Clients from Hell

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Horror stories from freelancers
Updated: 1 hour 34 min ago

What are your REAL rates?

5 May 2021 - 2:00pm

Client: What are your rates?

Me: They’re clearly stated on my website.

Client: Yeah, but what are your REAL rates?

Me: The ones on my website.

Client: Really? I thought everyone marked up prices online to make it seem like a deal when you give a discount.

Me: Maybe that’s a sales tactic, but I’m not really in sales.

Client: Oh. Would you consider giving me a discount anyway? 

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Business stuff

4 May 2021 - 4:00pm

I’m a freelance designer, working on a local businessman’s website.  The client wanted 4 or 5 pages on the site, but never specified what he wanted on each page other than a title.

Me: In terms of design, I think I’ve finished everything you’ve asked me to do. Go ahead and take a look at what I’ve uploaded and let me know if you need any final tweaks before we wrap things up.

Client: Well I looked at it, but there’s no text on any of the pages!

Me: That’s right – you didn’t give me any content to put on the site. You wanted to do that yourself, remember?

Client: Well it needs something on there! Just write some stuff about my business!

Me: I’d be happy to add text for you, but you need to tell me what you’d like me to write.  I don’t know anything about your business other than that you repair HVAC units.

Client: I don’t know, just like…  stuff about my business. 

Me: Okay… how long have you been in business?  Are you insured, licensed, bonded, or registered with the Better Business Bureau?  Do you have a business address or a PO Box number or anything you can tell me about to add to the site?  What kinds of units do you have experience repairing?  Are you trying to reach a residential crowd, or a commercial one, or both?  

Client: I don’t want to give out any of that information.  I accept credit card payments though!

From the Clients From Hell archives!

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Relationship

4 May 2021 - 3:00pm

I work as an editor at a production company catering to charities. A client had demanded a film be delivered in 4 days, from a standing start. It was rough, but with a lot of late nights and some work over the weekend, I pulled it off – and the result was worth it. The video was warm, full of heart and human stories, and it really showed the excellent relationship this client had with their service users overseas.

But good things don’t last…

Client: We love the film! It really shows our strategic relationship-based approach…hey, that should be the title! A Relationship-Based Approach.

Client 2: No, that won’t do.

Me: (inwardly) Thank god.

Client 2: We should call it A Relational Rather Than Transactional Approach!

Me: *groans*

I tried talking them out of it, but they were adamant. With those 6 words, they  sucked all the joy and warmth out of the video.

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Lost minute change

4 May 2021 - 2:00pm

I’d designed packaging for a client, and after final approval had sent the design to the printer with a greenlight to start printing.

Client: I had a second thought – could we change the wording on this tagline?

Me: No. No! It’s being printed as we speak!

Client: Are you sure? It’s a really small change. 

 

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One month to begin, three days to start over.

3 May 2021 - 4:00pm

I work at a Land Development/Management firm in Corporate Planning, but since I am the only one there who can also do graphic design (because I’m a professional freelance graphic designer in my free time too), I was tasked to do the annual report. I was their de facto Photoshop person cum writer. I started writing for the 2014 Annual report and doing the layout for it in December of 2013. I then submitted the entire thing in January 2014 to my then boss because I knew it needed to be printed and released during the stockholder’s meeting in April 2014. I waited two months, but got no reply, so I submitted it again, March 18th, 2014. Still no reply. 

I waited for months, still no reply. I had assumed that they moved on with their lives and didn’t need it anymore.

Come September, my boss calls me into her office. She was holding another company’s Annual Report. She asked the other offices to get that for her so just she could provide some “inputs” to my design.

Then she asked me to redesign the whole thing, and sort of “copy” the look of the other company’s Annual Report and finish it in 3 days. As you can imagine, I wanted to kill her. It took me a month to do the previous incarnation and then it took her nine months to comment, then she asks me to redo the whole thing.

From the Clients From Hell archives!

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Your project baby > my literal baby

3 May 2021 - 3:00pm

I’m a ghostwriter, and I was working with a client who kept hiring me for mini contracts to edit his chapters. He also recently became my lowest-paying client after I raised all my rates, and had insisted on lots of annoying extras like long rambling video meetings, so I wasn’t exactly sad to see him go. 

Me: Hello, [client]. I just wanted to update you on something that is going to affect my work going forwards. I’ve recently found out I’m pregnant! Although I’m so happy, it does mean I now need to carefully schedule my time for the next six months before I go on maternity leave, and unfortunately I can only fit in the work I already have contracted going forwards. That means I won’t be able to work on your project any longer. 

I’m paraphrasing… My actual letter was much more polite and apologetic. I signed off with recommendations for alternatives and wished him the best with the project.

Client: Okay. I can wait. Can you fit me in after six months? You’re still going to be doing a bit of work on maternity leave, right?

No, dude. I’m not going to be working on your book while I’m literally in hospital giving birth. Wow.

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CHANGE SOME TEXT ON MY SITE

3 May 2021 - 2:00pm

I had a client for a website that was a total pain… calling every day at least 1-2 times with a question or a small modification. The last one was the greatest:

Client: I need a small text to be modified…

Me: Sure… I’m already on the website… what would you need?

Client: Can you cut two letters from the domain name? We thought it would look nicer…

Me: No, that’s impossible. We need to order another domain.

Client: But I already ordered business cards…

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The Big Book of Font Combinations — $13!

2 May 2021 - 4:00pm

This week’s deal is on an invaluable resource for designers  — The Big Book of Font Combinations!

> This is useful whether you’re an expert or a newbie designer.

The Big Book of Font Combinations is a historic deep dive into the font pairings that have defined design since Gutenberg created his print press, delivered as a 100% Vector, fully searchable PDF! This text features 370 pages PACKED with inspirational combinations that will make you a better designer! Learn about the history of your craft, or just shamelessly swipe combo ideas from the greatest designers history has ever known. 

The Big Book of Font Combinations retails for $25, but for just a few more days you can save 48% and only pay $13. That’s a small price for a resource you’ll use time and time again. 

> Check out the deal here.

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Pike Fishing in Denali

2 May 2021 - 3:00pm

I was designing a Kindle Direct book for a client. We’d gotten proofs, but there was an issue with the cover.

Me: Yeah, looking at the screenshot, it is not a bleed issue, it is 100% a pagecount issue. I’ll need the updated pagecount from you to continue. 

Client: KDP got back to me, with page count (518).

This was on Friday, right before the end of the day. Then, on Saturday:

Client: How’s going with the re-sizing of the cover, now that you have the page count and the exact dimensions from KDP?

Later that day:

Client: What’s up, is fixing the cover harder than you thought? Or are you pike fishing in Denali? I hope you’re okay.  

On Sunday. 

Client: Okay, unless you are on life support or molesting some uncontacted tribe in Papua New Guinea, you owe me some kind of response today. My next move, since I have nothing to useful from the contract for a paperback cover, will be to appeal to Reedsy for a way to complete the project.

Me: Hello, I am sorry but I was away for the weekend, I have had some very tight deadlines before that. I am working currently on 20+ different projects so I can’t always get to things like this immediately. I will have it for you shortly though. I have finished everything on my part, an I even did the print cover twice. I have done changes after they were agreed upon. I know that you are new to this, but if you look at it from my side, you have sent me two incorrect pagecounts, which means I need to to the whole resizing process over again. Also, what do you mean “molesting an uncontacted tribe in Papua New Guinea”? That is completely uncalled for and honestly very rude.

Client: It meant you might be offline. Sorry if you thought I really believe that you are an eco-tourist. Not sending a short acknowledgement that you got my emails is also a breach of etiquette. For all I knew you were fed up with the whole project and decided to let it slide, or drop its priority to #21, leaving me to my own resources. Thanks for the file; I’ll submit it and see if it flies. If it doesn’t I’ll let you know, but I think this time I’ll just use the front cover and do my own with one of their templates.

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I’m entitled – entitled to pay.

2 May 2021 - 2:00pm

Client: Your generation is so entitled and doesn’t know the value of hard work.

This after I’d sent them a reminder to pay my invoice – literally what I was entitled to for my hard work. 

And how his “deciding you don’t have to pay on time” not entitled? 

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Animated Logo

1 May 2021 - 4:00pm

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 simpler – see 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?

From the Clients From Hell archives! 

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Really?!

1 May 2021 - 3:00pm

I worked on an hour-long video and sent it to the client.

Client: Looks great!

Me: Thanks! Let me know if you have any changes by tonight. Otherwise, I will not be able to make any changes as I will not be near a computer until tomorrow night. 

Client: I am sure there will be some changes. If you can’t get to them, the supervisor can make those edits. 

Me: …

P.S. the supervisor has never opened a video editing program ever in her life, let alone able to open and re-edit a one-hour video timeline. 

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Reference photos aren’t for reference

1 May 2021 - 2:00pm

A client reached out to me for my photography services. They said they absolutely loved my photography style and wanted me to create some photos for them for their website and Instagram. I work in 4 hour slots. I said I could do between 2 to 3 photos in an hour and they were fine with that.

They sent me 11 recipes to photograph knowing that I could do between 8 to 12 in the allotted time slot. They kept promising me many more photo shoots for the next few years. So far so good but red flags started showing up pretty early.

For one, the client insisted on talking to me on the phone as opposed to emails. I spent more than 2-3 hours talking to them. 

I sent a detailed questionnaire about what they wanted or not wanted in the photos. The client insisted that there are no props or colors I cannot use. Said everything is at my discretion and I have full artistic license. Only asked for the photos to be slightly zoomed out so that they can be cropped in different ways for different platforms.

I asked to be sent reference photos so that I could at least see what they liked. I received a couple dozen of photos that were all nice and pretty but had nothing in common. Some had more props some less, some were light some dark, some were very minimalistic, some were really colourful. Different angles, different styles. So I confirmed with them that I should create a variety of different styles also. They agreed.

Photo shoot went well and I was very happy with the photos. I was able to get 8 recipes in those 4 hours. Since they promised me a lot more photo shoots, I went ahead and finished the other 3 recipes that took me another 2 hours.

I sent them the photos and the invoice where I clearly marked that I provided extra 2 hours of work at no charge. (Big mistake)

Suddenly, the client who was super chatty and kept calling me at all hours, got all tight lipped. I figured something was wrong. After a few days finally talked to them. All of a sudden the person stopped saying “I” and changed to “we” and “the team”. And “the team” didn’t like most of the photos. Things that were wrong:

– I shouldn’t have used blue (blue is one of my favourite colours in food photography and most of my portfolio that they supposedly loved had blue)

– I shouldn’t have used white plates

– I shouldn’t have used grey metal plates

– I shouldn’t have used coloured and patterned plates

(at this point I got super confused as short of putting food directly on the table I don’t know what other plates I could have used)

– I had too many props

– I had not enough props

– there was not enough “pop” and I should add more “pop” (I don’t even know what “pop” meant in that case)

After the conversation I went back to those few emails we had as they insisted on talking on the phone and wrote a detailed response with examples. I pointed out that they said I had no restrictions in terms of colours and props. I showed how photos could potentially have more “pop” as they are cropped for various social media platform. I went ahead and showed my photos side by side with the reference photos they sent.

Their response was: “If reference photos were supposed to be taken literally then we should have discussed every photo over the phone”

They then started demanding reshoots and even before I responded to it started saying that they won’t pay for reshoots. I actually have no problems doing reshoots if the client is nice but they were aggressive and rude. I asked which photos they’d like to reshoot. It turned out that after all their disappointment and terrible feedback they actually only wanted 3 photos to be redone. I said sure, but since 3 photos were provided for free, I’ll update the invoice to reflect that it’s no longer free.

All of a sudden they didn’t need any reshoots. We obviously aren’t working together again. And yes, they are using my photos on their Instagram. 

I am still unsure how I was supposed to take reference photos if not literally.

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It’s all your fault

30 April 2021 - 4:00pm

I do IT consulting.  Sometimes we have clients who just have a habit of clicking on anything shiny that catches their eye.  When that happens we have to spend a lot of time cleaning up the damage.  So we had a meeting with the client about this:

Client: This is all your fault.

Me: I beg your pardon?

Client: Yeah, you didn’t stop him from clicking on that email.

Me: Remember last winter, when you demanded that he be given admin rights and I advised against it, and you insisted?  Remember how I wrote you an email saying that unqualified people having those rights is dangerous?  Here is the email.  Do you remember?

Client: Yeah but you should have stopped him.

Me: I should have stopped him???

Client: Yes, I blame you.

Me: I am confused. Do you think I should have stopped a grown man from clicking on an organ enlargement email from 8,000 miles away at 2:35 AM my time? Or do you think I should have stopped him from checking his email with admin rights like I said?

I got taken off the account when I got fed up and answered the phone and said “What happened, and how is it my fault?”

Life is better when I stop expecting people to be reasonable.

What’s the most memorable time it was “all your fault?

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“To hell” is technically “another direction.”

30 April 2021 - 3:00pm

Me: Okay, I worked all weekend but I think it was worth it. I completed the entire project to schedule, and personally, I’m really happy with the results.

Client: Hey, sorry, I meant to message you a week ago but I got sidetracked. We’re going in another direction. 

If that direction was “straight to hell,” I would have applauded their foresight. 

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Training the trainer to train the trainer?

30 April 2021 - 2:00pm

I do HR consulting, with a focus on helping businesses establish training and development programs for their employees. I also do a bit of generalist HR consulting such as remuneration, performance management, etc. but my main business is training and development. Because of the pandemic, work has been slow so I started working night doing some lecturing at a local university.

I had one large business that is in the community services industry who I had been consulting with in performance management for the better part of two years. The Chief Operating Officer was very happy with my work (or so I thought), and we had a chat just before Christmas about what the next twelve months will look like for them. 

COO: Next year, we are looking into developing our training programs for staff. We really want to make sure our staff are getting the best training possible.

Me: That’s actually my area of expertise. I’d love to work with you on that!

COO: Oh, well we’ll keep that in mind. We’ve actually hired another company to manage it, though. We know it’s out of area for them so they’re charging us well over $100k for it. We are expecting big things from it though – we know they can handle it!

I found out the name of the other company that was hired. They are a hospitality business that offers catering for events and does minor hospitality industry training on the side.

Fast forward to this year, and I meet with the COO to ask how things are progressing with what areas they need me for the coming six months. We begin discussing the business generally, and I ask how the training and development side of things are going.

COO: Not as great as we had hoped. We have needed to pay them another $75k because they keep complaining that the work we’re asking them to do is out of their scope. Apparently they all need some special training.

Tonight I had my first lesson teaching intro in training and development. There were at least four people from this hospitality business present – two of them in chefs uniforms looking dead on their feet, falling asleep. Given I would have charged the large business about half of the $175k they have shelled out for their training programs, something tells me that they will be struggling to see value for money anytime soon.

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Why change dummy content for a dummy client?

29 April 2021 - 4:00pm

Client: The design is great, let’s go ahead with it.

Me: Yeah sure, as long as there are no further amendments?

Client: No, I love it!

Me: Okay, but I am *still* waiting on content from you. I will build it with dummy content.

One week later, when the site was built:

Me: Here is the site. Can you please review it and give me any feedback that you have. Please bear in mind that you still need to provide the correct content.

Client: Site looks great, can we go live?

Me: No, the content has not been fully delivered yet so the site is littered with dummy content. Please can you provide the content you would like and all the testimonials please?

Client: But can we not go live with how it is, and add in the content and testimonials later? I like the testimonials as they are.

Me: *Head* *Desk*

From the Clients From Hell archives!

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I want a premium branding but I don’t want to pay

29 April 2021 - 3:00pm

Client: I want premium branding for my business so I can target high-end customers and charge more.

I sent a proposal with the price for the standard branding package. Not “premium” – STANDARD.

Client: No, that’s too high. 

 

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You up?

29 April 2021 - 2:00pm

I made the mistake of not turning my phone to “silent” before going to bed. Suddenly, at 2:34 AM, it started vibrating off my nightstand with messages from a client requesting revisions I’d asked for three days prior.

Me: I’ll take a look at these in the morning.

Client: Oh good, you’re up! Any chance you can take a look right now? 

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The only thing running out of red ink is your teacher’s pen 20 years ago

28 April 2021 - 4:00pm

Client: If you use a dark red frame around the website on each webpage, won’t the screen run out of red screen ink?

From the Clients From Hell archives!

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