Clients from Hell

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Horror stories from freelancers
Updated: 2 hours 57 min ago

If everything stands out, nothing stands out

11 May 2021 - 4:00pm

Client: The address in this advertisement doesn’t stand out enough. Make it bold.

Against my better judgment, I comply.

Client: Now the hours of operation don’t stand out. Make them bold.

Me: If I make everything bold, nothing will stand out.

Client: I disagree, bold gets noticed.

To make my point, I bold everything.

Client: Nothing stands out here. Italicize the address.

From the Clients From Hell archives!

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Stop the (digital) presses!

11 May 2021 - 3:00pm

While working for an agency, I was put on a last-minute emergency project for a Big Sports Apparel Brand + Big Sports League along with a team of three other designers. They had completely forgotten that they needed digital assets for a campaign until the week before launch. The owner of our agency accepted the contract, giving us less than a week to do around 1,200 files. Each set of assets had to be built for each team in the Sports League. My team informed everyone involved that the only way it was possible, was if our whole team dropped all other work (including other projects for the same client) and worked extra long days as well as the weekend. My team also informed everyone involved that, once layouts were approved, there couldn’t be any changes, not even a single comma in the copy.

Client: Oh yeah, we totally understand.

And then they approved layouts.

Fast forward to Friday. We were getting close to done, and celebrating that we actually pulled it off, and didn’t even need to work the weekend. At 4 PM we got an email telling us to halt on all (Sports League) layouts. The (League) wanted to swap their logo they had given us just days before. We had to add the players’ association logo. Big Sports Apparel Brand had done the photoshoot, so they owned the rights to the photos. However, they didn’t own the rights to use the players’ faces or names on their jersey, or names in the layouts. So we had to change every layout and cropping. On top of that, they added more deliverables because, legally, a few of the teams needed ads in English and French. The launch date was still the following Monday.

Our project manager said, “Don’t worry, we’re charging them extra.” She didn’t understand why she just got blank stares in response, until we reminded her that we were all on salary. The company gave us each a $100 gift card a few weeks later… “yay.”

The company did buy us meals that week, which was nice. BUT, I suspect that’s because they didn’t want us to leave our desks, if we even could have and they also didn’t want us to die on company property.

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Double sided website

11 May 2021 - 2:00pm

Client: It’s cheaper to print double-sided, so if I can ask for a website with multiples of two for pages, can I get a discount like that? 

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It’s not wrong if you’re not punished

10 May 2021 - 4:00pm

A friend of my girlfriend met with us and asked me to design a site for her ‘new political party.’ As a favor, I agreed to be paid after the work was completed, since she was ‘such a good friend.’ 

I moonlighted for several weeks attending to her every whim on the site, and I ending up logging 136 hours creating a comprehensive website for her campaign.

As the project neared completion, she began asking me to transfer the site and all the graphic assets over to her domain, ‘just in case I get hit by a bus or something and she can’t access the site.’ 

After finishing the site, which she herself expressed gratitude at how ‘beautiful’ and ‘amazing’ it was, she then refused to pay a cent because I am not a US citizen and she isn’t worried about ‘being put in jail for paying someone who is not a citizen.’ 

I can’t afford the legal representation to sue this person, and she owes me over $5,000.

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This isn’t getting us anywhere

10 May 2021 - 3:00pm

Client: How much for a brand package?

Me: Well, a lot of that depends on how much you need.

Client: That depends on how much it’ll cost.

This isn’t getting us anywhere.

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Facepalm extravaganza

10 May 2021 - 2:00pm

Far from the worst client I ever had, but certainly one with an unique issue. 

I make custom costume items. My site has a contact form specifying what info I need for a price quote: a picture of the item, desired size and the colours if the first pic isn’t accurate. It’s that simple. Except for this guy.

First mail, via the contact form:

Client: Hi I’d like an item made, I’ll send you a pic. 

Immediately after I got a second mail, with a single link in it. The link opened to a photo in google image search. Not an attachment of the photo itself, but the search results.

Immediately after that a second email, same result, different image. But those two together were enough for me to get at least understand what object he was looking for. 

Then I got a fourth mail, asking if I had recieved the previous mails. This was all within 5 minutes and each mail was individually send, not as a reply or chain. 

I contacted the client, made a price quote (estimated the size because that was never specified and assumed they send the correct colour).

Client then proceeded to ask more details, only to mention later that he’d need a completely different colour scheme. And after 4 emails, confirming the price and that all the details were correct, he let me know he was only informing for maybe purchasing it some time in the future. Maybe.

I facepalmed a lot that day. 

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2400 Classic cool vector illustrations for $17 — 93% off!

9 May 2021 - 4:00pm

This week’s deal is on over 2400 vintage illustrations that have been scanned, cleaned and formatted as fully customizable vector images!

> They’re super cool, easy to use, and make for a great design.

Look. You’re a wiz with Photoshop and Illustrator, and a pretty solid draftsperson to boot. People love the way you draw, and your designs are clean, professional, and attractive. What you are not, probably, is a classically trained illustrator who specializes in scientific diagrams of flora and fauna in pen and ink or lithograph. This is a very specific skill that is always in demand. This bundle gives you scores of fantastic vintage illustrations that are easy to slot into designs to make them better

Normally it would cost you $228 for all 2400+ illustrations (and honestly? Bargain), but for the next few days, you can save 93% and get every last one of them for just $17. Sell one t-shirt with one deer skull illustration (for example) and you’ve already made your money back. 

> Check out the deal here.

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No Deal

9 May 2021 - 3:00pm

Client: I’m going to propose to my girl this weekend but can’t find an affordable photographer to capture the special moment

Me: Woah! That’s exciting, congratulations !

Client: Thank you! Could you come take pictures for it?

Me: Unfortunately, I won’t be able to book a flight this last minute.

Client: But for me, you’d make me a deal, right?


Several months later, another client who said my pricing ‘wasn’t too bad’ realizes they ‘don’t have a budget that can afford much‘ after requesting full coverage & stylized edits of an entire wedding weekend. The previous client reappears.


Client: That’s messed up. How much were you charging them anyway?

Me: My hourly rate is $$$

Client: That’s not too bad.  How much for me?

Me: It’s doesn’t change

You’ve got to be fricken kidding me! Prices will be doubling after having to deal with these two.

What’s the most egregious “friend request” you’ve ever gotten?

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Gotta have my pop.

9 May 2021 - 2:00pm

A client was pushing me to, of course, “make it pop.” Eventually I wound up in “teal and orange” land, a la Michael Bay – literally one of the most “popping” colour schemes around. It was hideous, but the client was relentless for the next level of pop. 

Client: Hmm. Can we make it pop more? 

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Link me not

8 May 2021 - 4:00pm

Me: I am emailing you the link to the development site so you can see what your new website is going to look like.

Client: I don’t like clicking on links. Just send it to me as a PDF.

From the Clients From Hell archives!

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Recession proof

8 May 2021 - 3:00pm

Client: Why are you charging this much? Don’t you know there’s a recession going on? I can’t afford this!

Me: I’m also living in this recession, and if I don’t charge this then I can’t afford anything. 

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Wedding photographer

8 May 2021 - 2:00pm

I shot a wedding a few years back. Bride specifically requested a white background, with all of her family portraits on.

Client: Can I have all the group photos against a white background?

Me: Sure *shoots photos and sends them to her*

Client: I want a refund!! The background is too white!

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Pine wipe

7 May 2021 - 4:00pm

So I’m doing some design work for a tissue company that specializes in recycled paper. All their advertising promotes how eco-friendly they are. One print advertising has a picture of a forest on it with an eco-oriented recycling message:

Client: That picture is too harsh.

Me: I’m not sure I understand. Could you elaborate?

Client: That forest is too harsh!


Client: There are too many pine trees in there.

Me: Ok… but what does that…

Client: We recycle paper to make our toilet papers, could you imagine wiping yourself with a pine tree?

I see pine trees symbolizing “eco-friendly” on all sorts of branding, including TP, and to answer the question – no, I’ve never imagined wiping myself with a pine tree because NO-ONE DOES.

From the Clients From Hell archives!

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Not getting All the Info

7 May 2021 - 3:00pm

I work in a small screen printing shop. My boss seemingly likes to do as little as possible and so never gets the complete info from his customers for designs. He sent an email with a logo attached:

Boss: Please mock this up on a cap/

I did and sent off the proof.

Boss: They want the logo in a circle like a patch.

I looked and noticed in the long thread of emails with the customer that, yup, they asked for it to look like a patch. New proof sent.

Boss: Add a thick red outline around the circle.

Sigh. OK. New Proof sent.

Another email, boss writes nothing so from experience I look to the customers replies copied below. They wanted just a part of the logo in the patch, not the entire logo.

Why couldn’t you just get all that up front? Is it just too hard?

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Beyond the words

7 May 2021 - 2:00pm

I showed a client an initial design package for their business based on what they’d said they wanted. I was really happy with the package I’d put together thinking it was a pretty innovative and attractive version of what they’d SAID they wanted. I walked them through my font choices for them, the palette I’d designed. 

Client: This is great work, but I’m not sure it’s what I want. 

Me: That’s fair! We can refine. This is my first pass based on what you said you wanted, though.

Client: I know I said I wanted this, but it’s not what I actually wanted. I’d hoped you could see beyond my words. 

I’d say “there are no words” but I guess I’d have to see beyond them. 

The post Beyond the words appeared first on Clients From Hell.

The second 50%

6 May 2021 - 4:00pm

Client: I paid the first 50%. How much is the second 50% going to be?

From the Clients From Hell archives!

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Pray for me

6 May 2021 - 3:00pm

A client told me she’d pay me $25 for an event invitation. It was a family friend and I’m no pro but I knew I could make her something in Canva and she would think I was genius.

THEN she proceeded to tell me the church for the event was run-down and she’d have to pay for it to be cleaned up… so she could only pay me $20. 

In what world did that $5 make the difference? 

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Make it smaller, make it illegible!!!

6 May 2021 - 2:00pm

After a year-long successful work relationship with a client, they requested a full-bleed brochure to be completed outside of my regular work hours. We went through several revisions and I finished the brochure while on a trip. The client approved. Then:

Client: The brochure printed with a white border. The printing associate suggests that you make the content smaller and allow more space between it and the edge of the page.

Me: I’m so sorry to hear that. Let me look into it right now. What size paper are you printing on?

Client: It’s a regular sheet.

Me: Ok, I double-checked, and the brochure is designed to print full bleed on a regular sheet of paper. I can resize the content but some of the information is already in the smallest font approved for this project. Your target audience may not be able to see it if it’s smaller.

I ended up making the changes. I was told to resize again and some of the information became illegible. After an entire day of back and forth, I got a call. The printing associate reiterated what was said earlier and hands the phone back to the client.   

At this point, I was in the middle of nowhere, using my cell to tether internet to my laptop so I could upload the design to the printing company and view the proof.

Me: I am looking at the proof for the original design on the printing company’s website. It doesn’t come up with borders. By any chance, did you request their 1h rush service when you ordered?

Client: Yes

Me: According to the website all 1h rush service projects are printed with a white border. Full bleed orders can only be done under their regular time frame.

Client: Why didn’t the associate tell me that?

Me: I’m not sure, but I’ll send you the original file so you can get it reprinted.  I suggest that you either print within the regular time frame or find a different print shop.

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Time Travel Printing

5 May 2021 - 4:00pm

Client: Can I get 1000 copies of a book shipped to a convention this weekend? I haven’t quite finished layout yet.

Me: So, you are new to the whole print on demand concept I take it?

Client: The layout will be done Monday or Tuesday.

Me: After the convention you want to sell 1000 copies at is over?

Client: Yes, we’d like to make a big splash at the show. It’ll be awesome.

Me: Yes, being able to time travel to the future to get the final version of the book would be awesome.

From the Clients From Hell archives!

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I don’t read emails

5 May 2021 - 3:00pm

Some years ago, we were working with a big client but we didn’t seem to understand each other. Their expectations never ever met with the work we delivered.

Client: We need to set weekly meetings to make sure the project’s results are exactly what we requested. 

Me: Ok, no problem. In order to seize the time more efficiently, I will email you all the work as soon as it’s done and I expect you to send some feedback before the meeting so we can discuss the issues there.

Client: Sounds great.

Next meeting:

Me: Hi everyone. We didn’t receive any feedback about our work. Have you read my emails? Is there any doubt?

Client: Well actually, I don’t read emails. I don’t have the time to do that.

Oof. There’s disrespect and then there’s DIS-RESPECT. When’s the last time your client was this ridiculous

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