 with these vintage vectors!

3 February 2019 - 1:00pm
Get that Victorian feel for only $14 with these vintage vectors!

Love handlebar moustaches on strongmen and penny-farthing bikes? Are you creating labels for beard oils or other assorted finery? Or do you just love vintage prints in all their glory?

> Well, take a look at this deal, because it’s made for you.

Good prints never go out of style — they just become kitschy cool. There are plenty of established markets for the Victorian look; natural cleaning products, men’s grooming, micro-brewed beer, coffee… it’s a long list, and bound to get longer. This bundle gives you everything you need to create Victorian-style designs, including fonts, illustrations, frames and more. Fill your branding with top hats, parasols and monsters from the sea

Normally all the elements of this bundle would cost $144, but this week they’re just $14. Save 90% and get this fun toolkit today

> Check out the deal here! 

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fast work

3 February 2019 - 12:00pm

I was working temporarily at a reception desk.

Client: Don’t eat in front of customers.

Me: Okay. Is water okay?

Client: Have you ever fasted?

Me: Yes.

Client: And did you die because you didn’t drink water?



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no distractions just beauty

2 February 2019 - 1:00pm

Me: What would do you want your brand to look like?

Client: If I could sum it up I want our brand to be a minimalistic art gallery. That feeling of when you walk into a store and there are no distractions, just beauty.

 Client: The pieces are all displayed nicely and there are shapes and textures to play with.

Client: Soft, hard, shiny, fluffy, warm, cold… do you know what I mean?

Client: It’s simplicity in one way, but in another way it’s super complicated and refined and each item is mind-blowing in its own way.

Client: Let me know if this makes any sense at all.

It didn’t. She sold eyelashes.

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black labour

2 February 2019 - 12:00pm

I offer pencil portrait drawings based on photographs in England.

Client: If you drew a portrait of me and my husband, how much would that be?

Me: Depending on what exactly you want, it starts at [price].

Client: Okay. But since that would be black labour, I won’t pay you. I could get into legal trouble for that.

[Editor’s note: in England “black labour” is illegal work that is not taxed.]

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bag of dictation

1 February 2019 - 1:00pm

I used to type up dictation for the MD of a company based in Western Australia (I am in England). Often his dictation would include a memo to his assistant, Jane, and would be just a few words long, for example: “Jane, can you tell Bill to send me this file?” or “Jane – book a haircut for me please.”

However – his audio files would be sent to me by Jane, for me to type up and then to send back. Which means instead of just telling his assistant what to do, he gave her an audio clip that she sent to me across the planet so I could spend a minute typing and send it back.

Not a bad client at all, but ridiculous.

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Why do people think God is so cheap?

1 February 2019 - 12:00pm

I’m part of a string quartet of college students who are already charging FAR below the standard rate per hour.

Client: Can you play my church’s fundraiser?

Me: What’s your budget?

Client: We could reimburse you for gas.

Me: I’m sorry, we can’t do a gig for free.

Client: Think of it as doing God a service.

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<p>Client: The tooltip shows up 100ms

31 January 2019 - 1:00pm

Client: The tooltip shows up 100ms too early.

Me: What do you mean?

Client: We just want standard behaviour tooltip, this doesn’t feel right.

Me: I literally re-used template jQuery code, how did you measure the 100ms?


Client: Also, the button is 1px too far to the right. This all matters man, you have to notice this stuff. 

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business plan

31 January 2019 - 12:00pm

A friend referred me to a potential client who had a business idea but zero experience in the area.

Me: what is your business proposal? Given a rough outline, some details can be filled in later.

Client: Basically, I want to start a greeting card company and I need a designer – hopefully, you – who can design and produce art for the cards!

Me: Okay! So would you pay me by commission or through co-ownership?

Client: Commission! I want to give you a split of the profit, I can’t afford to pay you upfront.

Me: Well, commissions would mean having to pay me up front, and I wouldn’t sign on for “profit splitting.” If you’re asking me to do all the art and everything, I would insist on co-ownership.

 Client: Oh, then co-owner, yeah.


Me: What portion of profits would I receive?

Client: 25% after business costs.

Me: So you’d get 75%?

Client: No you would have 50% of the profits. 25% goes to you, 25% goes to marketing. 25% to reinvestment and other business expenses and 25% to me.

A few red flags so far, but I figured I’d ask some more questions, give her the benefit of the doubt:

Me: Okay! So what would you be doing to earn that 50% of the profits?

Client: I don’t understand, you’d be earning 50% off each of your card designs that sell.

Me: Right, but you’re asking me to do all the art assets for the cards, so I would be contributing ALL of what you’re actually selling. What would you do in your role that would equal the amount of work I would do?

Client: You wouldn’t have to do anything! Once you’ve done the picture you just sit back and relax!

Me: Do you have a business plan? Would you be hustling more vendors for these cards? Or is the plan to sell my art and get 50% of that?

Client: I don’t understand.

I gave up shortly thereafter. This client told my friend that I was trying to scam her and my friend got mad at me. We haven’t spoken since.

It turns out the client hadn’t even seen my work at that point either. At some point she must have actually looked at my portfolio because I got another message:

Client: Wow, I really like your art! Are you sure you don’t want to work for me?

I didn’t respond.

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User Submitted Post

30 January 2019 - 1:00pm

Client: So, I want the website font to be Impact, but italic Impact.

Me: I don’t think Impact even supports italic. 

Client: Can you make it work?

Me: I can try, but honestly it’s a really bad idea for a few reasons.

Client: Just do it. 

My inner typographer died during this project. Especially when I presented it and the CEO asked “why is the font so ugly?”

…AFTER the project went online and all the print materials were done. 

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Too upset to talk right now

30 January 2019 - 12:00pm

I’m a web designer and developer. I had a client who was launching a site for a huge week-long annual conference. Tickets usually sold out within days of being posted, so I had to make sure the site was fully prepared for launch day. 

I was supposed to be hired on to do the website for the next 5 years.

Anyway, the client was completely disorganized sending me content, sending me tons of emails with random attachments and even worse formatting. 

There was no organization to these at all — no subject lines in the emails that would give clues about what was attached, nor filenames that described what was in the documents. I tried desperately to keep them organized and track them for changes and updates, and really did the best I could.

The afternoon before launch, I was going through the site and realized one page was missing its introductory paragraph. I emailed her to ask about that content:

Me: Hey! I seem to be missing some content for the home page. I’m not sure if you sent it or not, but if you could send that my way I will update it immediately. 

I got an email response very soon thereafter. 


I did.

Me: Hey! You asked me to call?


Me: Uh…

I tried to calm her down and ask what was wrong, but she refused to answer, instead sobbing into the receiver for minutes. Eventually, she passed the phone to her husband, who explained that she was “too upset” to talk to me. 

When she calmed down (relatively speaking): 

Client: When I found out you’d miss that content, I realized you must have missed other content elsewhere and I realized our whole launch was going to be ruined!

Me: I emailed because I was going through the site to make sure everything was as it should be, and this was the only mistake I found. I’m sorry I missed this content, but I assure you everything else is as it should be. 

Anyway, they refused to re-send the content. I was eventually able to find the missing document buried in an email chain with dozens of other attachments. 

The client never spoke to me again. I had a few brief conversations with her husband and then they fired me. The site went live without a hitch and the workshop sold out in a few days. I even saw comments on their site saying it was the best ticket buying process they’d ever experienced. 

Fortunately, I took a deposit up front — because at least I got paid. 

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But We’ll Save Money

29 January 2019 - 1:00pm

Client: We’ve decided to go with another provider’s quote. They are cheaper per month.

Me: Oh, but this quote shows they have an upfront cost of $20k more and half of the features you wanted. It will take a little over 12 years to see monthly savings.

Client: Yeah, but in 12 years we’ll be saving money.


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No experience necessary

29 January 2019 - 12:00pm

A long-time friend of mine who’d also been a good client with 30 projects complete chatted me up at a holiday get-together. 

Friend:  Have you ever heard of Milton Glaser?

Me:  Of course, he a very famous designer. 

Friend: I bought four of his books. Have you read them? 

Me: Yes. I did a paper on him in school.

Friend: Reeeaaally? Huh, not sure why you went to school.  After reading these I realized I can do all your work myself, should have saved myself a lot of cash over the years.

Me:  …That’s pretty insulting. What program are you using?

Friend:  PowerPoint.

Me: Can I see these designs?

Friend: Well not right now, we’re at a party.

Me: Right. Just curious, How are you drawing in PowerPoint?

Friend:  Drawing?  I can’t draw.  I take a picture with my phone of the things I like in the book then put text over the picture in PowerPoint.

Me:  You do know that is infringement right?

Friend: It’s called creating a design.  

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just one more thing

28 January 2019 - 1:00pm

Some family friends hired me to design the signage for their newly acquired store. I e-mailed the third and final revision of designs, ready to invoice and call it a day.

Client: We love it. Can you print it for us too?

Me: My business is strictly design, but because you’re a family friend I can have printing arranged.

Client: Can you also paint the signs for us?

Me: Again, my business is strictly design, but since you’re local and I’ll have some free time coming up I can give you a hand if you need.

Client: Oh, also, the wood (surface the signs would be going on) is a little uneven. Can you adjust the price to add replacement lumber?

Just. No.

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User Submitted Post

28 January 2019 - 12:00pm

I developed a shopping WordPress website for a client. I finished it and was about to upload it.

Me: Okay! I just need you to purchase the hosting so I can upload the site. I recommend getting a good package so it isn’t slow.

He went cheap, buying the economy GoDaddy hosting option.

Client: Why is the site loading so slowly? What did you do wrong? 

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Spencer & Sons Nickson Type Family — only $12!

27 January 2019 - 1:00pm

This week’s deal is on a premium font family that’s just awesome

> Nickson — it’s the classic look your toolbox needs.

Often, font sales have 100s of fonts — which is great — but sometimes all you need is one versatile font. Nickson was designed from the ground up to remind you of the diners and garages of Route 66 in America’s golden age. It’s effortlessly cool and stalwart, and you’ll return to this look again and again — especially since it comes with 15 styles and 100s of badges and elements. It’s the kind of font you want on a tattoo it’s so good. 

The Nickson family of fonts normally sells for $25, but for a limited time it’s only $12. Sell ONE design with this look and you’ve made your money back and then some.

> Check out the deal here! 

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The impossible dream

27 January 2019 - 12:00pm

Client: We are looking for creative concepts for a chart that shows our organizational structure and corporate hierarchy. The only constraint is that we don’t want it to be a chart because they don’t connect with our clientele. 


Client: Oh and we’d prefer if it didn’t show any hierarchy.

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<p>When I was first trying my hand as a

26 January 2019 - 1:04pm

When I was first trying my hand as a freelancer I got a message asking if I would take on a project dropped by a previous artist. Excited to build my portfolio and gain experience, I gladly agreed. The client sent me an image started by the previous artist of a quick digital painting consisting of 3 separate images (like Polaroid photos) with a dark background and words like “best friends” and “I love you”. 

Me: OK, so you just want this finished? 

Client: Yeah. It’s my best friend’s birthday present. I need it done in four days. 

Despite the roughness of the sketched image I was shown, I could tell each of the 3 images were very detailed and would be a project in and of itself, but I really wanted to take every client I could. 

Me: Ooh, that’s not much time, but I can do it. 

Client: Plus I need you to send it to her so we’ll need time for shipping. 

Me: I’ll just email you the finished digital painting, and you can print it from home or a print shop. 

Client: No, I want it painted by hand on a huge canvas and shipped by mail to her. Take the shipping out of your payment. 

I was only being paid $75 for the whole project, which probably would have barely covered the shipping. Now I see why the first artist called it quits. I did too.

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x marks the not

26 January 2019 - 12:01pm

Client: I’d really like X.  Let’s do X.

Me: Unfortunately X is not possible.  We could do A, B, or even C though.

Client: But I’d really like X.  Let’s do that.

Me: I’m sorry, but we can’t do that. It’s totally impossible. Would A, B, or C meet your needs?  I’m also available for a phone conference to get things figured out.  Feel free to call anytime.

After six weeks of silent treatment from the client while invoices are going overdue and late fees are accumulating:

Client: Any progress on X?

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Lactose Intolerance

25 January 2019 - 1:46pm

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<p>&#8220;I can download it to view it

25 January 2019 - 1:00pm

“I can download it to view it but I can’t seem to save it.”

Client after downloading an image from WeTransfer. 

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