Clients from Hell

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Horror stories from freelancers
Updated: 21 min 59 sec ago

Client: Shouldn’t these additional tasks have all been covered at the start of the project? Me: Yes,...

28 July 2018 - 1:40pm

Client: Shouldn’t these additional tasks have all been covered at the start of the project? 

Me: Yes, if you had told us about them. You gave us many new tasks during the project and we dealt with each one as they came. We had to work weekends.

Client: But how did you not know about them?

Me: How did we not know about tasks that you did not tell us about?

Client: I thought you were professionals.

Literally, a day after my client signed the contract and paid the deposit, I received this...

27 July 2018 - 3:20pm

Literally, a day after my client signed the contract and paid the deposit, I received this email:

Client: I am very frustrated. We have to have this website up and running. Can you tell me when this will be possible? I was under the impression when I paid you that I would have a website.

Me: ….

During my education, I was put in charge of a group of fellow students in order to produce a website...

27 July 2018 - 1:40pm

During my education, I was put in charge of a group of fellow students in order to produce a website for one of the faculty staff. We’d be graded on this project.

Client: This is the website that I want you to revamp and redesign.

Me: Sure. We’ll send through some mock designs and get your feedback. In the meantime, can you provide us the files for this website?

The client agrees to, and a polite two weeks pass before I start getting anxious. It is week six when I knuckle down and find out what the hold-up is.

Me: We really need access to the back-end of this website. Yes, we can access the website from the URL you gave us, but I assume there is some server or hard drive where these files are?

Client: I’m not sure.

Me: Ok let me rephrase myself, these files must exist somewhere. I need you to tell us where. When was the last time you worked on this website?

Client: …

Then the penny dropped.

Me: … You don’t own this website, do you? Wow, I didn’t think I had to ask that. Thanks, professor, you’ve taught me a valuable lesson.

The project was graded a conceded pass, “for trying”.

In so many ways, this is the ur-CFH story. CFH prime. The CFH...

26 July 2018 - 8:52pm


In so many ways, this is the ur-CFH story. CFH prime. The CFH story to end all CFH stories.

Enjoy! 

Not strictly a client, but definitely professionally frustrating. I had a job available on my team...

26 July 2018 - 3:20pm

Not strictly a client, but definitely professionally frustrating. I had a job available on my team for a potential video shooter and editor. An early twentysomething guy interviewed and failed miserably to get the job. Not even close. 

Three weeks later I get a call from one of my competitors saying he (the interviewee) had cited me as a past place of employment and asked me if I’d give him a reference. 

Interesting tactics. I almost respected him for the audacity. Almost, but not quite.

Client: I would like to hire you to write content for me. I run a graphic design website and I need...

26 July 2018 - 1:40pm

Client: I would like to hire you to write content for me. I run a graphic design website and I need a content contributor for my clients. I will pay you $0.05 per word.

Me: Sounds good. When would you like me to get started and what topics would you like me to write?

Client: I would like you to start right away. The first client is an automotive dealership in need of (x amount of articles). How long can it take you to get them finished?

Me: I’ll submit 5 a day Monday through Friday until they are completed. How does that sound?

Client: That sounds great. I will pay you every 15th and 30th/31st for all work submitted through PayPal.

Me: Sounds great.

After an entire week’s worth of work submitted:

Client: Everything looks wonderful. Absolutely wonderful. I love it. The client loves it.

Me: Great!

I proceed with another week worth of work.

Client: The articles still look great but now I need to know if you will format them in HTML for me.

Me: Sure. I charge a small fee per article for additional formatting (client had initially asked for articles in .doc format)

Client: Oh. Well, why is that? It’s not hard to do. It only takes a few minutes.

Me: That’s just the way I operate. Do you agree to the small rate or would you prefer to format them yourself?

Client: (frustrated) Just do it. I’ll pay your fee.

Me: (15th rolls around) Hello, I went ahead and submitted my invoice to you for work submitted thus far as agreed. Please let me know if all looks good from your end. Thanks!

Client: What’s this? Why did you send me this?

Me: It’s the 15th.

Client: Yes, I know, but why are you seeking payment?

Me: Because we agreed that you would pay on the 15th and the 30th/31st for all work submitted up to this point.

Client: Oh, no. There must be a misunderstanding. You get the rest of the articles for this project done first and then I will pay you.

Me: I’m sorry, but that’s not how this works. Time is money and you already agreed on a set payday for work submitted up to this point. Please remit payment and I will continue working on the rest of the articles.

Client: I paid your invoice.

Me: (checks invoice and see that it is well under what I am owed) Can you explain to me why you have paid me nearly $200 under what you owed me?

Client: Well that first week you submitted articles, you did not format them.

Me: You did not ask me to format them until after you accepted them, said they looked great and told me the client loved them, too.

Client: Yes, I know, but I had to have my assistant format them for me and it took several hours. In fact, it took a few days to format all of them. It’s a very difficult and time-consuming job.

Me: Is that so? Please remind me why you were so adverse to the extra fee I was wanting to charge, then, if you told me - and I quote - “It’s not hard to do. It only takes a few minutes.”

Client: (exasperated) Well, yes, for someone like you, but not my assistant. I have to make that money back somehow.

Me: Perhaps, then, you should have asked me to do the formatting from the beginning or informed me that you were going to cut my rate for formatting yourself. I ask that you remit the rest of what you owe me and I will either continue or we will part ways at this point.

Client: I do not owe you anything. You owe me. I formatted all of those articles the first week. You’re lucky you’re getting paid anything at all. (Proceeds to request a refund on the payment he sent me.)

Me: You have now pulled all the funds you just sent me via a refund.

Client: (cursing and yelling) Yes, of course! You owe me! If HTML formatted your articles you stupid b*tch!

Me: Sir, I will ask again that you remit payment or I will be forced to sell my articles elsewhere since I retain the right to my work.

Client: I have already submitted them to the auto dealer. That is my work. It is no longer yours.

Me: That’s fine, but it is still my work. Either provide the payment that you owe, in full, or I will be forced to contact your auto dealer and let them know that the articles they have belong to me.

Client: (Yells into the phone and starts cursing me out even more - yelling is so loud and garbled that I do not understand a word)

Me: (in a calm voice) I will expect to see the payment within 24-hours before I am forced to contact your client and ask them to remove my property from their website. 

Client: (via email, later) If you dare contact my client I will be forced to sue you!(I ignore email and send out a reminder for payment)

Twenty-four hours pass and I contact the auto dealer. Client proceeds with more threats, still has not paid, and my articles have not yet been pulled from the auto dealer’s website. I spoke with a lawyer and am pursuing my legal rights as of this day.

I’m a website designer for a media start-up, fulfilling an internship requirement for my...

25 July 2018 - 3:20pm

I’m a website designer for a media start-up, fulfilling an internship requirement for my degree.

Client: I’ve been looking through different themes and I like this one a lot. Could you change the theme?

I noticed it was the exact same WordPress theme that I was currently working with.

Me: This is the theme I am currently using. It just looks a little different because I’ve changed the color scheme and the background image is different. If you like the original color scheme, I can just reset the theme back to its original.

Client: Yeah, let’s do that.

A week later I got another e-mail from him.

Client: Hey, I don’t really like the red color scheme anymore. Can you change it back to that blue color scheme you had earlier? I really liked that one.

Easy fix, but… come on!

I’m a video editor, working on a corporate video for a client.Client: This looks great, but can you...

25 July 2018 - 1:40pm

I’m a video editor, working on a corporate video for a client.

Client: This looks great, but can you remove the b-roll at [timecodes]?

Me: Ok, do we have a preference on what to replace it with?

Client: Anything’s fine, just make sure there isn’t any footage of anyone of ethnicity.

Me: Well, you know everyone has an ethnicity. 

Client: Right, but don’t show any blacks.

I work on a design as discussed. Client gives me a deadline of a few weeks from now. I complete some...

24 July 2018 - 3:20pm

I work on a design as discussed. Client gives me a deadline of a few weeks from now. I complete some concepts and I’m just about to send them off when I get this email:

Client: We had a look online and have come up with a design which I think we are going to go for. I’m not great with computers but we had to get something quickly so we worked until 5am putting it together.

Client shows me their design, created using clip art and crazy fonts, likely created with a free website and google images.

Me: Um… ok. I do have some concepts here that I’ve already completed. 

Client: Oh we don’t need them. We like what we made ourselves

I come across the printed version of the client’s design and it’s a combination of misaligned and poor quality bits and pieces, coupled with emojis within the text and about 8 different typefaces. There were also clearly bleed and margin issues as well.

There’s a reason we get paid to do this work. 

I saw an ad on Craigslist to write a Wikipedia article for a client because they “don’t know how to...

24 July 2018 - 1:40pm

I saw an ad on Craigslist to write a Wikipedia article for a client because they “don’t know how to use a computer.”

Normally I would ignore this sort of thing, but they were offering $200 for the job and I needed the cash. I emailed my resume (professional freelance writer and editor), along with links to Wikia articles I’d written from the ground up – I’ve never really written a Wikipedia article in its entirety, so I figured that would make sense –whatever edits I’ve made on existing Wikipedia articles would be worth less than having 10,000+ word articles I’ve made all by myself on specialized subjects.

I guess I was wrong.

Client: That’s not Wikipedia! That’s a copycat site—what are you trying to pull?

I was meeting a potential client to talk about developing a new website. These words left their...

23 July 2018 - 3:20pm

I was meeting a potential client to talk about developing a new website. These words left their face:

Client:  We’d rather start off being very successful.

"Why, I’m not gonna pay you! You’re just a kid, it’s your passion! You don’t need money!"

23 July 2018 - 1:40pm
“Why, I’m not gonna pay you! You’re just a kid, it’s your passion! You don’t need money!”

- Some idiot who saw me drawing at a convention and wanted me to draw him.

400+ High-res organic textures for only $23. Save 94%!

22 July 2018 - 3:20pm

This week’s deal is on a package of over 400 high-res textures!

> Have a look. They’re all gorgeous.

Good design is an eye for details; well feast your eyes on these details. Whether you’re looking for a texture for package designs, a gorgeous way to mask text for a stunning effect, or just interesting, organic texture to blend with your design to make your image less flat, these textures offer a TON of options; you could use one of these a day for over a year and still have leftovers. 

Buying these textures separately would cost you $363, but for the next few days they’re just $23 for all 400+. That’s nothing for a resource you’ll come back to again and again. 

> Check out the deal here. 

A client asked me to design a book cover based on nothing – just a vague idea of something,...

22 July 2018 - 1:40pm

A client asked me to design a book cover based on nothing – just a vague idea of something, without even a title for the book. Whatever, I think, I’m used to it.  

I deliver two proposals based on no information.

Client: (angry) This isn’t what I had in mind!

A client provided a word document for an 88-page booklet that he wants to be designed. There were...

21 July 2018 - 3:20pm

A client provided a word document for an 88-page booklet that he wants to be designed. There were several requests for graphics of charts that he will provide. Example: housing expense ratios.

I designed the page booklet as per his instructions using his colors and downloading the graphics of the style he likes. I leave boxes for the charts “that he will provide.”

Client: Hey, this is great. But there are some blank pages, remove those. Can you redesign it so that it matches our team colors and put some art in the blank boxes? 

Me: But the boxes are placeholders for the charts and graphs that you were going to provide to me.

Client: Oh I’m sure whatever art you pick will be great. We trust you.

Me: (eyes roll into the back of my head).

I quoted a client to create a variation on his company’s logo for a new project they were...

21 July 2018 - 1:40pm

I quoted a client to create a variation on his company’s logo for a new project they were undertaking. 

Client: I don’t love it! Here are some items I’d like change.

I send another proof with changes.

Client: Not grabbing me yet!

More revisions, another proof. And another. And another.

Four revisions later I realize I have no self-respect, and decide to speak up.

Me:  So the quote was only for 2 proofs, but you have done a lot of work with me previously so I’m not going to be a stickler about it. But I can’t do too many more full revisions without charging you more.

Client: (ignoring what I just said) Okay, here are a few more changes I’d like to see.

Later, after the sixth revision AND creating a custom icon illustrated from a vectorized version of an early 20th-century line portrait.

Client: PERFECT! That’s the one.

Me: OK great, so we can close this out.

Client: Actually, what I want to do is remove the icon from this logo and just use the first version you sent me. Then, use the icon you created for a completely new business I am creating – and since it’s all already done, you don’t have to charge me any extra!

Me: ….

I work at a decent sized company with a large website where we let departments update their own...

20 July 2018 - 3:20pm

I work at a decent sized company with a large website where we let departments update their own sections of the website to take the strain off of web designers and developers. Some people have more access than others and are able to update source code of pages that can’t be updated using the WYSIWYG.

I’m not sure this particular client was up to the task.  

Client: I don’t have adequate access to update the website. I have already uploaded the pictures for the photo album. Seriously though, I could handle doing these updates. It might save everyone a lot of time if you just gave me access. I work in IT and have a master’s degree in CIS. I used to teach middle school children how to do javascript, for crying out loud.

Me: Looking at your account, you already have the correct access for editing source code. Right click on the page you would like to edit and select “Edit Source” (Second from bottom).

Client: There is NO option to edit the gallery. I can do this, you just need to give me access. Please make the changes to the gallery for me this time and also grant me editing abilities. This is ridiculous.

Client: (two minutes later) Never mind. I see what you are saying.

Yeah, clearly an expert.

"You know, you guys are never under budget. Why is it that you always come in at around the estimated..."

20 July 2018 - 1:40pm
“You know, you guys are never under budget. Why is it that you always come in at around the estimated fee you sent to us?”

STICK AROUND FOR THE ENDING! With thanks to Barton Fink. 

19 July 2018 - 9:51pm


STICK AROUND FOR THE ENDING! With thanks to Barton Fink. 

I’m a 22-year-old woman and I did some on-site freelance design work for a 70-something...

19 July 2018 - 3:20pm

I’m a 22-year-old woman and I did some on-site freelance design work for a 70-something man.

Client: (at my office door) What’s the little girl working on?

Me: I’m not a little girl.

Client: You’re not?

Me: No.

He didn’t seem to take that first no seriously though because he called me a little girl again the next day.

Me: I’m still not a little girl.

Client: You’re not?

Me: No.

Client: Is that an offensive thing to be called?

Me: Yes, I’m a college educated professional.

Client: Well, what can I call you? 

Me: My name. Miss. Basically anything other than “little girl.”

Client: That’s cute.

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