Clients from Hell

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Horror stories from freelancers
Updated: 15 min 43 sec ago

I am a freelance music videographer. I was negotiating a shoot for a few months with a client who...

24 October 2018 - 3:20pm

I am a freelance music videographer. I was negotiating a shoot for a few months with a client who kept going back and forth, back and forth. Eventually, all the details were hammered out. We agreed on a massively reduced budget for a one day shoot.

The client cancelled the shoot three days before the event… after I’d turned down other offers for bigger contracts on that date.

Three weeks later:

Client: Can you link me to a free internet resource that will tell me how to fix bad video? Rather than pay you as we agreed I went ahead and hired someone cheaper to film our show and I gave them your confidential quote and proposal to use as a guide. Well, they messed up the shoot and my footage is unusable.   Do you have some time next week to teach me how to fix this? We can’t afford to pay you because we spent the budget and bought a new mixer for the band.

In other words, “I’d like you to work for free to help me overcome the consequences of screwing you.”

"I’d like a ghostwriter to help me get my story on paper. It’s a really good idea, but I don’t have..."

24 October 2018 - 1:40pm
“I’d like a ghostwriter to help me get my story on paper. It’s a really good idea, but I don’t have the time to write it myself. If you could put my story to paper, I promise I’ll tell others about you and your work. Since it’s my idea, all rights and such are exclusively mine.”

Client: I want an image that’s more on the realistic side.Me: I’m sorry, I do cartoon and...

23 October 2018 - 3:20pm

Client: I want an image that’s more on the realistic side.

Me: I’m sorry, I do cartoon and semi-realism. I don’t do realism.

Client: (Referencing images I’d done as a requirement for a class) But you’ve done this and it looks good.

Me: That’s because I had an in-person model in a strict position and this image is not detailed and is closer to semi-realism considering my own artistic style. I don’t do realism as a rule.

Client: No, I think you can.

Me: I assure you, I know my artistic limits. If you want to use my style of art, then great. If you want realism, find someone else.

Client: Are you backing out?

Me: No, I am simply explaining my artistic limits and would like to be up-front with you.

Client: I think you can do what I’m asking, you’re just not trying. Challenge yourself!

I don’t like non-profits. I used to work for them. I worked for a couple churches then I worked for...

23 October 2018 - 1:40pm

I don’t like non-profits. I used to work for them. I worked for a couple churches then I worked for a local United Way (and if you think churches are bad, you should get me started about United Way). But this last non-profit client was the last straw.

I was doing a bunch of t-shirt designs for a fairly big non-profit. They would tell me the lettering or imagery they wanted and I would make it happen. For a while, this worked great; they wouldn’t question much and they’d pay their bills.

However, one day they shorted me on an invoice I’d sent.

Me: Hey, you didn’t pay the full amount I invoiced you. What’s up?

Client: Oh, we decided not to print one of the shirts you designed.

Me: But… you asked me to do the designs and I did them.

Client: Well, which design was it?

They didn’t even remember which designs they’d asked me for. So I found myself out of the money they invoiced me for.

Of course, I’d already completed three new designs that I needed to invoice them for, and now they’re just not talking to me. I’ve emailed, I’ve called, nothing. I even copied the president of the company in an email about the invoices and got zero response. I’m as nice as I can be with communication and pricing. I wish they’d do the same.

Thanks for giving me a space to vent a little.

I used to work at a copy and print center where we made works of presentation cards, books,...

22 October 2018 - 3:20pm

I used to work at a copy and print center where we made works of presentation cards, books, notebooks, etc. And the place was located near a high school, college and tribunal. It got pretty busy.

One morning, a client came in and took a USB out of her purse.

Me: Hi, what can I help you with?

Client: I need 10 books for a presentation today. The perforations need to be done horizontal, letter size, full color, please.

I tried to make the books quickly and it was kind of hard because each of them had just 15 pages, which was actually too little to work with. I kept at it even as other clients came through the door and were waiting, trying to get it done in a hurry. When I was almost finished:

Client: You know what? I’m going to get you to make 17 more. And can you add two extra pages to all the books you already finished? Hope that isn’t a bother. Will I have to pay for the extra two pages?

Me: (silently resolves to look for another job)

I recently responded to an ad for someone wanting some illustrations done for their book. The ad...

22 October 2018 - 1:40pm

I recently responded to an ad for someone wanting some illustrations done for their book. The ad contained an amazing line:  

Client: I refuse to pay upfront for any work whatsoever. You don’t pay to have your A/C fixed upfront first so I won’t pay for unusable artwork.

While I knew to avoid this client, I responded to this to see if this was ignorant or self-important. It turned out to be both, with a side of hate.

Me: Hey there, I have reasonable rates, I’ll be glad to do your drawings for you! Check my portfolio. I just want to point out that it’s very common to pay something upfront. I work under a contract, so that guarantees that you get what you ordered. Does that work for you?

Within an hour, I received a brilliant, one-line response.

Client: Eat sh*t, you lazy c**t.

Me: I’m a professional who knows what they’re talking about so you might want to consider my advice. Anyway, I will not be responding to you any more due to your language.

This time the response came faster.

Client: Hurry up and die faster.

I couldn’t believe anyone would be that awful to someone for using a tested approach for receiving a fair wage for work. I reverse searched his phone number out of curiosity and found out a few things about him. One: he has a doctorate. Two: he’s an advocate for marijuana legalization. Three: he’s a supporter of the Humanity Project and Anonymous. I’m not sure how those things in particular add up to someone this unpleasant, but it does paint a picture.

99% Off 97 premium fonts. Just $19 for a limited time!

21 October 2018 - 3:20pm

This week’s deal is on 97 fonts in 37 typefaces for only $19.

> That’s 99% off the typical asking price. 

Design is one of the most creatively fulfilling jobs out there, but let’s face it; sometimes it can feel a bit rote. Nothing spices up your process quite the addition of a few new quality fonts! This bundle gives you plenty of attractive options, like Wes Anderson whimsy of Adrift, or the cute, fun and approachable warmth of Outline Bistro! Get elegant with Einstein, or brusque with HEMINGWAR. In addition to that, there are tons of extras like swatches and patterns to match! 

Normally, all of these fonts retail for $2650, which, yes, is grossly inflated  — but for a limited time all 97 and their extras are just $19, which is a great price! Don’t miss out! 

> Check out the deal here!

Client: I need labels designed. I want them really bold and colorful. I want them to really stand...

21 October 2018 - 1:40pm

Client: I need labels designed. I want them really bold and colorful. I want them to really stand out on the shelves. Really noticeable. I like colors. You can use your design skills from there. We are on shelves competing against hundreds of brands so it needs to stand out and be legible.

Me: Great! What colors would you like to use?

Client: Beige.

Client: Hello, I need about twenty gaming videos to post for the month I’ll be absent. They need to...

20 October 2018 - 3:20pm

Client: Hello, I need about twenty gaming videos to post for the month I’ll be absent. They need to be about 10 minutes each.

Me: That’s doable, I charge $5-$10 per video based on what’s going on, including editing.

Client: Sorry, that’s too high. My budget is only $2 per video.

Me: There’s no way I’m going to record, edit and render a video for $2. That itself is a 1-hour job right there. $10 is a bargain.

Client: You stupid liberal hipsters and your $25 jobs. Good riddance, jackass.

Good luck getting a quality 60FPS, 1080p video running 10 minutes for $2.

The client sends a low-resolution JPEG logo for a business card for their new company to be printed...

20 October 2018 - 1:40pm

The client sends a low-resolution JPEG logo for a business card for their new company to be printed on a digital CMYK printer.

Client: Proof looks good. [Redacted] will stop by with his boots for color matching.

Me: I’m sorry, boots for color matching?

Client: Yes, [Redacted] made his logo in Word and had it embroidered on a pair of cowboy boots in fluorescent green and silver thread. We need the business card color to match. It’s very important that all of our printing matches the boots.

Client: Can you overlay our slogan on this footage?Me: No problem, how does this look?Client: Looks...

19 October 2018 - 3:20pm

Client: Can you overlay our slogan on this footage?

Me: No problem, how does this look?

Client: Looks great, but can you make the text the same teal as our logo? Also, can you keep it on the screen a little longer?

Me: Unfortunately the background of the footage is blue so the teal won’t show up. Is this timing better?

Client: Yes, much better. But can you change the text to our teal?

Me: If I make the text teal, it won’t be visible.

Client: Alright, great work.

He doesn’t request any further changes, and I figure he is happy with the result. One week later, I get another email.

Client: Any update on that video you were working on? The slogan should be in our teal.

One of my clients recently bought an expensive camera and was asking me for tips. Client: Do you...

19 October 2018 - 1:40pm

One of my clients recently bought an expensive camera and was asking me for tips.

Client: Do you know when to change the frequency?

Me: What frequency?

Client: The frequency on the camera settings?

Me: There’s no such thing.

Client: Oh! You’ve been doing photography for a long time, I thought you’d know this kind of thing. Frequency is the “F” symbol on the camera.

Me: Well, I started doing photography when I was 9 so… Anyway, the “F” is for “F-Stop,” which controls the aperture.  

Client: Yeah, the frequency of the aperture. F-Stop!

Me: (in my head)

Ernest Hemingway once said that stories should be like icebergs,...

18 October 2018 - 6:52pm


Ernest Hemingway once said that stories should be like icebergs, where what you see implies a much greater story underneath. 

This is one of those stories.

Client: I want something minimalist, like this!Shows me a picture that is the total opposite of...

18 October 2018 - 3:20pm

Client: I want something minimalist, like this!

Shows me a picture that is the total opposite of minimalist.

Client: Can I see how the project is going?Me: Sure! This is a work in progress right now, so it’s...

18 October 2018 - 1:40pm

Client: Can I see how the project is going?

Me: Sure! This is a work in progress right now, so it’s in black and white for the moment. I’ll add color later, so try to focus your feedback on the composition.

Client: Hmm… It needs more color.  

Client: Hey – you didn’t publish one of the stories I sent you!Me: Oh, sorry, do you know which...

17 October 2018 - 3:20pm

Client: Hey – you didn’t publish one of the stories I sent you!

Me: Oh, sorry, do you know which one?

Client: No, but I’m sure I emailed it to you. Can you look back at my emails and compare with what you published?

Me: (looks at a list of dozens of emails sent over two weeks containing just links and with no subject line, without communication or purpose)

Me: …No. No, I cannot.

Me: So who will be managing this project? Yourself or your client?Client: Our client. We don’t want...

17 October 2018 - 1:40pm

Me: So who will be managing this project? Yourself or your client?

Client: Our client. We don’t want to get involved.

Me: Ok, so should I contact them for the requirements and processes?

Client: No, please don’t contact them. Everything needs to go through us as we need to make sure the client and costs are kept under control.

Me: No problem. That sounds like you’ll be managing this project then.

Client: I suppose it depends on what you mean by “managing”

And to nobody’s surprise, the project was cancelled the next day.

I work in animation. A client said this after I quoted him a price for a five-minute animation with...

16 October 2018 - 3:20pm

I work in animation. A client said this after I quoted him a price for a five-minute animation with a handful of unique characters with complex movement and interaction:

Client: I dunno… that seems like a lot. I’ll think about it.

Of course, he’d bragged about how much he makes earlier, but whatever.

Half an hour later, I heard him speaking to someone else about a project that didn’t involve me:

Client: I have a video I want to make where I wrangle a bunch of homeless people and get them to play basketball against me, and I just absolutely destroy them. Man, that would be great, I’d be willing to spend like [10X what I quoted him] to make that happen.

I was asked some years ago to create an animation for a client. It was a three-second animation; the...

16 October 2018 - 1:40pm

I was asked some years ago to create an animation for a client. It was a three-second animation; the character was supposed to run in jump and somersault to a position onscreen for

The animation was done and I was showing it to the client.

Me: So here is the character.

Client: Oh great! Can you play that again?

Me: Sure…

He requests to see it a few more times, then finally:

Client: Can you slow it down so the viewer can see the character for longer?

Me: I could, but you said it needs to take no more than three seconds.

Client: I know, but the character needs to do that bit (somersault) slower… maybe you can make it start from further away or something?

A client asked me to rework a design one of their managers had generated. It involved...

15 October 2018 - 3:20pm

A client asked me to rework a design one of their managers had generated. It involved percentages and could easily be made into a pie chart…except for one problem. The percentages didn’t add up to 100.

Me: On this graphic, the percentages do not add up to 100. Could you supply the correct copy so that I can make the graph work?

Client: We don’t have the original source information for those numbers. Just tweak them.

Me: Wait - you want me to just arbitrarily change your report so the design fits?

Client: Yeah, please.

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