Tell us your best war stories about the worst client you've ever had. Go.
Tell us your best war stories about the worst client you've ever had. Go.
Not really a client, per-se, but I once worked with a guy who thought you could speed up PHP sites by removing the whitespace in the PHP source because it made them smaller.
I'm laughing so hard, I'm crying.
He must be mistaking it with client side code which would make the download size smaller. hehehe
There may be a grain of truth in that.
Almost every bad client story I have is my own fault. They were a learning process that has defined how my team now executes projects.
That being said, the worst was actually last year, and it wasn't my fault. They were a product startup with some funding and traction, and a good team. Halfway through our engagement they decided to pivot into being a creative agency— and hey, we'll just sub-contract the work to you and mark it up! Yeah!
We're a creative agency. I told them we weren't going to help them launch a competing business (literally!) across the street. They were flabbergasted and did all kinds of huffing and puffing about ruining our reputation and getting lawyers involved and all of that. I terminated it without getting emotional and followed our contract to the letter. I'm sure they still think I'm an asshole, but I stand by the decision.
One of my first clients in Florida...their product was literally a wooden block with motivational words on the sides of it. We partnered with another small agency (to help them out) and decided they'd do the design, we'd do the dev for the website. Easy right?
Well, the client ended up sleeping with the founder of the other agency (both were married with kids), both of their lives dissolved quickly which meant the other agency didn't do any of the design work (it was a 3 person company), the client didn't understand that we needed design to actually build a site, and tried to sue us using some super cheesy lawyer. We ended up handing over an empty Wordpress template and parting ways.
She ended up moving into some shack with the founder of the other agency. We later received a letter from the IRS trying to track down the other agency's founder because he owed over 100K on back taxes. I think he's selling used cars now and she's living off of her divorce settlement.
Welcome to planet earth.
The best comment in this thread is the one that stated most of the bad clients I had were really my fault. Learning how to do this is a process. Designing and coding are the easy parts of the gig. Learning how to deal with people, and how to handle the business part of it are much harder.
Selecting which clients you will and will not pursue. Knowing how to construct your process and set the client expectations. Knowing what things to put into a contract and why.
These things come from experience.
I really dislike the vibe of questions like this, as they paint the situation as the clients fault for not knowing how to buy design. Most clients never have before. That is why it is our job to educate them at every step of the process and be the professional. A better title for this thread would be "Worst projects you've ever had: Tell us what you learned from them and how it made you a better designer".
You've made condescending comments in this thread to other designers and then you post this?
Pot, kettle, black, etc.
Hey Christian, I acknowledge that I could have been a lot nicer in what I said, but I stand behind the sentiment 100%. Threads like this are why people believe that web designers are prima donnas. As a web consultant, I'm sure that you would agree that people skills are an important part of the job that many people in the industry lack, which is why people choose to work on products instead of working in client services
Everyone chooses their clients, not the other way around. I know if were in the same room as a group of designers, and I heard someone ripping on their client because their email signature wasn't made with the right font choices, it would still piss me off. It's petty. Sorry if you disagree, but we're here to help our clients, not be above them, judge them or bury them ten feet under. If the feelings of a few designers gets hurt because of that inconvenient truth, then so be it.
The very first client I had as a freshman in college wanted to pay me in Sunday dinners.
I might've said yes if she wasn't such a shit cook.
I had been working on an identity project for a few months, almost completed... and then:
I received a late night phone call from my client who is huffing and puffing like he just ran a marathon, "Lookup the latest Volkswagon commercial, look it up now, YOUTUBE it, do you use YouTube?"
Confused, I was. Long story short, this guy LOVED this blue/grey color scheme in some type for a rando VW spot. Funny thing was, we had already been using a blue/grey color scheme, but this one was 'SLIGHTLY' different. I went forward eye dropping the colors from the spot to find out the difference was practically indistinguishable. I didn't change the colors and passed the logo back to the client. He called me back within a minute of sending the email with more joy than a stranded man in a desert who just found an oasis... I guess he felt as though he was apart of the process and now considered it his work. Humph.
Might be a bit late to the party but anyway, I'm a ghostwriter and data entry specialist.
She was one of my first clients- seeing as I'm kinda new to the field- and at first, things weren't too bad with her. I ghostwrote a couple articles for her. Rates weren't amazing but at least she was keeping her word and compensating me according to our agreed-upon terms.
Flash forward a couple days later.
She shoots me a message. "Hey, my client is looking for a ghostwriter to clean up and add new chapters to her detox diet book. Would you be interested?"
Of course I was. I'd never ghostwritten an entire manuscript before. I was chomping at the bit for some pay and experience. What could be better than working on someone's eBook draft?
I thought it was a little weird that I couldn't directly speak to the client who wanted this detox eBook but regardless, I took on the job.
So I complete the edits and add all the chapters she wants. My client's supposed to be this big natural health guru who believes coffee enemas are the secret to curing cancer. I don't want to talk shit (literally) but I was constantly raising my eyebrows the whole time I was working on the manuscript. She was having me make all these unsubstantial claims. The best part was, she wanted me to go back and make the language lawyer friendly so no one could sue her for making unsubstantial medical claims.
It took me maybe a week or two to finish all the edits. Sent it in.
All this time, my client (again, I never got to speak directly to) kept jerking me around. She would promise to pay me 70. The next day, she'd promise 100. Next, it was only 50 because "she couldn't afford to pay me" and "you must be new to freelancing"
We finally settled on 50 with a 30 dollar bonus later on. She never paid me.
I finished all edits. The file was constantly having problems with corruption and losing data I entered (she wanted me to track changes too and I have a feeling she was using a third party program). I kept doing whatever I could to fix it.
Never got paid once. She rejected all the work I did. And now she's claiming I did nothing.
Not really a client, but my first job was working in-house for a bizarre brand / franchise consultancy as the sole in-house web and print designer. I dealt directly with the MD, who constantly watched what I was doing with a remote desktop connection whilst sat at the opposite end of the office. He'd literally instruct me to move elements around one pixel at a time until he was happy, essentially using me as a voice-operated mouse. Horrible horrible horrible.
Any other horror stories aren't worth going into. The fault isn't really with the client, but with how I handled things with them.
I used to be afraid of being assertive with clients, but they're paying you for a reason so if they have a crappy idea, tell them why it's crappy! Give them something to read for more information too (http://uxmyths.com/ is awesome for this).
I've been pretty good about not getting absolute horror clients. My worst ones are ones that I realize too late.
Serial entrepreneur who was very sweet but scatterbrained. I would never receive the second half of payments because he couldn't get his own business together.
Marketer who fancied herself creative. She would approve designs I made for her clients then "play" with them then hand them off like that. It was so frustrating because I thought I was offering a professional service, but she just wanted a place to practice her art skills without actually learning to design something complete herself.
I've never worked with a small business that understood that they could trust me. They always micromanage and think I'm just the intermediary who knows how to use the software needed to make their vision appear. "Make it pop." Never ever worth the trouble.
I've stopped taking on these clients.
I worked with a client that was building a site for a non-profit foundation. A few requirements for the site: 1. visitor can't copy and paste any text 2. visitor can't save any images 3. visitors can view, but not download .pdfs (talk about transparency) 4. needs an image slider (at this point of time the slider is still there and has 30 image/text slides, no joke)
Of course now that I think about it the best option would have been to build a Flash site, yeah!
We spent several months working on rounds of IA, sketches, wireframes, and design. After submitting the final designs of each page, the client doesn't show up to our design review. Week after week the review gets pushed back, until its blown up all together. Fine, it happens.
Half a month later, I get an email requesting if we're able to rebuild the complete website, and redesign it, within a weekend. The client will pay for overtime and extra resources if needed. Obviously... no. Just no.
Jump to several months later, we go through an even more in-depth process with several rounds of brand discovery, moodboarding, IA, sketches, wireframe, photography shoots, design. Finally, during another final design walkthrough, the client who has provided us feedback via their team looks at what we sent over. To our dismay, the response is "this is the first time I've ever seen any of this." Blow up redesign version two.
Go through the same process for a third time, again no show on the final design review. And the client is fired. At the end of the day, we just weren't able to make it "pop."
I was contracting for a corporate client once and they refused to buy a webfont because "it was too much risk" to renew the license every year so we had to design the site using arial.
Man, that happens to me almost every day... but then again, I am working with a lot of small non-profits, currently.
Non-profit I can maybe understand but this was a multinational service provider.
Ahhhhhh... then that just blows. Sorry, man
I helped design a Wordpress site for these real estate brokers in their mid 60s. They were really nice and pretty easy going. However, one night I got a call from them. They were wondering how to simply publish a post (they had done this at least 50 times).
He just couldn't find the blue button. The single blue button on the interface at the time. It got to the point where I said "okay, maximize the window and put your cursor in the top right corner of the entire screen, it should be about 1 inch from the left blah blah blah..." insanity.
He eventually says "I should probably tell you we've had a few cocktails this evening..."
TL;DR = I guided a drunken client through publishing a wordpress post.
That was beautiful and I almost choked on my coffee. :)
His 'drunk' confession is rather priceless! Exposing a weakness is powerful.
The only reason there are "bad clients" in the world is because bad designers took them on. But... as Mike Monteiro once said: "Client feedback has a way of taking you to places you never dreamed you’d go."
client emails me in royal blue comic sans. his sig is a mix of Lucida Handwriting and Papyrus.
i wish i was joking.
Good thing there are sites like Designer News around, so blokes like yourself can have a good chortle about their clients, HOhoHO!
More of a snicker than a chortle. Sorry if this offended you
It just concerns me that this attitude is very common in our industry. Just because we understand fonts, composition and color theory, that doesn't make us superior to the people who come to us to improve their businesses. We are at cross purposes when we bury our clients, because we are the ones who choose to work with them. Think about it.
jeez, relax a little bit.
you think a contractor doesn't shake his head when he sees his client's makeshift spackle job? my accountant laughed at me for using turbotax for a solid 5 minutes.
(i'd think of more examples, but i just woke up and haven't had my coffee yet.)
the point is that this attitude is in no way unique to designers or "our industry," and is definitely not a problem. if anything, having a sense of humor about these things is therapeutic. you should try it some time.
Hah, my worst client story was so ridiculous that it somehow got picked up as a Betabeat article, which is still online here: http://betabeat.com/2012/01/freelancers-beware-of-carlos-storm-martinez/
The dude still has no website, and still has not paid me. The $700 that he still owes me seems trivial now (first world problems), but I will never forget the process of going to court 2 times to sue this guy...
I still think he got a deal out of it. The logo I made him way back in the day is still on dribbble too: http://dribbble.com/shots/814293-creative-mixing?list=show
10% funny, 90% entitled and elitist IMO.
10% funny, 90% made-up methinks
It's really difficult to summarize this nightmare client and project. I've written about it at https://theglobalseafoodsproject.com Comments on my website are welcome. Below is a summary.
The client was Nikolay and Oleg Nikitenko of Global Seafoods North America.
At the beginning of working on Global Seafoods' new website, they insisted on an exact date of completion. I refused. Sure enough, when I was done, they said things weren't done, but didn't provide any evidence of tasks that weren't completed, and demanded a full refund.
When I refused a full refund, Nikolay and Oleg Nikitenko posted negative reviews everywhere, such as Yelp, Google, FaceBook, RipOffReport and the Better Business Bureau, which included false claims.
I suspect the previous web person did something to their previous website to make it extremely difficult for the next person (myself) to work on it. While I was working on their NEW e-commerce website, the SSL certificate for their previous website expired. They fired the person that purchased and installed the certificate, and their previous website was hosted at Amazon and, for some reason, impossible to do anything, such as install a new SSL certificate, or install or update a plug-in.
Nikolay and Oleg didn't do what I said. Once the new e-commerce website I built for them was live, I told them not to adjust inventory while the site was live, but to take it off-line first, then adjust inventory, then put it back on-line. They didn't do as I said and they had inventory problems.
Nikolay filed for a chargeback via their bank/credit card for part of what I had charged them. At the BBB arbitration hearing, the arbitrator awarded me most of what Global Seafoods stole from me. They never paid. I took them to court in Washington state, where they lost (of course), but they have yet to honor the BBB arbitration agreement or decision, or the King County Court's decision. Global Seafoods has a judgement against them.
After they left my server, they hired someone else to design a new website for them on Shopify. Shortly after their new website went live, it got hacked and someone posted negative reviews stating that their seafood made them sick. Of course, I got blamed for this and received bankruptcy threats.
While working on their new website, they kept submitting requests and changes, interrupting my workflow. I suspect this was part of their plan - to try to make me miss my completion date.
I did find the previous designers and spoke with him. He said he had the same experience I had working with Global Seafoods.
Much like this: Design Hell
Client brief: I have 50 prizes for people to claim online. Each have its own unique claim user journey. Please document all of them and mock them up for us.
Its not the worst, but one I can think off on top of my head. Huge client with traditional approach to things and most importantly, they are all on IE8 and insist that everything works on it just like modern browsers.
ME: "So what kind of budget are you working with?"
CLIENT: "Money isn't an issue."
ME: "Are you sure?"
CLIENT: "Yes. Money is not an object."
ME: "OK. I've sent you an estimate. The job will cost $2,000."
CLIENT: "That's over my budget."
This was the only client I ever had who was unusually opaque during the proposal stage. I had a difficult time estimating the cost because they gave me so little information to work with. In the end, it's probably for the best that I walked away.
This was also one of only two incidents in my short history as a freelancer where the client was at fault and not me. Most of the time, it's been my inexperience. I still remember my first few clients; no contract, no payment schedule, lots of chatting about inappropriate stuff, and serious lack of business knowledge. I thought I was doing the right thing by being super friendly and down-to-Earth because my early clients all loved that they could talk to me about anything. In reality, this led them to feel like they could underpay me and go through as many revisions as they pleased. I didn't come to my senses until about a year into freelancing. At the end of the day, they were paying me to solve their business problems, not their personal problems.
That was the first lesson I learned from client work, but certainly not the last.
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