Clients from Hell

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Horror stories from freelancers
Updated: 4 min 35 sec ago

<p>Client: Listen I just want to say

6 April 2019 - 1:00pm

Client: Listen I just want to say something, I hope you don’t take it the wrong way. Anyway, you’re smart. But you’re also clearly attractive and I just feel like that’s what’s really going to get you anywhere in life.


Client: Anyway, thanks for the work. I hope you enjoyed yourself.

Me: ????????

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bugging me

5 April 2019 - 2:00pm

Client: Maybe you can stop writing buggy code?

The code was buggy because he would add features without telling anyone. 

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<p>I teach piano and very occasionally

5 April 2019 - 1:00pm

I teach piano and very occasionally do playing gigs. I stupidly agreed to play for free at the wedding of a church acquaintance who was throwing everything together very last minute. I met her at the wedding venue a couple of days beforehand to scope things out.

Me: Where’s the piano?

Client: There isn’t one. Aren’t you bringing yours?

Me: Pianos really aren’t portable. If you want piano music, you need to find a venue with a piano.

Client: You have a piano. You could bring it.

My piano is digital, but cabinet-style and still quite heavy. She’d seen it herself. I never transport it to gigs, I didn’t have a vehicle big enough to transport it, and she had never mentioned that I was supposed to supply my own piano in order to play for free at her wedding.

Me: No, I can’t bring mine. Maybe you could just use recorded music.

Client: (angry and panicking) You’ll just have to find a way to get a piano here!


In the end, her more reasonable father procured a portable digital piano and amplifier for me to play. It looked and sounded pretty awful, and the client never talked to me again.

I think I’m okay with that.

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<p>I was working with a client to

4 April 2019 - 2:00pm

I was working with a client to design a business card. She was trying to get me to use an image she did not have the rights to and was declining any stock images I suggested. We had already gone back and forth about the copyright issue a few times before it came to a head. 

Client: What about the one I sent?

Me: Is that your photo? If not do you have the rights to it? Or written consent from the original photographer to use it? I won’t violate copyright laws. That’s why I pointed you towards a library of stock images – using the photo you sent me as is would be illegal.

Client: I’m familiar with the law. I was a graphic designer for 7 years.

Me: Okay great so you have the rights to that photo then?

Client: Nope.

Me: Okay then which stock photo would you like me to use?

Client: I don’t like any of them. I want the image I sent you.

Me: It’s against the law to use another artist’s work without their permission – I will not do that. Had the photo been taken by you then we are well within our rights to use it. I am not comfortable breaking the law, I apologize.

Client: Yeah yeah, I get it. I know copyright laws! I’m an artist and have worked in graphic design for years so you don’t have to tell me what’s legal or not.

If I don’t have to tell you, then why are you insisting on breaking the law? At this point, I was certain I did not want to work with this client.

Me:  I regret to inform you I will no longer be taking this job, thanks for considering me and have a nice day!

Client: LOL! I never even hired you I don’t know what your problem is but all of your messages have either been super offensive, bossy and now with this sarcastic undertone. I did nothing to you and you shouldn’t treat potential clients like that. I worked designing labels and advertising for over 100 products for multiple million dollar companies so I understood the law. You just don’t talk to people like they are idiots when you want business. I never asked you to break the law and if you actually worked with me instead of being arrogant and pretentious you might have landed my business which I intended on paying a generous $350, not the $50 you were asking for. I had already reached out to the owner of the photo. I never asked you to use it without consent and you basically attacked me. My personal recommendation is to lose the know-it-all attitude because in that career working with your client is number one.

I’m still trying to get this straight – the client was accusing ME of being rude despite withholding information and not answering my questions – and they expected me to believe they would have paid 7x what I’d asked? Not buying it.

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<p>I occasionally do some freelance web

4 April 2019 - 1:00pm

I occasionally do some freelance web design. A customer posted on a community Facebook group looking for a revamp of a site for the town’s 4th of July celebration. They had a previous designer on their committee, but he left abruptly and didn’t leave detailed instructions on how to update the content. 

Me: So what are you looking for in terms of a redesign?

Client: Well, I’d really like a website that I can update myself, so I don’t want you to write in HTML code. 

Me: Sure, I can work with a CMS.

Client: Good, now I want to be sure that we understand that no HTML code is to be used for my web site.

Me: Well, I can make it so your site is editable in your CMS, but all websites use HTML code. You wouldn’t have to access the code to make content changes, but I can’t produce a website that doesn’t use HTML.

Client: Just use [insert CMS name]. Absolutely no HTML

I created the proof for the main page, she looked at it and complained that when she viewed the source it contained HTML code. 

Needless to say, the project never got off the ground.

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Old friends try hard

3 April 2019 - 2:00pm

Many years ago now I was doing some casual graphic design on the side for friends, mainly local businesses and bands. I didn’t mind helping out because none of it was very challenging.

An old friend recently got in touch via email and asked for a logo for the new website he was making for his video production business. 

Client: I’d like it to be animated!

Me: Ok. Spinning, bouncing or something like that?

Client: No, I’ve this idea that’s really different, all the letters of the company name walk in through a door one by one, then the door opens and they’re all sitting around a table as the camera zooms in through the door into the room. Then it does a pan around all the letters talking about the shoot, then they all jump onto the table and reorder themselves into the site name and dance about and smile at the camera!

Me: Erm, you’re describing a pretty complex cartoon animation, nearly a short film. That would require using Flash or something like that, it’s a pretty major ask and also, that’s not really just a logo.

Client: No it will be a logo, just a really animated moving logo, and I want it exactly like that on T-Shirts and Mugs and stuff too!

Me: OK… Well, let’s start with something a bit simplersee how that goes first, eh? That way we can iron out any technical issues that may occur before we commit to the whole “mini animated movie” idea.

I make a fairly simple animation in GIF form that has all the letters of his company name (not really a logo) bouncing in one by one and back again, and I send him the GIF via email to try it out on his website. A little later I get this call:

Client: I’ve tried it but it’s not animating, and it looks all weird and blocky and stuff too.

Me: Ok, well, how are you getting it onto your site?

Client: Same as always, I convert it to JPEG and then resize it to fit.

Me: Ah. Well, it won’t animate as a JPEG I’m afraid. It needs to be a GIF, and it’s probably blocky because of the resizing. Just post it the size that it came as and it will look fine.

Client: But I’ve always done it this way!

Me: Yes, but your site didn’t animate before, only a GIF will animate. A JPEG definitely won’t. Sorry but it has to be done like that or it just won’t work.

Client: But I’ve never needed to do it like that before! I want to stick with what I know, none of this GIF stuff, why can’t it work how I want it to work?

For some reason he just will not accept that this will not work, we go over and over it, he insists a JPEG is required to “work on the internet.” By this point, I’ve kinda stopped caring anymore so I just keep replying “It has to be a GIF” over and over. Eventually, his patience runs out:

Client: What programs did you use to make this stupid GIF thing anyway?

Me: Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator, why?

Client: (defiantly like he’s tricked me) AHA! Fine! I’ll go make it myself now, and I’ll do it like I originally wanted it to be, too!

Me: That’s absolutely great, I look forward to seeing your fully animated cartoon with camera zooms and individually designed walking and talking letter-characters all dancing about in a tiny resized JPEG on your site, and I’d be delighted to see one of your animated T-Shirts or mugs!

I thought that was it over with, but then about a week later I get this email:

Client: Hi, I looked into it and those programs are really expensive, I only want them for one logo, can’t you just send me copies of yours and show me what button to press?

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What is value anchoring?

3 April 2019 - 1:30pm

Take your business to the next level with a pricing strategy that uses value anchoring! Here is Dan Ariely’s TED Talk if you want more information.

This custom infographic was created by the wizards over at Get your own custom infographic for only $49

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Can you do this? I’ve told the client it’s already done.

3 April 2019 - 1:00pm

Client: Hi, I just come back from a meeting with the investors. I’ve told them the app has an authentication system. I have to do a demo for them tomorrow. Can you make it by then? 

Me: Uh… an authentication system isn’t easy to make, and I’m not familiar with the development environment yet. It’s impossible to do by tomorrow. We’d need a user database, security, everything.

Client: Yeah I know, but can you at least do something? Even if it’s not secure.

Me: (joking) The best I can do for tomorrow, is only a check “if login =”, “if password=” “then connect.”

Client: Yeah, great, do that. 

So I did the most disastrous authentication system ever in an hour and sent it to my client. It was basically a lawsuit waiting to happen.

I didn’t stay on the project for long. But I heard a month or two after I left that it was abandoned.

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Find your “Helen”: Alison Knott and how to recognize your ideal client

2 April 2019 - 10:36pm
Find your “Helen”: Alison Knott and how to recognize your ideal client


The key to success in freelancing is realizing how to find the right clients – the people who are not only great to work with, but actually have money to pay you

Alison Knott is a web consultant who mentors creatives, and she knows all the mistakes that freelancers make: targeting the wrong clients, the wrong platforms, the wrong rewards. In this episode, she shares the decisions you have to make right now to start making money! 

Today’s links: 


Want to support the show?

Order a custom infographic from! Use this link ( for a great price! 

Think you’d be a great fit for the show? Let me know at

Leave us a review on Apple Podcasts or recommend us to a friend. It helps immensely.


Download here!

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So, how exactly are you running iOS then?

2 April 2019 - 2:00pm

A few years back I was commissioned to produce a number of animated sales presentations for a client which they could run on their iPad when out on the road. We worked on various versions over the years and they always went down well with prospective customers.

Recently the company got rebranded and had a few staff changes. Working with a new client, I was instructed to rebuild the presentation incorporating the new branding along with a few other changes. To ensure everything went smoothly I requested the iPad model and iOS version, as it had been a few years since the last presentation.

Me: Can I have the iPad model and iOS version please? you can find these within the iPad settings.

I gave them detailed instructions on how to find this, just in case.

Weeks past and the deadline was getting closer.

Me: Have you got the information I asked for, please? I just need to be sure everything I’m building at the moment will be compatible.

Still nothing. The presentation was so complex (and huge) that I had to forge on with things despite the lack of info to stand any chance of getting it finished in time.

A few days before the deadline:

Me: Sorry to pester but I really need that information I requested a few weeks back, please.

Client: Sorry, here it is. iOS version 12.

Me: Great! And the model?

Client: An HP Pavilion 15.

Me: …?


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Family Business

2 April 2019 - 1:00pm

The following is a monologue delivered by my father after I agreed to shoot and edit three promotional videos for his startup company for free.

Client: Son, I think God sends us all on journeys to fulfill purposes in each others’ lives. You’ve spent the last twelve years studying film production and getting a degree for it and working in the field doing it every day. I think God guided you down that path so that you could do this video production for my company. Thank you, son.

Later that day my father sent a check for $3,000 to his web designer for building the site that would host these videos.

Client: Son, I just want you to know that one day if we have a little money come our way, I’d like to kick you some just to show how profoundly appreciative I am of your work. You are so talented.

I’m moving to Canada so I never have to deal with this again. Not joking. 

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User Submitted Post

1 April 2019 - 2:00pm

A client approached me to redesign his logo and requested the new one to include a steering wheel and have an “old emblem style.”

I delivered the 2 concepts the following day as agreed. He liked the second concept and asked me to make some edits.

After 3 rounds of back and forth revisions that lasted the entire day…

Client: Can we scrap the whole project. I think what you’ve given me doesn’t have the quality I am looking for.


Client: I’m not paying you. These concepts aren’t worth the cost. I don’t want to waste your time.

Too late, bud.


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That’s not how a website works

1 April 2019 - 1:00pm

I needed a drainage pipe replaced at my house and contacted someone to help with the project. He found out that I did website design and asked if we could do a trade of service. Since the pipe was expensive I figured it would work well for both of us… My mistake.

After we signed everything he told me knew nothing about websites so I let him know everything that I would need to get started, explained that he would need a domain and to pay for hosting. It was then I learned that he could read emails but didn’t know how to respond. So what would normally be an easy exchange with a client turned out to be an utter nightmare.

Two-Three months after launch I got this phone call:

Me: Hello?

Client: I haven’t received a single phone call from my website.

Me: I’m sorry to hear that but just because you launch a website doesn’t mean you will immediately get business. You have to do marketing in order to get your website noticed.

Client: I wish you would have told me that. I told you I didn’t know anything about websites.

Me: I’m sorry for the misunderstanding but in the context of our conversation, I thought you were referring to the website building process. You said nothing about your marketing plan.

Client: Again, I told you I didn’t know anything about websites, you should have told me.


Client: I don’t feel like I got my money’s worth and I did a lot of free things for you.

He didn’t.

Me: I’m sorry but I can’t read your mind and I charged you only 1/3 of what I normally charge. I sourced all the photos and wrote the page text myself, and I even created a logo for you, for free. So I believe a went above and beyond for a website that was only $800.

We literally went rounds on how I should have been able to read his mind and how slighted he felt with him unwilling to see my point of view. After the several rounds, I realized he was wanted me to do free digital marketing services, which I made very clear that I wasn’t going to do because the terms of our agreement were met.

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Meet your new favorite premium font: Sarcastic! Only $9!

31 March 2019 - 2:00pm
Meet your new favorite premium font: Sarcastic! Only $9!

Cool font, bro! But, like, really. It’s actually really cool.

> Sarcastic is a pro font inspired by classic posters and I love it.

Sometimes what you need is one new piece of kit that inspires you. Sarcastic could be that font. Coming with a host of features like swatches, ligatures, alternate characters and ornaments you could do a lot with this font. Sure, it’s not the only font you’ll ever need, but it’s interesting, gorgeous and fun. Great for vintage looks and so much more, I don’t mind telling you it’s my new fave.

For just the next few days, you can save 40% and get Sarcastic for only $9. It’s soooooo worth it — and no, that’s not sarcasm. 

> Check out the deal here!


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<p>Client: Can you photoshop me to look

30 March 2019 - 1:00pm

Client: Can you photoshop me to look skinnier?

— Every video client I’ve ever had.

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Your registration application doesn’t work!

30 March 2019 - 12:00pm

I was a developer at a marketing agency

One of our biggest clients had a change of CEO. The new boss wanted to burn everything down to establish their authority. 

Naturally, the agency that created/marketed/maintained the site was under fire. When he took over we received a super angry support ticket claiming “Registration application doesn’t work!!!” 

The ticket didn’t include any details, so we start digging and finally get a screenshot from the user having an issue. Turns out they hit Submit button and they get a nice prominent error message on top written in red that said “Your username is already used in the system. Please, use Forgot the Password link below if you are already registered or use a different email address.”

The user in question was indeed a member for years and forgot about that. We explained this very politely.

Client: I have no recollection of this. Just fix it. 

Anyway, we wound up having to hire someone to go over all the accounts and applications and delete any duplicates… instead of this one person just clicking “forgot password.” 

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safety first

30 March 2019 - 12:00pm

I rent traffic control equipment for the largest company of our kind in the region, so many of our clients are local cities and counties.

A county client asked us to cover a large area with “no parking” signs so utility work could be done. I did that.

Upon arriving at the site, the client called to complain there was no place for him to park. 

Client: Can I park on those railroad tracks over there? They’re free.

I should have said yes.

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Magic five minutes

29 March 2019 - 1:00pm

Client: I could do it myself in five minutes, so I don’t think we need to pay you.

That “five-minute job” was filming an all-day event.


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<p>I developed a mock-up for an ad

29 March 2019 - 12:00pm

I developed a mock-up for an ad placement. I used a stock photo of a desk with a computer on it.

Client: Can you turn the computer around?

Me: What, you mean in the photo?

Client: Yeah, how hard is it to understand we want to turn the photo around?


He later asked for printed gifs and asked why they weren’t moving.

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Let me google that for me

28 March 2019 - 1:00pm

Client: I want my design to look simple and minimalistic (you can google that if you don’t know what it means).

Me: Okay, no problem. I can do minimalism, but could you expand a bit more specific about how you want it to look?


Client: So you don’t know what it means then? And you still want to charge me $XX per hour? I think I’ll take my business somewhere else. 

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