Clients from Hell

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Horror stories from freelancers
Updated: 50 min 3 sec ago

documentary film from hell

6 May 2019 - 1:00pm

We were doing post-production for a documentary film.

Client: We didn’t get releases to show any of the people in these scenes. You need to obscure their faces.

Me: Okay, we can apply a blur and track the—

Client: No, that will look like COPS. We don’t like that.

Me: We can try darkening the faces, but it won’t look natural in the lighting—

Client: Just obscure the faces of everyone in these shots but make it look natural.


Client: When do you make it look like a real movie?

The film was mostly shot on cheap video cameras. We try to explain things like frame rate and depth of field to them.

Client: What about the gamma?

Me: Sure. When we color correct your film, “gamma” is one of things that the colorist controls—

Client: Yes! That. Put the gamma on it.

Later still.

Me: These graphical text elements you provided are outside of title safe. That means they will be cut off on some TVs, and it will also fail QC.

Client: That’s how we designed it. Needs to stay that way.

Me: Okay, but it will 100% fail QC.

Client: We know what we’re doing.

Soon after delivering, we start getting panicked calls followed by a string of threatening emails.

Client: Our text is outside of title safe! You failed to properly explain this to us! Fix it immediately.

Me: We’re fully booked up today, but we’ll help you as soon as possible of course.

The clients showed up at our office, staged a “sit-in protest” in our lobby, and refused to leave until we dealt with them. We stayed up all night making changes to their film.

The next morning, we fired them.

That same week, they were fired by other vendors for similar reasons.

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Nail that vintage design look with 1200+ elements for $17!

5 May 2019 - 2:03pm
Nail that vintage design look with 1200+ elements for $17!

This week’s deal is on 1200+ vector elements in a vintage style!

> They look great, and your clients will love them.

The vintage look isn’t going away anytime. Line drawings and classic printing techniques communicate authenticity to your clients and their customers – which is ALWAYS a good thing. This collection of over 1200 illustrations, brushes, banners and more makes it easy to throw together a fantastic vintage logo, poster or website in minutes. Save yourself time and effort while making your clients happy with this huge collection of versatile elements.

Normally everything in this bundle would cost $280, but for the next week you can get all 1200+ brushes, illustrations and other elements for only $17, a savings of 94%. If you’ve had ONE client who asked for a vintage look, you know you’ll make that money back in no time with this bundle.

> Check out the deal here. 

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User Submitted Post

5 May 2019 - 2:00pm

I was working on a tri-fold brochure to showcase the benefits of partnering with the client. They asked for it to be exactly like a previous one I had made, but with different text/bullet points. Following that template, one of the folds included a large quote from an actual business partner of theirs. The quote was a glowing review, talking about how the company was a joy to work with and truly cared for their customers. A worry-free experience. The CEO had this to say about it

Client: This quote SUCKS. This isn’t what people say. They wouldn’t REALLY say this. They don’t care about this. You need a quote that shows that they’re going to be making a lot of MONEY with us. That’s all they care about!

Me: Well… This is a real quote from [partner]. And it does paint you in a very positive light.

Client: No, it SUCKS. Why would you even put this? Make one up that’s better. Write me something better.

Me: …I am extremely uncomfortable with fabricating quotes on official promotional material. That is false advertising and I won’t do it.

Client: Yeah, whatever. I’ll MAKE him give us a better quote.

He said the last line while glaring daggers and sounding vaguely threatening. The rest of that meeting was an absolute mess as well wherein I realized he had a bad day and decided to take it out on whoever would get into a room with him, but that’s another story. That was also the day I decided to find other work.

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User Submitted Post

4 May 2019 - 1:00pm

Client: So, just so you know… our payroll team here is quite slow.

Me: Ok. How does that impact my work for you?

Client: Well, it just means we may not be able to pay you straight away.

Me: That’s ok. Your accounts team should pay my invoice directly, so there’s no need for payroll to get involved.

Client: No! We can’t do that! Accounts are only for physical things, like computers and paper. You’re a human and you’re providing us with a resource, which means it has to go through HR and payroll. Don’t worry, you will get paid – they’re just slow. It may take two or three months before the first paycheck comes around.

Me: I’m not an employee here, I’m a contractor. My invoice terms are clear and if you’re not able to abide by them, then we don’t have a deal.

After some back-and-forth, I decided not to proceed with our arrangement.

Client: If you walk away from our agreement, that’s illegal. I can call the police on two counts – firstly, for breaking a legally binding contract, secondly, for asking us to pay you off the books.

I walked away from the deal. Never heard from the police, either.

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User Submitted Post

3 May 2019 - 2:00pm

I’m designing merchandise for a client.

Client: We absolutely love the design on the t-shirts! However, we think that the t-shirt color you used is a bit too girly. Can you change that?

The color I used? Blue.

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Premium Design

3 May 2019 - 1:00pm

I work for a major graphic design agency and my direct client is a big financial institution. A lot of the work consists of designing landing pages for them using a very limited list of elements, colors, images and layouts. It’s up to me to use the existing files to create something to their liking every time.

We have been working on a specific site for weeks. The internal art team loved every version of the project presented to them, and I received comments like: “we love the direction this is going” “great job” “you’re almost there”.

Today I was happily working on the last set of tweaks to the site with a few hours to spare before the final presentation to the customer. 

I get the following email from the external art director (which is the only direct link to the client, and has been part of all previous meetings): 

Client: Hi! Great job on the design so far. Only one small detail I forgot to mention: The client doesn’t want to use any existing assets, colors or layouts for this project. It needs to look more “premium” “fancy”  and  “special”. Oh, and the presentation meeting will be one our earlier. –

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User Submitted Post

2 May 2019 - 2:00pm

Part of my job involves supplying references for individuals:

Me: Please note that this person left us in 2015, therefore the attached reference is now four years old; I hope it is still of some use to you.

Client: (one week later) We have just taken a closer look at the date of the reference and it was signed on 6th February 2015… we are assuming the wrong year was inputted, therefore please can you check this your end and send us an up to date version?

Me: (Head meets desk)

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User Submitted Post

2 May 2019 - 1:00pm

I’ve been the only sales representative at work for the past two days for a software development team.

Client: (email) Is there a price difference between product X and product Y?

Me: Yes. It’s $XXXX + tax. 

Client: (phone) Gooooood morning. Your sales representative told me that for a limited time I can get product Y for the price of product X!

Me: That’s not true. The difference, again, is $XXXX + tax.

Client: (email again) Your phone sales rep approved the lower price. Let’s go with that one. Invoice me immediately.

I’m the only one here, though. 

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It’s not like they can chase me

1 May 2019 - 2:00pm

I worked as a web designer for a company that handled marketing for car dealerships. We had one client who took a bizarre pride in “not being politically correct.” 

We were in a meeting reviewing designs for his new site. We had designed a large section for specialist conversions as his dealership sold a large number of cars converted for wheelchair users.

Client: I don’t like the image you’ve used on the motability tile.

Me: What is it that you don’t like about it?

Client: They’re in a wheelchair, I don’t think we should use such a negative image.

Me: One of your largest client bases IS wheelchair users, it seems right to use an image they can relate to. Also, I think your customers would be very disappointed to hear you call an image of someone in a wheelchair “negative” in the 21st century.

Client: So what? It’s not like the retards can chase after me?

There was then a fairly lengthy awkward silence around the room.

I would like to say my agency stopped working with him but he paid well. After a few clients like this, though, I left.

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User Submitted Post

1 May 2019 - 1:00pm

Client: We need you to make a landing page for our multi-million-dollar business. We’ll have content and prototypes for you. Our budget is [low hundreds]. We have someone else who will run the ads, and our budget is [low hundreds].

Me: Supposing you really do have the content *and* the prototypes, I’ll code it out for [same amount] as an introductory price. You’ll need a lot more in terms of ongoing improvements, AB testing, etc. This will be a great way for us to start working together. But one client can be worth 5 figures for you, so don’t expect more than a deal per few months on this. Do you have this well-planned or is this more of a shoot-from-the-hip scenario?

Client: What do you mean? Why would it cost so much? What even is a landing page? What is SEO? How does Google rank our site? Why would articles be valuable for SEO? What’s a prototype, what kind of content do you need, and why aren’t you doing it all for [low hundreds again]? We’ve worked with several marketers for a similar price in the past and all of them have failed. But we can’t be the common denominator, so digital just doesn’t work for us.

Me: Plenty of companies like yours use digital. And maybe it didn’t work because you’re always shooting from the hip with tiny budgets. We see tons of market opportunity for you.

We proceed to educate them for 2 hours on what all of these marketing terms mean.

Client: That was very informative, moreso than any past company we’ve worked with. Thank you. 

A day later:

Client: We no longer require your services.

They went with an off-the-shelf solution from a McAgency for cheap, which to my knowledge has produced almost nothing for them. Again. 

Hey, we tried, right?

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“Borrow” authority: Michael Greenberg’s guide to podcasting your way to SUCCESS

30 April 2019 - 3:35pm
“Borrow” authority: Michael Greenberg’s guide to podcasting your way to SUCCESS


Content strategy is key for establishing your authority in the market. If your clients know you’re the expert on what you do, they’ll be happy to pay you to solve their problems. But how do you establish yourself as an “expert”?

That’s where Michael Greenberg comes in. His agency Call For Content specializes in using podcasts to create a strong client base, and in this week’s episode he shares his strategies for turning a few key interviews into a thriving business by “borrowing” your clients’ authority. 

It’s a short listen at just over twenty minutes and chock full of mind-blowing tips. Check it out! 


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

30 April 2019 - 2:00pm

Client: I broke something on my website, and I’m mad at you for it. 

Me: *visible confusion*

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User Submitted Post

30 April 2019 - 1:00pm

I presented a handful of design concepts to a client. 

Client: I don’t like those, please try making more concepts.

I provided a handful more concepts. 

Client: Nope, more.

Me: You can see according to this visual map I’ve already presented nearly every option within the constraints you gave me.

Client: Send me more, anyway. And a revision of design number 1.

I sent over another set of concepts. 

Client: I like number 1, but I feel like we went in a giant circle and landed back on the original design, so I don’t feel comfortable paying for all the hours you billed me. 

Me: You led us in a circle, and we worked the hours we worked. That’s why we billed you hourly, not per-project, so you’d take the financial hit on things like this, not us.

Client: Well, fine, but I’m not happy about it.

Me: I’d be glad to recommend some other competitors if you’re dissatisfied with our work.

They remain a happy client to this day, but on my terms now.

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Check Spam

29 April 2019 - 2:00pm

I was doing updates to a site that someone else had designed. The client let me know that he wasn’t receiving emails from the forms on his site. I added my email and did a bunch of tests. I was able to receive all the tests I did, so I forwarded a test email to the client. 

Me: Did you receive the email I just sent?

Client: No. Nothing. 

Me: Did you check your spam folder? I found that your site emails went into my spam. 

Client: I checked my spam and found nothing. 

After a bit of back and forth still no success. He decided to switch his email to a Gmail account. I updated the email address and did some more tests with the same results. 

Me: I’ve tried everything I can and your emails are sending as I am receiving them. If they are not in your spam folder then perhaps check with your hosting provider and see what they can find. 

A bit later I logged into his gmail account to do other work on Analytics and such. I had a hunch that I should just peruse his spam folder. Guess what I found.

If you guessed “every email he said he hadn’t received and also proof that he was a liar,” you’d be right. 

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Renos not included?

29 April 2019 - 1:00pm

Our company is mostly focused on marketing, but we do provide some simple web hosting for a few clients. Recently, I had this exchange with a client who is a real estate agent.

Client: I hired someone to work on my site, and they said it’s not a WordPress site and can’t be edited!

Me: Which site were they looking at? You definitely have a WordPress site.

Client: He said he spent hours and hours trying to figure it out, and can’t work with this theme. He gave up and wants you to do it.

Me: Ah, ok. So his problem is not that it’s not a WordPress site. His problem is that he can’t figure out the 4th most popular WP framework in the world. But that’s ok, everything has a learning curve. That shouldn’t keep him from working on the site. Tell him to send us a task list outlining what he wants and we’ll work on an hourly basis.

Client: WHAT? I feel like this should be included with the website.

Me: Your site was built over five years ago. That’s like expecting the home builder to do your renos for free. Our rate is $X/hr.

Client: (radio silence)

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Get virtuosic with the Maestro bundle for $9!

28 April 2019 - 2:00pm
Get virtuosic with the Maestro bundle for only $9!

This week’s deal is 99% off the Maestro bundle — over 2000 elements including textures, paintbrushes, illustrations and more!

> Take a look through the tools here — they’re super cool and worth using today.

Sometimes, a designer has to reinvent the wheel. Other times they can pepper reusable assets into original designs to great effect, saving time and money! The elements in this bundle are great, and will spark invention for your next round of designs! I love the storybook feel of the Paper Kingdom kit, as well as the way that Fairy Vector brushes make every illustration look like a vintage lino-print. These tools don’t replace your ability — they enhance it. Just look at what’s in this bundle and see if your creative juices don’t start flowing. 

Normally all the elements in this bundle would retail at $1470 — which is a ridiculous price, we can admit it — but at for a limited time the entire bundle is only $9, which is ridulous in the GOOD way. 

> Check out the deal here.

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Can you recommend some free design software…

28 April 2019 - 1:00pm

I am the manager of an in-house design team of four who have been with the organisation for many years.

I recently received an email from another manager:

Manager: I’m trying to design a logo. I can find lots of logo designs online but they want to charge for them which I accept they will want to do. Have we access to any design software inhouse I could use or access please?

I am still trying to compose a polite response…

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27 April 2019 - 2:00pm

Last Friday I got an email from a client asking me to add two pages to their website:

(hotel name redacted to protect the innocent).


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27 April 2019 - 1:00pm

Me: I can meet any day except Monday.

Client: Let’s meet on Monday.

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Like the colors of the film, right?

26 April 2019 - 2:00pm

I was working with an independent film director as a social media strategist. After four months of smooth sailing, all of a sudden she decided to make my life hell. She emailed me several times a day to say she hated my designs, CCing her producers at random even though they had no input on this. She just wanted to embarrass me in front of them. 

At first, I did my best to accommodate without question, but nothing I did made any difference. 

The situation deteriorated over a week. She hated the colors, the fonts, the graphics but would not say how she wanted them changed.

Until she gave me these directions for an instagram post:

Client: This is what I want: Arial font, “bright ruddy brown” [read: diarrhea] base, lime green accents, a frame border, a corner logo, and a link to the film’s website. 

I walked her off this ledge… until one night at midnight when she posted this, using the word “sexy” several times in a single caption. 

She changed the twitter password, then used the account to make (very) personal tweets and consistently engaged with bots and trolls. 

And the cherry on top:

Client: (laughing) Just so you know, sometimes I get drunk and edit your posts.  

So much for building my portfolio. 

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