Clients from Hell

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Horror stories from freelancers
Updated: 2 hours 15 min ago

Print Manager

7 December 2019 - 1:30pm

Got an emergency call from my client to outsource a print job that I had already produced for this big event downtown.

The sign was already on our truck heading to the venue and I was asked to call a local print shop to reproduce it because of this super tight deadline all of a sudden.

Me: It will take longer to produce the file than it will to drive it to you.

Client: I need it NOW, it’s urgent.

Me: Fine, but who is picking it up?

He had the delivery driver pick up the sign in the SAME TRUCK he had the original print.

He got both signs at the same time. 

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<p>I work as an Engineer in Solution

6 December 2019 - 2:00pm

I work as an Engineer in Solution Integration Company helping a client’s IT personnel in figuring out how to administrate the newly integrated network infrastructure.

I ended up having to write 80 pages manual for the personnel outlining key points despite the fact that there are extensive documentation online provided by the product.

Client: I have tried to fiddle with the system according to your provided manual, Could you elaborate on this point on how do I input MAC address here? What format do I need to use?

I thought it was partly my fault because I did show him where this function is but I did not elaborate on it. I thought it was self-explanatory.

To remind myself, I tested it with a few different formats: XX-XX-XX-XX-XX-XX, XX:XX:XX:XX:XX:XX and XXXXXXXXXXXX. All of them worked. 

So I am about 100000% sure the personnel would have figured this out by himself if he had tried at all.

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<p>We rendered an image of some

6 December 2019 - 1:00pm

We rendered an image of some industrial equipment. In real life the equipment being stored is orange, and the storage rack is grey and blue. The orange was dominating the image, so we did the whole thing in a stylish blue duotone.

The client understood the rationale for the duotone, but could not see past the fact that we’d removed the orange.

Client: What if you did it in orange, but with a blue hue?

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5 December 2019 - 2:00pm

I work as an in-house designer at a small-business and the owner is of the mindset that the more information (read: words) you cram in a design the more effective it is yet she constantly complains all of my designs are “too wordy” and that “no one will read that.“

She even complains about designs featuring copy she gave me verbatim. I’ve made more minimalistic and clean designs for her which she initially likes but then slowly has me add more and more information. 

In a last-ditch effort to show her the light, I showed her a poster another company had dropped off to display in the window – minimalistic, stylish, and eye-catching with all the pertinent information and a link to a more detailed website.

Client: I really like it but you can’t even tell what it’s for

Me: …Well the large text at the top tells you what the event is and the writing underneath gives time and date and a short description with a link.

Client: Oh, well I didn’t read it, too much to read.


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<p>Client: Could you create my new

5 December 2019 - 1:00pm

Client: Could you create my new website? 

Me: What kind of budget do you have? 

Client: Well, my friend did this one.

He pointed at his early 2000s site.

Client: He charged me a beer, so I guess I could give you 20 euros?

Me: Ok, for 20 euros I can tell you all the things you have to learn to create it on your own.

Client: Wow, you’ll teach me?

Me: No. I’ll tell you what you’d have to learn. That’s worth 20 euros.

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<p>I work as a freelance writer part

4 December 2019 - 2:00pm

I work as a freelance writer part-time to help pay bills since my boyfriend is living with me. I do editing for both fiction and nonfiction.

I got an email from a prospective client last Wednesday, who sent me a small part of their story to look over and see if I could edit it. I require this from pretty much everyone unless I know them.

This was an Eldritch Abomination in written form.

The spelling and grammar were atrocious. The name was spelled wrong. There was shitty clipart everywhere.

Me: I’m sorry, but given the scope of this job I won’t be able to complete it for what you’re offering.

Client: (furious) You’re being unfair! Fine. Be a snobby bitch. Your work is probably shitty anyway.

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<p>I am about to quit my job as a...</p

4 December 2019 - 1:15pm

I am about to quit my job as a volunteer graphic designer at a non-profit yoga institute for several reasons, and each day I am reminded of a new one.

Here is a snippet of the conversation I just had with our guru (who I have been working with for seven weeks on a 26 page photo biography booklet) about the 14th revision of the cover design:

Client: I am so glad you are doing this for free! We had to pay thousands of dollars for our old designer.


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<p>I recently quoted a client for a

3 December 2019 - 2:00pm

I recently quoted a client for a promo video to be shown on their website.

Client: We’ve decided to go in a different direction.

They eventually came back and hired me. I got the truth out of them later:

Client: I was going to shoot this on my phone but I couldn’t record my voice at the same time.

This was a multi-million dollar company whose smallest contract is still six figures.

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<p>Client: Can you, like, convert a JPG

3 December 2019 - 1:30pm

Client: Can you, like, convert a JPG to HTML? 

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User Submitted Post

2 December 2019 - 2:00pm

It’s 8 PM and my client asks me to make some changes in a brochure:

Client: Come to my office with your laptop tomorrow and work from here.

Me: I can’t. I am alone with my daughter.

I had a 7-month-old baby and am balancing freelance work with parenting. 

Client: Take your daughter with you. I don’t mind. 

It’s an office where people smoke indoors. No, I’m not kidding. 

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Billable hours

2 December 2019 - 1:00pm

Client: Things are not working, the amount of hours we agreed is not being respected and your developers are late in the deliveries. When can we talk to sort things out?

I went to the dev team to talk and this exchange followed:

Me: So, what is happening? Are problems arising during the sprint? The client is frustrated with the delays, and I need to know if you need some support or renegotiate something.

Dev: We have no problem at all with them, we are only lacking time to do what they need.

Me: How are you and your colleague dividing the time?

Dev: Well, my colleague spends the day programming, while I’m, at 9AM, have a call with the client that usually goes for two hours, then again at 2PM I have another call with’em and this one usually goes for four hours, then I code until 7PM.

Me: That explains a lot.

Turns out the client knew this time was billed as dev time, but they expected the developers to be coding while on the phone with them!


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Add over 2950 beautifully illustrated elements to your toolkit for just $9!

1 December 2019 - 2:00pm
Add over 2950 beautifully illustrated elements to your toolkit for just $9!

This week’s deal is on a massive bundle from popular design studio Julia Dreams!

> Take a look. There’s so much here, and you could easily use all of it. 

Julia Dreams is known for their deft touch and their light, pastel approach to fantastic design. You could conceivably build a decent design career using just the 2950 elements in this bundle – not that you would. Still, this kind of excellent craftsmanship can save you time and money by making it easy to turn around professional designs for your clients FAST – especially if that client is looking for the feminine, bohemian look that Julia Dreams specializes in. 

The full price tag on every element in this bundle is $3872, which is frankly insane. However, for the next few days you can get all 2950+ elements for just $9. That’s a GREAT price for elements of this quality. 

> Check out the deal now! 

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User Submitted Post

1 December 2019 - 1:00pm

I work as an inbound call agent for a fairly large rental platform, and 90% of the calls I get are older landlords who don’t know how technology works.

Client: I need to speak to a manager right away!

Me: I’m sorry sir, what seems to be the problem?

Client: I need you to turn off javascript on my account on your platform!

I spent half an hour with him on the phone, and to this day I legitimately do not know what he meant.

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New Babies & SEO

30 November 2019 - 2:00pm

I work in SEO (Search Engine Optimisation). The client decided to question 30% uplift in organic traffic (Year On Year) in an attempt to avoid payment. 

Client: This traffic increase happened naturally as the economy grew by 3%. It has nothing to do with your work. 

Me: I don’t think that overall economic growth can be directly impacting your rankings. You’re getting more visitors because we improved your rankings. 

Client: It does, do you know there are 100,000 babies born every month? 

Me: I don’t think they Google.

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User Submitted Post

30 November 2019 - 1:30pm

Client: This is still not what I wanted, I won’t pay for this.

Me: OK.

Client: Can you send me the raw files anyway?

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3… 2… 1…

29 November 2019 - 2:00pm

Me: Please watch the entire video very carefully, as multiple revisions slow down the process considerably. Export times can run very long, so please ensure everything is correct.

Client: Looks great! Approved!

Me: Great, we will get everything rolling.

12 hours later…

Client: Hey, I just noticed…

*Head goes through desk*

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The Onus of Proof

29 November 2019 - 1:20pm

I am a prepress technician for a full-service commercial press (but not a trade/online printer), as well as being a graphic designer. This following exchange happens again and again in various forms…

Client: I can’t print your proof. Can you please send me a print-ready proof?

Me: Our soft proofs are screen resolution for review/display only. We do not release press-ready printable files for proofing.

Client: But I need to be able to print it and make changes. Your file is locked. Can I have the password?

Me: We do not release press-ready printable files for proofing, and we do not share security information such as passwords used for document protection. I am happy to make any changes you need and proof it back to you. We do offer and recommend hard-copy proofing prior to print. The first hard-copy proof is free of charge. Would you like me to make your changes and email you an updated proof? Would you like a hard-copy proof for final approval before we print your brochure?

Client: Why can’t you just give me the password? I am just trying to run my business. I need to be able to print this proof. I need to be able to make changes to your PDF before I print it. You are keeping me from running my business.

Me: I’m sorry, we don’t release security information of any kind, and we don’t provide press-ready printable files for proofing purposes. Please let me know what changes need to be made and I can get it done for you very quickly.

Client: I don’t need changes now. I need to be able to change it in the future, and I need to be able to print it NOW. Every other printer that has designed something for me has given me a printable file. I plan to bring you tons of business and you are hurting my business by not providing me with the password.

So I send a printable file with a watermark

Client: This is not acceptable. I cannot print this. It has a mark on it. Can you delete the mark and send me a high quality file? I need it right now. No other printer does this to me. 

Yes. I’m so sure that every other printer you work with provides you with a printable press-quality/press-ready file as a “Proof.” Uh-huh.

At this point, this particular client chose to be verbally abusive and I had my boss take over the call. The client complained about me, told my boss that I was being uncooperative and hurting their business, etc. My boss pretty much repeated everything I had already said and reaffirmed our willingness to update and re-proof as needed. Th

Client: Fine! I’m going to get my designers to figure out how to unlock the file and fix the file for print. I’m NEVER going to work with you again.

But, wait… wasn’t I your designer? And didn’t you agree to a work estimate that included printing services with us? Hmmm. Good luck with that. I know you can get around the security with 3rd party software; but, I still sent you files that were exported at just 96dpi and don’t include the bleed! 

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Is it portrait or landscape?

28 November 2019 - 2:00pm

I sent a proof with measurements shown on two square-shaped previews.

Client: Are these portrait or landscape?

Me: They’re squares.

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User Submitted Post

28 November 2019 - 1:30pm

I work in tech support, mostly for medical clinics. Lots of great stories there – but this is an example of a fairly common problem.

Today I was trying to help someone install a language pack so she can edit documents in Spanish with spellcheck. It kept failing to install with a pretty generic error, so I started checking some common problems for PC performance – like the amount of time the PC had been on.

97 days.

Me: Well I think we found the problem. This computer hasn’t been rebooted in over three months. There are probably a lot of pending updates, which can prevent programs from installing correctly.

Client: We never reboot our computers. No one told us we had to reboot our computers.

When we rebooted the computer it took 4 hours to install all of the pending updates.

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Freelance Forgiveness: Mike Tanner and the relationships in our heads

27 November 2019 - 7:20pm
Freelance Forgiveness: Mike Tanner and the relationships in our heads

It’s a familiar feeling for most of us. You overpromised a client on deliverables and got overwhelmed with work, or family stuff came up, or you hit a wall in the project that you just couldn’t overcome. You put it off for a day, then two days, then a week… All of a sudden you’re way overdue and you haven’t talked to the client in that entire time. Clearly they’re furious with you, fuming behind your back.

Or are they? Mike Tanner talks with Kyle Carpenter about the ways we create imaginary relationships with our clients, especially since freelancers don’t usually get to talk to them one on one on a regular basis. It’s never as bad as you think, for real. Find out how forgiveness is the way to move forward! 

Let us know on twitter @clientsfh – do you create imaginary relationships with your clients? Or are you strictly business, with nothing personal riding on your performance? How did you arrive where you are?

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