Clients from Hell

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Horror stories from freelancers
Updated: 2 hours 32 min ago

We Don’t Participate

18 September 2019 - 3:00pm

Client: We don’t participate in late fees for unpaid invoices.

Me: Participation isn’t mandatory, but payment is…

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User Submitted Post

18 September 2019 - 2:00pm

Client: I love the logo, great work!

Me: Awesome! As soon as I get the final 50% of the payment, I will send you all the hi-res files for you to use. 

Client: Is it urgent? ‘Cause I’m not in any rush.

Me: Yeah, I’m in no rush to buy food or anything. 

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The project isn’t worth the total you quoted me.

17 September 2019 - 3:00pm

A long-time client wanted to start a new project. I scoped it out with him and gave him a quote of $1,000. He approved.

I presented the work to him.

Client: Can you make these changes?

Me: Those are significant changes that are basically another new project. They will cost $750.

I delivered again, and he made requests for changes. This time they were minor so I charged an additional $150.

I sent him the invoice.

Client: (furious) What is this? You told me the project would be $750!

Me: What? No. I told you it would be $1000, with additional charges.

Client: No, you said $1000, and then when I wanted changes you lowered the price to $750. 

Me: So you think when faced with doing more work I LOWERED the fee? 

Client: Well what you did definitely isn’t worth $1900. 

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Clients expects immediate results from long-term marketing plan.

17 September 2019 - 2:00pm

Client: I want you to get increase our customer base and get our existing customer to register for charity competitions.

Me: We can construct a content marketing plan to build authority and engage the audience, driving them to your website. We can try marketing to your existing audience to encourage sign-ups for your charity competitions and use the Charity fundraiser story to tell the story of the brand.

Client: Sounds great.

Me: Oh, I’ll need access to your website to redesign it so that there are clear calls to action, sign up forms with eCommerce and design landing pages for various campaigns.

Client: You can’t have access to the site until the developer has finished with it, at the end of the month.

Me: OK, why not direct them to add these changes while they are still under contract to complete the site.

Client: Will do.

Two months later:

Me: I haven’t seen any updates on your site. Can I at least have access to your client database so we know who we’re marketing the charity competition towards? 

Client: You will at the end of this month.

Me: Fine, but your first charity competition is now only several weeks away. We don’t have much time to generate registrations AND the site still has no call to action or e-commerce registration forms so we can’t grow the database.

Client: The web company owns the website. We will never have access and we can’t afford to ask them for updates. There is no client database. We need charity registrations now or the company won’t survive!

Me: What? why are you only telling me this now? No database? What have you been doing for the past year? Oh, and your third invoice payment is late again, will you be paying this now?

At this point, the client “lost my number” and stopped responding. Eventually:

Client: We don’t want to work with you anymore and won’t be paying you. We expect results immediately.

Me: But you signed a contract stating you understood content marketing results would be at least six months. If you are canceling fine, but there is a 30-day notice period. I need this in writing.

However, I’d noticed something else weird about his business at this point: he’d run his first charity event, and was funneling the charity money back into his business. I decided to bring this up: 

Me: I don’t understand why you needed the charity event grossing 5,000 to keep the company afloat, are you not giving the money to the charity?

Client: We want to sue you for loss of earnings as the charity cost 10,000 to run and your content marketing isn’t working fast enough.

Me: So you spent 10,000 with target earnings of 5,000 for yourself and passing it off as a charity event? You think something that will take six months to work should happen immediately and I’m to blame?

Client: Yes.

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mom no

16 September 2019 - 3:00pm

My family’s house is having a kitchen extension. My parents have paid designers to make detailed plans of the kitchen. They provided a 3D model on their website to see what the room would actually be like. They state that we’re allowed to ask for changes to see what they would look like on the 3D model.

And yet, for some reason, my mother asked me to download the 3D model form their website and add a specific model of washing machine to “see what it would look like.” I have zero interest or skill in 3D modeling and have never indicated otherwise. 

Me: I can’t. 

Mom: Sure you can! Just believe in yourself. 

Me: No, I really can’t. I don’t know how to rip a 3D model off a site, or to make a 3D model myself, and even if I knew how they’ve offered to do it themselves. 

Mom: Oh, just use your dad’s computer then.

That wasn’t the issue, mom. 

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The Multimillion Investment Project

16 September 2019 - 2:00pm

I was talking with a potential client about her wanting to hire a marketer. I asked her questions about why she was hiring.

Me:  So you want to hire a marketer. Great. Why now? What are you trying to achieve?

Client: I’m the General Manager of this luxury events facility. There have already been millions of dollars invested in it, but I need help marketing it. 

Me: Wow! Congratulations. That’s exciting.

Client: Yeah! I’ve been involved in some previous projects that failed, so I’m so glad this one is working out.  

She proceeded to interrogate me in the interview and she came across as quite arrogant and condescending. The pay wasn’t great, and she needed a lot of help understanding what she wanted.

Client: I have had some trouble with freelancers before, but I’m finally at a point where I’m ready to hire someone to manage my marketing plans.

Me: …Ok.

Client: If I were to call your references, what would they say about you? What kinds of criticisms?

Me: Well, I don’t know about criticisms. I think they would say that they enjoyed working with me and wished I had stayed longer with them.

Client: What else? 

Me: Uh… 

Afterward, I re-visited the website for her business, and it looked like it was created on a shoestring budget. It looked very haphazard. Remember, there were “millions” invested in the facility, but very little money in the website. Red flag. 

I didn’t want to have to be the one to tell her that she would need to overhaul her website, and I certainly didn’t want to be in charge of holding her hand through it.

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Turn any image into a watercolor illustration! Only $6!

15 September 2019 - 3:00pm
Turn any image into a watercolor illustration! Only $6!

This week’s deal is on a tool that will let you transform any image into watercolor style quickly and easily in Photoshop.

> Just take a look at these results. They’re stunning. 

Watercolors are elegant, and if you’re not a master of the form it’s hard to incorporate them into your designs… unless you buy this tool and turn stock images or photos you’ve taken into convincing, gorgeous paintings. Easier than even using a Photoshop action, this tool will add a beautiful dimension to your designs. 

Normally this tool costs $30, but this week you can save 80% and get it for just $6. That’s a pittance for an effect that’s this useful.

> Check out the deal here. 

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User Submitted Post

15 September 2019 - 2:00pm

I shoot video. I’ve had a recent spate of clients who all do the same thing.

Me:  What are you looking for, specifically?

Client: Just follow your own vision. You will know best.

This I think almost always a huge red flag, but really all you can do is plug on and hope you can get into the ballpark if they’re stubbornly telling you nothing.

What happens every time:

Client: This isn’t what I wanted. Can you just send me the raw footage?

Me: Please let me know what you’re after and I’ll get to work on the changes.

They proceed to not send me anything and they always use what I sent originally anyway.

This is why I make sure I get paid upfront.

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User Submitted Post

14 September 2019 - 3:00pm

I work for a company that handles the email accounts for their clients.  We were migrating from one email service provider to another and had to transfer all of their mailboxes.  24 mailboxes.  The smallest one had 22 GB of mail in it.  The largest had over 90 GB.

Client: We need this mail migrated as quickly as possible.

Me: Okay, I’m working on the migration now.  Transferring the mail between the two services is going to take a considerable amount of time.

Client: Define considerable?  Like… 30 minutes?

Me:  Um… no.  There’s over a terabyte of mail that needs to be moved.  Even if we sustain a gigabyte of transfer a minute, it would still not be done in less than 20 hours.

Client:  20 hours?  Unacceptable.  I need you to find a way to have it done in the next hour.

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The Long Sell…

14 September 2019 - 2:00pm

We are a marketing agency with digital services, graphic arts, translations, etc. I am one of our Founders.

We have been courting a potentially enormous client (as in 7 figure, multi-year contract) for THREE YEARS. These high-level relationships take time to gain trust. So, after three years of talk, a thousand bucks on dinner for his team over time, and after we’ve outlined all our services in plain English, the guy tells me:

Client: We will entertain a commission-based fee only. We don’t pay for activities. We pay for results.

He wanted us to do investor research, write proposals for grants and funding, as well as translate websites and create art. But he was saying that we will only pay us if we actually get him an investor?

C’mon… That’s not how to do things.

He is sending us an itemized list of what he wants done, thinking we will accept his proposal for commission-based fees only. He is wrong. We are going to return a policy sheet stating that we do not work on success fee basis or any promise of FUTURE pay. We take a 4-figure retainer (at least $2,000 up front) and then an agreed-upon hourly  rate. Our team does not waiver from this position. This is our separation tool. We suspect they will hold firm in their position as well, expecting us to agree to their price structure. This will not happen, so this Client from Hell story is about managing time better; and cutting to the chase faster.

The good news is along the way, we made more huge connections and can sell them our services. Always hold yourself in highest esteem as the contractor. They are talking to you because they CANNOT do what you can do as a software designer, artist, etc. Hold your head high, my contractor friends, and do NOT accept less than you are worth. Any success fee type potential clients reading this: take heed.

Thanks for the chance to tell my story.

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User Submitted Post

13 September 2019 - 3:08pm

I work as a general assistant/bookkeeper/web designer/designated young person for a fairly well known real estate company. One of my peers was in charge of the technical aspects of getting a simple WordPress website in order.

Client: I’m trying to publish a newsletter but I can’t find my site.

Me: It says the IP address is unavailable.

Client: He can’t take the website down. That’s illegal.

Me: You haven’t paid him for the past few months and you’ve hired a new social media marketer to redo the CRM he made.

Client: All of our things are on there! I’m pretty sure that’s illegal.


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I mean, he’s got me there…

13 September 2019 - 2:00pm

After I was asked for an enormous discount and declined:

Client: Just imagine me as your son. You’d do it for half price if I were your son, wouldn’t you?

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User Submitted Post

12 September 2019 - 3:13pm

I work as a designer for a firm that acts as a go-between the client and this particular vendor: we come up with a design concept with the client and the vendor interprets it for us with a lot of back-and-forth saying “More this” and “Less that.” This particular vendor is very, very good at interpreting our designs. The client… not so good with the committing to a design. We’ve been working on this particular design with them for about a year and are no where close to production because every conversation is “Why didn’t you do the opposite of what we told you to do?”. Today we had a call to discuss the timeline and how we could wrap this up:

Client: I feel it would be beneficial to have everyone up here for a collaborative session next week.

Me: (groaning inside but foolishly optimistic that maybe something could come from it) Okay, being there in person would definitely keep things from getting lost in translation since this has been such a tumultuous process.

Client: Yes, we feel if the vendor’s designer can sit and work on the design while we watch and correct them we’ll be able to wrap this up quickly.

I’ll be on vacation next week so I’m not going to be representing our firm, but that poor soul…

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User Submitted Post

12 September 2019 - 2:00pm

I do cheap art commissions through a website from time to time. I have regular customers who are usually no problem. However there are certain clients who I have problems with.

One problem is they are both the same person, trying to pass themselves off as two different people. The, second, main biggest problem is, they ask ME for money to buy a commission from myself because they’re “advertising my work.”

What’s wrong with some people?

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User Submitted Post

11 September 2019 - 3:00pm

Me: This video will take about 1 week to edit but it could take longer as it’s quite complicated.

Client: Okay, that’s fine.

Six days later:

Client: How long until the video is done we’re growing impatient.


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Doctors Without Borders

11 September 2019 - 2:00pm

I worked at a hospital but did tech support on the side for many of the people that I worked with. One of these clients was a doctor that would still randomly bring up his high school football days in the most annoying braggadocious ways. As unpleasant as he was, he paid well, so I helped him numerous times.

One night I get a frantic text from him saying he needs immediate tech support:

Client: Can you fix a piece of paper if I give you a copy?

Me: Yeah, I can scan it in and photoshop it.  Is this for work?

Client: Not exactly.  Can you add text in?

Me: It depends…

Client: My wife asked me for a copy of the phone bill and I need a couple of numbers removed. *sends file*

It turns out that he had been having an affair and had been calling her on his cell phone a dozen or so times a day.  His phone bill was three pages long of small text and over half of it was phone calls to her. 

I was tempted to alter the file, charge him a hefty fee, and put in some watermarks stating this was an altered bill.  Instead, I took the high ground and ghosted him.

I ran into him recently and you’ll be happy to know that his kid (from his ex) is “GREAT AT FOOTBALL.”

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Cartographer vs Designer

10 September 2019 - 3:00pm

For years I worked with a government agency. I provided geographic information systems (GIS) services. I mostly did data processing and modeling, but also did occasional cartographic work. 

For one large project we worked with a design agency to produce a booklet that featured two maps. I had worked on the project for years, so it made sense that I would design the maps. No one ever provided me with sizes, so I eventually guessed and provided the designer with PDFs of the maps.

When I received the proofs, my maps have been ripped apart. The designer reworked them to be different sizes, breaking numerous cartographic principles and mangling my designs. I redesigned my maps to fit the new dimension requirements and sent them the new files.

They sent back proof 2. Once again my maps had been reworked to breaking 

Me: Why did you change the maps again? 

Designer: Here are all our internal design rules your maps violated.

He provided a list.

Me: Well here are all the cartographic design rules that you are breaking. These maps need to function as maps. I know we have different design philosophies but my name is attached as cartographer and I can’t produce substandard work. 

This goes back and forth until it’s decided to do a blind survey to see which versions people preferred. My designs were the clear winner.

After that, they (mostly) left my map designs alone.

The designer totally ignored me after this. I never received any further proofs directly from the designer and had to have them forwarded to me from colleges. The designer also never corrected a spelling error that I pointed out in the booklet. 


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User Submitted Post

10 September 2019 - 2:00pm

A local company booked a photography shoot, asking for headshots and a variety of group shots.

Everyone showed up to the shoot looking presentable and in company branded clothing, except for one person who showed up with no makeup and messy, uncombed hair. Her boss seemed displeased but didn’t say anything. When it was her turn for a headshot:

Client: Wait – what about my hair and make-up? When are you going to do it? 

Fortunately, her boss pulled her to one side and explains that isn’t my job.

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Online marketing and analytics

9 September 2019 - 3:00pm

Client: How do I log in to Google Analytics?

The client works for an online marketing agency. 

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User Submitted Post

9 September 2019 - 2:00pm

Client: We need a 4′ x 10′ banner printed by tomorrow. We have everything designed.

Me: Ok. Just send over a full-scale copy of the design in either a .tif or vector file and we should be fine.

Client: When you say full-scale, what do you mean? Because we just have a few different logo files.

Me: So the banner isn’t designed?

Client: Well it’s not designed per se, but it’s really simple!

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