Clients from Hell

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Horror stories from freelancers
Updated: 12 min 35 sec ago

Magic Eyes

21 November 2019 - 2:00pm

I was working an internship for this small company that sells all kinds of cheap products made in China and the boss had me making advertising banners for their many websites. Most of it was typical stuff like promos for sales, holiday/seasonal-themed ones.

The client came over to check on me and I showed him what I had so far.

Client: Hmmm. No. I don’t like any of these pictures. Why don’t you just use Google?

Me: I did. This was the best I could find.

Client: Let me check.

He sat next to me and did a basic Google image search with no Creative Commons filter.

Client: Oh, hey, see? THIS one’s better.

Me: Yeah but that might be copyrighted. If it didn’t show up when I used the Creative Commons filter, that usually means it’s copyrighted.

Client: Naw, I can usually tell whether an image is copyrighted or not. I’ll check it.

He then stared at the image for a few seconds while I watched in disbelief.

Client: Nope! It’s not copyrighted!

Thankfully I found a similar image that WAS okay to use because sorry but I am NOT risking my neck on your “magic vision.”

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Art Director

21 November 2019 - 1:00pm

I was working on a magazine. The client was a bit self-conscious when it came to their image in print. 

Client: I know I’m a bit rosy, but when my headshot goes to print it always looks ridiculously red.

Me: I subtracted as much of the red as I could but it starts to get yellow and washed out if I remove any more. 

Client: But the image appears fine on my screen, it’s just how it looks in print.

Me: Yes, that’s because screens and printers use different color profiles.

Client: But like, significantly redder. 

Me: I can keep adjusting it but it will always look different on screen vs print.

What I would like to say: Sorry to break it to you, but you are that rosy… Please stop worrying about this nonsense and do your job.

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Well okay then

20 November 2019 - 2:00pm

I was working with a corporation to design a poster for a concert they were having at a local venue. I turned their project around extremely quickly and they seemed pleased. The next day I got an email from the coordinator.

Client: Please alphabetize the lineup.

Which is weird, you should have your headliner on top. But two minutes later I get an email that says:

Client: Nevermind, ignore that.”

I pass along the invoice, think everything is great. Two weeks later I get another email.


Me: Which updates are you looking for exactly?

Client: A poster with the alphabetized lineup.

Me: You told me to ignore that email.

Client: That’s not what I meant.

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User Submitted Post

20 November 2019 - 1:00pm

I’m a photographer on the side and was hired by a friend of mine to do some “nice” family photos for a group of nine. Simple enough – but I didn’t realize what kind of family it was. 

I arrived on the day at the client’s house. They’ve started drinking and smoking outside. I set up my equipment and then had to wait 20minutes for them to get changed. I got them to pose for a few shots, during which a bunch of them “hilariously” decided to act up and bare some butts and pull faces. By the time I left at least one family member was passed out. 

Well, because they were pulling shenanigans most of the shots were ruined by “funny” faces or full moons. I did my best to merge several photos in one, and at the end of it all, I had a good collection of images that were fit for print. I sent them off to the client, who then proceeded to criticize every shot and then complained that there weren’t enough (I gave 130 images) and that I was missing several key shots (some due to bare butts and faces) and also demanded to know where the original images were ( i don’t give out my raw images to clients, and that was also mentioned to her previously).

I offered to re-edit the photos and touch up any mistakes which is my policy.

Client: You wasted my time. And you ruined Christmas! 

What? I decided to offer a refund instead and wipe my hands of the entire matter. I’d rather lose some money than deal with them. 

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User Submitted Post

19 November 2019 - 3:00pm

One of my clients referred me to his friend for a new website for his retail store.

I met him at his store and we discussed what he needs and explained everything for almost two hours.

When I gave him an estimate of how much it will cost(very generous) he almost starts shouting.

Client: I am not paying you this much.

Me: Well, for the amount of work involved this is best I can do. You want an eCommerce store that supports 600 products that has to integrate with your POS system. It’s a big job. 

Client: But my wife told me I can make a website with WIX for 20 bucks. You seem like a good guy so I’ll pay you 100 dollars, but I need a website to be ready in a week.

I tried my best but had to say goodbye.

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A great price!

19 November 2019 - 2:00pm

An email I received from a potential client:

Client: We were looking through your credentials and you seem to be exactly what we’re looking for! We have about 35 images that we need to be shopped and edited so that we can create a series to pull from for future campaigns. Just general images, 1024 x 768 pixels, but they definitely need some reworking! We were hoping to have them all done within a month.

We’re currently offering a rate of $3/hour! Does that work for you?

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Google Dead Grandmothers

18 November 2019 - 2:00pm

We sell school management ERP [Enterprise Resource Planning] with the usual modules – Student Administration, Academics, Fees, Library Management, Payroll, etc. The ERP is often customized according to the client’s requirements. For almost all schools, the report cards of the students are customized as per the school’s academic policies.

One school called us up and said that the Report Cards should mention the result as “Incomplete” instead of “Failed” for any student who was absent from exams. No problem, we complied and uploaded the report cards. At the time of the report card generation, we got the following call:

Client: The report cards are showing “Incomplete” for all students who are absent for an exam.

Me: Isn’t that what you wanted?

Client: No! We want students with a GENUINE reason to be absent to earn an incomplete. For instance, a student might have his grandmother died the night before the exam. That’s a real reason! But some students know they will fail the exam, so they don’t come to school on the exam day to get marked absent. We want that the software will mark those absent for a genuine reason as “Incomplete” and mark those intentionally bunking as “Failed.”

Me: You didn’t send us any of that information. How will the software know which students have a genuine reason and who are skipping?

Client: Can’t you find out from the Internet, like Google or something?

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Client was an old class mate that started a new company and wanted a website

18 November 2019 - 1:00pm

Client: I want a website for my company with all these features. I have a $2000 budget , send me a proposal.

Me: Here is how much it will cost for your website. I’ll need a monthly retainer for hosting and maintenance.

Six months later:

Client: I can’t pay you in full but here is $500 to tide you over. I still want these features done, and a logo and for you to set up emails too.

One year later (No payments for the balance of original work, $0 payments for retainer):

Client: I’m going to bring you on as a consultant and pay you $50k per year to manage our website

Two years later (yesterday, no payments for the balance of original work, $0 payments for retainer):

Client: My emails no longer work, I’m in the process of finalizing a million-dollar deal WTF!

Me: Your domain name is expired. You need to send me money to pay for it,

Client: WTF! I’m going to sue you if you don’t renew the domain by Monday.

Please sue me. I want this hell to be over with.

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2400 Classic cool vector illustrations for $17 — 93% off!

17 November 2019 - 3:00pm
2400 Classic cool vector illustrations for $17 — 93% off!

This week’s deal is on over 2400 vintage illustrations that have been scanned, cleaned and formatted as fully customizable vector images!

> They’re super cool, easy to use, and make for a great design.

Look. You’re a wiz with Photoshop and Illustrator, and a pretty solid draftsperson to boot. People love the way you draw, and your designs are clean, professional, and attractive. What you are not, probably, is a classically trained illustrator who specializes in scientific diagrams of flora and fauna in pen and ink or lithograph. This is a very specific skill that is always in demand. This bundle gives you scores of fantastic vintage illustrations that are easy to slot into designs to make them better

Normally it would cost you $228 for all 2400+ illustrations (and honestly? Bargain), but for the next few days, you can save 93% and get every last one of them for just $17. Sell one t-shirt with one deer skull illustration (for example) and you’ve already made your money back. 

> Check out the deal here.

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In the first chapter of Creating Logos Manual, printed in 1990.

17 November 2019 - 1:00pm

I took on a rebranding project for a IT software company. After initial meetings and a ‘brief’ (if it can be called that) I provided 16 initial logo concepts.

Client: I don’t like them. I don’t want an icon, just letters.

Me: Okay. How about I send you a feedback questionnaire so you can let me know exactly what you’re looking for?

I regret my choice:

Look at the top logos – what don’t you like about it? *

Yes, 2 favourites of a bad lot.

It looks embarrassed for itself. Small, please don’t look at me. Possibly something to do with a child’s toy/ learning aid. It’s barely there, barely a logo. It’s odd the way the r and the b are the same colours and the a different.
Score: -1 out of 10

I’m bored, seen it before in the 1990s eg bmi airlines, Bira. It has no life, no excitement, zero creativity. In the first chapter of Creating Logos Manual, printed in 1990.
Can’t be bothered to talk about it or think about it.
Score: 0 out of 10

Do you prefer upper case text or lower case? *

All these logos are very poor indeed so I don’t care if they are in lower or upper case.
Nothing coming through to me here.

Are there any elements of the above 8 logos you would like to see incorporated into the first 2 logos above? *

You need to be more creative, sympathetic to the company you are designing for.
A logo liked and recognised by customers is a very hard won thing. Why change to something worse?
The current logo has nice colours, clearly states the name of the company, has an interesting, eye catching symbol that has been used in marketing brochures, posters etc. Now we would like something fresh, something 2020, something exciting.
I have written a brief of the company and sent it to Jon. Hope that is useful for you.

Bear in mind that the client’s company name was 3 letters, we provided 16 logos in total and received no constructive feedback. And, yes, their current logo looks like it was designed in paint. 

At this point I decided it was best we terminated our working relationship. Thank god I got a deposit. 

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User Submitted Post

16 November 2019 - 3:16pm

Client: There are 4 dots above the word “sensitivities” in this design. What are they doing there?

Me: Those are the dots on the ‘i’s.

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Silly Analytics and SEO

16 November 2019 - 2:00pm

Direct quote from a client:

Client: The website has become a problem. Now it’s causing problems with Google analytics and SEO for some people who are obsessed with that silly shit.

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…Freelancer from hell?

15 November 2019 - 2:01pm

[Editor’s note: from time to time we get a story from “the other side” about working with a terrible freelancer. We publish this one to keep us all humble].

After a new freelancer we’ve hired has provided initial drafts for a series of print advertorials we’ve shopped to them…

Me: Our [well-established, 40 year old] company’s standard is to write the name of our company and products ThisWay and ThatWay in camel case.

Freelancer: Aesthetically, I don’t like it. It won’t resonate with customers.

Me: It’s not an opinion question, we brand ourselves ThisWay and our product line ThatWay.

Me: I don’t think you understand, it’s not aesthetically correct.

I provided our brand standards guide. Again.

He provided designs in his preferred, i.e. “not what we wanted” style.

Me: We’ve decided your services are no longer needed and will be paying for the hours completed so far.

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User Submitted Post

15 November 2019 - 1:30pm

I had to make several different versions of nutrition facts pamphlet for a national chain restaurant. The content differed slightly between documents because laws varied between states for what you have to include.

When my out-of-state boss got the PDFs, he printed each one out and would stack two of them, HOLD THEM UP TO A LIGHT, then call me to ream me out if the columns didn’t align perfectly between brochures.

I explained printer shift to him, as well as how varied copy between documents would make line lengths different, and how none of these documents would ever appear next to one another. NO ONE would ever have a reason to compare column placement between documents.

After three days of this, he called my manager and asked them to fire me on the spot.

My awesome manager fought for me, but yeesh.

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Time-Travel Photo Editing

14 November 2019 - 2:00pm

Client: We need to zoom out more. We can’t see the rest of the room in that photo. Everything is getting cut off.

Me: Well, it’s a photo and it has edges. The photo ends. That’s all that was photographed in the room.

Client: Do you not understand me? Zoom out. I need to see all of the space.

Me: I would have to travel back in time to this shoot, which occurred 2 years ago, and ask the photographer to photograph the entire room, which obviously I cannot. 

Client: No, you just don’t know how to do it.



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User Submitted Post

14 November 2019 - 1:30pm

My first internship in software development involved creating a blueprint drawing application for an industrial society. I invested 600 paid hours on this project, without ever having a chance to speak with the client directly. I guessed they didn’t bother since the project was mostly government-funded.

At the end of my internship, my boss, another employee and I visited the client at their factory, which meant spending seven hours in a car that day.

After fifteen minutes, the manager left my presentation, and by the time I was done answering questions for the three people who stayed, it was clear they were not involved in this project at all and were there just so there would be someone to listen to the presentation while their boss had better things to do.

They hired two more interns to work on that app after I left. It must have cost 50k to develop by now. I’m certain it will never be used by anyone.

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electronics designer

13 November 2019 - 3:00pm

I’m an electronics designer and repair person. A client had bought a piece of equipment that wasn’t working. 

Client: I accidentally plugged it into 230V outlet instead of 24V and now it doesn’t work… can you repair it?

Me: I could, but honestly it would be cheaper to buy a new one. 

Client: Really? The casing looks fine. 

Me: The casing is fine. Everything else is not.

He ordered a new one.

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former web developer

13 November 2019 - 2:00pm

Many years ago, I and a buddy were hired to develop our very first website while still students. We had it done in two days or so because it was a simple site and we were excited to do the work.

We called the client on speakerphone so we could both hear what he said. 

Me: The website is done, we can bring the CD tomorrow. We only accept payment in cash as per the contract, please have the money on hand. In the mean time we are setting up the hosting for you.

Client: That’s great, deliver the file and I’ll pay you in a couple weeks. I’m a bit short on cash right now. 

My friend was shaking his head vigorously. 

Me: No. We can wait for when you have the money and finalize it then. We’re still setting up the hosting anyway, so if it will take you a week or two to arrange payment that’s fine. 

Client: *click*

He hung up, and we never heard back. 


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Work/life balance is bogus: Cami Travis-Groves and the secret to work/life harmony

12 November 2019 - 9:00pm
Work/life balance is bogus: Cami Travis-Groves and the secret to work/life harmony


Image courtesy of Cami Travis-Groves

It’s the middle of winter, and a massive tree just crashed down on your house. What do you do? 

It happened to Cami Travis-Groves, and she knows she did exactly the right thing. She expressed gratitude that nobody was hurt and move on. She brings that attitude to her working life as a designer and as a coach for freelancers, and she shares her tips for how to rise to every occasion and why “work/life balance” is, in her eyes, totally bogus. 

As a bonus, listen to host Kyle Carpenter pitch her (unsuccessfully) on why sarcastic positivity can be really helpful for some people! 

Today’s links: 

Want to support the show?

Order a custom infographic from! Use this link ( for a great price! 

Think you’d be a great fit for the show? Let me know at

Leave us a review on Apple Podcasts or recommend us to a friend. It helps immensely.

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Electronics designer

12 November 2019 - 2:00pm

Years ago when I was just starting in my field I worked for a small start-up company, designing their first product.  The work went well, but as always in R&D there were a few dead ends which we got pushed to “try anyway” because of some mysterious reasons known only to the manager.

The conversation below happened a few weeks AFTER we (3 engineers) finished the contract and were supposed to get paid.

Me: There’s been quite a delay in payment. I know the company is well funded – why the wait? 

Client: Well, it’s just that we`re reconsidering your payment based on your hours.

Me: What do you mean? the rate is in the contract… and frankly its quite low for the work we did!

Client:  No, it’s not the rate, that’s fine, it’s the hours. A lot of the work didn’t you did didn’t wind up in the final product.  

Me: So you’re saying that even though we agreed on this low-low rate, and did the work, and the project is done correctly and will enter production soon, and we are happy with all that, you want to ignore half our hours because the avenues you pushed us on didn’t work out?

We got our payment the next day, but to this day this is the craziest thing I`ve ever been told by a client/boss/manager.

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