I recently took a job with a friend of a friend. I was guaranteed to work for the guy for one year after signing the contract with him. As a sign of good faith, he asked me to pick out a drawing tablet to use, stating he would reimburse me for the charges. I bought a tablet and worked on some of the concept art for the comic he wanted me to draw while we ironed out the contract. This was the agreement for me to begin work one month before the contract started.
Then, a few days short of a month later, the client came to my apartment unannounced at 9PM to check on my work. I wasn’t happy with his abrupt arrival, but I did agree to show him the concept art I had drawn for him.
Me: This is my first drawing of the dragon you wanted. I have never drawn something like this before, so I assume that you’ll have some critiques for me.
Client: Phew! We have a ways to go!
Me: Well, this’ll be a good start for the revisions. What don’t you like about it?
He proceeds to tell me that the dragon isn’t skinny enough, but besides that, it’s fine. The next day, I called my friend that set this whole thing up, and asked when we were signing the contract.
Friend: Well, I don’t think you should sign it.
Me: I just spent $400 on a tablet, and a whole month creating designs for him. Why shouldn’t I sign it?
Friend: Because he decided he doesn’t want to work with someone who is unprofessional.
Friend: He said that you didn’t got very offended when he said your dragon wasn’t right.
Me: I buy a $400 tablet that he said he would reimburse me for. I spent a month of my own time drawing concept art for him. He shows up announced at my home after dark demanding to see my work, and I’m the unprofessional one? Can I at least get my receipt back for the tablet? Maybe I can get my money back by returning the tablet.
Friend: Oh, he lost the receipt. Sorry, man.
Editor’s Note: Not to rub salt in the wound, but professionals rarely work without a contract.
I received payment five months late, minus the late fees and with a note attached.
Client: I appreciate your work and I apologize for the lateness, however, we did not agree to be charged these late fees, so we will not be paying them.
Me: I appreciate the payment for the original invoice. However, we did agree that you would pay me four months ago. As a result, I’ve attached an invoice with the late fees.
Client: I need a quote, just base it on xxxxx.com
Me: Sorry, I need a spec to quote the work.
Client: It’s just like the other one.”
Me: Okay, so build a spec based on that and submit it.
Client: I need a price.
Me: I need a spec.
Client: Okay, you obviously don’t feel comfortable pricing it.
Me: Not without a spec, no.
Client: Oh, is that all?
Our content is driven by user-submissions, and we’re grateful for each and every morsel of grief that makes its way to our front page. Since opening up the comments, our community has been vocal about what they do want (truly hellish stories) and what they don’t want (turns out nobody likes popups). Interestingly, the content and community are starting to overlap.
The question of what happens after the closing one-liner or final client comment is almost always asked. Lawyer up, revisit the contract, and get rid of that damn pop up are all recurring answers from the community. Clients From Hell is eager to hear about your problems, not just because they support our extravagant lifestyles, but so we can also help you with them (while supporting our extravagant lifestyles). We teamed up with The Freelancers Union to help battle deadbeats. Our latest collection of stories is supplemented with advice from established freelancers. We offer a free e-book to our subscribers to help them find their feet as freelancers, but it lacks a lot of specifics.
As such, we’re pleased to announce our new newsletter series, aimed at helping freelancers deal with each and every kind of crappy client they come across. The newsletter takes aim at the problems and complaints that arrive in our inbox every day (often with superfluous exclamation marks).
Let us know what you think and what you want out of future articles. Enjoy!
- Bryce Bladon, editor
I did some work for a client involving website design and photographs of his company’s products. I finished the projects about two months before I was planning to leave the country and asked the client to send over the payment. After numerous reassurances that the check would be sent out by his accountant, he finally stopped responding to my emails, texts, and calls after more than a month of hounding.
The week before I left the country, I received an email from him that told me a check would be sent out that week... meaning I wouldn’t be able to ascertain if he had actually done so until I returned two months later. Fast forward two months, and of course, the check was never sent.
I once again contacted him to ask for the payment, and a few weeks after I emailed him, he told me that his old accountant was terrible and unreliable and that he’d since gotten a new one. He assured me that that I would receive the payment within a week. Then he asked if I was free to design a few other items he needed. I told him I would, but that I would need a 50% deposit upfront this time.
I haven’t heard from him since.
I do knit development, and help designers create their line. One jewelry designer wanted to add knits to her product offerings, so I spent a ton of time helping her source yarns and define specifically what she wanted to make. She decided to buy yarns on her own without me, and sent me a huge box of them to make samples, while she kept the yarns she liked herself. I made samples with what she sent me, then got nastily dressed down because “the yarns looked nothing like what she had.”
She then sent me daily emails asking for pictures of what I was working on to make sure they matched what she envisioned in her head. She also wanted me to “hire ethnic ladies" to do production of her line for $5. an hour. We’re in New York, by the by.
I sent her an small invoice for consulting, and excused myself from continuing the job.
I was working with a client who was launching a series of illustrations in support of a good cause (though it did help their business as well.) Since it was for a good cause and because I was just starting out with my freelance career, I agreed to do it for half what I normally charge. I ended up taking a lot more work than promised (like looking for material, ideas, and translating text), but at the very least, the creative freedom translated into the resulting product.
After 25 illustrations were done and posted…
Client: The series is a great success! I don’t know if you’ve seen our facebook page, but there are 3000+ likes and over 2000 shares for almost every image. God bless you for giving it your all!
Me: Thanks! It means a lot to be appreciated.
Client: This exceeded our expectations. Obviously, we have a lot more work for you.
Me: That’s great!
Client: T-shirts, slogans, more illustrations - but we want to pay you 30% less than what we were paying you before.
Me: Uh… I already told you that I was charging you half of what I usually charge.
Client: Since we’ve been so appreciative by giving you more work, can you make a deduction?
Me: I already made a deduction for the project as it supported a charitable cause; I can’t cut my rates any further without needing charity myself.
Client: But this isn’t for charity.
Me: …which is why a further deduction is out of the question.
Although my heart was in the project, I had to say no and move on.
1) Show creative to client
2) Client approves and signs off
3) Creative goes into production
4) Client has amnesia, outrage, and a variety of less-than-wholesome opinions
5) Client exceeds contractually obligated revisions
6) Client refuses to pay, demands project fixed
7) Revert project to original form
8) Client has amnesia, loves it
9) Swear words, freelancer develops a drinking problem