Clients from Hell
I work for a digital advertising company as a designer. I recently worked on a campaign for a large client that wanted to run a flyer-style ad with 3-5 products that would be cycled out every week depending on the deal, running for about 10 weeks.
We started work on the ads for week one… but the client wouldn’t give us a finalized list of the products in time to go live. We wound up scrapping this week and moved to the next.
The ads for week two were promoting a limited-time deal… except I realized that by the time the client approved it, that deal would only be valid for one day. I pointed that out to the client and we agreed to scrap it.
Week three became “feedback hell,” because they realized the product names and pricing THEY PROVIDED were all wrong. I rushed to make the changes in time but every time I finished them they’d add more revisions. Strapped for time, we negotiated to reduce the number of ads so we could go live faster.
Right before going live with that week’s ads, I got ANOTHER round of revisions… for the ads we agreed we weren’t going to run at all.
An email exchange I just had:
Client: The business card you designed is TERRIBLE. The background is bad, the fonts are ugly and the general layout is just unappealing. You have no sense of taste. We are paying you a lot of money but you give us this crap? I’m CCing the CEO on this so he knows what I think.
Me: I didn’t make this design. Your CEO did. He just asked me to print it.
He didn’t reply, but I wish I could have seen the look on his face when he got my response.
Client: Can you digitize this image?
Me: Of course.
Client: Do it in InDesign.
Me: Uh… that’s not really the right tool for the job but if you insist.
Client: Great! I actually made it in Illustrator but I want it in InDesign.
Me: Why do you need me to digitize it if there’s an Illustrator file?
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I’m a graphic designer. I created all the print pieces for my wedding, spending weeks perfecting them all. They were a hit, and the wedding went great.
My best friend is also getting married and she asked me to design her invitation suite. I thought it was weird she didn’t have me design the day of pieces as well but I figured she must’ve just purchased them cheaply or something.
I showed up to the wedding, a wedding where I am the maid of honor, and my jaw dropped. Every graphic and custom print piece I created for MY wedding was ripped off and remade by another designer. The sad thing is I would’ve helped her remake them had she just asked. Sometimes, even your best friend can be a client from hell.
I have worked with some ridiculous clients over the years but a recent one takes the prize.
Client: I want all of the home page to be shown at the same time without the visitor having to scroll.
That would be fine, except the client insisted on jamming a crazy amount of content into the home page.
Me: If you look at most sites online, you’ll find some scrolling is normal unless there is very little content on the page. I think scrolling is preferable to making the content and layout so small that it’s entirely unreadable/unusable.
Client: Yes, make it all small.
Client: Do it.
After trying to contact a client for two months about a 20-hour retainer that was purchased but not used I received this email:
Client: I am tired of paying every time I want work done. How much will it be to have a tutorial so I can have my employee do it?
Me: I’m sorry, it’s actually the other way around. You already paid your 20-hour retainer two months ago. I’m asking you to send me work.
Client: Then how come you keep sending me emails about more invoices?
Me: The last invoice I sent you was for the two months ago. The rest have been asking if you have something for me to do, not invoices.
Client: My employee will be in at 11 AM to do the tutorial.
Me: Before I finish your template I need the fonts you’re going to use. Please make sure they’re PC.
Client: I’m confused. What are PC fonts?
Me: They are fonts that are PC-compatible.
After some back and forth:
Client: (flustered) I just don’t understand why the fonts have to be politically correct! What is this country coming to?
I’m a freelance writer. One day I was contacted on Skype by a client. I was too busy to accept the work and told them so politely, but they insisted. Eventually, I agreed because it was a short article.
This is our conversation after I delivered the article:
Client: What is your experence in content writting service 100% you write unique all is fake and use spin article i know you have a no idea for this topic to writen very poor content you write
Me: Excuse me?
Client: all is spin contnet what is this
Client: you write
Client: i told You alredy i need unque good gramer and new points
We develop and maintain websites for our customers.
We have one client who owns a hotel. She proofs our copy in Word, then prints out that document and sends it us via fax.
We receive all faxes as emails, adding another note of redundancy.
We’re used to this, but just now instead of forwarding us an email, she printed it out and faxed it to us.
How to get fired as a client before we even start:
Me: And what is your spending expectation?
Client: Yeah, I’m gonna leave that up to you. You know, I’m a photographer too and I’ve done this a hundred times. I know what it costs so I’m going to let you come up with your number and I’ll tell you if we’re a good fit. I’ve put out numbers before and people are like “I can’t do it for that. Ahhhhh. Noooo.” You know, I just don’t want to hear any of that.
Me: So, you are asking for my time and energy to create a proposal but won’t give me a budget?
Client: You know what? I don’t think this is going to work out, bro.
Me: I think you’re right, “bro.”
I was hired by a new “Business and Life Coach” to make some very light layout adjustments to three short books in Word. Each book was 95% identical content and had the same title but with different endings, for [X], for [Y], for [Z] each targetting a different group for her business.
It was a pretty easy job. She wanted a logo added to the title pages, some titles to be changed, formatting to be unified, etc. It was a small job I could do in a few hours. I included one round of revisions in her fixed price.
(I’ve included her original spellings and grammar to give a sense of the correspondence).
Me: Here’s the three files and a checklist of what I did. Remember, you have one round of revisions included.
Client: I’ve had a terrible week!! I will aim to proof and send back this week .
Client: I found some time to go through the books. I am very impressed with your work indeed. Great work! Bless you! Here is a list of revisions I need.
Her list was long but included a lot of minor changes: adding a word here, removing one there, trying a different font for certain sections, etc. Nothing was an error on my part, just additional changes that occurred to here.
Me: Here are your completed books. I have included a full checklist of all the revisions you requested.
Client: Bless you!! Thank you! Your work is brililant I will defanitely work with you again!!
I sent an invoice, she paid me. Great, I thought, what a good client.
Cut to one week later, when I receive a string of emails after 10:54 PM:
Client: changes still need to be made see attached pls send back tomorrow as have a call with my marketeer tomorrow
Client: this has got really confusing !!
Client: have you renamed them ??
I’d renamed the files to fit the titles of the actual books, which I thought was pretty intuitive.
Client: They must be tittled correctly as they are similar but different and it gets confusing
Client: please!!! can you resend me the three files again please
Client: and call them the proper so I don’t have to wade through to figure out which one I am looking at!
My titles matched the title on the title page, as well as the title in the header. She could see at a glance which version of the book she was looking at.
Client: Please please name them as I did as I am sitting up late trying to figure out which one is which!
Client: Revisions to be made!
She attached is a long list of new revisions for each book. Add this word here, add this sentence there, etc. Unbold this sentence. Make this sentence bold. Basically, things that took longer for her type into a new document for me than they would have to do as she saw them. Not one of these were errors on my part, just whims she had.
I wasn’t sure how to respond, as she was flooding my inbox with new emails every few minutes. After midnight the onslaught seemed to subside so I responded.
Me: Hi! I’m happy to make additional rounds of revisions to your books at my hourly rate of $XX, but it won’t be done overnight. I’m fully booked on other projects for the next three days but would be happy to fit you in later this week. I have renamed your files as requested though – see attached.
I renamed them as the original—now completely incorrect—titles.
Client: actually! you have created more work for me!
Client: and I don’t like your tone!
Client: You mixed up the names of the files that I sent to you meaning I sat up for HOURS trying to figuring these out before I realised they were wrong.
Client: I need these tomorrow am for a meeting
Me: It’s not reasonable to expect pages of completely new, last-minute, overnight revisions when the project is complete. Your revisions were completed in a timely manner and the work was reviewed and signed-off. I’m happy to make additional rounds, but these have to be requested within a reasonable timeframe to complete. I’m obviously not available to work on these overnight.
Client: This is highly unprofessional.
Client: I will be filing a complaint about you.
Me: With who?
Client: Enough! please. This is so upsetting! This is so unprofessional. Please do not contact me again, this is a fruitless exercise.
I couldn’t agree more.
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I designed and developed a website for a medical IoT [Internet of Things] startup. They typically outsourced their programming to cheap labor. As a result, they’d often ask me to pick up the slack for someone who wasn’t doing their job. This is just one of the unique requests I get every few days:
Client: I need you to change some text on a website.
(It was a different website than the one I’d made for them).
Me: Well, we agreed my project was finished but I’d be happy to open a new contract. It would be at an hourly rate, $50, five hours minimum.
Client: My web developer needs the text changed, here’s the text he needs you to use. Let me know how long it will take you to make these changes.
At this point, I was thinking “your web developer, who is building the entire backend systems to your application, is unable to change the text on a website? How the F*** did he get this job?”
Today’s episode is with none other than Vernon Southward, the owner and operator of (gasp!) Clients From Hell itself! Kyle tries not to offend his boss as they chat about Vernon’s beginnings as a freelancer and the path that led to him acquiring and building Clients From Hell, as well as directions the site will take in the coming years!
Vernon is a profoundly talented entrepreneur and a font of wisdom – and we’re not just saying that because he owns the place. Check it out!
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I work at a legal office, and we represent injured people. Usually, communication is easy…but in this case, not so much.
Me: If you would like us to move forward with your case, we will need to make a counter-offer. I have attached a document which gives us the authority to make a counter-offer in your case.
Client: You have to send me a new document. The one you sent says it will settle my case now.
Me: That is correct. We cannot make a counter-offer without the authority to settle the case on your behalf.
The client faxed us the document. The next day:
Me: You will be pleased to know that the defendant accepted our counter-offer and we were able to settle your case.
Client: What? i never said you could settle my case, I said to move forward with an offer, you tricked me!
Me: I apologize for any confusion, but you indicated to us that we had your permission to make an offer on your behalf. You also signed a directive to that effect. Please note that the offer we made is significantly higher than what you were expecting to get in the first place.
Client: You never said you were going to settle! You are fired.
I don’t think he understands that if you make a counter-offer, and someone accepts it, then that’s a settlement.
Client: Can one of you please provide a list of all that info?
Me: Sure, no problem. Here is a .txt file with that data.
Client: Please re-send file as excel spreadsheet. Cannot read .txt file.
In what world is it easier to open an Excel file than a txt file? Excel opens text files!
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I’m an animator. My family is well aware of this and assume I do complex illustration as well. At a family event one of my aunts came up to me with a brilliant idea:
Client: Hey, you’re almost done with college, right? You’re the best artist in the family with me and your cousin, and I got an idea.
Me: Uh, okay?
Client: So, I got an idea for some shirts to sell, they’re humorous ones. It’s a millennial on their phone with the older parents watching over them with a speech bubble saying “ugh, kids and their phones”. I’ll have you do the illustrations, and I’ll find somewhere to print them. Sounds good, right? I’ll probably sell a lot.
Me: Are you gonna pay me?
Client: Well, I figured that we’re family, so you’ll get credit and a portfolio piece.
Me: I’ll think about it.
Translation: Ew. No, I won’t. As a millennial, the idea was pure cringe.
She never brought it up again and neither did I.
I am an artist who works in bronze and occasionally gets requests for custom pieces.
Today it was a request to make a necklace like the one worn by a mannequin in a picture… the size of a postage stamp.
I’m not sure that’s enough to go on, client.
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I’m a web developer/designer. I have a client that has never paid on time for anything in my history working with him. He’s very well off and is pretentious and arrogant during nearly every encounter.
For most clients, I’m willing to cover the domain renewal and yearly hosting on spec if they’re late because I know that the money is coming and we have a good relationship. This client burned that bridge years ago.
Six weeks before their services renew:
Me: Hello, your annual hosting and domain renewal is due 6 weeks from today. Here’s an invoice for the charge.
Five days before their services renew:
Me: Hi. Just a friendly reminder that your services are set to renew on Sunday, five days from today. I haven’t received payment for the hosting or domain yet. If the cheque’s in the mail, that’s great but if not, I can accept an EMT or PayPal to ensure that there’s no interruption to your service.
One day before cancellation of service:
Client: I’m on vacation right now. It will have to wait until I’m back in the office on Tuesday.
Me: Hi. Thanks for getting back to me. Unfortunately, everything expires tomorrow and there will be an interruption in service if nothing is settled up before then. I gave six weeks notice of this renewal and didn’t hear anything back.
Four days after the website was taken offline due to non-payment:
Client: Why is my website offline?
Me: The website is currently offline because you haven’t paid me yet for hosting or domain renewal. If you can send over an EMT I can get that deposited and get the website back up and running in about 30 minutes.
Client: I’ll send a check.
Me: I’d prefer an electronic money transfer s I’d need to wait for the cheque to arrive and then clear before renewing everything
He’d sent me checks that bounced before.
Eleven days after denial of service:
Me: Hi. I still haven’t received your cheque or EMT. Can you give me an update?
Client: I didn’t send it yet.
Me: Why not?
Client: I’ve been busy.
Me: Okay. Well, as soon as you can then.
Two weeks after denial of service, still no money.
Client: WHY IS MY WEBSITE STILL OFFLINE? THIS IS HIGHLY UNPROFESSIONAL!
Me: Hi. Did you mail the cheque yet?
Me: Well then!
Me: You’ve never once paid me on time. The very first time I paid for hosting and domain registration it took you 4 months to pay me. I’m not going to do this on spec.
Three weeks after denial of service:
Me: Your domain expiry grace period is in 7 days. After that someone else can buy it up. If you want to send over an EMT for the invoice, I can get everything taken care of for you and get you back up and running.
Client: Fuck you.
I guess that’s the end of that relationship, then.
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