Clients from Hell

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Horror stories from freelancers
Updated: 1 hour 55 min ago

I had a client ask me to design a visual identity for their website. They sent me a bunch of files...

1 September 2018 - 3:20pm

I had a client ask me to design a visual identity for their website. They sent me a bunch of files including a 200x200 logo. It looked very simple and somewhat familiar - just stretched text with a gradient on it. 

Me: Hey, I got your files, but can you ask your designer to send me a better version of your logo. The one you sent is really low quality. 

Client: Oh, I made it myself. I am quite proud of it. But, yeah, give me a couple of minutes and you’ll have the original file.

The original design was a .doc file. They made it in WordArt.

I was talking with someone who wanted me to illustrate their webcomic.Me: It sounds like an...

1 September 2018 - 1:40pm

I was talking with someone who wanted me to illustrate their webcomic.

Me: It sounds like an interesting project. What was your budget for art?

Client: Budget?  I’m not paying you at first, but once we get going and money starts coming I’ll make sure you get paid.

Me: Well I can’t work for free, I’m currently working on some art commissions for other people and since they are paying me they take top priority. Have you considered raising some funds, or doing a Kickstarter?

Client: YOU’RE REALLY ASKING ME FOR MONEY? I’ll have you know that as a freelance writer I’ve gone by months without any pay, so why should YOU get paid if I don’t get paid?

Me: Well you’re clearly doing freelance wrong if you’re not getting paid.

Client: (blocks me)

"Can you make it more font-like?"

31 August 2018 - 3:20pm
“Can you make it more font-like?”

Me: You can check out the website at [URL provided] and give us feedback if there’s anything...

31 August 2018 - 1:40pm

Me: You can check out the website at [URL provided] and give us feedback if there’s anything we still need to work on from there.

Client: There’s nothing to see, it only shows “This page cannot be displayed.” Are you sure it’s finished?

Their internet connection was out.

After finishing basically a week’s worth of paperwork for a client: Client: I’ve changed my title....

30 August 2018 - 3:20pm

After finishing basically a week’s worth of paperwork for a client:

Client: I’ve changed my title. Please edit the paperwork to reflect that.

I work for an eCommerce web-to-print website. We offer an easy eCommerce platform with custom...

30 August 2018 - 1:40pm

I work for an eCommerce web-to-print website. We offer an easy eCommerce platform with custom websites for clients.

We had one of our largest clients call in a panic. They had decided to dodge paying us for an hour’s worth of image editing work and do it themselves, even though they had no experience in coding. 

They ended up deleting all the coding for their website’s first page and expected us to fix their mistake for free, also blaming us for their incompetence.

Their wanting to be cheap just ended up costing them double what they would have paid.

When asked why they didn’t just let us take care of their issue for them, they replied:

Client: We were trying to teach ourselves! It was a learning opportunity!

They learned a lesson, but maybe not the one they wanted.

"We need to make the italic tagline to stand out better. Maybe we can super italicize it?"

29 August 2018 - 11:52pm
“We need to make the italic tagline to stand out better. Maybe we can super italicize it?”

Client:  This isn’t exactly what we were expecting to see.Me: Sorry to hear that. If you can give us...

29 August 2018 - 1:40pm

Client:  This isn’t exactly what we were expecting to see.

Me: Sorry to hear that. If you can give us some specific brand or messaging challenges that we haven’t solved properly, we’ll be happy to address them with some new solutions.

Client: It looks like you designed it in Microsoft Word

Me: …

I didn’t. It didn’t.

Client: Let us regroup and we’ll get you consolidated feedback.

Later that day they sent back a PowerPoint document with hacked up screenshots of our presentation deck, with very prescriptive (and horrible) suggestions on how to redesign the site.

I hate that they suggested I used Word but thought PowerPoint was a perfectly acceptable tool to use.

Client: I need all these assets as VECTORS for tomorrow.Me: Sure, what file type would you prefer...

28 August 2018 - 3:20pm

Client: I need all these assets as VECTORS for tomorrow.

Me: Sure, what file type would you prefer for the vectors? 

Client: PNG would be best.

So I’m doing some design work for a tissue company that specializes in recycled paper. All...

28 August 2018 - 1:40pm

So I’m doing some design work for a tissue company that specializes in recycled paper. All their advertising promotes how eco-friendly they are. One print advertising has a picture of a forest on it with an eco-oriented recycling message:

Client: That picture is too harsh.

Me: I’m not sure I understand. Could you elaborate?

Client: That forest is too harsh!

Me:

Client: There are too many pine trees in there.

Me: Ok… but what does that…

Client: We recycle paper to make our toilet papers, could you imagine wiping yourself with a pine tree?

I see pine trees symbolizing “eco-friendly” on all sorts of branding, including TP, and to answer the question – no, I’ve never imagined wiping myself with a pine tree because NO-ONE DOES.

Client:  Do you offer an educational discount on your rates?Me:  Oh, are you an educational...

27 August 2018 - 3:20pm

Client:  Do you offer an educational discount on your rates?

Me:  Oh, are you an educational institution?

Client:  No.

I set up an online form for an internal client to handle inquiries about the training programs her...

27 August 2018 - 1:40pm

I set up an online form for an internal client to handle inquiries about the training programs her department offers. Shortly before a much-delayed (due to her alternate micromanaging and total neglect of the project) launch, I received the following feedback:

Client: I was submitting a test on the form and only one program can be selected. This needs to be fixed immediately!

Me: … Can you clarify? There is no selection menu on the form, it was decided that the best option was a text answer field because of the variety and specificity of programs.

Client: When I click the box, only one program comes up! And when you select that program, it automatically populates the field!

Further troubleshooting determined that her browser was presenting the text entry she had used for that field on previous tests of the form as an Autofill option.

480 Super High-Resolution Painted Backgrounds - only $17!

26 August 2018 - 3:20pm

This week’s deal is on some really nice background textures.

> They’re the best of other bundles, and that really shows!

There’s maybe no easier way to add a professional twist to a design than using a background texture to add color to a backdrop or a bit of visual interest to a layer or text box. The textures in this bundle are all super high-resolution, hand-painted and look great. Featuring four different types (gold, watercolor, ink and paint), there are plenty of ways you can use these textures to make your designs sing

Normally all 480 of these textures would sell for $120, but for the next week, they’re selling for $17, or 86% off

> Check out the deal here! 

Back when I was getting started in my early days of book design I took a job from a small publishing...

26 August 2018 - 1:40pm

Back when I was getting started in my early days of book design I took a job from a small publishing house (that basically helped created files for people hoping to self-publish).

The entire job was an absolute nightmare start to finish. The approved design got stripped down until it resembled the author’s original Word file and the book went through two freelance editors and three proofreaders. FINALLY, the book went to press and looked as terrible as could be expected. I was paid, archived the files, and moved on with my life.

A few months later I got a message from the publisher asking if I could “return” the author’s original manuscript and photos. Assuming, they lost their copies somehow, I burned the files to a DVD and sent it along, only to get a frantic message from the publisher asking for the “original” CDs (which I’d thrown away). The author was apparently convinced that the publisher and I were working against her to sell these “originals” and somehow re-sell the book as our own. 

I tried to explain that the CDs held only digital copies and that she should still have the originals on her computer, and either way still held the copyright.

Eventually, she told me to remove her files from my computer, to never show it on my website or portfolio and threatened to sue. I refused and she only stopped contacting me after I told her she’d have to go through my lawyer (at the time, just a friend with a law degree).

The scary thing? She was a former lawyer.

I never heard from her again.

"Can you please make the following changes to the email template: “Bronze” should be in purple,..."

25 August 2018 - 3:20pm
“Can you please make the following changes to the email template: “Bronze” should be in purple, “Gold” in orange and “Silver” in blue. Thanks.”

Client: So I have about an hour’s worth of video of my daughter playing volleyball, and I’d like to...

25 August 2018 - 1:40pm

Client: So I have about an hour’s worth of video of my daughter playing volleyball, and I’d like to just pick a few of her good spikes and digs and make a three minute video.

Me: Okay, sounds like about three hours worth of work.

Client: But it’s only a three minute video.

Me: (facepalm)

My parents run a small hotel, and their online marketing/presence is pitiful. Since I “don’t have...

24 August 2018 - 3:20pm

My parents run a small hotel, and their online marketing/presence is pitiful. Since I “don’t have a real job” (I freelance),  I was roped into helping. I spent at least an hour a day link-building, updating dormant social media accounts and making connections with nearby businesses. 

I contacted my parents to let them know that after several weeks of work, we were seeing progress with more visits to the website and higher rankings online. My mom responded as follows:

Client: Yes, I updated the cookies on my computer recently. Now the website seems to be doing much better. I think I fixed it on my own!

Sure, Mom. Your website isn’t improving because a marketing professional spent weeks working on it. It’s improving because you updated your cookies. 

A client contacts me for a book cover design, lets me know the details and at the end of the brief...

24 August 2018 - 1:40pm

A client contacts me for a book cover design, lets me know the details and at the end of the brief he mentions:

Client: The author of my book cover is very beautiful, she looks like this: [link to a photo]

Me: Ok, I suppose you want to use her picture on the front cover, or somewhere smaller on the back bio?

Client: NO we don’t want a picture of her. That is NOT her real picture. I am just trying to show you what she looks like.

Me: Uhhh… okay. Well, moving on, can you please attach 2-3 examples of book cover styles you/she think are fit for this?

Client: I don’t have examples of book cover that would fit. We want you to do something creative not to limit the imagination.

Between me not knowing what they were on about with the “author photo” and them not knowing what they want, I think I’m gonna pass.

I had just finished university and was looking for my first job in a print shop. I had a bit of...

23 August 2018 - 3:20pm

I had just finished university and was looking for my first job in a print shop. I had a bit of freelance experience under my belt but I was hoping to gain some shop experience. I had an interview at a local chain printing place and university (and life in general) never prepared me for this experience.

It started out well enough. The shop was located in a downtown mall, and was staffed by two people - the owner and a single designer. The shop itself advertises itself as any services needed beyond branding, so original artwork is offered. Which is great for me because most of my freelance is my illustration work.

Client: Our customers come to us because we’re fast, we promise to have proofs available for approval same day, typically within 1hr.

Me: One hour? Even for illustration work?

Client: Yes.

Me: But… depending on the complexity of the work, that’s not always feasible. 

Client: If it takes you longer than an hour, you’re working too slow. We normally never even need the full hour, just take a look at what we’ve been able to accomplish.

He takes out a binder of incredibly basic business cards. They’re not very well designed. They’re all examples of Helvetica or Arial on a flat color, no logos, with the occasional directional gradient and drop shadow. Stuff that would have been torn apart by instructors if it were handed in as student work. I nod and say nothing.

Client: What I need is someone reliable. I need to know you’re not going to call in because you and your boyfriend had a fight and you’re too emotional to work.

Me: I don’t even have a boyfriend? Reliability is not an issue, my references will vouch for that.

Client: Well do you plan on keeping a job? I don’t need you deciding to quit because your friends offered for you to live in their basement rent free.

I was so taken aback, I had no idea what the hell he was talking about. Why was he talking about basements? This really didn’t feel like an appropriate interview question.

Me: No. I’m looking to gain print shop experience. I enjoy working design, I find the work fulfilling, that’s why I chose the industry.

Client: Well let me tell you something - you’re setting yourself up for disappointment. Jobs aren’t for fulfilment, they’re for working. That’s not what you come here for, that’s what you spend your free time on. You’re young and you don’t know better, but I know.

He actually sounded angry as he said this. The other staff member was still in the room, pleasant smile on her face, just clicking away carefree at her computer as if the shop owner didn’t just raise his voice at me. I was super uncomfortable at this point and I just wanted to get the hell out of there.

Me: Sorry, I disagree. I really don’t think this will be a good fit.

Client: Me neither.

As of today, that franchise location is no longer in business.

A client I worked with was leaving their company and asked me to remove their information from...

23 August 2018 - 1:40pm

A client I worked with was leaving their company and asked me to remove their information from the homepage.

Client: Oh my name needs to come off, can you take it off?

Me: sure, I just need the files to the webpage

Client: Hmm, I don’t know where those are let me try something

She then proceeded to highlight her name in the browser and press the backspace key, expecting the text to disappear.

I hurt my shoulder trying not to laugh.  

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