Clients from Hell

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Horror stories from freelancers
Updated: 1 hour 9 min ago

User Submitted Post

27 November 2019 - 5:04pm

Client: I am looking for someone to photograph my family reunion. I need 6 hours. Can you handle this?

Me: I’d be happy to! What date is your family reunion?

Client: My budget is [X]. How can I make a deposit?

Me: You’ll be happy to know then that at my rates I only charge [Y] for event coverage. I can accept cash, cheque, or e-transfer. Do you have an email address I can send the contract to, or would it be easier to meet in person at a cafe?

Client: I will have you know that due to health reasons I need to do this through credit card in person. Can you do this?

Me: Unfortunately I cannot take credit card payments at this time, but I can accept cash, cheque, or e-transfer. Do you have an email address I can send the contract to?

Client: Good, I’ll set you up with a merchant service then.

Red flags start flying up all over the place.

Client: This can easily be set up with your bank. I will give you my credit card and even pay the setup fees with your bank due to my health issues.

Oh yeah, this sounds scammy…

Me: Unfortunately I am unable to setup anything to take credit card payment, but if we can arrange an alternative I’d be happy to do the work. 

I never heard back from the client again. The date of the event came and went and nothing else came of it. Between his insistence on setting up something with my bank and him dodging my requests for an email address to send the contract to, I like to think I dodged a bullet.

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A Win-Win?

27 November 2019 - 2:00pm

I recently discussed an interesting project with a real estate agent. The real estate agents on her team are very comfortably rewarded for the high-end real estate they sell.

Client: I can only pay you part-time, at an hourly rate, for you to market these luxury homes for our team. We need help with Google ads, social media, website development, logos – everything. You’ll be our “go-to” person for all things marketing. We know how important social media and other digital strategies are for gaining maximum exposure. Our clients expect top quality work.

Me: Sounds interesting. The pay you described is pretty low for the work, though.

Client: We have a specific budget allocated for this position. This job is a great stepping stone for someone looking to build their career, though. You will be a very important part of our team.

So, basically, I would be instrumental in gaining leads so they can make a lot of money off of selling the homes, at the lowest possible hourly rate someone would accept.

I’m wondering… how is that pay the best they can do – if they earn steep commissions off of closing the deals on the homes?

Somehow, I don’t think that staring at photos of other people’s luxury lifestyles and interacting with people making a great living off of my marketing work feels too great.

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Plenty of fish in the sea

26 November 2019 - 2:00pm

I have this client who’s a publicist and marketing specialist. He often adds some “graphic design included” packages to sweeten up his deals, and those odd jobs, usually a banner, often fall on my desk. I’ve acquired a few decent clients through him, so it’s fine in the long run, but he’s also the type to say “I just need to know if you can do it or not” immediately after I list all the reasons I said “no” the first time he asked if I could do it.

This time it was an underwater fish themed logo animation. It’s the first animating job I’ve taken with this client.

Client: This looks great! Which version do I show to the client?

Me: …The latest version, of course. Why would you show them versions which they’ve already made revisions and comments on?

Client: The one with the logo swimming as a fish, right? With the blue background?

The whole concept was the logo swimming into position, every version had that. Every version had a blue background.

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To Schedule or Not to Schedule

26 November 2019 - 1:00pm

While working as a contract administrator in a service-based office, there were a lot of chaotic and toxic interactions.

My client hardly left his office and every time I saw him in his office he was playing on his phone.

One particular moment stood out to me as disturbing in my first week.

Client: We can’t take on any new customers at the moment. We don’t have the staff for it.

He said this casually, in passing.

Me: OK.

I received a phone call from a customer who said she was a referral from a different company.

Me: This customer says she is a referral.

Co-worker: Ok, you can schedule her then.

Days later, I was talking to the customer on the phone about her upcoming appointment. I double-checked with a co-worker about the details.

Client: Sorry. We have to tell her we need to take her off the schedule. We shouldn’t have scheduled her. We just can’t do it.

Me: Oh, wow. I guess I have to tell her we can’t take her on.

Obviously, the customer was very upset by all of this and threatened to leave a horrible review about us online. We had to talk to her for half an hour to get her to calm down and get her back on the schedule.

The next day I was visited by another Manager in the office.

Manager: You should not have needed to take her off the schedule to begin with. She was a referral from the company I’ve partnered with, so that was fine to schedule her.

Ummm… the circles of B.S. here are crazy.

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The Narrow-Minded Hiring Method

25 November 2019 - 2:00pm

In a meeting with an attorney who expressed interest in my website development skills as a freelancer, the attorney wanted to know more about my skills and experience.

Client: So, where did you learn web development?

Me: I took online classes and created websites as a hobby, and now it’s my main interest. I do a lot of freelance work.

Client: So you do a lot of freelance work. Are you like a starving artist or something?

Me: Well, freelancing has allowed me to learn a lot of my skills, and work on a variety of projects. It’s going pretty well. 

Client: I mean – why don’t you get a career planner? (he said incredulously)

I guess some people think having a strictly linear career path is the only means to success. 

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User Submitted Post

25 November 2019 - 1:00pm

A project came in for a poster with a few paragraphs of text and a drawing of a medieval peasant plowing a field.

Manager: Here are the Client’s comments. Sorry about this, I’ve already talked him down on a few things.

He hadn’t liked how I’d laid out the text, so instead of saying what he wanted me to change, he printed off my rough, covered the text over with white paper, printed the text out again completely unstyled from Word, cut bits out and taped them down on the print-out. These were his comments

Client: Can the medieval ploughman be standing upright, please?

Client: And why isn’t he smiling?

Medieval peasants: known for their posture and joyful demeanor. 


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Give a gift to the designer in your life — The Designer’s Deck for 20% off!

24 November 2019 - 2:00pm
Give a gift to the designer in your life — The Designer’s Deck for 20% off!

This week’s deal is on a deck of cards that will make you a better designer! It was a smash hit last year, and it’s back again this year for your gift-giving needs! 

> The Design Deck: the fun way to learn design!

Flashcards are a proven way to learn new concepts fast, and poker is a proven way to have fun and MAYBE win some money. That’s win/win/win(?)! This high-quality deck of playing cards features 56 cards, each with a succinct summary of a different design concept, philosophy, or idea so that you can up your game while playing a game. Buy it as a gift for your designer friends, or, and this is shady, give it to your annoying clients so maybe they’ll stop second-guessing you all the freaking time. 

For a limited time, you can save 20% on this beautiful collectable that will make the perfect gift for the designer/s in your life — .or for yourself! Order now in time for the holidays! 

> Check out the deal here.

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How Dare You Question Me!

24 November 2019 - 1:00pm

As a freelancer working with a home improvement business, I was tasked with working with various departments on communications projects. I noticed there were constantly changing “rules” about what people needed to do to provide customer service and meet different department needs.

Throughout the course of a couple of weeks, I learned about tons of ways people had to “check” with each other in order to schedule and document projects – since different people had different ideas about how things should be done. Assumptions, accusations, and customer complaints were common.

The team leader who had been there awhile barely knew how the computer system worked that the team relied on to schedule projects, so he was of little help.

Here’s an example of just one of the many frustrating conversations I had with the client’s staff:

Me: Have you followed up on this customer concern that I sent you an e-mail about a few days ago? The customer called again to follow up and said she hadn’t heard from anyone.

I received a jumbled, confused response:

Client: The customer should know better than to ask about that, I mean, it’s complicated. 

Me: Okay…

Then, someone from the office rushed over to my desk to further explain the issue without any resolution, looking alarmed and angry. I e-mailed the associate again to gain further clarification.

Me: Are you going to call the customer, then?


I might also add that yelling, high-pressure drama, and offensive language was common at this office. I left shortly after.

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Your Vacation != My Vacation

23 November 2019 - 3:30pm

I work for a small company where the boss went on vacation for a week.  He left me with a months worth of projects to complete in that time with the expectation, “see what you can get done in a week.”  Seemed reasonable.  This week he came back.

Me: How was your vacation?

Client: Good.  How was yours?

Me: …um, I wasn’t on vacation.  I was here working on projects.

Client: Well… let’s face it.  When I’m not here, nothing gets done.  Unless you got everything I left you with finished, then you were pretty much on vacation.

Later in the day he dropped hints about removing “some” holidays and/or vacation time to accommodate the “lack of work that got done while he was gone.”

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User Submitted Post

23 November 2019 - 3:00pm

I am a proofreader and a client emailed me about reviewing his first book.

Client: I am a first-time self-publisher and writer looking for a proofreader. I’m writing in the AP style. I am looking to pair with someone just beginning as a proofreader, just as I am starting as a self-published writer.

Me: Great! I’m more experienced than just starting out, but I’d love to help you with your book. Here are my rates. 

Client: Oh, I was just hoping I could proofread something for you in return. 

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User Submitted Post

22 November 2019 - 8:37pm

I was designing a site for a website dealing with school-age kids.

The original placeholder image we used had a gaggle of kids: about 20 Caucasian girls, one Caucasian boy, and two East Asian girls.

Client: That’s not diverse enough.

Me: I agree. Let me see what else I can bring up. 

I found three images that might fit our needs, which the client kindly rated by “diversity.”

The first was a handful of African-American, Caucasian, and East Asian kids, split roughly evenly between boys and girls: 

Client: Maybe diverse enough.

The next had four African-American boys, one Caucasian boy, and one African-American girl: 

Client: That’s more diverse.

The last had three African-American boys: 

Client: That’s the most diverse.

You keep using that word. I do not think you know what it means.

Not one of their images had any Middle Eastern or Latin kids.

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22 November 2019 - 1:03pm

I’m the teacher that puts all the basketball sponsors on the scoreboard during games at the high school. The gymnasium scoreboard isn’t exactly high-res, so image size is usually not a problem. 

Except when a local car dealership (owned by a student’s parent) sent us .gif that was 60 x 31 pixels.

Me: Hi! Could you send me a higher resolution version of your ad for the scoreboard? This one is too small and will show up blurry.

Client: That’s okay, just use that one.

Three days later after the first home basketball game…

Client: My son told me that the logo is so blurry that you can’t even read the name! I WANT THIS CORRECTED IMMEDIATELY.

Angry responses come like clockwork.

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Magic Eyes

21 November 2019 - 2:00pm

I was working an internship for this small company that sells all kinds of cheap products made in China and the boss had me making advertising banners for their many websites. Most of it was typical stuff like promos for sales, holiday/seasonal-themed ones.

The client came over to check on me and I showed him what I had so far.

Client: Hmmm. No. I don’t like any of these pictures. Why don’t you just use Google?

Me: I did. This was the best I could find.

Client: Let me check.

He sat next to me and did a basic Google image search with no Creative Commons filter.

Client: Oh, hey, see? THIS one’s better.

Me: Yeah but that might be copyrighted. If it didn’t show up when I used the Creative Commons filter, that usually means it’s copyrighted.

Client: Naw, I can usually tell whether an image is copyrighted or not. I’ll check it.

He then stared at the image for a few seconds while I watched in disbelief.

Client: Nope! It’s not copyrighted!

Thankfully I found a similar image that WAS okay to use because sorry but I am NOT risking my neck on your “magic vision.”

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Art Director

21 November 2019 - 1:00pm

I was working on a magazine. The client was a bit self-conscious when it came to their image in print. 

Client: I know I’m a bit rosy, but when my headshot goes to print it always looks ridiculously red.

Me: I subtracted as much of the red as I could but it starts to get yellow and washed out if I remove any more. 

Client: But the image appears fine on my screen, it’s just how it looks in print.

Me: Yes, that’s because screens and printers use different color profiles.

Client: But like, significantly redder. 

Me: I can keep adjusting it but it will always look different on screen vs print.

What I would like to say: Sorry to break it to you, but you are that rosy… Please stop worrying about this nonsense and do your job.

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Well okay then

20 November 2019 - 2:00pm

I was working with a corporation to design a poster for a concert they were having at a local venue. I turned their project around extremely quickly and they seemed pleased. The next day I got an email from the coordinator.

Client: Please alphabetize the lineup.

Which is weird, you should have your headliner on top. But two minutes later I get an email that says:

Client: Nevermind, ignore that.”

I pass along the invoice, think everything is great. Two weeks later I get another email.


Me: Which updates are you looking for exactly?

Client: A poster with the alphabetized lineup.

Me: You told me to ignore that email.

Client: That’s not what I meant.

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User Submitted Post

20 November 2019 - 1:00pm

I’m a photographer on the side and was hired by a friend of mine to do some “nice” family photos for a group of nine. Simple enough – but I didn’t realize what kind of family it was. 

I arrived on the day at the client’s house. They’ve started drinking and smoking outside. I set up my equipment and then had to wait 20minutes for them to get changed. I got them to pose for a few shots, during which a bunch of them “hilariously” decided to act up and bare some butts and pull faces. By the time I left at least one family member was passed out. 

Well, because they were pulling shenanigans most of the shots were ruined by “funny” faces or full moons. I did my best to merge several photos in one, and at the end of it all, I had a good collection of images that were fit for print. I sent them off to the client, who then proceeded to criticize every shot and then complained that there weren’t enough (I gave 130 images) and that I was missing several key shots (some due to bare butts and faces) and also demanded to know where the original images were ( i don’t give out my raw images to clients, and that was also mentioned to her previously).

I offered to re-edit the photos and touch up any mistakes which is my policy.

Client: You wasted my time. And you ruined Christmas! 

What? I decided to offer a refund instead and wipe my hands of the entire matter. I’d rather lose some money than deal with them. 

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User Submitted Post

19 November 2019 - 3:00pm

One of my clients referred me to his friend for a new website for his retail store.

I met him at his store and we discussed what he needs and explained everything for almost two hours.

When I gave him an estimate of how much it will cost(very generous) he almost starts shouting.

Client: I am not paying you this much.

Me: Well, for the amount of work involved this is best I can do. You want an eCommerce store that supports 600 products that has to integrate with your POS system. It’s a big job. 

Client: But my wife told me I can make a website with WIX for 20 bucks. You seem like a good guy so I’ll pay you 100 dollars, but I need a website to be ready in a week.

I tried my best but had to say goodbye.

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A great price!

19 November 2019 - 2:00pm

An email I received from a potential client:

Client: We were looking through your credentials and you seem to be exactly what we’re looking for! We have about 35 images that we need to be shopped and edited so that we can create a series to pull from for future campaigns. Just general images, 1024 x 768 pixels, but they definitely need some reworking! We were hoping to have them all done within a month.

We’re currently offering a rate of $3/hour! Does that work for you?

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Google Dead Grandmothers

18 November 2019 - 2:00pm

We sell school management ERP [Enterprise Resource Planning] with the usual modules – Student Administration, Academics, Fees, Library Management, Payroll, etc. The ERP is often customized according to the client’s requirements. For almost all schools, the report cards of the students are customized as per the school’s academic policies.

One school called us up and said that the Report Cards should mention the result as “Incomplete” instead of “Failed” for any student who was absent from exams. No problem, we complied and uploaded the report cards. At the time of the report card generation, we got the following call:

Client: The report cards are showing “Incomplete” for all students who are absent for an exam.

Me: Isn’t that what you wanted?

Client: No! We want students with a GENUINE reason to be absent to earn an incomplete. For instance, a student might have his grandmother died the night before the exam. That’s a real reason! But some students know they will fail the exam, so they don’t come to school on the exam day to get marked absent. We want that the software will mark those absent for a genuine reason as “Incomplete” and mark those intentionally bunking as “Failed.”

Me: You didn’t send us any of that information. How will the software know which students have a genuine reason and who are skipping?

Client: Can’t you find out from the Internet, like Google or something?

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Client was an old class mate that started a new company and wanted a website

18 November 2019 - 1:00pm

Client: I want a website for my company with all these features. I have a $2000 budget , send me a proposal.

Me: Here is how much it will cost for your website. I’ll need a monthly retainer for hosting and maintenance.

Six months later:

Client: I can’t pay you in full but here is $500 to tide you over. I still want these features done, and a logo and for you to set up emails too.

One year later (No payments for the balance of original work, $0 payments for retainer):

Client: I’m going to bring you on as a consultant and pay you $50k per year to manage our website

Two years later (yesterday, no payments for the balance of original work, $0 payments for retainer):

Client: My emails no longer work, I’m in the process of finalizing a million-dollar deal WTF!

Me: Your domain name is expired. You need to send me money to pay for it,

Client: WTF! I’m going to sue you if you don’t renew the domain by Monday.

Please sue me. I want this hell to be over with.

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