Clients from Hell

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Horror stories from freelancers
Updated: 1 hour 44 min ago

Pays 2k, expects a 50k dollar job

13 February 2020 - 1:00pm

It started well. We agreed on what needed to be done and I worked on the site. Granted, scope creep started early as I had to create mockups from scratch but  I thought “it’s well paid. It’s worth it”.

Nope. Terrible mistake.

I didn’t notice when I was initially reviewing their plans, but hidden deep in their 20-page “needs” document there was a single line asking me to recreate from scratch HubSpot with the Gmail extension + a Hotjar pdf heatmap tool.

Now if you’re unfamiliar with those, those are SaaS companies that have entire teams working for months, costing them hundreds of thousands of dollars in development. And this client wanted me to recreate the entire thing by myself, in a couple of weeks, for 2K. 

What’s more, after I started work they started asking for MORE features that weren’t even in the document as part of my original document. I did the math on their asks; they wanted to pay me less than a dollar per hour. What a joke. 

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<p>Client on a Monday morning: Client:

12 February 2020 - 2:00pm

Client on a Monday morning:

Client: We tried to call you Saturday afternoon, but you didn’t answer your phone.

Me: Sorry about that, I was at the beach.

Client: Why would you do that?

Me: It was hot?

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<p>This one time a childhood friend of

12 February 2020 - 1:00pm

This one time a childhood friend of mine asked me to photograph an event. Since she was a close friend, I agreed to do it for free before really thinking about it.

I wound up having to cut a vacation short to do it, but I’d given my word. I rebooked my return flight so I arrived just in time to cover the event. I showed up, took about 400 photos, and then went home and fell right asleep because I hadn’t slept in over 20 hours and had gone straight from a long flight to covering this event.  

The next morning I woke up to a Facebook message:

Client: Why haven’t you sent me the photos yet?

Me: I still need to process them! It will take a few hours and I was asleep.

Client: Well by when can you do it? I need to post the photos on Facebook now!

Me: I would say about a week but if you are in such a hurry I can look through them, choose some standouts, edit them and send them to you tonight.

Client: No, I need them all now.

Me: You wanted these edited. I can’t edit 400 photos in one night.

Client: But I need them all now!

Me: Sorry but that’s impossible.

Client: Well then don’t edit them all, just do, like, half of them.

Me: That still takes more than an evening for me, especially since I am busy with my day job besides. Best I can do is 4 days.

Client: Okay.

Half a day later:

Client: Why haven’t you sent me the photos yet?

I just ignored the message. The next day:

Client: Why haven’t you sent me the photos yet?

I hurried to do something and sent her roughly 40 edited photos and another 250 unedited. She was still complaining I was late and ended up posting badly over-filtered versions everywhere.

She didn’t say “thank you” once.

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<p>Client: Can you do a caricature of

11 February 2020 - 2:00pm

Client: Can you do a caricature of one of our editors? We want to use if for the Twitter profile picture.

Me: Sure. Can you send me a couple of pictures of the editor to use as references when you have a moment?

Client: Sorry, we don’t have any. When can you get started?

Me: So you want me to do a caricature of a person when I don’t know what he or she looks like?

Client: Yes. That’s why we’re asking for a caricature and not a portrait.

Me: …

Client: Can you have it done today?

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<p>A company recently hired us to make

11 February 2020 - 1:00pm

A company recently hired us to make a 3-minute long animation for their website. They had spent months reviewing the script, storyboards and character designs, making sure everything was following their brand. Finally, after several drafts, I had finished the video and we were hoping that this version would be the one they approved, and I could put my attention on other projects that were piling up.

Client: Everyone LOVES the animation, you did a great job! But we have one problem…. Turns out we sent you the wrong guidelines. The character designs you used go completely against our brand. 

The character designs they originally wanted us to use were very basic, almost like what you’d see on a restroom sign. The designs we were SUPPOSED to use have very realistic features: clothes, faces, hands, etc. We would have to start from scratch to make it meet these new standards. 

Client: By the way, we’d like this before the end of the year.

It was December. 

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<p>Client: I keep getting an error

10 February 2020 - 2:00pm

Client: I keep getting an error message when I try to check out. I’ve tried checking out three times and I’ve tried EVERYTHING.

The error message?

“You must be logged into your account to checkout.”

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<p>Me: The file is attached to this

10 February 2020 - 1:00pm

Me: The file is attached to this email. Save it to your desktop and resend if you make any changes.

Client: CAN YOU PLEASE SEND THIS FOR A LAPTOP. No one uses a desktop anymore.

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Transform your designs with 411 premium textures for only $17!

9 February 2020 - 1:00pm
Transform your designs with 411 premium textures for only $17!

This week’s deal is on 400+ textures to make your designs even more visually interesting!

> Ranging from subtle to transformative, these textures are a secret weapon for creating flair! 

A quality texture can make all the difference, turning a flat color field into something fascinating. This bundle combines twelve other bundles, giving you all sorts of options: wood grain, fabric, topographical map, subtle grit textures and so much more. Take a look at these examples and it’s easy to see what they can do for you. 

Normally, everything in this bundle would sell for $99, but for the next week, you can save $82 and only pay $17 – a great price for a tool you’ll use again and again! 

> Check out the deal here! 

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<p>Client: Make the background

9 February 2020 - 1:00pm

Client: Make the background transparent.

Me: But it’s transparent already.

Client: Just do as I ask.

I renamed the file to icon-final-transparent.png and re-sent it.

We all know how it turned out.

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<p>Client: We need this rush job done!

8 February 2020 - 2:00pm

Client: We need this rush job done! Please! 

Me: Okay, I’ll clear my schedule and get that started right now.

Client: Thank you!

Three hours later, I’m almost done:

Client: Actually, cancel that. We don’t actually need it. 

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downside up

8 February 2020 - 1:00pm

I was designing a 300+ page proposal for a client. I would send them PDFs of various sections ready to review. They would print them out of order, make content edits by hand, rescan it and send it back to me.

One section they rescanned upside down.

Client: This section was different than the rest. Please be more careful – they need to be consistent.

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<p>Client: Do you have time to make a

7 February 2020 - 2:00pm

Client: Do you have time to make a few short animations for me?

Me: Do you remember that you owe me money?

Client: Oh… Yeah, that’s sad… So do you have time for animations?

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<p>Client: I want a design for my

7 February 2020 - 1:00pm

Client: I want a design for my business incorporating the attached image.

Me: Sorry I can’t use this because it’s someone else’s copyrighted work. I’d need permission from the copyright owner.

Client: Don’t worry, I paid for the comic book, I do own it.

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<p>I worked with a large Investment

6 February 2020 - 2:00pm

I worked with a large Investment bank. Karma bit back – twice.

 The project was to migrate all their customer recommendations to a new document management system. The first project manager was a moron.

Me: You have two tasks due next week, both will take me all the available time to do, which is your number one priority?

Project Manager: Both of them!

Two weeks on, he was sacked for lying to the project board about achievables.

He was replaced with a new project manager who was somehow worse.

Me: Your new system doesn’t preserve the original dates of your recommendations, so you will have no way to prove when you told a customer to buy or sell a stock. You need to incorporate that information

New Project Manager: Oh, that would mean a change and I can’t be bothered with all the paperwork for that. I’m sure it won’t matter

Two years later, the client was sued by a customer who claimed that they told him to buy a stock that was already collapsing. They couldn’t prove him wrong. They lost.

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<p>The following is a conversation I

6 February 2020 - 1:00pm

The following is a conversation I have on an almost daily basis.

Me: Standard turnaround is 3 days. Do you have a deadline for an event or a general idea of when needed?

Client: How fast can you get them?

Me: How much do you want to pay?

Client: Standard turnaround is fine.

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<p>Over the past couple of months, I

5 February 2020 - 2:00pm

Over the past couple of months, I have printed labels for a client’s farmer’s market product. Each time they order they don’t give me enough notice and argue over the rush fee. 

Last week they sent me an e-mail at 7 PM, asking for another batch of labels to be ready the next day and to be put in the mail first thing in the morning. 

Me: I’ll be glad to do this for you, but it will be a rush order. That will cost extra.

Client: Why do you keep charging me extra? I’m a repeat customer. All I want is my labels the next day and guaranteed shipping to my door by Saturday.

Me: We’ve been over this multiple times. It costs extra to ship Express or Priority to your state. It also takes two days minimum without rushing to print and prepare your labels. I’ll need to stay up late tonight and work overtime to get it in the mail at all tomorrow. 

Client: I’m a small startup. I can’t afford such huge rush costs.

Me: Say you’re at home eating dinner, and I message you to print labels for the next day. Then you have to drive 20 miles one way back to the design studio, which you only just got home from, and spend 4 hours working. You need to arrange for someone to look after your kid in that time, and because you’re working until after midnight you wind up on a sleep deficit for the rest of the week. Do you really expect me to do all of that for you just for free without additional cost? 

They finally responded with two words:

Client: I understand.

They then proceeded to agree to the payment terms for their rush order.

I’d say this had a happy ending, but I’ve had clients conveniently “forget” lessons like this before. Let’s hope the lecture sticks.

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Sometimes, everything goes TOO smoothly.

5 February 2020 - 1:00pm

One of the items I sell is custom buttons (badges). Local movie productions sometimes buy them to use as promotional items.

I got an email from a new production company, ordering a set of buttons. They wanted a fairly typical design, with the movie logo and assorted quotes from the movie in production. It’s supposed to be a horror movie.

Price was negotiated, the deposit made through Paypal, and they sent the content in a simple txt file. All arranged through e-mail, all as usual with such an order.

The logo was simple, and worked well on the buttons. But, the content was… off. These might have been typos, they might not. One quote was “Quiet thinking about the dead were living still.”

So, I sent another email.

Me: Do you want me to edit these for grammar and punctuation? I think you might have some typos. 

Client: No, they’re the way we want them. Use the text we sent.

I figured it must be something sensible in the context of the movie. So, I selected a drippy “slasher” font, typeset the buttons, and sent them jpg previews.

Me: Here are the previews. Please look them over and make sure they are what you want.

Client: They’re fine. When will they be ready?

Me: If I have the go-ahead, they’ll be ready Friday morning.

Everything was going well, but I was still worried.

On Friday, the client came to my shop. I handed them the box of buttons.

Me: Check these and make sure they’re right.

Client: (glancing in the box) They look good!

They signed off, handed me the check, and left with the buttons.

Monday, I got a phone call. I was braced to defend myself, but the caller (not the same person who picked up the buttons) just asked me in a tired voice how much it would be to redo the order as a rush job for Wednesday. I was actually free to do it without a strain, so I gave them the same price as before, and they agreed.

The client’s boss emailed me the correct text, which was “Quit thinking about the dead. We’re still living.” Also, apparently it wasn’t a horror movie but more of a suspense one, so in a few quick emails, we settled on a less drippy font.

Wednesday, Client’s Boss came for the buttons. I didn’t say anything about the previous person but treated this like a whole new order. Client’s Boss sat at a table with buttons to check each different design and even looked at their backs to see that they were straight. They approved, signed off, handed over the check, and took the box of buttons.

Thank you, Client Boss, for seeing that the idiot in the equation wasn’t me.

I have since had more orders from that same production company, but never saw or heard from the original client again. 

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Freelancing around the world: Lynette Adams on house-sitting and work!

4 February 2020 - 5:45pm

The great thing about remote work is you can travel while doing it. Of course, we all know we CAN, but how many of us actually pull up stakes and do it?

Lynette Adams is one of the few who really have done it! She’s a freelance writer and editor who recently wrote an article for The New York Times on house-sitting, and how you can build a life for yourself trotting the globe. SPOILERS: it’s a lot like freelancing! She and Kyle talk about how to build a reputation as a reliable housesitter, what it teaches about client relations, the unexpected benefit of a negative review and most importantly, what it would take for YOU to get up and move across the globe for a few months! 

Today’s links: 

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<p>Client: The start of the video needs

4 February 2020 - 2:00pm

Client: The start of the video needs to be changed.

Me: That’s no problem, but may I ask why? We’ve been working on this video for a month and a half and you never said anything about it.

Client: Because it’s black. I can’t have a video that starts with a black image.

He had expressly asked me to make the images and text appear after a few seconds, which is the reason why I started the video like that in the first place.

Me: Um… Ok, though I still don’t understand what’s wrong with it, I thought we were on the same page about this.

Client: You know what’s wrong? When I upload it, it’s going to look just black, and no one will click on it! I thought you were a professional.

At this point I realized the client had never been exposed to the concept of “thumbnail,” and the fact that the first frame of a video is not, in fact, the preview, at least not on the sites where he told me he’d use the video.

I felt a sadistic satisfaction in explaining it to him after being condescended as an “unprofessional.”

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<p>Writing content for a university.

4 February 2020 - 1:00pm

Writing content for a university.

Client: You have “best courses” here, but “best” is singular. That means you can only say “best course.”

Me: If that is true, and I’m not convinced it is, nobody will see “best courses” and assume it’s wrong.

Client: Change it.  

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