Clients from Hell

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Horror stories from freelancers
Updated: 2 hours 48 min ago

Travel safe

12 January 2021 - 2:00pm

I’ve been working with a client remotely since COVID started. I hadn’t heard from them in a bit but they reached out to schedule a meeting.

Client: Sorry I haven’t been in touch! 

Me: Oh that’s no problem.

Client: I’ve been away on vacation!

Turns out, they decided to “get away from it all” and went on a road trip to a nearby city “for a change of pace.” During the pandemic. 

Next time they say “would you mind coming in to the office,” my answer is going to be NO. 

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“The Expert”

11 January 2021 - 4:00pm

My first job as an “assistant” was helping a colleague of my former high school teacher. He was a man in his fifties, recently kicked out of his desk job trying to start a company that teaches business administration courses. He styled himself as a “tech and business guru” despite not knowing much about either as far as I could tell. He didn’t even know how to use Office. 

I was still wet behind the ears, so I put up with a lot of things that I shouldn’t have. Years later I would come to realize he was the worst client I’ve ever had. 

Client: Can you enter all the data of my courses from in this Teachable account?

Huge red flag. All of the more than 150 “courses” were articles stolen from other sources.  I refused, but he still got someone to do it for him. Another time he asked me to design all his course .ppt files. 

Client: Everything you need is in the files. 

It was fifty .pptx of about a hundred slides per file. Most of them just were blank slides with huge Calibri text boxes with “ADD PHOTOS FROM THIS SITE” or “DESIGN GRAPH FROM THIS WORD FILE.”

He never replied to my e-mails when I wanted to ask for more details about the design but when he needed some extra revisions he would write multiple e-mails with “hey buddy” until I called him.

Client: I love your design, but could you add more of “your magic” to it

Me: What kind of changes are you referring specifically to? What did not meet your expectations?

Client: I leave it to you to decide, you are the expert.

His “academy” flopped after a year. Turns out, he didn’t bother to prepare a marketing plan. Some expert. 

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It’s in the mail

11 January 2021 - 3:00pm

I’d been doing blog articles for a company for some time. They’d been late paying on a number of occasions, in part because they still mailed checks instead of e-transfers. When they did eventually switch over,  it was night and day – I got paid within three weeks of submitting an invoice (which, sadly, was pretty good for them). 

Then one day I got an email:

Client: We’re shifting back to mailing checks for payroll purposes. 

“Maybe it will be okay” I thought. “Maybe they’re just saving some accounting money this way, and they’ll still pay on time.”

The next time I received payment was FOUR MONTHS LATE, and was “in the mail” for at least two of those. I swear they just changed back to get away with late payment.

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A little late.

11 January 2021 - 2:01pm

I was designing packaging materials for a client who really, really should have shown more interest in the process.

Me: Here are three different treatments. Which do you prefer?

Client: I don’t know, you’re the expert. I trust you.

I went ahead with the one that I thought best fit the client’s needs. Two months later all the designs were finalized and about to go to print.

Client: You know – I think I preferred that blue one. It’s probably too late to change it now, huh?

Yes. Yes it is. 

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Save 99% on this fun bundle of graphic elements!

10 January 2021 - 4:00pm

This week’s deal is on over 7500 design elements from Julia Dreams! Featuring over 38 separate sets of graphics, textures, and backgrounds there are a ton of possibilities in this bundle.

> And at $12, it’s 99% off the total asking price.

Getting all the elements of a design to play nice together can be a time-consuming task. That’s not a problem with this bundle, because all 7560 elements come from the same design studio and are the perfect complement to each other. Covering a huge range of topics and themes, from holidays to candy, animals, flowers and more, this bundle has nearly limitless possibilities for creating fancy and fun designs. 

If you totaled the cost of all the elements in this bundle, it would come in at $2685  — but for a few more days, you can get all 7560 elements at 99% off for $12

> Check out the deal here! 

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Shut up and listen

10 January 2021 - 3:00pm

i was in a design brief meeting with a client. I listened to their needs and their ideas and felt there were some elements that I could be improved based in what they were telling me.

Me: What I would suggest is…

Client: I’m sorry, we’re not looking for suggestions. You have your brief. Get to work.

Rude. Whatever, I thought, I’ll just do exactly what they specified and they’ll be happy.

Me: Here it is.

Client: We feel there could be done improvements.

You think!?

The post Shut up and listen appeared first on Clients From Hell.

What’s “design”?

10 January 2021 - 2:00pm

i was writing in a print shop. A client came in with a free hand drawing of a poster layout.

Client: I’d like to get this printed, please.

Me: As is? Or did you want this designed into something print-ready?

Client: I want it to be a poster for this event, yes.

Me: Okay, that will take a bit and we’ll have to charge you for a design.

Client: What? But I designed it! Everything’s right here!

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Clearly I didn’t respond quickly enough.

9 January 2021 - 4:00pm

Client: (email at 2:43 PM) Do you like the first option or the second one? I will defer to your choice.

Client: (email at 2:44 PM) I want to use the second one.

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People PAY you for this?

9 January 2021 - 3:00pm

A business reached out to me, asking me to come in to discuss the project, budget, etc. 

Unfortunately, my contact at the business (the marketing director) wasn’t available that day so I had to talk to the owner. 

Client: So what is it that you can do for me?

Me: I’m a content strategist. I can build out a series of articles and a social media schedule to build your SEO, helping your business show up in more searches. 

Client: And HOW much does this cost? 

Me: Well, as I already discussed with [marketing director], my fees start at $X and go up to $Z. 

Client: And people PAY you this? 


I left without a contract or anything. The marketing director got in touch with me a day later and apologized profusely, basically begging me to come back. I agreed on two conditions: that I wouldn’t have to work with the owner and all my approval would come from marketing, and that I would be paid for that useless, useless trip into the office.

When’s the last time a client wasted YOUR time?

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Cropping out the competition

9 January 2021 - 2:10pm

I once had a client who didn’t like that the Google map plugin on their site showed some of their nearby competitors.

Me: I can’t just alter Google Maps.

Client: Find a way.

I wound up up having to just take screenshot, crop it, upload it to their website and link it to Google Maps. Unreal.

The post Cropping out the competition appeared first on Clients From Hell.

Now it’s perfect!

8 January 2021 - 4:00pm

When I was a student in college I was contracted by a company to film and edit a video. The pay was only $200, but I agreed because I needed the money.

To do the job, I took pro equipment to several locations, setting up, tearing down, and taking responsibility for all transport. I spent hours editing the video. I sent frequent updates to the client throughout the process. Despite my best efforts, they kept asking for major revisions at every turn. 

Client: Can you add this footage to the video?

I found a way to make it work and edited the video numerous times to meet their needs. I sent it to them and they were impressed… for five minutes, when they asked me to try something else entirely. 

Client: Can you just try-

Me: I’m sorry, but we’re well past reasonable expectations for revisions based on this budget. Any additional adjustments will require additional pay. 

Magically, the video was perfect and needed no further corrections.

The post Now it’s perfect! appeared first on Clients From Hell.

Are you TRYING to make me look bad?

8 January 2021 - 3:00pm

Client: I was talking to my client, and I said you could turn this around by this afternoon.

Me: What? There’s no way. I have other deadlines and this is a major project!

Client: Are you TRYING to make me look bad?

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You know Brad, right?

8 January 2021 - 2:00pm
I work in IT support for a software program. We also have an online reports website, a training site, a user forum, and a purchasing site where clients can buy hardware and peripherals.   

Client: Brad is unable to log into his account and he definitely has one. What do you know about that?

Me: Well, nothing yet. Which account?

Client: BRAD. In the [X] Department!

I don’t know these people. I don’t know “Brad.” They didn’t even provide a last name. 

Me: …Okay. Do you know which account?

Client: Brad’s account! Are you even listening?

Me: Yes. Is it Brad’s account for the software?

Client: NO!

Me: Which account is it then? His training one or the-


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Power play

7 January 2021 - 4:00pm

Me: Okay, with your approval, that’s job done!

Client: Excuse me? The job’s not done until I say it’s done. 

Me: I mean, I know that. I said “with your approval.” I can do revisions if you want.

Client: No, it’s done. Just watch yourself. 


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“Change everything!” Except the design, and function, and coding…

7 January 2021 - 3:00pm

I’ve been a web designer since 1994.  One of my first clients was a local lawnmower dealership who already had a website.

At first, the website allowed you to “purchase” items, which you then paid for when you collected them from their shop.  After several years of begging, they reluctantly allowed me to integrate PayPal payment buttons so it actually worked like a real e-commerce website.

Then one day, out of the blue, the directors called me and told me they wanted it redesigned.  Hallelujah!  When I first met them in the late ’90s the site already looked 10 years out of date, by now it was positively prehistoric.  Now I could finally showcase to them how good I am at what I do.

I went in to my meeting with a full plan, designs and reasons for those designs.  I had asset examples, details about every choice I was making.

They loved it.

I left that meeting and immediately got to work.  The next three weeks were a blur of .asp, HTML and CSS, with regular updates to the client and encouragement in return.  I built a custom site from scratch, and even transferred all 500+ products to the new system as part of the deal.

We agreed a date for the transfer of the new site to the live server.  I had everything ready to go, and as they wanted to “press the button” themselves to make it live, I had a splash screen with my company logo on it saying “watch this space”.

Literally two minutes before it was due to go live one of the directors stepped in:

Client: I just want to confirm that customers aren’t going to notice any difference and get confused?

Me: Well, it’s a completely new design that you and the other directors approved. The only similarities are the logo and that they’re both for you lawnmower business.

Client: But those designs aren’t going live, right?

Me: Uh… Of course they are.  It’s a completely new design – as requested, as quoted, as built and approved.

Client: Oh no, we can’t have that.  It needs to look the same as the old site.  What about the backend, is that different too?

Me: Yes, it’s now considerably easier to use, has no downtime when uploading products unlike the current site, and I eliminated the possibility of making mistakes which currently bring your existing site offline on an almost daily basis until you panic and reupload an old backup.

Client: No, the backend needs to be the same too.  Why did you change everything?

Me: Because you told me to…?

Luckily because of previous bad experiences with idiot clients, I didn’t remove the old code from the server, I had it in a backup folder.  I deleted all the new stuff, dragged all the old code into the server root and handed them an invoice.

The post “Change everything!” Except the design, and function, and coding… appeared first on Clients From Hell.

6 cm is average, right?

7 January 2021 - 2:00pm

Client: I’m looking at this on different screens and it’s a different size. It should be 6 cm no matter where I see it.

I’m still haunted by the image of her taking out her ruler to check.

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Well, that’s a relief.

6 January 2021 - 4:00pm

I was a videographer on a small film set. I had dealing with a close family member’s illness for a long time. I did my best not to have it impact my work, as I still had to make money, but it did color my daily life, naturally. Eventually, sadly, the family member passed. 

I showed up, after only two days grieving, to work:

Client: (face buried in the phone): What’s up?

Me: Well, George passed.

Client: Oh good, that’s a relief. Now you can concentrate on things here.

Me: (stunned. Just stunned)

He tried to backpedal and say “it had been long illness and this was a good thing he was out of pain,” but no. I quit within in a week.

YIKES. What’s the most inhuman thing a client has said to you?

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Postcards from the Spam factory

6 January 2021 - 3:00pm

My client was a magazine publisher whom I’d worked with before. I’d always been surprised by their aversion to technology. They adamantly refused to go digital and thus did not have any original online content. They had a Facebook page which they occasionally used to announce events but, really used to share links to “interesting” online stories from other sites, which not only helped other publishers generate traffic but also made them look like a spam site (when I worked there, I was supposed to share 5-7 links a day and most aren’t informative at all).

I came back as a freelance writer to produce content for their print publication. From my knowledge, all the full-time editorial staff they have hired in the past had never stayed on for over 6 months. I was in between projects and didn’t mind the extra cash with zero commitment (made sure I added that in our contract).

But I spoke too soon. I was working remotely, I tried to set up some kind of communication system after learning that they basically had no idea how to do things.

Me: Do you use a project management app? Trello?

Client: I have no idea what you’re talking about.

Right, not a techie company.

Me: How about Google Docs, just so we’re on the same page?

Client: I know Google, but what’s Google Docs?

After much discussion, this is what we wound up doing: emailing the same attached word doc and manually changing the file name and header to FILENAME_NAME_DATE to keep track of the last person and date the file was edited. That wasn’t all. To track what has been changed, I had to use a different color font each time.

So now I have a frustratingly long email thread with multiple attached docs files with multicolored texts.

My liquor store bills were bigger during this period. 

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Afraid of commitment

6 January 2021 - 2:00pm

Client: The site looks good, but what’s with this writing on the photos?

Me: Those are watermarks. I’m using stock photos, and before I commit to buying them for you I wanted to make sure you liked the design – so I’m using the free version with the stock branding.

Client: So what’s wrong with the design?

Me: What? Nothing, they’re stock photos.

Client: But something’s holding you back. If you’re not sure about this photo, why should I be?

Me: … 

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No fun refund

5 January 2021 - 4:00pm

Client: I need a website for my upcoming book launch. I’m a widowed entrepreneur who is just trying to get their feet off the ground, I don’t have a huge budget but whatever kindness you can spare will be appreciated.

Me: Sure, we can get you up and running with a new website. I’ll only charge you $250 for it.

I was straight out of high school, I didn’t even know what a freelance contract was.

Client: Wonderful! Thank you so much, God bless you!

I proceed to get a basic landing page up for their website, with a full website to come in the future. 

Me: Hey, I sent you the designs for the full website a little while back, did you get a chance to check them out?

Client: No! I’ve been so swamped, I’m so sorry. We’ll put the website aside for now. I need your help with a bunch of graphic design tasks. I’ll just have my son do the website if that works for you. 

These tasks weren’t my strong suit, but I could passably perform them. I should have said no, but it was my first freelance job. 

Me: …Okay.

Six months later:

Client: I have a huge event coming up and I still have no website!

Me: After multiple attempts to send you the design files, you said that you would have your son work on it.

Client: Okay, no problem. Can I have a refund of my $250?

Me: You received a fully functioning landing page, countless hours of meeting time via phone calls, and a number of other “favors” and you want a refund?

Client: Yes.


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