Clients from Hell
I was asked by a hippie girl I knew to draw up a logo and Facebook cover photo for her “Wellness” side-hustle. She was tossing elements out to me that she thought would be cool to incorporate. Old maps, trees, landscapes, etc., which lead to this exchange:
Client: Okay… screw the header image of a landscape. I’ll cross that road if I need it later, but let’s focus on the logo. Everything is less-is-more these days, but that’s so old now I’m not biting into it entirely for my future. Art tastes changes. I think baroque muchness is better
A client of mine runs a small business and I help with their marketing, etc. They had me design a t-shirt for them a few months ago, and I made a high-res png of the front design, back design, and a photo of the designs on the t-shirt, using the t-shirt manufacturer’s product photo. Now the client wants another (different) t-shirt.
Me: Alright, design is finished. I put the files in a Google Drive folder for the printer. Please send the link to her with your order.
Client: I changed my mind about the t-shirt color. The printer offers a navy blue option, so could you switch up the graphic you made to match?
Me: Alright, no problem. *change graphics*
Client: Your new graphic has a model wearing the t-shirt. There was no model last time. I don’t like you changing things up like this.
Me: I got both of those photos from the t-shirt manufacturer’s site. One of the colors didn’t have a model wearing it, one did. The printer should understand.
Client: I don’t understand why you can’t do it like you did last time. Maybe we can do the t-shirt another time.
I haven’t heard from them since.
I’m a designer, and I did a wedding invitation design for free for a family member. I was even going to pay for the printing as a gift. It was beautiful, hand-lettered, custom art inspired by their wedding flowers and colors…and then after not hearing from them for a few days after submitting the draft I get this:
Client: It’s really pretty, but it’s missing the character that this one has!
They sent me a picture of an invite clearly made from some online generator by two people who have no idea how to design invitations, in dimensions my printer can’t readily print.
Client: I guess the fonts are just really hard to do…
The font they loved so much from the generator was a Google font.
Don’t work for family.
For years, I did freelance copywriting for a small-town advertising agency. It was run by awesome people who had tons of experience and understood the business. They knew how to treat freelancers. A great client.
Then they decided to sell the agency.
I can’t say for sure, but if I had to guess, I’d say the new managing partners had previously worked in septic pumping, pet grooming, meat processing or some similar field that would naturally lead a person to conclude that creative services/advertising was a logical next step.
Along with the client base, the new partners inherited many of the agency’s supplier relationships. Before long, I get the call to work on a lengthy brochure for one of the agency’s government clients. I’m relieved that a consistent long-term source of work and income isn’t about to disappear with the change in ownership.
At first, everything goes well. I attend a meeting with one of the new managing partners, a very talented in-house graphic designer, and client representatives to review the brief. No problems here, though I do get the creeping sense that the managing partner isn’t playing with a full deck. I have my marching orders. I do my research, complete my first draft of the copy, and send it to my client—the agency—for review and discussion.
Eventually, I get an email from the managing partner to invite me to another meeting with the agency’s client. Still not a word of feedback about the copy. I’m assuming everything’s A-OK.
When I show up at the meeting, right off the bat, the agency’s client makes it pretty clear that they’re happy with the copy. Love it. From what I’m hearing, it sounds like my work is done.
Boss: That’s great but I think the copy is going to need a fair amount of revision…
To the client who’d just expressed satisfaction. After not saying anything to me in advance.
Yes, that’s the sound of my jaw hitting the table.
Finished that assignment, swore “never again.”
I think she’s back to pumping septic now.
Client: Hi. Do you do Photoshop?
Me: Yes, I’m proficient with Photoshop. How can I help you?
Client: I wanted to know if you do logo editing?
Me: Logo editing?
Client: Yes. I have a professionally-made logo, and I need it edited.
Me: I see… Well, what changes are you looking for?
He sent me a low-res logo with a watermark.
Client: I need the semi-transparent thing over the main picture removed and the blurry edges made better.
Turns out, this client from hell had contracted a fellow artist – who is a friend of mine – to design a logo. The client bargained his way into paying 10% upfront instead of 50% like my friend usually charges, then after he was satisfied with the logo (which still had the watermark), he thought he’d be clever and tell my friend his work was inadequate and wouldn’t pay the remainder.
Unfortunately for him, the first person he tried was me. I immediately informed my friend, who warned the client from hell not to try using his work without paying.
Client from hell ignored the warning, presumably found some other guy who was willing to turn a blind eye and help him (badly) remove the watermark, then used the blurry low-res image anyway. My friend tried lawyering up, but apparently, it wasn’t worth it. Now he refuses to waver from his 50% upfront policy.
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This week’s deal is the ultimate tool for turning photos, designs or logos into beautiful and compelling watercolors.
Watercolor paintings are elegant and refined, but difficult to master even for accomplished artists who haven’t specifically trained in the medium. With this package you can employ this style quickly and easily! Layers convert your images into convincing watercolor style, background textures give you the watercolor in no time and the included fonts round out the look in an impressively comprehensive package.
There’s a lot in here for only $16, at a savings of 82% off of the normal price.
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I have a client who in the past paid his invoice either on the due date or a few days late. They have also told me they have cashflow problems (big red flag right there).
Client: For the next project, we would like to have longer payment terms. We don’t understand the problem. We have clients of our own that pay only after 3 months.
Me: My company is just me and I need to be able to pay my bills, too. I expect clients to pay their invoices on time.
Client: If I knew you were living on bread and water, I would consider paying you earlier.
Wow, that went non-professional real fast! “Why should I pay you if you aren’t starving?”
I spent about a week working and presenting a series of posters that a corporation’s employees would see. All the players on the project loved the layouts! After completing about 4 posters, I was suddenly invited to a webcam meeting with the creative director.
Client: You’re an absolutely amazing designer, but because of this project we’re letting you go! Please send us all of your working files for the posters thus far.
Me: Why do you want a copy of my design work if I’m being fired?
Client: Oh, we love the work, we just don’t like you.
I’m a freelance web developer. I design and build sites from start to finish, but occasionally I get a client that has an existing site that needs changes.
One such client had been using an overseas developer to build a unique site. The client didn’t think they were getting their money’s worth, and a year into the project decided their overseas developer wasn’t doing anything so they sacked them and came to me. They gave me a huge sob story about being ripped off, so I decided I’d try to help them out.
I looked at their site, and pretty much everything they said their developer hadn’t done, was actually in there. He’d built it in quite a unique way, but it was all there.
Client: I need this site up and running as quickly as possible so I can start making revenue.
Me: Okay. Here is a list of immediate action items that will make the site good to go. I’ll do these, and once you send me some content I’ll upload it and you’ll have a functioning site. Deal?
Within a few days, I’d done all the agreed items except the content uploads. She promised to have the content to me by the end of the end.
End of the week, nothing.
Me: Hey, just a reminder that I’m waiting for content. I can’t do anything until you send me some.
Client: Right, sorry, I’ll get that to you.
Another week went by, nothing.
Then I started to get some odd emails.
Client: We’re really getting traction on social media now. Why haven’t you done any work? Why isn’t the site live?
Me: I have done all the work we agreed on. I’m just waiting on the content you promised. That’s all that’s left to do.
More weird emails followed, asking for extra work to be done to the site (Facebook Pixel integration, design changes we hadn’t previously discussed, modified landing page, new forms, etc), none of which was on our agreed brief. In between other clients, I did all the extra work and reminded her again that I was still waiting on content. Given that more than a month had gone by, I sent through an invoice for work done to date.
Suddenly I started getting ranting, abusive calls.
Client: Why isn’t the site live? You haven’t done anything. Why have you not done anything?
Me: I’ve done all the items we agreed on initially, except for the content, and I’ve also done all this extra work you asked me to do that wasn’t on our initial brief. Everything is ready to go. All it’s waiting on is the content you promised a month ago.
Client: I don’t understand why you’ve sent an invoice when nothing is done. How dare you? I’m not paying a cent until the site is up and running.
Days go by, still no content, and I continue to get abuse, so I told her I couldn’t work with her anymore. I fired my client, fully expecting not to get paid.
What I didn’t expect, though, was a series of legal letters of demand, telling me to pay her $40,000 in costs and lost earnings. Needless to say, I got my lawyer to handle it, I never got paid, and I ended up out of pocket for trying to help someone out of a jam.
I recently started a job as a developer.
Client: Here’s a list of 10 things that need to be done by next Wednesday.
Me: I’ve checked the requirements and our schedule and I’m pleased to say we can have these ready for you in time.
Client: Sure is, let me know when these are ready for review.
Friday before the deadline.
Me: Changes are complete, we can deploy with your approval.
Client: Looks great, push these live.
Later that day.
Client: Ok, here’s a new list of 20 things that also have to be completed by Wednesday.
These were brand new tasks that he’d never mentioned until this very moment.
Me: This is quite a substantial amount of work, even with overtime, the earliest this could be delivered is the following Wednesday.
Client: I can’t believe you would let us down like this! I don’t care how you do it, these MUST be done for this Wednesday, even if you and the whole team have to work days and nights! Fix your mistake and get it done.
Don’t get me wrong, with the right apologetic attitude, I’d gladly do them a favor and help them hit a critical deadline. But to be accused of letting the company down for missing a deadline that was never mentioned, and had no involvement in setting…
I can’t see this job being long term.
I work as a Graphic Designer at a print shop, and we do a lot of vehicle decals.
Client: I want our logo on both sides of the vehicle]
A day later I sent over a proof, he calls me and says can you flip the text on the driver’s side so it starts at the back instead of the front?
Client: I like how the passenger side looks much better, can I have the text go from back to front?
Me: Sure, if you want to read the text in reverse.
Client: No, I don’t mean that, just make the driver side look like the passenger side, have the text read from right to left instead.
It took me a while to explain why that wouldn’t work
Client: I would like the website background to be purple
Me: Ok, no problem. Are you able to send me the HEX code, a style guide or perhaps point me to a website with the same color purple you’d like to use?
Client: No that’s fine, just make it the same purple of a Jacaranda tree flowering in the summer.
Me: (contemplating life choices) …
I’m a freelance editor. This project started off well and quickly went downhill.
Client: I want you to edit my memoir. There are thirty chapters.
They gave me a laundry list of things they wanted me to do, but seemed to have missed an important detail.
When I sent back the first few chapters with edits:
Client: I wanted this in third-person, why isn’t this in third? You should have made this change already.
First of all, it’s creepy to talk about yourself in the third person. Second of all, they hadn’t mentioned this change yet. Third, I literally stared at my monitor for five minutes before everything started to click together. I was horrified. This memoir — all of it — was written in first-person. All thirty chapters. You can’t just “ctrl-f” that change – it required revising nearly every sentence. I glanced ahead to the last few chapters, which were walls of text written in first-person.
I probably should have noped out then and there, but the client had been friendly to that point and I needed the work.
Me: Uh… this is a major change. It’s going to take a lot of time.
Client: That’s okay, I understand.
They didn’t understand. I tried my best but every day the client would contact me and flip out, accusing me of abusing their good nature, not doing my job, etc. Eventually, I got fed up and fired the client, luckily before I got to those final chapters (shudder).
I’m still left scratching my head. Why would you write a personal memoir in first-person and think it would be obviously changed to third, much less expecting the editor to automatically do that without explicitly asking for it.
Client: So we’ve got a big launch to promote to CEOs and MDs who we want to invite via email so they spend more money with us. It needs to be high-end as we’re targeting CEO’s but our budget is a bit low.
Me: Okay, let me put a proposal together and see what we can do with that. Which email agency are we working with on this one?
Client: Oh just send it to me, we’ll ping it out as a JPEG from our account managers outlook accounts.
I sometimes flip websites on Flippa, a marketplace where sellers can offer domains and websites.
I sold a plain vanilla WordPress site and included free cPanel to cPanel migration for under 300 bucks last week.
After successfully transferring the website to him, confirming that nameservers were updated and updating WordPress user login info (to give him) , this is how things have unfolded.
Me: Okay, everything is completed now. I see that you accepted domain transfer few days ago and now I have confirmed that the website migration is completed. Here is your WordPress login information.
Client: I can see the website but your installer placed it in the wrong folder so it cant work.
Me: Thanks for confirming that the website is up and working. Not sure what you mean by the wrong folder. The mySQL database and website files were all placed in the correct order/places, etc.
A day later:
Client: I couldn’t reach you on Sunday after the files were put in wrong folder. So I tried to reset passwords to move them. You did not reply to me on Sunday so I had to hire a developer. He says he has to change the password so you can’t log in and screw up the website. He says it’s good you left a zip file there or the whole website would be gone! Anyway, my developer is reinstalling everything for me, the files, the database and the MySQL stuff was old as well. No need to talk to him, he’s overseas anyway, I found him through Upwork. No he’s not creating issues but just for some strange reason couldn’t change the WP admin login credentials.
Me: As I stated the website was working fine yesterday. It’s alarming that the developer you hired changed the passwords. I can’t give you advice if I can’t log in now.
Client: When you clicked on the domain in Cpanel under the domain, there was no long list of files that showed that are supposed to. Just 6 files, a backup of the website, two favicon files, the cgibin file, and one other file that had nothing in it. There’s supposed to be like 95 files showing when you click on it, then wp-content, wp-admin, etc. There was none of this, so this goes to show the migration was done very wrong.
Me: As I have already stated, the website and MySQL were moved and everything was up and visible online. If I can’t login to view the Cpanel or WordPress, there’s not much more I can write here…
Client: You need to put websites in the right folder and wait until the migration is finished before starting to the other folder. Also like I said, what they installed was a sip file of the website, two favicon files, the cgbin file and one other and that was it. I have never seen anything like it before. So in all actuality, this would have been totally reinstalled anyway Far as not getting into the panel, the developer didn’t want me messing with things while he worked on it so I had the Cpanel password changed. That’s why me or anyone else can’t current login to Cpanel. I just wish you would have sent me the login credentials at the very start before you moved anything. But it still would have been the same since the site was installed in the root directory and not in the folder.
As for my access, I still haven’t been able to log in, as the developer is still processing the new migration, database and MySQL
Don’t know why you put it in the root and also didn’t use the correct http format as well.
This is over span of 3 days. Apparently his overseas developer is doing a migration even though he doesn’t have the source login info for my web hosting.
Current count of messages between the buyer and myself: 97. Of those, 27 are me replying to him. 70 are him lecturing me with incorrect information about how to do my job.
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I work as a video editor and producer for a music festival, creating the video backgrounds to performances. It’s an unpaid internship I’m doing for college credit. The company does not provide me with any funding or access to equipment, or any libraries for stock footage.
I was asked to create the video that would play alongside a Star Wars performance by a symphony orchestra. I thought it would be a cool idea to show footage from the films to go along with the different movements.
Me: So did you guys contact who you needed to get permission to show the footage during the concert?
Client: No, we thought it would just be easier for us if you just create something without going through all that legal hassle.
Me: You want me to create a random video using stock footage for a Star Wars-themed concert?
Client: Is that going to be a problem?
Me: These people are paying to see a Star Wars concert, and you’ve already advertised it as a “multimedia experience with accompanying video.” They’re going to expect to see footage from the films.
Client: Well, can’t you just make it LOOK like Star Wars without the actual footage?
Me: I have no access to good stock footage libraries, but I can try.
I made a video as best I could using free video footage, and showed them the video. I couldn’t use X-Wings, TIE Fighters or lightsabers, so I tried to make it as space-themed as I could.
Client: Why is there so much space-themed video? Can we tone that down? We’re gonna overload the audience on space imagery if we keep it like this.
In the end, the audience payed to see a Star Wars-themed concert as the festival played a video that showed flowers, cityscapes, oceans, and landscapes. The audience was not pleased.
A new client required me to submit an event on a ticketing platform but could not remember the password. He changed the password and gave me the new details.
Client: Please note that this is also my banking credentials, so please don’t use it for that.
Me: Uhm…I would not have known that if you did not tell me.
Client: Oh…okay but just don’t use it.