Clients from Hell
I was working on a 1-minute animated instructional video for an app. Project was on a time crunch and a budget, so I skipped the storyboard and went straight to the animatic.
Me: To save time, I made the assets I’d like to use in the final animation and put them in here. So if you like the aesthetic, I can just animate what’s here in the next phase.
Client: Looks dope! Yes!
They make a payment. We do a round or two of edits. I finish the video in time for their deadline. No complaints, until I call for the last payment.
Client: It looks the same as the storyboard.
Me: I explained at the time, we’re using those assets in the animation.
Client: But it’s not, like, an animation. It looks like PowerPoint. I could have done this.
Me: It most definitely isn’t. PowerPoint can’t do this stuff. But if you think it’s not good or effective, maybe we can…
Client: Listen, I think it’s good, and the message is perfect. And we’re going to use it.
Me: So, why are you choosing to not pay what you agreed to?
Client: It’s just not animated!
It’s animated. I guess they were expecting Disney?
This client had contacted me several months beforehand asking for information about commissions, yet never responded to the answer I gave them. Here’s the latest correspondence:
Client: I’m looking to order a portrait. What are your prices?
Me: Thanks for your interest. Commission prices vary depending on size and commission type. Here’s a link that gives detailed information about what formats and sizes I offer. Let me know what size you’re interested in and I can provide you with further details.
Client: Don’t know what you mean by ‘format’, but I’m looking for something somewhat big.
I get the impression that communicating with this client will be like pulling teeth.
I was working on delivering a number of comms pieces for a program driven by a launch date deadline. One piece was a brochure to be handed out at the launch event. I managed to get a first draft of the brochure with content laid out two weeks before the print deadline.
Me: Please see the first proof attached and supporting content doc. We are quite ahead of the deadline but as there are so many pieces in play and they all feed of this, it is worth signing off now.
Me: (a few days later) I sent you a proof a few days ago, do you know when you will be able to review this please?
Me: (about a week later) Hello. Getting a bit concerned about the brochure as I haven’t heard anything back and other materials rely on the information in here. Can I please have your feedback?
Two days before the print deadline, I received a marked up Word doc of the content with tracked changes. Practically everything was commented on, but the majority of the comments were just questions like ‘Why is this here?’ or ‘change the image’ or my all time favorite ‘please revise’ with no indication of what to revise it to or why.
The icing on the cake was a note in the email saying how we really needed to think about how to speed the process up as she was worried about the impending deadline.
Busy meeting with a potential client who wants their website redesigned.
Me: Ok, so you’d be supplying all the content for the site? Copy, photos etc?
Client: Yes, sure. As I take the photos I’ll download them onto a USB drive and you can come fetch that from me and bring it back again so I can transfer the latest batch onto it.
Me: Um, why can’t we email the content?
Client: No, it’s much easier for me if you collect a USB drive.
Me: I’m sorry, but I don’t have time to drive 30 minutes to you for a USB when these can be emailed.
Client: But this is what I’d be paying for.
Me: I’m a designer, not a courier.
Client: Well, I don’t think I’m being unreasonable with this request.
Me: You’re welcome to drop off the USB yourself then.
Client: Oh no, my time’s too valuable for that. You have to come collect it.
It was at this point I knew I would be emailing them later that day to decline the project.
I manage social media for a small insurance brokerage. The client’s goal is to increase his client-base.
Me: Do you have any sales figures or data like number of phone calls received that I can analyse against the social media stats?
Client: We don’t keep record of any of those things. All I can tell you is that social media makes no difference. We get all our clients via word-of-mouth.
Well, maybe you’d get some clients from social media if you paid ANY attention to it.
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I maintain a professional presence on social media and most of my clients are Facebook friends. Towards the end of a status meeting one day:
Client: I notice that you have many friends of color on Facebook.
They then started complaining about their blue-collar workers, most of whom are racialized.
His complaints made this clear.
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I attended a presentation with a baby boomer Client at an industry event. The presentation was a very relevant and thoughtful speech by a millennial with a lot of professional knowledge.
During the presentation:
Client: (whispering to me) She’s terrible.
I glanced away from the Client, pretending not to be bothered.
After the presentation, the Client clarified her point.
Client: She talked quickly and used such big words – I couldn’t understand what she said. She acted like she knew so many things, but I like it better when they slow down and say things in ways that make sense. I didn’t like that speech at all.
In my opinion, the Speaker simplified things pretty thoroughly.
If the Client couldn’t understand the industry-relevant terminology and concepts that are being presented, it’s the speaker’s fault? Also, the concepts presented were business trends that most people could look up to learn more about.
How much should a speaker break things down at a professional presentation?
To a 5th grade level?
I work for a marketing agency and, and we do free work for the church my boss attends. He gets a lot of leads from there, so we have to play nice whenever they ask for something.
A week ago on a Friday, the church contacts us:
Client: We changed our payment gateway for our donations, and we need the new system linked to our website with a redesign for the “Give” page.
I worked on the project all day and even stayed late so I wouldn’t have to deal with the issue on Monday. They approved it, I went home.
The weekend went by but I wasn’t feeling too well and felt like a truck had hit me when I woke up on Monday so I called in sick. I figured everything was good since they signed off on everything and that should have been the last I would hear from them for a while. Boy was I wrong….
Client: Our members are having trouble finding the “give” button on our website. Can you make the following changes?
Since it wasn’t flagged as urgent and I wasn’t on the clock, I decided they could wait until tomorrow. It was a simple change but I needed the PSD file I had on my computer at work. Also, I’d taken some medicine that had made me groggy, so I just went back to sleep.
I woke up with a missed call from an unknown number and a text from the client saying they needed the change done ASAP because they are wanting to make a demo on how to get to the give page…
At this point, I’m a little frustrated because I never gave them permission to use my cell and it wasn’t flagged to be important. So I just texted back:
Me: I’m sorry, I’m home sick today and unavailable to the work immediately. I’ll forward the details to my coworker, but he may be busy as well. If he can’t do it, I promise I’ll take care of it first thing tomorrow.
I thought that would take care of it. Nope. The client phoned me two on my cell two hours later, because my coworker DID make the changes and they still weren’t happy with them. Turns out he misinterpreted one of the things they asked for and they demanded it be fixed right now. I phoned my coworker, apologized for taking him away from his own work, and got him to make this change.
The floodgates were open, though. The client continued to email me about a totally different style changes. I did my best to ignore them and rest up.
The next morning, I went into work still feeling terrible, but got to work right away. Then, a few hours later, I got another email:
Client: We actually don’t like this new style for the Give page. Can we just go back to the old one?
To recap, they wasted our time again, misused my cell number, made my coworker drop his workload and decided “Meh, we don’t like it.” All for a job they weren’t paying for, and had finalized days before.
My boss is no longer making us give them free work.
Client: This website would be something very outstanding in this market and that would mean you get a huge exposure and more clients later.
Me: I run one of the most well-known agencies in this market, and you’re just starting out. In fact, YOU would be the one getting exposure working with US, as we will feature this project in our portfolio, possibly share with potential clients as a success story and so on. Our price is final and non-negotiable.
To my surprise, the client agreed and we signed a contract.
I worked with a client who was wonderfully well-intentioned. She was publishing a book that would give advice to children and care-givers and had he support of an already established foundation. She approached me to illustrate it because she liked my work. I agreed, and was excited to work on such an important project.
After I started, though, things began to change. The client had taken an art class earlier in life, and began to draw on that knowledge to correct my work, explaining (incorrectly) how figures are proportioned, color grading, etc. She would ask me to change line placements, colors, you name it – none of which changed the image substantively, and many of which she requested changed back later.
It was a big job that I started in January. By the time September rolled around I should have been prepping the finals for the printer but more corrections arrived… every day, for the entire month.
She had used up her contractual revisions twice over before I finally sent a warning:
Me: You’re well passed the number of revisions included in our contract and the length of the job has increased as a result. I will have to charge you for any further revisions.
She didn’t respond. She just sent me more minor and unnecessary revisions.
In October, I sent her an invoice that accounted for these extra revisions.
Client: How can you expect me to pay this? I’m not made of money!
Me: Well I don’t have all the time in the world to make every change you ask me to. I’ve appended the “extras” you’ve already asked for that weren’t included in our contract. Look it over if you think I’m exaggerating. I also warned you a month ago and you didn’t respond.
She paid. And kept on sending exacting and really very unnecessary corrections, sometimes regarding emails I had sent weeks earlier. She was a nice lady and I was proud of the project and my work but when the project kept going into year 2, I quit.
Client: (clearly upset) Can you make one, LAST adjustment?
It was the removal of a spot on one character’s face, the equivalent of 9, yes nine pixels. I made the adjustment, returned the file and deleted her from my contact list.
I took on a client with terrible communication skills to help pay the rent, but every day was a headache. When I wasn’t trying to interpret what a word like “swishy” meant in my directions, I was performing impossible tasks based on unclear asks that only made my job worse, as they gained confidence in my abilities to work magic.
Client: I got these art history books to help come up with images for this Western-themed restaurant we’re branding.
Me: Okay. Those images are probably all copyrighted, but I know I’m not going to stop you.
The client started flipping through the books, got visibly frustrated and then whined:
Client: Where are the horses, the campfires…the cowboys!?
The book he was looking through was titled “The Art of Western Civilization.
I rolled my eyes, cleaned out my brush, and packed up my stuff.
I make a specific and high end garment, and am known for using delicate antique fabrics in some of my designs. I rarely make things to order, I choose to take on only 4 or 5 projects a year. I was careful to stress that garments using antique materials are not for regular use before accepting a commission, and I provided a set of care instructions with it.
Client: I bought one of your items, and I am very upset that there is some damage to it. I expect a full refund.
Me: I’m sorry to hear that, how is the item damaged? Let me look up your details so I can get to the bottom of this and help you out.
Client: Some of the antique lace is damaged. My friend is a seamstress and she says she would not have used this in a garment which is worn on a regular basis.
Me: Your friend is right, which is why I told you when you ordered nearly ten years ago that this should not be worn on a regular basis.
I don’t take orders for this style anymore. Anything antique is used only in my own personal samples. People are upset they can’t buy them but it is not worth the hassle.
“I didn’t know that also doing completely different work as we agreed on wasn’t part of the work we agreed on!”
Client: I’m sorry I can’t afford you to do both proofreading and do the layout! I’l proofread the text myself.
Me: That’s fine with me, you send me the proofread, finished document and I’ll do the layout.
The client sent me their “finished,” “proofread” document and it was a mess. I had to make at least a hundred changes that should have been part of proofreading along with a hundred other completely unnecessary changes they never talked about before came back to me just in order to do the layout.
I fixed all of it and told the client I’d have to charge more than the estimate of costs, for the text obviously wasn’t ready for layout when I received it.
Client: I don’t think it’s fair to pay more for editing since I did the proofreading.
Me: But changing the text and the content is part of proofreading, which you explicitly asked me not to do, so I quoted you for a layout of a FINISHED text. Essentially, I had to finish your proofreading for you.
Client: Well, you should have told me that the proofreading isn’t part of the layout! I didn’t know that!
If you’re in the habit of combing job postings, you might have come across your dream job, got excited, applied and then… didn’t hear back. Nothing. Not one peep. Even though you know in your heart you were the perfect fit for that job, and it was perfect for you!
The solution to this all too common experience isn’t a “killer cover letter.” It’s showing clients that you’re the right fit for the job BEFORE it even goes to the posting. That means being proactive, and making relationships with clients before they even know they need you.
Return guest Ami Sanyal of The Uncommoners Club walks Kyle through his surefire method for forming relationships with clients and making them your mentors in order to get the jobs you want. If you’ve never listened to the Clients From Hell podcast before, listen to this one: it could change your career!
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I made a small website for a client. After he tried to log in into the backend the first time I got a call.
Client: It doesn’t work. I can’t find the CMS.
I logged in – everything was fine.
So the usual procedure began: Checking login-data, creating new login-data, asking for browsers, proxy or firewall-rules – you know them all. I got no real answers.
I asked for a screenshot. He sent me a screenshot of the CMS; he was logged in fine, and all the pages and functions were working right in front of him.
Me: But there it is? What’s the problem?
Client: But look there, right at the bottom! Can’t you read it? It says: “404 Page not found.”
Me: Oh. This is the place where you can configure your 404-page and change what it tells people.
Client: What is a 404-page? But it’s saying it can’t find the page. Fix it!
Client: Is there a way to store a copy of all the emails we send out to our clients on the website?
Me: Why would you want to do that?
Client: Just in case someone needs to see the emails we sent them.
Me: How is this more beneficial over just using their email application or web mail?
Client: Yeah, I understand that, but this way, instead of using email, they can just read them on our website instead.
Me: Erm… this really doesn’t seem like a problem in need of a solution. In fact, you’re actually proposing something that’s more cumbersome and time consuming. Imagine if everyone did this, would you want to go to a different website to read each of your messages?
Client: Look, can you do this or not?
Me: How about this, you find me an example of what you’re proposing, and I’ll build something similar for you.
I’m still waiting….
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Client: Can you do these jobs for me?
Me: Yes I can. Those services will cost [$X]
Client: Hang on a minute, it sounds like you’re trying to sell me something.
Me: I’m describing what we can do to so that you can judge whether we can offer you a useful service.
Client: Service? Are you going to try and charge me? I’m just trying to get my business off the ground. It will benefit thousands of people and once it’s on the stock exchange, I can pay you in shares.
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At my last graphic design job, my boss (who doesn’t know anything about design) would constantly undermine my design decisions for our biggest client and would tell me how to design things, which resulted in our client getting annoyed with me.
One day I decided to go with my gut and design the client’s menus with what I though they wanted –which happened to be COMPLETELY OPPOSITE to what my boss insisted on.
He was furious and made me redesigned it the way he wanted. Luckily, he allowed me send both proofs to the client.
Client: Oh wow, this is night and day. This one, definitely.
They chose mine.
I didn’t stay at that job much longer.
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I make plush dolls by hand as gifts for people sometimes, and people often approach me asking if I can make one for them. Here’s a recent potential client.
Client: That doll is so cute, can you make me one for $20?
Me: Well, it took me 25 hours of work and is all done by hand so the lowest I could possibly go is $200, if you don’t want a fancy outfit. But I’d be willing to make another at that price.
Client: How about $35?
Me: You can have the felt and thread for that. The sewing will be $165 more.
Client: Okay, so like $50?
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