Clients from Hell

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Horror stories from freelancers
Updated: 43 min 55 sec ago

Change the Thumbnail

2 November 2019 - 1:00pm

I have just spent a good five minutes or so reading and rereading this piece of feedback from an older client for an animation I made for her business.  I’m still in awe. 

Client: The first screen before the video begins. (The one with the arrow that starts the video) I hoped that the very first screen before the video begins will be something other than the image that is there now. I will be sending you an email with 2 photos I took from my phone. We can take a better picture and maybe a different subject over the weekend. If we do take another photo for that screen, will that work with your schedule?   If you didn’t follow that, she wants me to CHANGE THE THUMBNAIL that was embedded by Google Drive in when I emailed the link of the animation to her. I have no idea how to explain that’s not something I do, or that matters, at all. 

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Non-profit fund! Cause, well the directors bathroom renovation

1 November 2019 - 2:00pm

I am a professional event manager. A few years ago, I was approached by a non-profit organization that wanted to erect a monument for all the victims of domestic violence. The three-headed organization had already organized a big event but decided that they were going to organize a concert to get the remainder of the money needed for the monument. They asked me about six months in advance if I was willing to be the stage manager for the concert. It was a worthy cause so I agreed. Then they invited me to a meeting.

Client: So, we are going to do a great concert, at this amazing venue. There are all kinds of artist that are willing to work with us for free, but they are all C-listers. We really want A-list artists. We also want a full crew of volunteers to do everything from sounds and lighting to stagehands, greeters, bar-staff, PA’s to the artists, promotions, etc. Besides that, we need full media coverage, and of course a great media campaign. We don’t really have anything yet, everything needs to be organized and designed. We have about six months to pull this together. Since we’ve already put in a lot of time in the last event, we decided that you get to do this one.

Me: You mean you want me to fully organize this massive event?

Client: No, no.

Me: Good. 

Client: We keep the last say in everything, you don’t get to make the final decisions. But other than that: yes.

Me: …Okay, that is a lot of work for one person. If I would basically carry the sole responsibility for this and have my name tied to it, I would like to get some insight into the finances of the foundation. I’m sure you can understand that.

Client: NO! You just have to trust us! The money is none of your business!

Me: Okay. Then at least what is your budget for this?

Client: Pay? Oh no, we don’t pay employees nor do we pay expenses for volunteers. Do you know how much of our own money we’ve already put into this fund? This must be a fun thing to do for a great cause! 


Client: You’re very serious, you shouldn’t be so serious!

Since I was sitting there with them, I didn’t really want to say something, so when I got home, I’d send them an e-mail saying that I was not interested in doing this project, but that I was still willing to work as a stage manager. They not-so-politely declined. 

A few months later, news trickled out that the director had been using the monument money to pay for his house renovations. So much for “you have to trust us!” 

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the guy who doesn’t want to click

1 November 2019 - 1:00pm

I designed a platform for a client so that users could record over 50 different fields of information, improving it from what they had. The distribution and order where designed following their requirements. It simplified the process. So far so good.

I was demonstrating the platform and its improvements. 

Client: Wait, I have to use the mouse? That’s discouraging.

Sorry, buddy, for not doing a mind reader/optical detector platform.

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Music Credits Issue

31 October 2019 - 2:00pm

Client: I’m not going to give you appropriate credits on my project.

Me: Why? I literally did everything in it.

Client: If I credited every person for their work, I wouldn’t look so cool.

Me: But crediting people means being honest.

Client: Now I feel conflicted.

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User Submitted Post

31 October 2019 - 1:00pm

Actually a very, very good experience, but still made me speechless …

Me: So here are designs for your new website. I’m open to your comments and ideas if there are any.

Client: No corrections needed, we’re happy with design since it “looks like a website”.

… and that was the only feedback on quite a big web project. Paid in whole, without any revisions. To be honest with you, I’m still waiting for someone to scream “Hidden camera!”.

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He brought the internet with him…

30 October 2019 - 2:00pm

In the process of developing a site for a client, they insisted on coming in for a meeting to discuss changes. The client arrived at the office with a laptop and a length of cable over their shoulder. In their hands was a router.

Me Why have you brought that router and the power and ethernet cables?

Client: So I could get on the internet and show you guys the site during the meeting.

We didn’t bother explaining that we could provide WiFi access. What is more shocking is this client managed to submit a business proposal and get funding to start a business in the first place.

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Business First, Safety Second

30 October 2019 - 1:00pm

A business was seeking more contract warehouse employees. I talked to the interviewer about the job.

Client: We’ll need you to climb on these tall ladders by yourself and carry large heavy boxes of home products down from the shelves on a frequent basis. You’ll also be dealing with a lot of electrical issues with some appliances.

Me: Just a regular ladder? Also, I’m not an electrician.

Client: Yes. It’s not very safe, but that’s what it is.

In the training, they provided me with a “safety sheet” that discussed the various things we *shouldn’t* do. It was full of tasks they wanted me to do on a daily basis.

I don’t think I want the job that bad.

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You need a (virtual) assistant: Melissa Smith of the Association of Virtual Assistants

29 October 2019 - 6:45pm
You need a (virtual) assistant: Melissa Smith of the Association of Virtual Assistants


Do you have an assistant? Should you? Look at what you have to do today; how much of it is what you want your job to be, and how much of it is something you hate to do? What if you had someone who could do that stuff for you, so you could focus on being the designer/programmer/writer you always wanted to be? 

Melissa Smith is the founder of the Association of Virtual Assistants and she’s of the opinion that everyone growing a business should have an assistant to help them do the things they need to succeed. 

Today’s links: 

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A Great Sales Opportunity

29 October 2019 - 3:00pm

A business was hiring contract sales team members for some upcoming sales event, which could become an ongoing part-time opportunity.

Client: I wouldn’t be surprised if fights break out at the event between salespeople or among customers. We should probably have security.

Me: That doesn’t sound good.

Client: Yeah, all we ask is that you don’t arrive at the event to sell with alcohol in your breath. That seems to be an issue at these kinds of events.

Sounds like a good time? Nope nope nope.

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The Ideal Candidate

29 October 2019 - 2:00pm

A potential client was looking for a contract admin and customer service support for her business. From what she told me, the job was pretty straightforward with a solid team in place of other customer service/administrators and training. The business had been around a long time and was growing.

We had a phone interview and an in-depth in-person interview. This included meeting other people in the office and having a team discussion. She acknowledged I have great skills for the role.

Two weeks later I got an email.

Client: You’re a top candidate, but I’m still interviewing people and deciding on next steps. Just wanted to update you on the status of this.

I took a look at the job boards a week later. She reposted the job. Apparently the last round of interviews didn’t yield anything (there \are usually a lot of applicants for jobs where I live). I wonder what criteria makes someone the “perfect fit” for this job that seemed like a number of skilled people could fill.

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The Goal is to Have You Support Us

28 October 2019 - 2:00pm

I met with hiring managers to discuss a contract full-time sales/outreach job with a team in a large city.

Client: We can only pay you a low hourly wage.

The position would be supporting the entire local group, and they have nice offices with lots of well-paid admin staff. 

Client: A big part of the day-to-day involves driving around the city to meet with businesses and other organizations. You’ll make speeches, establish partnerships, and help raise funds.

Me: Are the mileage and gas covered by the group?

Client: No.

So they want someone to be the public face fo their organization but let that person fall into debt over time. Not feeling good about the longevity of this position, or of this group. 

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Discussing Feedback

28 October 2019 - 1:00pm

I created an e-mail design for a client who didn’t give many specifics about what they wanted, but they wanted to promote their products. I put together some basic drafts that I thought would work well with their brand.

Me: Here’s a few design options, let me know your thoughts so far.

Client: I don’t like them.

Me: What exactly don’t you like?

Client: I don’t know.


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Self-Termination of a Client.

27 October 2019 - 1:00pm

I’m a web application developer. For over a year I worked productively with this client. We even made a follow-on contract.

One day, not even two months after the follow-on contract, my client suddenly came in for an escalation meeting, telling me he would need to forward my services to one of his business partners. He said that I wasn’t performing as expected, which was the first time I heard that from him. We had meetings before in which he praised me and my results.

Me: Well that’s a surprise. I’ll have to think about it. 

Two days later, I had thought about it and told him I did not want to forward my services.

Client: Well I can see if we have another project you can work on. But if not, I will have to terminate our contract.

Three days later, he calls me:

Client: I’m calling to ask if you can reconsider forwarding your services to our business partner. We have something special planned for you there.  

He continued to tell shady details about how he wants an insider at his business partner to enable him to take them over. Basically I would be working for him as a spy. 

Me: Well I’m definitely not comfortable with that. 

Client: Don’t tell anyone. This call and everything said falls under our NDA. Think about it, ok?

I did not hear from him for a week and continued doing my work according to our contract. One Monday I had an email in my inbox – written at Sunday evening – stating that he is sorry to tell me that he has to terminate our contract. The attached termination letter (I also received in print via mail two days later) was dated back at the date of the escalation meeting.

As our contract stated, that one side cannot terminate the contract without proper reasoning, I filed a suit. Three weeks went by with a lot of back and forth between my lawyer and his resulting in him withdrawing the termination.

During this process, even Even his lawyer said the client was difficult to work with

I used that lawsuit as my valid argumentation to fire the client shortly after and could enforce indemnity claims as well as other compensations.

Happy Ending. Always have a good contract.

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Jumpstart your toolkit! 220 fonts, 60 logo templates and 100 vector objects 99% off!

26 October 2019 - 4:24pm
Jumpstart your toolkit! 220 fonts, 60 logo templates and 100 vector objects 99% off!

This week’s deal is on over 220 fonts, 60 logo templates, and 100 vector objects to turbocharge your toolkit.

> There’s a lot here. It’s all great.

What designer doesn’t like more toys to play with? Take a look at what’s here and see if there isn’t something that inspires you. I’m particularly fond of the cartoony Les Paul font, and the ruggedly retro Bartender. Sandwich is a VERY handsome beveled typeface, while The Telegraph conjures the look of classic newspaper headlines. This is a high-quality bundle at a great price. 

For the next week, save 99% and pay only $15 for every font and tool in this huge bundle. Call it a Halloween present to yourself.

> Check out the deal here.



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Anyone can do it!

26 October 2019 - 3:00pm

A Kitchen and Cupboard company had a very old, insecure WordPress site built by someone else, but hosted with us. 

Me: This is the third time this year your site’s been hacked. Your plugins are old and unsupported and need updates and the whole thing is just a sitting duck. I’ve fixed the problem but you need to update.

Client: Fine, I’ll take care of it.

Me: Obviously you’re free to shop around, but if you wanted us to rebuild the site with our system we could remove those vulnerabilities and improve SEO and all that. I think you’d find it a real improvement. 

That’s when she hit me with a zinger.

Client: Thanks. Nowadays people can build their own sites easily for free just as good, with the tools online.

I didn’t tell her that people could also build their own kitchens, but that didn’t make them professionals.

There’s a reason Web Developers exist, despite those “easy to use tools”.

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User Submitted Post

26 October 2019 - 2:00pm

I’m a university student in my undergraduate electrical engineering degree. I do freelance 3D modeling & prototyping in the summers under the supervision of a professor from time to time. Hiring a full-fledged engineer can cost exorbitant amounts of money per hour, but hiring an undergraduate student is considerably cheaper.

Last summer, I had a client who was convinced he had discovered what would amount to perpetual energy – obviously, he hadn’t, but he wanted to test the output of electricity (the details are protected by a non-disclosure agreement). I started writing a program to track the output but…

Client: I need to be able to see the output in three places in real-time, but I can’t show you the prototype.

Me: Okay, that’s not ideal, but I can write a program that will track based on sensors at certain points in the circuit. 

Eventually, we get to a point where, after a great deal of back and forth, he finally ‘trusts’ me enough to show me the work.

Client: I’d like to bring you on as a full-time partner in my business!

Me: Well, I am in school full-time right now, but I’d be happy to continue our current contract and re-evaluate once I’ve delivered the product you’ve asked for.

Client: Great! Come to my place for supper tonight!

Me: Pardon?

Client: I’ll show you the work I’m doing, but you should come for supper. We’ll talk about our partnership over supper.

Me: Thank you for the offer, but I’m much more comfortable completing my work at the university. 

He then proceeded to call, text, and email me frequently in order to try and get me to come over for supper, despite my vocal concerns about professionalism and personal comfort. Eventually I notified him that I wasn’t comfortable with our work relationship, and I’d notify my professor if he wanted to hire another student.

After explaining my situation to the professor, the client wasn’t allowed to employ students anymore. I make sure to emphasize professionalism and boundaries in my contracts now.

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User Submitted Post

25 October 2019 - 3:00pm

In 2014, I applied to a job posted on craigslist for a small business looking for a catalog designer. The ad was VERY basic, but I figured I would apply and see what happened.

I was called to schedule an interview. That interview ended up being during a snowstorm (omen?), but went well enough the owner of the company wanted to hire me that day without even looking at my portfolio.

When I started the job a week later, I realized I would need to find my way around the office, learn where my desk was and how to find any and all previous design work all on my own as I had no real manager or direct supervisor. I found the previous catalog, which had been thrown together in Publisher. Nothing was packaged so links and fonts were scattered literally everywhere throughout the computer hard drive. I spent a week trying to find all of the links and fonts and trying to piece the Publisher file back together as a starting point. 

When I finally got about 90% of it done, I brought it down to the company owner to ask for some direction. 

Client: What have you been doing this whole time? The catalog looks exactly the same!

Me: It took this long just to piece together all the jumbled pieces of what was already there to get a sense of where you were. Also, you didn’t give me any information, content, direction or tasks since I’ve been here. I don’t know what you want to be changed, I don’t know if these products are the right ones, and this is the first I’ve been able to talk to you since I got here. 

Client: You’re the designer. It’s your job to figure this out. 

I went to my desk, disheartened. One of the employees asked me how I was doing and I told them. They shared that the last two designers had each quit before being here six months. 

I wonder why. 

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Friend Discount?

25 October 2019 - 2:00pm

I’m fairly new to the commission scene (as in, I’ve been taking commissions for about five-ish years), and I charge “fresh-out-of-college,” dirt-cheap rates. $65 for a fully lined, colored, and shaded piece dirt cheap.

My rate at the time of this incident was a bit lower than even that.

Client: I’d like to buy a commission of my character from you!

Me: Great! Give me some references and details about the character so I know how to depict him.

The client surprisingly does as asked, going so far as to provide some extra really useful information. I take this as a good sign, which was a mistake.

Me: Okay, this is good. Now, do you want flats, shaded, lines, or a sketch?

Client: Full-body in flats, please.

Me: Okay, 50 bucks.

Client: …Can you offer me a friend discount?

Me: No.

Were they my friend? Yes. Were they also another artist who knows how little $50 is for hours of work? Also yes. 

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Not sure what that means.

24 October 2019 - 3:00pm

Client: Can you make it look more Ugandan?

For a flyer for a concert happening in Denver, Colorado.

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Bad Reviews = Children’s author from hell.

24 October 2019 - 2:00pm

Years ago after my husband started publishing books. He worked with local authors and directed some of them to me for website design. Most of them were incredibly easy to deal with. They paid on time and there were no issues. However, one of them gave my name to one of their “friends” who had self-published children’s books. 

First, she was fifteen minutes late for our meeting and then brought a “friend” who was a college student who was renting out one of her spare rooms.

Client: I’m really excited about this new book. It’s amazing. Also, I’m an artist and I did all illustrations myself. 

She told me what she wanted the site to look like as I made notes and gave her a quote which she could work with.

Me: Can I see any of your books for reference?

Client: I don’t have any with me, but I’ll send you some images for the site.

Following that meeting, I created what was, in my opinion, a great site with a nice light appeal. She gave me a bunch of reviews from her friends, I put them up, she paid me and everyone was happy. 

Client: The book is set to release from the self-publishing company in 24 hours. I’ll send you the link to put on the site then. Also, I’ll send you some of the illustrations to put up.

The next day I got the link and the illustrations, and my heart sank. The “beautiful” illustrations were literally the exact same image copy-pasted image on every page. She’d colored them, badly, with crayon.

The book, it turned out, was only $12 pages and sold for $30 as a softcover. I was horrified to be helping such a project, but thought “it’s okay, I’m just the site designer.” I put up the links and did everything she asked. I thought we were done. 

Two weeks later at damn near midnight I get a phone call from her. She was in a fit of rage and sobbing so uncontrollably that for the first five minutes I can’t even understand her.

Client: (sobbing) I… got… a one star-review on A-a-a-a-ma-zon. You h-h-h-ave to take it down! You have to! 

Me: I’m sorry, there’s nothing I can do to remove that review. 

Client: Why not? Why won’t you help? I can’t believe someone would do this, I’m going to hire some lawyers and hunt down the person who’s slandered my book. 

Me: (starting to be annoyed) I’m sorry, I know this is tough, but my time isn’t free. If you want to keep talking I’ll need to make this a paid consultation. 

She kept talking.

Client: I’m just so disappointed! 

I sent her an invoice for the time of the call. She didn’t pay me but instead sent me a “free” copy of her “book.” 

Last I heard, she stopped publishing books and found another passion in hairdressing. 

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