Client: Why am I getting so much spam email? I bet I know why. I need to clear my browser cache, right?
I signed a three-month contract with fixed hours for a client. It worked out so that I had to come to the office for three working days a week.
After the third week I was called into the manager's office:
Client: You've been showing a lack of commitment. I've noticed that you're often not in the office 1-2 days a week.
Me: The contract I signed was for a fixed number of hours. I don't have to come every day to meet those hours.
Client: We know that, but we still expect you to work a full week because otherwise, staff members get upset.
Client: We’re having a show soon, and we’ll be bringing a big banner to highlight the sale on our products.
Me: Exciting. I can’t wait to hear how it goes.
Client: I wish we could have gotten your input on this, but here’s the banner we have ready for the show. I don’t have a background in advertising, so it was a little weird for me to be in charge of it, but I think it gets the message across.
He rolled out the large banner that took up half the retail floor.
The banner said “SALE – TODAY ONLY!” in huge chunky red letters on a white background. It was one of the most depressing and un-inspiring printed advertising projects I had ever seen.
Client: What do you think?
Me: Well… that’s a departure from the type of advertising that I like to work on. But thanks for sharing it with me. I hope it works out.
Client: As long as it makes us money, that’s the important part. I think it will really catch people's attention.
Me: I like to think about things in terms of long-term customer relationships and creative concepts. But I do hope it supports your sales.
Throwing up in my mouth as I speak.
Not a Client from Hell, but a glimpse into the employment hellscape we're all living in.
An older friend of mine, an older woman in her 70s was looking to re-join the workforce because she didn’t have enough savings (which was sad enough).
Friend: You know, 15 to 20 years ago, I was earning more money per hour than what's offered now in the same field. I could find a full-time job with benefits easily, and the work was stable. In fact, even when I wasn’t working full-time I could still keep my benefits.
Me: That sounds like it was nice.
Friend: It was. I could afford to go on nice vacations around the world. And I didn’t even have to get a college degree.
Me: Wow, that’s cool.
Friend: Now, when I look for work, benefits aren’t as easy to come by, the pay doesn’t keep up with basic standards of living, and the interviewers aren’t as professional. I’m also not being offered the option to work full-time. And, the traffic to get to work is horrible.
Welcome to the world I’ve lived in since I graduated from college ten years ago…
Years ago, I was asked to create digital illustrations of a food pyramid for the Client’s nutrition book project. The Client wanted various types of food items displayed in sections on the pyramid. She reviewed some of my past work, and we agreed on the style and elements of the project.
She sent me some notes, and I happily got to work - using Illustrator vectors to create custom graphics in the realistic style we discussed.
At first, I thought that the project could be a bit painstaking, but little did I know how annoying it would become.
Me: Here’s the graphic design of the food pyramid with the food items we discussed. Please review and let me know your feedback, and if you would like any changes.
Client: Oh, thanks! Um, can you add more grapes to the grape illustration? Also, can you make the cauliflower look a bit more realistic?
Me: Ok… I’ll work on that and send you the revised draft shortly.
I sent her back the revised design.
Client: Hm… it would look better if the bread were in slices. Please make those changes. Also, could you add a milk carton instead of a glass of milk?
Me: Sure, let me work on that. I don’t want to make too many more changes, because this is adding more time to the project and I want to stay within your budget.
I sent her back the design.
Client: Let’s add some slices of Swiss cheese instead of a block of cheese, with lots of holes. Also, can you make the salmon look more realistic? I can’t quite describe it, but I think it needs more detail. Let’s put the carrots and potatoes on a plate, too. I also forgot to ask to have an illustration of a whole watermelon in addition to the slice of watermelon.
This project was like pulling my eyelashes out.
I was hired to work on marketing & website updates for a struggling local business that offers niche products & services.
Client: We created all these products, but most aren’t that popular or profitable. We spent three years developing this business but we have to constantly reach out to encourage more people to show up.
The Client was shaking and becoming visibly angry about this.
Me: Sorry to hear that. It sounds like you put a lot of work into your ideas. I think we can make some improvements.
Client: We offer 16 different combinations of services at each of our four stores, and our customers need to understand what we have to offer them.
The services were confusing and didn’t provide much of a sustainable/long-term profit model. In fact, everything about the business was a bit of a mess:
Client: So now we have four different websites - three of those aren’t very busy, but we need to update them anyway. And we need to attract more people to our four stores. Please hurry with updating our websites so we can increase business as soon as possible.
I spent time at the stores, and maybe a handful or two of people would wander through and purchase items or services on a given day.
I wrote out my recommendations for updating the websites after learning more about their goals, as well as doing some research and analysis. I followed their brand strategy and vision that we discussed. When I presented these to the client, they started to question everything.
Client: I don’t understand why you want to make any of those changes. You know, this is a family business. There’s a lot on the line, here. You can do those small updates, but get my permission before you change anything. We need to get this right. We need more sales ASAP. We have big bills to pay. We took out loans. Please hurry.
The Client became more and more controlling, anxious, and angry as these discussions went on. The products & services were like many other products you could find at stores in the area and online, so they had a lot of competition. Eventually, I had to fire the client because they wouldn't let me do the job they hired me for.
The Owners had to re-post this job opening every 4 months or so online. They haven’t made much progress on their challenges in years. I think they need more help in terms of defining their goals & purpose than some basic website updates.
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Client: We’re so glad that you’ll be joining our team! Our business has become really busy lately - it's a local favorite because we provide awesome service.
Me: Thanks, happy to be here. Just to confirm, we agreed to an hourly rate of XX per hour, correct?
Client: Yes… We wish we could pay you more, but none of us are really making it here. We do the best with what we’ve got, but as a small business, we can’t afford to pay our team any more than a basic living wage. We give small raises of maybe 75 cents to a dollar more an hour every few years, though.
What an inspiring welcome as I build my career….
I'm a voice-over artist, and this is the end of a conversation I had recently with a prospective client about the first audiobook in a series of short stories.
Client: In terms of pricing, your site says "$X per 50 words." How does that work exactly?
Me: Correct! For this project, base rates would be per 50 words of the script, as we agreed upon earlier.
Client: Per 50 words? and do I have to count small words like "a", "the", or "in," or do you only count long words?
Me: Correct, all words in the script would be totaled.
Me: Yes, it's the way rates are calculated based on size.
Client: Those are barely even words!
Me: To be fair, it takes the same amount of time to say the words "in" or "the" as it does to say "scream" or "strength". It's just a way to price your project.
Client: I'm willing to pay $5-10
Me: The script you attached is nearly 10,000 words.
Client: Way less if you don't count the small words.
Me: Best of luck!
I recently worked on a team with a memorable co-worker, who had been in our industry for over 20 years.
He was one of the most respected employees on our team, for his in-depth knowledge and ability to build solid working relationships. He consistently met or exceeded goals in terms of sales and follow-up with prospects.
He told me and our team a story that was heart-wrenching. (I knew others he worked with from years ago, and they confirmed this is what happened.)
About 5 years ago, when he was a long-time employee for a different company, he was diagnosed with cancer and made every effort to overcome it.
The owner of that business was a known jerk. According to stories I heard, he put a ton of pressure on his employees and lacked compassion. The proof? When he found out that my coworker had cancer, he FIRED HIM.
My co-worker survived, in part because his spouse was still working, and then moved on to our company, where he's been a highly valued contributor to this day. But hearing this story changed how I think of bosses and clients to this day.