“I’ve taken my time to respond to the themes, and have felt considerable anguish because I can’t be enthusiastic about any of them. Upon viewing your design options, I found myself going from overflowing with energy and enthusiasm to being a bucket with a big hole in it and nothing inside.”—
He excitedly tells me his idea. His passion is clear, but I know it’d be one boring commercial.
Me: Ok, um… yeah, we could do that. I could write a script for [low price because he’s a friend] and then I know a few people who could work on the commercial at a discount. We’d just need to get a good location and—
Client: Oh, I’ve got the location, we can shoot in my backyard.
Client: And I wouldn’t be paying anybody - especially at those prices. But I’m sure when they hear the project, they’d love to jump on board.
Me: Well, all the people I mentioned are professionals and -
Client: Do you know how many people would kill for an opportunity like this? This could make us all a lot of money.
Me: Well, again, they’re all professionals and would need to get paid up front for their time on set.
Client: But they’re just friends of yours. And we’ll be shooting in my backyard.
Me: Yeah, but these friends of mine are working professionals who make way more than the prices I mentioned. I might be able to convince them to work at that rate since it’s my script we’d be producing, but I won’t be able to push any further than that.
Client: But I’m sure they’d love this project and want to jump on board.
Me: For free…
Me: You know what, I actually don’t think I’ll have time.
Client: Oh. That sucks. Well, give me your friends’ contact info so I can still get them.
My team and I were hired by a small-time political campaign to produce and write scripts for promotional videos. The only direction the client gave was, "Just make something and then I’ll tell you what I like and don’t like about it and we’ll go from there."
After three different versions and no payment, we emailed to say we could no longer continue on this project without direction and the down-payment.
Client: I gave you direction! On the very first email, I said I wanted you to talk about certain issues.
Me: Yes, but even after we asked for clarification about those issues, you never responded. We sent numerous emails and made numerous calls.
Client: You should have been able to figure it out.
Client: I thought I would just pay you for the finished product.
Me: At this rate, there never will be a finished product. As per our original conversation, you must pay us at specific milestones, two of which have already passed.
The client never responded to our team email again, but did contact me on my personal freelancing website to ask if I would like to do some work for him. When I informed him that he already had plenty of my work for free, he apologized and said he would send payment ASAP.
He never did, but he did email again two weeks later to ask if I would be willing to write a script for a new video. I asked him if he wasn’t sure how PayPal works or if he really couldn’t figure out that I was the same person he scammed out of three scripts earlier that same month.
In 2010, I discussed doing VFX for a client’s feature-length film. I gave him an estimate, time frame, and a PO Box to mail a hard drive of raw footage to. He promised to send the footage within the week.
Three years later, I received a bubble wrap envelope from the client. The envelope contained a single CD, with no case or paper envelope protecting it.
The only file on the CD was a single JPG image. It was a picture of a hand-written note taken on a webcam. The client, thinking the webcam would flip the image, wrote the entire note backwards; every letter, every word, every sentence, all of it was written from right to left.
The note (to the best of my reading ability) said:
Well, not ‘you’ specifically. You the community. The community’s been great! But I see you as my purely platonic friend. Anyways!
You know what you do for the ones you love? If you answered “build a relationship based on trust and mutual interests,” you are wrong and you will die alone. No, you give them free stuff!
In all seriousness, freelancing isn’t easy. We have thousands of stories to support that. Besides being a collection of our best anecdotes, Clients From Hell 2 features a lot of content you won’t see on the site, in addition to a lot of practical advice for freelancing. And that’s why our latest book is now free, forever. Just sign up for our newsletter and expect a code for your free copy of the e-book.
As an added bonus (and in response to reader requests), I have converted Clients From Hell 2 into every e-reader format I could find.
Client: We need to delete a post from a month ago on Facebook.
Me: Okay. Was there a problem? You’ve approved all of the Facebook posts a month prior before they go live.
Client: Yes, you posted a website that isn’t ours.
Me: Yes sir, I was citing the source that we took the information from. Like I said, it was approved prior. Plus, this was from a month ago, I’m not sure if it’s relevant anymore. I can make you an admin to the page if you would like to take over and delete any posts you don’t like now.
I work at a design firm with a couple of other people. I was closing up shop the after a long day on the job and I was very keen to get home. Just as I shut the door, a client from over a year ago ran up.
Client: I need you to edit this logo for a product unveiling tomorrow at noon! Turns out the boss isn’t happy with this one.
Me: Sorry, I’m closing up.
Client: But I’m here!
Me: … and?
Client: You have to help me if I’m here.
As I’m about to compare this situation to a train leaving the station, he interrupts.
Client: I’ll pay you double!
I reluctantly accept. After three hours of work and five revisions of the logo (including what was nearly a complete re-design), I had enough. I told him to go make a coffee, come back, and tell me which version he liked the most.
Client: Yes! That’s it! That’s the one! The boss will love it!
He picked the original logo. But I actually got paid at the promised rate.
Me: Sure, but I’ll need a week to finish my current job.
We come to an agreement and we decide to put it on WordPress.
Me: Just a heads up that I’ve started work on the site.
Client: WordPress isn’t secure, so we’re going to use a different platform.
Me: Er - okay. What do you want to use instead?
Three days pass and I hear nothing back.
Me: Hey, just checking in regarding the website project. Where are we at? Did you decide what platform you want to use?
Client: WordPress is fine. How’s it coming along?
Me: I had to stop work when you told me you didn’t want to use WordPress. But now that you changed your mind back, I can get back to it.
Client: Look, I feel like you’re giving us the runaround. I went to school for computers, I know what’s up. It’s been three days and you have nothing to show for it. We’re going to cancel our agreement.
I asked a client for feedback on a preview of their website we’re developing. The feedback I get is photos of print-outs from the website, with barely visible comments made with in pencil, in bad handwriting. The photos were taken upside down with a phone.
After asking about this method, it turns out this head of IT - my client - doesn’t know how to take a screenshot.