Clients from Hell

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Horror stories from freelancers
Updated: 13 min 54 sec ago

The client sets the terms

25 October 2020 - 2:00pm

Client: I’d like you to create an app, with the following features… My budget is 800 €.

Me: Unfortunately my estimate for all of these features is radically different, about 10 000 €. Please note this offer contains exclusive non-transferable license, which means I can’t resell the app to anyone else, but you can’t either. Is this all okay with you?

Client: This is ridiculous. I would never agree to such a price. I am the client and I set the terms. I even gave this job to a high school student who was able to do more work than you’re offering for less money, but they refused to send over the finished app. Also, another developer took the deposit and disappeared. Now I’m suing them both.

I’m the client, I set the contract terms. Of course the app is going to be mine so I can resell to whoever I want.

Me: It seems you’re looking for someone else. I wish you best of luck with the app.

Prospect: No, it seems you just want to get 100 000 € [note: this is ten times what I said] for a job that a high school student was able to do in a few days. I wish you the best of luck in looking for someone who would just pay you without any work.

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Why did I hire you?

25 October 2020 - 1:00pm

One of my clients, a property developer, asked us to do an ad for one of their condominiums. We asked the clients for photographs or 3D renderings that we can use. It was a full-size print ad, so we needed ‘Hi-Res’ images and requested the client for them via email. He called us, annoyed.

Client: Why do you want ‘High Rise’ photos? You just use the one with the condo in it! 

Me: Oh, sorry, we meant High-Resolution photos.

Client: Oh, you want big file is it? Then go take pictures of the condo.

Me: The condo is not finished yet. 

Client: You want me to do the work for you? I hired you for what?

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Every silver lining has a cloud

24 October 2020 - 4:00pm

I’d been working with a nightmare client for months, and I was trying to sunset them. Then COVID-19 happened.

Client: Now you can stay home and focus on my websites! 

Me:

 

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11th Hour takebacks

24 October 2020 - 3:17pm

We were working with a client company since the start of the year. The project had been progressing  slowly because the client was disorganized, but nevertheless we had a good working relationship and got on well with our contacts at the company. Until they hired the new Project Manager.

She was insistent on causing carnage at every stage of the process, simply in order to put her mark on the project.

We had made around 150 icons for them, all of which had been signed off. The project manager demanded they be all be altered by 1 pixel.

Me: That’s a minor change, and given that these will all be scaled down, a difference of 1 pixel won’t many any perceptible difference.

Client: Well, that’s a matter of opinion. 

We’d previously signed off the majority of the website, but this project manager opened up nearly aspect of the work to make their own mark.

Client: Throw your “web design 101” book out the window when you work with me.

As if our combined 40 years of experience wasn’t anything to match their 5 years of working for a printing company, having never been involved in a digital design project in her life.

They insisted on going through about 9,000 shades of dark purple (which she called blue) before settling on one of the original colors we had suggested.

They insisted that heading text was always on two lines, on all devices, regardless of whether it had 4 words, or 100 words.

The breaking point was this:

Client:  If you need help to get this across the finish line, maybe our in-house designer can help.

Me: (only five hours later) Fine.

Client: For real? It is unacceptable to make this major a change to the design process this close to launch.

The launch date was 10 days away, and the only obstacle we were facing in making it was this project manager. 

We decided to end the relationship at that point.

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Just make a logo from nothing!

24 October 2020 - 2:14pm

A good client told me a friend of theirs was looking for a new logo, and that I should reach out. 

Me: Hi there! Your friend told me you want a new logo. I can help with that. Can you tell me what the business is, and any ideas you already have?

Client: I can’t tell you and no. I need someone who can create something without any prompts.

Me: What do you mean?

Client: I need someone who can design a logo from nothing

Me: I don’t think anyone can create a logo from absolutely nothing…

Client: I have found people.

I have never been more confused in my life… he’s expecting someone to create him a logo without even knowing what business it’s for? I didn’t even bother messaging him back after that. 

 

 

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A voice from the past

23 October 2020 - 4:00pm

I should clarify that this conversation happened in 2019 and that my client works on websites.

Client: I understand you did some Spanish translations for us, that’s awesome! I didn’t know you were fluent in Spanish.

Me: I hardly know any Spanish, I used Google Translate to do a quick mockup.

Client: What’s that?

Me: It’s the translation site Google runs.

Client: Where can I find it?

Me: On Google.

Client: What’s Google?

Me: It’s… Google. Google.com. The search engine.

Client: Oh wow! What a great site this is! How much does Google cost to use?

 

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Not switched on

23 October 2020 - 3:00pm

Sometimes, you don’t have to leave the house to have an awful client support story. I’m a student living at home and my mom woke me up in a panic:

Client: My computer isn’t going on!

I checked everything’s plugged in, press the On button, nothing happens.

Me: Huh, weird. It was totally fine yesterday. Did you try plugging it into a different plug to check it’s not just the outlet?

Client: Yes, I’ve done that.

Me: Oh. Well, it’s a fair few years old, something could have gone wrong with the hardware.

Client: Do you think I should take it into where you got your laptop fixed?

Me: Yeah, they did a good job.

She decided to take the computer straight there as I make a cup of tea and become more lucid. As I do I have a feeling I should have questioned her troubleshooting a bit more.

She gets the computer back the next day.

Me: Wow, that was quick. What was wrong with it?

Client: (a little huffy) Nothing! They just plugged it in and it turned on fine.

Me: Yeah… when you told me you tried a different plug, did you actually try a different plug?

Client: Yes!

Me: (pointing to the extension board at the computer) Are you sure you didn’t just put the plug into a different place on the same power bar?

Client: Yes!

Me: I’m pretty sure that’s what happened otherwise it would have turned on. The issue is the old power bar.

Client: Well, I’m going to go out and buy a new power bar then.

She paid a non-refundable deposit just to be told to do the same thing I asked her to try originally.

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Lorem Ipsum of its parts

23 October 2020 - 2:00pm

We were designing a promotional art piece for a client of ours. We’d included Lorem Ipsum placeholder text in place of the terms and conditions, which weren’t developed as of yet.

Me: Attached you’ll find the updated creative for the promotion. We’ve made revisions and included placeholder T&Cs to see how it all works together.

Client: Thanks, changes look good but T&Cs in Italian is not ideal…We speak English here.

Me: Ahhhh….that’s just place holder text until we receive the true T&Cs

Client: But why is it in Italian? I know we’re an Italian brand but seems silly

Me: It’s not, that’s Latin. It’s used to showcase example text in place for real text when we don’t have it.

Client: Make sure the real T&Cs are in English!

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Follow my dreams for me

22 October 2020 - 4:05pm

A friend referred me to a client who needed animators for a film he was producing. The client was a recent film grad with no experience in animation. He recruited recent/current animation students and expected us to produce a 7-8 minute long short in the style of “Paperman”, an animated short whose style was considered revolutionary for its time.

No preproduction. No set deadline. No pay. He wanted us to get started on animation immediately and expected us to run the whole production process on our own. There were only four people on the whole production team.

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The wrong question

22 October 2020 - 3:15pm

A potential client emailed me one time. 

Client: I saw your demo reel online and want to hire you on as an animator on a show I’m producing.

Me: Great! This was my first time receiving a offer for a freelance gig, but I’m interested. Can I ask what you’re budget is? 

Apparently that was the won’t thing to ask. He never responded.

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Edit the best

22 October 2020 - 2:04pm

Me: We received the manuscript you asked us to edit and rather than the 200 pages we quoted, this is nearly 500. Would you like us to revise the quote for the expanded scope of work?

Client: What? No, just edit 200 pages like we agreed.

Me: Which 200? Just the first 200?

Client: No, read all of them and pick the best 200, and then just edit those ones.

Me: Reading through all of this vastly increases the number of man-hours required to complete the project, and picking out “the good ones” requires editorial input, all of which requires compensation.

Client: But if you’re not editing every little thing, it doesn’t count, right? Right. So I shouldn’t be charged anything extra.

Me: So let me see if I’ve got this – you’d like to double the workload but pay the halved rate.

Client: Now you’ve got it. Glad you’re being so understanding about this. Oh, and you’re still making the deadline, right?

We picked 200 pages at random and didn’t bother wasting time reading the rest. The client seemed pleased enough and didn’t notice, so at least everybody goes home happy. We’ll have to include stipulations in further contracts about automatic scaling based on hours worked.

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User Submitted Post

21 October 2020 - 4:00pm

Client: I have some edits for the poster you sent over.

They attached an image where they had ‘mocked-up’ what they wanted me to do in Word. They told me almost down to the pixel where they wanted things. Never mind that it broke several design rules and looked terrible. So I took their edits, made them better, and re-sent.

Client: These are not the changes I asked for! Please make it look exactly like the mock-up I sent.

Me: … 

I decided I was done with this client’s feedback for the day and that the edits could wait until morning. Apparently, I made the right choice. Not even an hour passed before I get the following message…

Client: Disregard my last email. I showed your design to my spouse (a design professional) and they said your changes were better than my edits. 

Me: …Great.

Sometimes the best action is inaction. When’s a time you did nothing and satisfied the client?

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Just F’n Pay Me…

21 October 2020 - 3:00pm

I was doing some work for a client’s business partner and had not yet received payment for work I had done. It was not totally surprising as this person continually second-guessed every design decision I made and tried to get everything done as cheaply as possible. 

After sending two reminder emails over a span of four weeks, I sent a third and CC’d the client. (The client was able to see the email history.) Within five minutes of sending that email, I was paid.

Client: Hey, I wanted to follow up after that last email you sent.

Me: OK…?

Client: Are you upset? In the email you seemed upset.

The only difference in the last reminder email was that I had cc-ed their business partner (my regular client).

Me: ….I just like to be paid on time. 

Client: So you’re sure you’re not upset?

Me: … 

Client: It just seems like you’re angry.

Me: I’m not angry.

…But I was starting to get angry that they were making this into an emotional vs a professional issue.

Client: Ok, cool. I just wanted to make sure everything was good between us.

Me: You paid my invoice, so we’re good.

Spoilers: we weren’t. I soon severed ties. 

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More Asian, please

21 October 2020 - 2:00pm

[Editor’s note: we recently published a shorter version of this story, but it was resubmitted with additional details that we decided was worth a revisit. Enjoy! Or cringe. Whichever is appropriate].

I was hired to create a short animated ad for a start up company. In the process I designed a handful of mother and baby characters. I made the main mother Indian, but it was in a simple, cartoony style, so she could be interpreted as another race.

Client: These moms need to be more aspirational. Can she look more like this?

He sent stock photos and clip art of white blonde women. 

Me: Okay… Just so I know, is there a specific ethnicity that you would her to be?

Client: Well, if we had more characters it would be nice to have some diversity. But since there’s only one mom she should be white.

Me:

Client: What? She should look like the majority of the population. 

Me: Okay.

Client: You know what, we’ve changed our minds. We want one shot of ten diverse mom characters.

I design and send them.

Client: We don’t like this mom wearing a hijab. Let’s replace her with an Asian mom.

Me: There’s already one Asian mom. But fine, here. 

I design a mom with straight black hair, pale skin, a rounder face, and almond-shaped eyes.  

Client: Can we make her look more asian? We didn’t really get that she was asian.

Me: sigh

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<p>Everything seemed perfect. A client

20 October 2020 - 4:00pm

Everything seemed perfect. A client I’d worked with before recommended me to her, she gave detailed descriptions of what she wanted the illustrations to portray, she suggested payment in advance because it was December and that would be better for her taxes and bookkeeping. I was more than happy to agree, expecting further details after the holidays.

January came and I’d gotten no information or any contact from her at all. She hadn’t even given me a deadline. I got worried and contacted her and we scheduled a meeting for the very next day.

Client: Did you bring anything with you to show your progress so far?

Me: I have nothing with me, no. I need you to give me further details to start.

Client: I’m not used to working with graphic artists. I don’t know these things.

Me: What sizes should I make the illustrations? Are they being printed? Who is printing it and what files do they need?

She really had no clue about anything. I got her to agree to print the illustrations through a printing company on A3 size paper.

Client: Great! I have to show these next week on Friday. Could you get them to me by Wednesday?

It was Thursday the week before. I was forced to work all weekend, and on the Monday I found out the printing company needed the finished files no later than Tuesday morning. I stayed up until 3 AM working to get everything finished.

On Sunday I received a single sentence email from the client thanking me for my “fantastic work”. I sent her a reply advising her to communicate more with the people she works with in the future to avoid misunderstandings and stress.

She never responded.

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We only retain clients we want

20 October 2020 - 3:00pm

I was working with a nightmare client at an agency. He was constantly condescending, made impossible requests, and rude to everyone. His jobs started moving further down the priority list as we went because everyone hated working with him.

Client: You guys need a customer retention strategy.

We had one. We just weren’t using it. 

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Down with Upwork

20 October 2020 - 2:32pm

Job posting on Upwork.

Client: Hello, I’m looking for an experienced Copyeditor and Line editor. If you also do a Developmental editing it will be a plus. My book is around 11 K words. Topic- Self-help. Time limit-2-3 days.

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Wanted: expert in Country music and being broke

19 October 2020 - 4:00pm

The following is a verbatim job posting I saw recently: 

Client: I’m looking for someone to write high-quality concert annotations for a country music website. The candidate must have some expertise or be aware of the specifics of such kind of content. Your interest and familiarity with the country music world and desire to become a part of the project is highly preferable.

  • excellent writing skills are strictly required, correct American style English, absolutely no non-natives
  • ability to write in a news style manner
  • this is a long term project, thus I need a writer on a long-term basis
  • the approximate volume of work is 10-15 tour annotations a month (which is 300-350 words) plus 30-50 smaller annotations on a specific city within a tour (which is 120-150 words), the number of annotations will depend on how frequently the tours are being announced plus some other reasons too; the volume of work will be growing with the growth of the project
  • you must complete jobs in a timely manner
  • you must be prepared to do a paid trial job and include samples of your previous works as well. The rate would be 2$-$3 per 100 words to start off (plus $bonuses for a well-done job) and can be raised after at least a year of successful collaboration.

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I can’t pay you – it’s Chinese New Year

19 October 2020 - 3:00pm

Client: I’m sorry I haven’t paid you yet. It’s Chinese New Year, I’ve been super busy.

Me: Maybe, but I’ve been after you for three months. Chinese New Year isn’t three months long.

Client: I don’t want to pay the fees. Can you leave it up without fees?

Me: No.

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Group work

19 October 2020 - 2:00pm

About five years ago, I managed a small chain of language schools. In September, a lot of new students joined, so everyone in the office made calls to make sure we could process applications as quickly as possible. 

Client: I want to study in a mini-group, and I can only make it Mondays and Thursdays, 1 p.m.

Me: Wonderful. We don’t currently have any other future students who are interested in that kind of schedule, especially since that’s the middle of the day and most people work office jobs. However, we can start a group with you. It means you’ll be attending individual classes but pay the lower price for a mini group, and if anyone else with the same level of English can study on that schedule, they will join you.

Client. No, I am not interested in individual classes. I only want a mini group. 

Me: There are currently two mini groups of this level, one at 6 p.m. Monday and Wednesday and one at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday. Perhaps, you could find an opportunity to join one of them.

Client: No, I want one at 1 p.m.

Me: Unfortunately, there really are no other students so far interested in this schedule. However, there will be people signing up in the following weeks too, so perhaps somebody will want to join you. 

Client: I don’t want to wait, I just want a mini group at 1 p.m. 

Me: (increasingly frustrated) Unfortunately, I cannot simply go ahead and find two to four other people who have the same level on English and happen to have free time at 1 p.m.

Client: Well this doesn’t work. 

 

 

 

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