Clients from Hell

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Horror stories from freelancers
Updated: 30 min 20 sec ago

<p>My friend owned a company that sold

3 September 2020 - 2:00pm

My friend owned a company that sold bath products, and hired me to redo the labels for their entire line. It was a big job, but she’d always been a great client and friend so I signed on. They had to be up to FDA specifications on placement of ingredients list and other details, and after numerous approvals from her she passed them on to her printer.

The trouble started there. I got a panicked email the night after I sent the final designs.

Client: The printer said that the ingredients list is illegible! They said that no matter how they print it, it’s not coming out right!

Me: Okay, what exactly is illegible about it?

Client: They said it’s printing out blurry.

I was confused, but know a decent bit about printing myself and begin asking more questions to get to the bottom of whatever is going on. Through a bit more back and forth I get an even more confusing story about how every time they print the labels using the files we sent them, only the ingredients list comes out smudged, despite which angle they set it to print, so it “couldn’t be their printer”. It just didn’t make sense.

My client was panicking and not sure what to do. Frustrated, I drag out my own printer, found card stock that’s about the same quality as what they were using, and printed a few out at home to see what the issue is, as the printer she’s using is out of state. I even call my client over, who drives across the city at night to see for herself, and we can’t find any issues with legibility. She reaches back out to her printer.

Client: So we printed a few out and we aren’t seeing any issues with legibility, I can read everything just fine, and so can my designer. Can you send some photos of the issue over?

Printer: Well… No, because I don’t have a camera.

What? Who doesn’t have a camera of some kind?

Client: Okay… Well what exactly is the issue? Where are you seeing the smudge? Is it the background causing it, or font color…?

Printer: Well, no, but if they send over their .PSD files, I can fix it real quick I know what’s causing it.

At this point, we were both confused and suspicious. I was getting mad, as it was very late.

Client: No, we’re not doing that. I have the designer right here – if you tell us what’s happening we can fix it right now.

Printer: Well… I don’t like the font choice, I think it’s bad and I could do better.

We were both shocked. My client informed them that that faking a printing issue because they didn’t like the design they were hired to print wasn’t a part of their job, and that if they couldn’t go through with it they would not be doing the job at all.

They continued to complain, and she fired them. It turns out the printer was a small-time start-up she gave the job to help out, instead of her normal corporate place. The next day she called her regular printer and ordered a rush job, and the labels turned out perfectly. Nobody ever complained about my design, as far as she told me.

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<p>I was working with a client who has

2 September 2020 - 4:00pm

I was working with a client who has a webshop in office supplies. The communication was horrible (he called me almost every day, including weekends, to ask the most simple questions that could have been asked via mail or text) but I didn’t complain too much because he always paid me on time.

One day he asked me to design a flyer that he could hand out to potential customers. I started working on the flyer using the brand guides that were set up. I mailed him the proposal and after five minutes I got a call:

Client: This looks too much like our previous flyer. Make it different, make it POP!

I redesigned the flyer, still using the brand colors, and send him another proposal.

Client: What’s wrong with you lately? Always using the same stuff. I want something DIFFERENT!

Me: Well, I am just following the brand guidelines regarding fonts and colors. Maybe that’s why it looks similar to the other designs I’ve done for you in the past.

Client: Well, yeah, but I want you to make it POP! Can’t you just use other fonts and colors to really make it stand out?

Me: Well, I could, but the flyer would not be consistent with your other brand materials.


I redesigned the flyer with different colors and fonts. I sent him the file and almost immediately he called me again:

Client: WHAT ON EARTH IS THIS? This doesn’t even look like it comes from our business. Redesign it so it looks like it comes from us.

I am getting really annoyed and send him the first proposal again, but this time I changed the size of the font just a little bit.

He loved it.

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<p>I have been working on a standalone

2 September 2020 - 3:00pm

I have been working on a standalone Windows app for about a year now. The app isn’t done yet, because my client keeps expanding the feature list.

Monday, yesterday:

Client: This should be a web application.

Me: …Okay. That’s a pretty big change, but luckily the platform we’re building it on allows for that. It will take about a week to convert everything, and everything else we’re looking to change will have to go on hold until that’s done.

Client: Okay. I really think this is the direction we should be going.

Today, Tuesday, the client contacted me while I was beginning the change.

Client: So, is the app finished yet?

Me: Ha ha, I wish. That’d be great. 

Client: … What’s wrong with it?

Me: (stunned) Er, I’m still moving everything over to web, and I’m looking into the same problem I was having yesterday that we discussed. 

Client:  Your coworker is on a similar project, right? He already solved that problem. Go get the information from him instead of wasting everyone’s time!

So, I went to see my coworker and asked about it. I’d spoken with him yesterday as well, and he’d been having the same problem as me.

Me: Hey, [client] said you fixed that thing?

Coworker: What? No. I have no idea where he’s is getting this information. I was about to come ask YOU how you even got the thing to run!

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<p>I was talking with a potential

2 September 2020 - 2:00pm

I was talking with a potential client over coffee about producing promotional materials for his event. 

Me: Sounds like what you want are buttons, which are pretty cheap to produce and memorable. I could design something in three different sizes: 1 inch, 1.5 inches and 3 inches.

He looked puzzled.

Client: I have no idea how big that is.

Me: …Okay. Well, 1 inch is about the size of a quarter.

Client: That’s kind of small. Maybe I want 3 inch buttons.

Me:   He decided that he wanted 3 inch buttons. How big is 3 inches?

I pointed to the top of his cup, said it was roughly that wide in diameter.  He went quiet for another moment. 

Client: 3 inches is kind of big. How big is 1.5 inches?

You have the tools to solve this mystery, Sherlock.

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<p>A client asked me to design a decal

1 September 2020 - 4:00pm

A client asked me to design a decal for the hood of her car advertising her services.

The weird thing? On her website, she described herself as a designer. Oh well, I thought, everyone needs help sometimes. But she immediately gave me cause to suspect that she wasn’t really a designer.

First she sent a bitmap image with an eps file extension and couldn’t understand why it looked so pixelated. She asked me to “clean it up.” For another, she requested that the color be “emoji yellow.”

I did my best and sent her a vector PDF via email.

Client: It’s all pixelated.

Me: I’m not sure why it is coming across that way. Something must have translated weird in the emailing process. Let me take a look.

Me: Did you open the PDF proof in the Acrobat to view it or did you view through the email only? I emailed it to myself and that’s what I’m seeing in the email app but when I open the emailed PDF attachment in Acrobat, it’s perfect.

Client: I opened the email.

Me: Okay, when you get a chance open the PDF in the Acrobat and let me know what you got.

Client: I can’t do that. Can you send a JPG or PNG?

Again: a “designer” who can’t open a PDF.

I sent both a JPG or PNG and didn’t hear back from her… but I saw her car driving around with my design on it. I checked her website, and she claimed that she designed the decal herself.

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Client by gaslight

1 September 2020 - 3:00pm

A few years back I had a client who would FTP into his server on Sunday morning and upload an old version of a random file, breaking the site. Then he’d call my boss and complain that I’d broken the site, who’d then call me. I’d remind my boss that I NEVER worked on a Sunday morning. This went on for a while because we were locked into a contract term with the guy.

Eventually he made this big huge deal about an email that he’d sent to me with a request that never got completed, and forwarded the email that he’d supposedly sent. My boss goes through his email, finds his copy, and discovers that the email was sent to a different person with a similar name, and calls him out for modifying the forwarded email to make it look like I was at fault.

The next week the contract term expired, and my boss fired the client.

After all that, the same guy calls a web development firm where I had a friend working as a sales rep. She told me it went like this:

 Client: I just talked to your boss and he agreed to this, that, and the other thing for $[ridiculously low amount]. Let’s move forward with it.

Her: I was in the room with him when you were on the call, and he said no such thing.

Client: Anyway, what I’m looking for is…

And he moved on like nothing happened.

They didn’t take him on, either. I feel really bad for whomever did have to put up with his crap.

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logo design… but we dont have a name yet for the brand

1 September 2020 - 2:00pm

Client: I need a logo designed. The name isn’t decided yet. I need it in 4 business days.

Me: I can’t really design a logo without the product even having a brand name…

Client: I just want to see some design explorations, even if they are throwaway!

Me:  Well, if I don’t even know your business name they probably will be.

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The impossible login

31 August 2020 - 4:00pm

I just got hired by an insurance company that relied on a remote site to process claims.  All the businesses processes relied on internet connection as a result, so they hired me to come up with a backup system to do basic transactions when they went offline for any reason. 

I mapped the process, checked the company’s framework, visual identity, and all. I tested the solution over and again, all good. Security measures included a strong password to access the system, and the data was all encrypted. Good stuff.

Before putting this to work, my manager tested the software and we had the following exchange:

Client: It’s great, but we have a problem: you’re not supposed to use a local password, it has to authenticate with our server.

Me: I understand that’s the policy, and I can see why that is the policy- but this is a contingency plan for when you can’t reach that server. 

 Client: Yes, that’s right. But we still want the server to authenticate it when it’s offline. 



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You’re too good for us

31 August 2020 - 3:00pm

Client: This brochure cover is really good!  It’s actually too good. We can’t use it.

Me: I don’t understand.

Client: It’s just too good, too perfect. I really like what you’ve done here, but I’m afraid it’ll confuse our end-users. Let’s go with a boring option. How about we slap a big black box on the top and put the logo on it.

Me: But that’ll deviate from the visual identity standards we just set for our brochure covers a couple of months ago.

Client: Yeah, but that’s okay. It’ll be fine, just do it.

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Boomer Zoomer

31 August 2020 - 2:00pm

Started working at a new place a few months back, basically a PA job working with a bunch of older blokes and higher-ups at a university. Being the only person under 30 (probably the only one under 50) I quickly became the de facto “tech guy.” 

Then COVID happened, and all meetings shifted online. 

In one meeting one of my bosses was supposed to run a presentation but ended up showing everybody the ‘presenter mode’ of PowerPoint, showing us all the notes he made for himself. It was awkward and kind of funny. Afterward, he asked for help to fix it and I agreed. Bad move.

Cut to an hour later, he’s literally tied up in wires, switching between THREE (3) different webcams, and he’s already dropped a monitor on the floor. I’m doing my best to tell him what’s wrong but he either can’t, or won’t, understand.

After over an hour he still hadn’t fixed it. In the end, I told him to just use his laptop for future meetings and remove all additional hardware. 

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Save 96% on 670+ floral line elements! Just $9!

30 August 2020 - 4:00pm
Save 96% on 670+ floral line elements! Just $9!

This week’s deal is on over 670 delicate floral line elements that will save you time and money.

> At only $9, this package is a steal. 

Combining brushes, illustrations, frames and more, these 670+ elements will make it a snap to design wedding invitations, branding packages, packaging and more! Perfect for when a delicate touch is needed, this bundle will help you put together professional designs in minutes – but the client doesn’t have to know that! 

Normally, everything in this bundle would cost $230, and honestly? For the amount of time you’ll save, that’s a decent price. However, this week you can get everything in this bundle for only $9. 

> Check out the deal here!

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<p>Client: Can you use Microsoft Word

30 August 2020 - 3:00pm

Client: Can you use Microsoft Word so I can edit the design? 

Me: ….

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<p>Client: We want it to be “WOW,” but

30 August 2020 - 2:00pm

Client: We want it to be “WOW,” but not “OMG.”

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<p>We provide remote tech support and

29 August 2020 - 4:00pm

We provide remote tech support and concierge services for real estate agents at a large, national company, free to the agents through their Office’s membership fee.

Client: (sends a .pdf scan of a hand-written sign-in sheet with 50+ names, emails, and phone numbers) Can you please add this to my CRM?

Me: Unfortunately our service is limited to importing spreadsheet files, we do not offer transcription services


Me: (internally) You don’t, jackass.

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<p>Client: Can you please upload this

29 August 2020 - 3:00pm

Client: Can you please upload this signature (that I created) to my email?

Me: Sure thing! I’ll just copy and paste that in.


Client: The phone number in my signature is wrong. You should be more careful, please fix it.

Me: (internal screams)

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<p>Client: I don&#8217;t know why they&

29 August 2020 - 2:00pm

Client: I don’t know why they’re all coming out blue…

He was trying to create text boxes in PowerPoint and was instead drawing blue rectangles. 

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User Submitted Post

28 August 2020 - 4:00pm

When I started doing graphic design as a young man, one of the clients at the agency I worked was a middle-aged family man – married, kids, all that. I actually liked working with him; he liked my work and paid on time. He was happy, I was happy, my boss was happy.

The agency hired another young designer at the same time. She was my age, and objectively gorgeous. We were friendly, but I didn’t’ really know her and that was fine.

One day, this client came in for a meeting and spotted my colleague for the first time. He started a conversation with her immediately and started complimenting her looks over and over. She was polite but obviously uncomfortable. 

He kept coming back in the next several days, finding nonsensical reasons to do so, and kept trying to talk to her. One time, he even asked me to join him for a cigarette-break, acting like we were best friends but really asking personal questions about her. I tried not to tell him anything.

One day, OUR working relationship broke down. He went from liking my work to finding fault in everything, started giving unworkable deadlines, everything. My boss was baffled. 

I found out later, he asked my colleague out to dinner, and she shot him down. I guess he decided to take it out on me. 

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The Idealist

28 August 2020 - 3:00pm

A client showed me the book he published using the cover I designed… complete with watermarks since he hasn’t paid for it yet.

Me: You know you can’t use that until you’ve paid for it? I haven’t even licensed the images yet. 

Client: I like the idea of paying you, but I have to sell some books before I can afford to.


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User Submitted Post

28 August 2020 - 2:00pm

I was providing low-level marketing services to this client for a small retainer when he fired me a few months back. He recently came back to me and resumed the retainer because he couldn’t find anyone else to do the work for him.

Client: The store locator isn’t working on our website.

I check it out and there’s some sort of issue with the Google Maps API.

Me: It’s an issue on the Google Cloud Services backend. Can you give me your login information for Gmail so that I can take a look at the account and see what’s going on?

Client: What login information? I don’t have a Gmail account.

Me: I was literally sitting next to you when it was set up specifically for this project.

We back and forth a little bit and eventually we figure out how to get into the account.

Me: Google has been emailing you for three months telling you that you need to approve moving to a paid account or they’re going to delete your cloud project. They’ve deleted it now and this is going to require a full rebuild.

Client: I didn’t know I had to look out for an email regarding that.

Me: You don’t read your emails?

Client: I regarded this to be a spam email! I have over a thousand emails from Reddit! 

Me: You can unsubscribe from those. You need to keep track of your emails in case you miss something important like this.

Client: Well you never told me I had to look out for this email about them breaking my website. Isn’t this what I pay you for?

Me: I don’t read your emails, this is a billing issue which you’re responsible for. This also happened during the period I wasn’t working for you.

Client: It seems like you’re just trying to allocate blame to me here.


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User Submitted Post

27 August 2020 - 4:00pm

I was starting to do designs when I was 17. My mother’s side of the family is very enthusiastic about supporting my art, but they have a track record of being… pretty terrible at it.

My uncle approached me with a job:

Uncle: One of my friends at work wants to have a patch designed, and he likes to support young artists. Would you be interested in giving it a shot?

Me: Cool! I’ve never designed a patch but I think that’s something I could do. How can I contact your friend?

Uncle: Just send me some samples and I’ll pass them along.

He insisted on doing it this way, so reluctantly I agreed to that arrangement.

That evening I went through my art and put together a simple pseudo-portfolio, then emailed it to my uncle and waited. I made it very clear in the email that I wanted to be able to contact the client directly if he decided he was interested in my work. I also made it very clear that the works I’d sent were just samples and not for sale, but I didn’t bother to slap a big “SAMPLE” watermark over them.

Big mistake. 

I didn’t hear a single peep back from anyone about it for three weeks. Then my mom informed me I’d received payment from this guy. I panicked because I hadn’t met him, we hadn’t discussed terms or anything, and I hadn’t actually sent him a badge design. I thought I was committed to something I hadn’t agreed to.

My mom saw that I was upset and offered me this “sage” advice:

Mom: You’re a professional now. Don’t blow this, you need the exposure.


After two hours of trying I contacted my uncle and confirmed my worst suspicions. He had sold one of my designs without my permission, or even asking me, to a total stranger, to be used for a completely unknown purpose, for twenty dollars. Not to mention it was a design that I was already using in one of my own projects.

He claimed they both thought those were just the designs I was offering despite the email saying otherwise in plain English. I guess I should have known from following this particular blog that people cannot and will not read anything. After condescendingly telling me I was overreacting and that it totally wasn’t his fault, he agreed to get the client to cancel the custom patch order and give him my email so we could get through this process properly.

Unsurprisingly, I never heard from him.

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