Clients from Hell

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Horror stories from freelancers
Updated: 40 min 11 sec ago

Sample Situation

26 May 2019 - 1:00pm

Client: I would just like a couple of samples first.

Me: I don’t provide free samples of my work.

Client: Not “free samples,” just samples because I don’t want to pay.

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Client wanted 8 hours of my time + my soul for the price of 30 minutes.

26 May 2019 - 1:00pm

I have a culture-specific side business where I sing and lead singing folk songs for a pre-wedding event for Punjabi/Pakistani/Indian weddings. When I first started, one of my first queries was from someone who said they were looking for performers for her friend’s (the bride’s) event. We spoke at length, and she asked me to send them videos of me singing/performing. I advised that I was having a reel made, but for the time being, if they wished, I could make a video of me singing so they could get an idea as to what I sounded like. She agreed. My phone at the time was terrible, but I recorded two decent videos of myself singing so they could hear my voice, the types of songs I sing, my pronunciation, etc. etc.

I got the following e-mail from the husband:

Client: We are still working on some minor details with the hosts and hence the delay. We should be able to close it out this week and will pay you your deposit. In the interim, please send across your service agreement so I can review the same. Can you please share 2 references and some videos where you have performed in an actual event? The videos you sent were very dark and also not what we were looking for.

I sent them my agreement. They e-mailed asking to meet and we went back and forth, with them changing the appointment time last minute, and also clarifying that they’d wanted videos of me performing elsewhere. I advised that I could provide references, but couldn’t get them the types of videos they requested prior to our meeting. When I sent an e-mail re: my fees, I got a call from the wife asking me to eliminate the travel fee. We finally ended up meeting at my office for my main business on a weekend. They expressed their displeasure at the videos I sent them and clarified that they wanted video of me performing at another person’s event:

Client: Basically we want proof that other people have paid you for this service.

Yes, they said this.

Notes about my agreement at the time: My particular service is/was new in the area, so there isn’t really a market rate, but my rate at the time was lower than musicians/other singers hired for similar events. I charged a flat fee for an hour-long performance plus a travel fee based on how far I had to travel, and a stipulation that the client pays for parking – all fairly standard. I also required a 50% deposit to hold the date. This particular event was to be held a two-hour drive away from me so my travel fee was $50 to cover gas/tolls. But like I said, the wife haggled me out of my travel fee prior to our meeting.

The meeting itself was pretty exhausting, but it basically came out that the husband and wife have a band (they both sing) and they’d been hired by their friend to take care of the entertainment for the event. They were given a certain budget, the bride requested a traditional folk singer, and they had been haggling with me in order to keep their margins.

After our meeting I received the following from the husband:

Client: Thanks for your time the other day. I did a review of the service contract and would like to suggest a few changes.

  1. Please change the duration of the performance to 2 hours from the start of the performance. I will confirm the exact start time to the extent possible but as you are aware, it is an Indian wedding which typically follows IST

Time Zones

24 May 2019 - 2:00pm

Client: You can’t charge me for cancelling that meeting; you didn’t respond to my email requesting confirmation. 

Me: For one, I confirmed the day before, as we normally do. For another, you sent that email four hours before our meeting, which is 2am my time, and then canceled two hours after that. 

Client: I sent that email at noon my time, which is a perfectly reasonable time to expect a reply. I work with people all over the world and cannot be expected to keep track of YOUR time zone. It is not my problem that you were not available to respond timely. 

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Interior Designer, digital specialist

24 May 2019 - 1:00pm

I always thought it was a myth but it finally happened to me:

Client: Can you turn the photo around so we can see behind where the photographer is standing?

To be fair, they were thinking of the time we used Google walkthrough to double-check some details on the property and thought we could do the same with a photo, but I laughed out loud.  It was not well received.

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User Submitted Post

23 May 2019 - 2:00pm

After sending a fixed quotation based on the scope of work that needs to be done I get this.

Client: I will agree to the quote below if:

  1. It is inclusive of all work and changes that will need to be done on both the app and the website
  2. It includes all work on the app and website with changes for a period of 1 year.

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You’re the expert, but I know better

23 May 2019 - 1:00pm

I got contacted by a 70+ man who wanted to publish his book. He asked for a quote and the terms for working with my publishing house. I gave him a good price but he decided to go with someone else because they were pushy, even though they gave him a higher price for ONLY the printing services.

A week later:

Client: We want a reprint. This time we will do it with you, because we like the way your books look. We will send you our previous layout and cover so you can have a starting point.

Me: Great! I’ll submit to you in a couple of days a new layout, something that looks a bit more 2019.

Client: Well, we used as inspiration this book

He sent me a cover of a book published in 2004. 

Anyway, I sent a layout and three new covers and told him we’d be using a serif font throughout the book. He agreed with the layout and design so we started working on preparing the book for print.

Two days later:

Client: Mr. publisher, we liked your layout, but we want you to change it a bit. Serif fonts are hard to read, we should use sans serif.

Note: he had no idea what those words meant a week ago and now knows better than me on the subject.

Client; Also, about the cover. We like yours, but my son said we should use the old one. Yours is a bit reddish and we think the beige version was a bit warmer.

That moment when you realize that the color red isn’t warm enough.

Client: Oh, and my name has to be in italics on the cover. It is a must!

Me: So we should reprint the book the way it was before.

Client: Yes, but we hope they will look as good as your books.

Then let me design them! Argh! 

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User Submitted Post

22 May 2019 - 3:00pm

I work as a copywriter at a digital marketing agency. One of our most-hated clients is known for making “urgent” requests, and then changing every aspect about the request once we’ve completed it. 

Client: We need you to provide us with two months of social media content ASAP. 

Me: Okay. What are you focusing on in the next two months? What do you want me to push or avoid?

Client: The same stuff as you’ve been doing!

Me: (knowing this is about to go very wrong) Okay.

Me: Okay, it’s all done. I spent six hours straight on it and did a lot of research and dove into your analytics to see where your audience is coming from, so the content is pretty fresh and targeted. What do you think?

Client: This is NOT what we want! Why didn’t you write anything at all about the new campaign that we just figured out that we’re launching? Or our offsite events that we just decided to have? What about Twitter copy? In our in-house meeting we had ten minutes ago, we made a Twitter account! Why have you left that out?

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User Submitted Post

22 May 2019 - 2:00pm

A client wanted me to design a Super Sixteen birthday party for her autistic, anime-loving son. I was excited to help suck a great cause, so I submitted a full-on anime proposal with activities, decor, entertainment and refreshments.

Client: I want the kids to bring gifts to donate to a charity for abused and neglected children.

Me: Great, okay!

Client: And I think we should invite the abused/neglected kids to the party.

Me: Okay, but they’re going to range from toddlers to teens.

Client: The party invitations need to say that the dress code is black tie.

Me: The abused/neglected kids probably aren’t going to have access to that kind of clothing, and they might feel out of place if everyone else is dressed up.

Client: ….

Client: Oh, and since the party is in December, I want the color scheme to be red and green. You didn’t have any holiday decor in your proposal, and I want christmas decorations everywhere.

Me: Your deposit refund is in the mail.

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Time management is EVERYTHING: Glenn Rogers on avoiding burnout

21 May 2019 - 7:15pm
Time management is EVERYTHING: Glenn Rogers on avoiding burnout

Are you constantly exhausted? Do you find yourself staring at the computer screen struggling to finish projects that should be easy?

Burnout happens when you overcommit, and when you don’t keep track of the time you’re spending. In today’s episode, Glenn Rogers of Float shares his tips on why it’s so important to recognize your limits and keep track of the time you are spending on work. 

Remember: all the work in the world is of no use if you’re drowning!

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.

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User Submitted Post

21 May 2019 - 2:00pm

I work in the AV department at a University and we provide emergency support if something goes wrong mid-lecture.

I received a call from an academic who was known for berating you in front of her students, saying that we needed to come immediately to her class as the document camera – the device that projects papers from a tray onto a screen – wasn’t working. She complained that the image was warped when projected. This was common enough of a complaint that we had signs on the cameras explaining how to fix it. I tried to explain over the phone, but she insisted that there wasn’t a sign and that I needed to assist her in person.

I headed to her class and she started berating me in front of her students. I noticed the camera was tilted and the sign was there. I moved the camera back to its standard position and the warping was immediately fixed.

Me: There you go, fixed.

Client: What? That’s not fixed. Look, it’s still warped. Isn’t it?

That last question was addressed to her students, who responded with blank looks and silence.

She finally told me to leave after threatening to complain to the faculty head.

The next week it happened again. This time she did make a complaint to the faculty head, who complained to the skeptical IT Director, who instructed us to replace the document camera. We complied.

The following week the exact same thing happened. We were ordered to replace the document camera. We complied.

Another week, exact same thing. We were ordered to replace the document camera, but we’d run out because all of them were “faulty.” We were at loss as what to do… until one of my colleagues jokingly said that we could put the original back in the room.

That’s exactly what we did.

The next week I was nervously awaiting her call and right on cue, she called. I went to the classroom expecting my weekly humiliation.

I entered the lecture, which was mid-way through the class and full of students.

Client: Come and take a look at this document camera, I want to show you something.

Me: Okay?

She pointed at the screen, which seemed to be working well – as well as it was when I fixed it weeks prior.

Client: Notice anything?

Me: Uh… it looks good? 

Client: Exactly! I just wanted to show you how this SHOULD work! Now, can’t you see how much better that is? Why was this so hard?

Me: I’m glad you’re happy.

Client: This is how it should have been from the beginning!

We told the IT Director what we did. It was agreed to never be spoken of again.

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Why I don’t respond to tender requests

21 May 2019 - 1:00pm

My company was asked to act as point of sale for a school board purchase of 300 computers.  The distributor did all the work but had me submit it as my own bid that they would supply.  A pretty easy gig for me until it was discovered that the tender date had been moved up by several weeks.  In a mad rush, I drove the documents an hour out of town to submit in person.

A few weeks later, I found out we didn’t win the bid.  I called and asked if there was a process to help us to submit a more competitive bid next time.  I was informed that while there was a process, it wouldn’t be of any use to me as my tender contained different items than all the other bids.

Confused, I asked how we could have made such a mistake and was told that they handed out a dozen different packages, each with different specs.  No two bids contained the same specs.

They were just going through the motions so that they could pretend it was a fair process.  They’d picked the vendor weeks before the tender went out.

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Try elsewhere

20 May 2019 - 2:00pm

A long-standing client emailed me, asking for an estimate for a piece of work.  

The work probably would run to around two days, including a bit of research.

Me: I’ll estimate the project will come to £800.

Client: I can only afford £250.

The thing is, this guy is an ex-developer himself on this platform, and so he knows how long things take. He was hiring me because he was very rusty.

Me: Tell you what, you do the research and I can do the rest in a day for £400.

Client: I can only afford £250.

Now, I happened to know that this client liked cars and quite a collection, so he wasn’t exactly hurting financially. 

Me: Tell you what. I could do with a new car.  Nip to the Porsche dealer, and see what you can get for £250, and I’ll take that as payment.

He paid the £800, but he grumbled about it forever.


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User Submitted Post

20 May 2019 - 1:00pm

Client: I need you to edit this logo so that it does not have the little “R” Restricted symbol.


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Get an insane 2000+ design resources for only $12 at 99% off!

19 May 2019 - 2:00pm
Get an insane 2000+ design resources for only $12 at 99% off!

This week’s deal is on an incredible amount of gorgeous elements.

> Seriously, there’s a whole lot of variety here. 

Illustrations, brushes, watercolors, textures, business cards, patterns, backgrounds, objects, actions… You could spend a happy afternoon just going through this bundle and imagining all the things you could do with it. Wanted to give a summery watercolor vibe? This has got you covered. Want to sell people on pumpkin-spice lattes in the fall? There are a host of elements for that here too. Honestly, just the watercolor swatches ALONE are worth the price

Everything in this bundle would normally sell for $1600 at under a dollar per element, but for the next week, all 2000+ are just $12. That’s a laughable price for this amount of great stuff. Sell one design with one element and it’s already paid for itself.

> Check out the deal here. 

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MP4 or Bust

19 May 2019 - 1:00pm

Client: I need you to convert these .mpg videos to .mp4 so that the sound will come through.

Me: These videos don’t have sound. I can put a soundtrack in the background if you want, but just changing them to .mp4 won’t make a difference.

Client: Ok, no, don’t worry about it. We will use them as-is.

The next day: 

Client: We need these .mpg videos converted to .mp4 so that we can run them as a loop.


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Dad from Hell

18 May 2019 - 2:00pm

Client: (on Monday) Hey I’m opening a new restaurant on Thursday, I need you to make an 8-page menu in time for opening. 

Me: (internally) Hmm. That’s a one and a half day turnaround if he wants it sent to the printer in time for opening. If I work like crazy I think I can pull it off. 

Client: Also I expect you to be at work all day because we’re short of staff at the moment. 

Me: Please ready my funeral, I’ll be dead by Thursday.

Twist: the client is my dad. 

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User Submitted Post

18 May 2019 - 1:04pm

Client: You’re not making any updates to the site! I keep refreshing and nothing changes!

Me: Oh, I’m sorry, I should have told you that you need to clear your browser cache to see these updates. Here’s how to do it.

Client: Do you expect my customers to know how to do this? You need to make updates that work without clearing cache!

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These microphones are amazing, right?

17 May 2019 - 2:00pm

As part of my duties, I run a small voice recording studio for the company I work for. We were once chasing a deadline and the voice artist the client chose could not make it in time to record some additional content. 

Me: The voice artist cannot make it on the day we hoped. We will have to manage it with the client and bump the deadline.

Client: Is there really nothing we can do? I don’t like moving deadlines we’ve agreed to. 

Me: No. She is not available. But she can be here a day later. I’d say we just communicate with the client that due to the voice artist they want not being available in time, we’ll have to move the deadline by one day. 

Client: Hmmm. I have an idea!

Me: yes?

I waited for some sci-fi cloning suggestion. 

Client: Text her the lines she needs to say. Then, call her, and hold the phone close to the microphone and just record her saying the lines over the phone. Those mics are great! It shouldn’t be a problem and you’d barely notice. 

Me: (blinking)…




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Money is against our ethos

17 May 2019 - 1:00pm

A potential client was praising my portfolio and seemed really keen to get started. They seemed a bit too nice, but then sent this:

Client: As a company, we believe that money is never the answer. That’s our company ethos.

I’m not quite sure how they’re still in business, but hey.

Client: Each piece of work you’ll provide, we’ll send our thanks. Could you send some samples because we’ve been disappointed with previous designers. They seem to leave projects unfinished when we say we’re not going to pay money. I’m sure they’ve got real jobs anyway so it’s just a bit of fun.


Me: Why wouldn’t you want to pay a designer?

Client: They work for us, not vice-versa. They should be proud to work for a successful company like ours. Are you interested in this exciting opportunity? 

Kindly declined.

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User Submitted Post

16 May 2019 - 2:00pm

This client was a friend of my uncle and had a small dental practice website that he wanted to redo. I thought it would be a quick job, but it ended up taking 14 months. Near the end, he started getting ridiculous.

Client: The site looks pretty good, but when you zoom in 300% on Firefox, the font starts to look a little jagged. Can you fix?

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