Clients from Hell

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Horror stories from freelancers
Updated: 15 min 28 sec ago

Producers are clients sometimes, right?

4 October 2019 - 2:00pm

My client was a music producer who brought me in to assist with an album project for a young singer with Broadway and tour credits as the unofficial contractor. I hired local musicians and played certain instrumental parts myself.

One song had been orchestrated by the tour musical director; the producer was very keen that our recorded version adhered perfectly to that score. We had a meeting with the manager to ensure nothing was overlooked.

Client: You’ll notice that the percussion part specifies that these measures need to be played on a “mark tree”.

These words were enunciated slowly, as if they were actually surrounded by quotes and might be misunderstood otherwise.)

Me:  No problem. That’s just bar chimes. We already have those.

Client: No, you don’t understand. It specifically says that a “mark tree” is required here.

Me:  “Mark Tree” is the official orchestral term for bar chimes. Really. They’re the same thing. A mark tree is a set of bar chimes. This studio has two sets of them, and I even have a set of my own. We have everything we need.

Client: …


Client: (turning away from me and towards the manager) We need to locate a “mark tree”.

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Make it Pink, No Make it Blue!

3 October 2019 - 3:00pm

I advertise that I offer local businesses a discount on my designs to show my support. I got a call from a potential client asking for a logo.

Client: We want a logo made for our store, and it needs to be similar to the logo we had before, just cleaner and more modern.

Me: I can definitely help you! Send me what you have for your current logo and I can get started.

I received an email with a word document attached. Curious I opened it and saw that there indeed is a “logo” in it, made with clip art that has been stretched. I died a little on the inside but was happy they were making the choice to get it done by a professional.

I worked on a few mockups and send them back.

Client: These are wonderful! Let’s go with option A.

Me: Perfect! I can get that exported…

Client: But we want it to be more square, change the font, make it less feminine, and we should probably change the pink parts to a more gender-neutral color. We don’t want to offend our male customers.

Me: OK, no problem. I’ll rework this with those changes.

I made the changes.

Two weeks went by this time.

Client: This looks wonderful!

Me: Great! I can…

Client: But, the font is different from the first mockups and the colors are wrong. I thought we agreed to keep the pink?! Why is it a different color now?

Me: I have it in my notes you wanted to make it more gender-neutral, so I changed the font and the pink…

Client: No! I want the pink, just make it less feminine! Also, we hate the new font. Can’t you just make it the one that’s in the document we sent you?!

They used Algerian, so there was absolutely no way I was doing that.

Me: Definitely, I’ll take another shot at it. As for the font, [lie] I, uh, don’t have that one [/lie] so I will pick something that is close to it.

I make revisions, make all the pinks more of a coral orange color, switch the fonts, and send it back.

Three weeks later I send an email asking if it’s been approved and if they’d like me to send the exported files. No response. Good thing I got paid up front I guess.

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User Submitted Post

3 October 2019 - 2:00pm

I’m a Videographer and was hired to edit a music video.

Client: I need this in two months. Is it possible to get this edited for then?

Me: Yeah no problem, that’s plenty of time. I’ll get started on it later this week and should only take two days to edit. I’m working on a project now but let’s schedule a meeting for Tuesday to go over all the details. 

I got to work, but had a few things come up. I contacted the client on Monday:

Me: Hey, are we okay to reschedule that meeting to Wednesday morning? I have an emergency on another shoot.

Client: Yes of course no problem.

Wednesday morning at 6 am:

Client: Okay I want my deposit back right now you haven’t even downloaded the footage I sent you.

Me: I’m sorry I don’t fully understand? We were having a meeting today to go over the details so I could begin the editing process?

Client: You are a waste of time, send me back the footage and give me my money back.

Keep in mind he didn’t need it for two months and the edit would have taken 2 days maximum.

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User Submitted Post

2 October 2019 - 3:00pm

I’m a Videographer. When I was beginning I shot a video for someone who specialized in building huge tents.

Super nice people, shoot day went well and 4 minute edit was done within a week. It just needed a few amendments  – which is when the client became EXTREMELY impossible to contact.

Client: (always) I’ll get back to you tomorrow morning.

He never did. 

That’s not really so bad but this guy made us re-edit amendments NINE TIMES as well as being impossible to get hold of, so he was asking for amendments and they would be ready the next day and you just wouldn’t hear from him for over a month and it was every. Single. Time. 

Luckily I took a 50% deposit but it took him 7 months to finally pay. After that job I put in my contract that you can only have 3 amendment returns and they have to pay within a 10-day period after initial completion. I haven’t had a problem since.

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Wearing many hats

2 October 2019 - 2:00pm

I was hired by a large “megachurch” to come on staff and design and maintain a new website. I was instructed on my job duties and “to only work on the website” even though I had many other skills as an illustrator and designer.

Client: Focusing on this one area would allow me to excel in that task. We’ve found that giving too many other roles to people stretches them to thin.

So I designed and built the site in record time, and once it was up running well, I organized several ways to maintain and upkeep, as well as expanding some of the functions of the site, Everyone was very happy.

A few months later, I was visited by my supervisor and given my two weeks notice. They liked my work, but they’d recently hired a video production guy who promised he could “do it all”: video, audio, web design, graphic design, stage lighting… he was even certified in IT.

In all they ended up getting rid of me, the audio engineer, the video director, the other graphic designer and even canceled their contract with an IT maintenance company, replacing them all with this one guy!

They stopped updating the site I built- the new guy promised to build a great one from scratch, when he could find the time. They finally got a new website… 8 months later… and they ended up firing the guy a little later on because he was “stretched too thin to get any of the tasks done at a high level.”

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Racist ants cartoon

1 October 2019 - 3:45pm

I was hired to illustrate a cartoon design for a tee shirt. It was supposed to be 2 large “ants” having a picnic, with tiny cartoon people running around the picnic basket and blanket.

Simple enough. Two colors, red and black on a grey tee. I did most of the cartoon lines in black, and used red as a fill color on the checkerboard blanket and the two ants who were having the picnic.

When I showed the client, they didn’t like it.

Client: It looks racist to me. Those ants are stereotypes of African Americans.

I wasn’t sure why or how. They were red cartoon ants after all. 

Me: Oh, I’m sorry. I don’t really see it but I can change them if you don’t’ like them. 

The changes she wanted me to add? Large cartoon lips and a big hair bow to the girl ant, and a gold chain and baseball hat to the boy ant in solid black ink. 

For added WTF, the client was an African American woman. I’m still scratching my head on this one. 

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But it’s such a great deal!

1 October 2019 - 3:19pm

I worked for a local screen printer for a total of 5 years. In the first 2 years, they were a start up and it was just the owners who were a husband and wife team, myself and a screen printer. The screen printer was in another warehouse 1/2 a mile away, so he had to use his car to get films from me and his cell phone to call if there were issues. 

I did the graphics but was also expected to do sales even though I was clear that my math skills were severely lacking, not to mention that the constant interruptions make doing graphics very difficult. The owners showed up until after noon, but would act like we should feel sorry for them because they had to “work late” to 8 PM. In other words, a regular 8 hour day. 

The owner once got P.O.’ed about the time it was taking me to do a complex custom project and insisted he could do it in 30 minutes because he took a Community College Course in Illustrator. I invited him to educate me, as in my  20 plus years as a designer, I hadn’t learned that trick yet. Thirty minutes later he threw the mouse and stomped out, going home for the day to nurse his bruised ego.

They made promises of raises as the company grew and benefits, none of which I ever got. After year two, I finally asked for a raise from $12 per hour. With my experience, I felt I deserved better as the company had “grown.” Instead, I was fired because the screen printer and his wife (who started working for the company the previous year) walked out the day before and started their own printshop. We were friends, so I got fired.

Gotta love a Right-To-Work state.

Two years later they came back to me trying to hire me again. 

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The empty threat

30 September 2019 - 3:15pm

Client: Send me two quotes to bill your job — hourly and flat fee. Then I’ll choose which one I want.

Me: No.

Client: No?

Me: You don’t get to choose how I bill you. That’s my choice. I’m going to send you a flat-fee rate for my services. If you approve, I’ll send you a contract, and we can move forward.

Client: Then how will I know which is cheaper?

Me: It’s not an option. You are paying for the value of the project, not how much time I spend on it. 

Client: I don’t have to use you.

Me: No, you don’t. 

Client: I don’t have to use you.

He must have thought I didn’t hear him the first time.

Me: (again) No, you don’t. And I’m not desperate for work. So whatever you want to do is fine with me.

In the end, he used me for the flat fee. But I’ll never do work for him again, as there’s more to this story. As far as this one is concerned, I’m now perpetually busy.

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Magic log collecting

30 September 2019 - 2:48pm

I work in support. A client opened on July 11th a ticket for a problem that happened on July 2nd. Our logs are only kept for 7 days. I asked for a fresh example of the error that we can find in the current batch of logs.

This conversation happened today, July 15th:

Client: Can we extend the log retention period?

Me: Sure, we can flag your errors going forward. 

Client: OK, then extend it and take the logs from July 2nd.

Me: …

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Get elegant with the Exquisite Bundle of 1000+ elements for $9! 99% off!

29 September 2019 - 3:00pm
Get elegant with the Exquisite Bundle of 1000+ elements for $9! 99% off!

This week’s deal is on over a thousand high-end design elements for only $9.

> The entire bundle has a premium feel with more than a touch of class. 

This package has a ton of elements that will save you time, and therefore money: floral designs, decorative elements, flexible brushes, monograms, logo templates, icons, illustrations, seamless patterns and textures, watercolors, wedding invitation templates and more. Perfect for creating branding packages for vacation getaways, florists and wineries, wedding invitations, inspirational crafts… any project that requires an elegant feel will benefit from this package

Full price for every element in this package would add up to $1150, but this week you can get all of them for just $9 at 99% off! That’s incredible value and well worth the price, especially if you sell designs using these elements. Remember, if you’re using it for freelance work it’s TAX-DEDUCTIBLE. 

> Check out the deal here.

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The Effective Manpower Plan

29 September 2019 - 2:00pm

It was my first ever official job after graduating. This guy hired me as a designer for his newly created acrylic and sticker cutting business. By new I mean really brand new…the office were still being built by the time I start my first day and I had to design their logo right there.

Client: Your job will be to design promotion stuff and prep clients’ designs from file to production.  

After the cutting machine came and was all set up, he told me that my job ALSO includes being the customer service, cashier, machine operator and the one who goes to clients’ place to apply the product.

Me: That’s a lot of stuff to do. I don’t think I’ll be able to handle all that.

Client: It’s in your job description. 

I quit on my 4th day after he tried to make me operate a dangerous contraption to fold acrylic using heated metal and he dared to scold me.

Client: You’re giving up so easily! You have no ambition to succeed. 

Stayed just for a couple of days to show the new guy where the files are and took off never to return.

Client: Just stay for another month. 


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Like explaining colors to a blind man

28 September 2019 - 3:00pm

Client: Make this electric blue!

Me: Can I have an example of “electric blue”?(

Client: (NOT showing examples) Like pastel! But not easter eggs! (continuing to not show examples)

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User Submitted Post

28 September 2019 - 2:00pm

After stumbling across my pet-portrait commission work through social media shares, the “client” private messages me and sends me a (low quality, face barely visible) photo of their pet.

Client: Can you draw from this photo? If you did this and shared it to my social media feed your following will definitely double! 

Me: I’m currently taking commission bookings if that’s something you’re interested in?

Client: I was thinking that it would be a charitable donation. It would be really popular with my audience and I’m absolutely certain it would get you lots of sales!

At this point I was stalling for time as I racked my brain for a client-friendly response. From previous experiences where (paying!) customers have shared my work, sharing to this size of audience definitely doesn’t guarantee more sales.

Client: We could even get my audience to make decisions about the creative direction of the piece! There could even be a promotional campaign where a percentage of the profits from your future sales goes into my charity! 

Me: I can’t work for free, I’m very sorry.

(I then provided information about my fees and explained that I’m fully booked for several months so would have to wait their turn if they were to book now)

Client: Oh. Okay. 

I felt a bit bad about knocking the wind out of their sails, but I think I dodged a bullet. 

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User Submitted Post

27 September 2019 - 3:00pm

Me: I checked with the courier, and your brochures will be delivered between 9:30 and 11:30.

Client: (calls me at 11 am to ask where his brochures are)

I never realised ‘delivery time between x and y’ was such a difficult concept. 

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The Sprint Digital Marketing discussion

27 September 2019 - 2:00pm

I was recently discussing a digital marketing project with a prospective client. We were scheduled for about a 30-minute meeting. He came across as very defensive and hostile, which raised some red flags for me. However, I didn’t want to get up and walk away.

The client’s website was very basic. He had very little digital marketing done for his brand, even though his business had many locations. 

Client: Now, I’ve heard a number of proposals from you marketing people, so just let me know what you have to offer.

He was already very negative. I described some of my knowledge and services in a friendly and informative manner.

Client: Well, would you be able to update the website? Provide content? Partner with others? I’m not naive to this you know. 

He hissed that last part.

I briefly explained more about my skills and experience, and how I could help or partner with others. This included website updates, writing articles, and more.

Client: (sneering)I had a small agency working on my website, but they have other clients, so they couldn’t help me as much as I would have liked. Well, how would you create videos, how would you get people’s permission? What about e-mail campaigns? How would that work? 

I was starting to grow weary of explaining the entire realm of digital marketing to this client in a span of 30 minutes.

Client: What about content? How would you write that? If I were to build out a team, who should I hire for the team? How about photos? What about partnerships? What’s PPC? How about SEO? You know, our competitors, they’re all about the money. We actually care. What would your budget be for working on various projects?

I also remembered that I saw on some reviews of his business that some people commented that management was all about the money, which I thought was interesting given his criticism of his competitors.

The guy’s face became more and more red with tension and anger as he asked more and more questions. I tried to keep things basic and let him know some options. Red face; red flag.

Working with this guy would be a nightmare. The client was having a very hard time grasping everything I was talking about and was ready to take that frustration out on me.  That told me everything I needed to know.


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Overwhelmed? Get over it with Emily Leach

26 September 2019 - 6:45pm
Overwhelmed? Get over it with Emily Leach


It’s the 21st Century. Chances are you’re feeling overwhelmed right now. If you are, listen to this interview with The Freelance Conference’s Emily Leach to find her effective strategies for managing overwhelm! 

Even better, her tip isn’t just “plan better.” It’s to reach out to people you love and keep human connections in the picture. Find out why this works in this interview! 

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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It’s about consistency!

26 September 2019 - 3:00pm

Our team was having a meeting with a client company about the use of their logo. Their manager insisted that their logo always be in black, no matter what color the background. Their in-house designer tried to explain the necessity of a reversed version of their logo. The manager slammed her hand on the table and yelled:

Client: You don’t understand, it’s about consistency!

She was wearing a shirt with their logo embroidered in pink.

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I Should Bail! Moments…

26 September 2019 - 2:00pm

I worked with a client for longer than I should have. These are every I Should Bail!” moment from every step that I stupidly ignored because I was trying to help a friend. It was cathartic to document the torture:

I received a freelance job through a friend for a logo design, brochure, and business card for a boutique wealth management startup company targeting only high-income clients.  On the first meeting, the owner said everyone in his business uses images like luxury yachts. and he wanted something different that stood out and was simple and sophisticated. 

I submitted some logo designs. They didn’t even respond to the design and just sent me a logo they hacked together form Google Image Search results. Of course, the images were of luxury yachts.

I Should Bail! Moment #1

Me: Where did the image come from? Make sure it isn’t copyrighted.

Client: It isn’t copyrighted. They came from the internet. 

Me: Honestly an original design is always safer. I will be working on the brochure next. The design process takes time so if he could give me until next week I would appreciate it. The result will be better in the long run.

Client: Well we made it from things we found on the internet, so we should be fine. 

I Should Bail! Moment #2

Me: Do you want me to work on the business card design next?

Client: No, he wants to play with the design himself…

I Should Bail! Moment #3 

Client: We want visuals that evoke emotions. Include images of the Titanic on the brochure.    I Should Bail! Moment #4   Me: Do you know what quantity you want to print?   Client: No.   Me: We should find that out first so we can get some cost estimates.   Client: Just finish it. You should be able to figure this out.   They bailed! Moment #1   After struggling to meet their unreasonable demands and shifting directions for weeks.    Client: We went a totally different direction on the brochure. We decided not to use boats or water at all.    Me: What? That’s everything you told me you wanted.    Client: Yeah, we’re just going to do it in house.    Naturally that meant they weren’t paying me for my work. At least I got a deposit.

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Color Magic!

25 September 2019 - 3:00pm

Client:  If I give you a black and white copy, could you Xerox it in color?

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The 50/50 Game

25 September 2019 - 10:33am

Working on a colour concept for a client…

Client: Please change the railing colour to beige or sky blue, and the sky outside to sunset or dusk.

Me: (Changes railing to beige, and the sky outside to dusk)

Client: REVISIONS NOT DONE, please do as requested… I wanted the railing sky blue, and the sky to be sunset.

I’m not here to play a 50/50 game to guess which one you really want.


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