10 Things I Hate About Clients!

Mon, Feb 15, 2010


10 Things I Hate About Clients!

In all the years of my freelancing career and indeed beyond this to entrepreneurship, there were several types of clients who kept popping up. I respect all clients and their concerns, but some of them made my life a living hell. Looking back I can think of ten things which clients have said or done which really took the biscuit.

1. Forget the deposit…I’ll give it all in the end

This is one of the most common things which an inexperienced client will try to slither into their slimy contract. For some unknown reason some clients think that a deposit is a minute detail which we can just brush over and that freelancers only ask for a deposit for comical effect or just to bug them.

One client stood out in particular when he said “What if you run off with the deposit?”. I found this especially funny because he had not taken a moment to even think about this and was utterly shocked when I  replied “What if you don’t pay me at the end? Who will compensate the work I put in?”. This was a rare show of being absolutely blunt from me, however I feel once in a while we all do crack, especially back then, when almost every client was trying to force me into dropping the deposit. Try to maintain some professionalism for when someone says this to you.

2. Could you copy this please?

Most freelancers including myself, pride ourselves on our ability, skill and experience yet irony hits you in the balls when a client says “Can you COPY this?”. I become offended, to say the least! What did this person think I am before asking me this? An online photocopying machine.

The client I’m referring to was a friend’s client and didn’t just mean “I want your work to be somewhat like this” which would have been fine and civil. No no no! He wanted a copy, he may as well have said “Get a copy of copyright laws and burn them”. The only difference was that he wanted his own name as oppose to the name of the company he was copying. How thoughtful of him!

3. Do you do pro bono?

I only do pro bono to genuine charities who are working hard and need it. Why would I want to do pro bono work for a company who has money? I am shocked at the audacity with which they ask an established freelancer to work for free with no advantage to anybody except their own bloodsucking stingy company.

4. I need this done by tomorrow

If President Obama said this to Hillary Clinton, that is understandable since he is the President and she works for him (they also are running the super-power of the world!). I detest the way some clients will think that they have gotten to this level of importance and demand things to be done with ridiculous deadlines like ‘tomorrow’ or ‘on your holiday’.

If the rest of the world has days off and holidays, then a freelancer ought to as well. There is no reason why you should ever be bullied or forced to work on a day which you have planned to spend with your family etc. If the client is as rude to demand this from you when you do not wish to work then just stand your ground and refuse, there is nothing they can do.

5. Can you change this…oh and this…and maybe that, plus this…

It is understandable that a client will want revisions to the work you have done and two sets of revisions should really be offered in my opinion. There is also a limit to what a ‘revision’ includes and this is sometimes too difficult for some clients to comprehend. A client asked for revisions once and the example I gave her was this:

If I was a builder and had built you a shed in your garden and then painted it and you didn’t like one colour so you wanted a second colour painted on the shed, or if you wanted me to extend it etc I would be glad to do so. Would you however think it reasonable to ask me to take down the entire shed and build a different one twice? No.

6. I don’t know, I’m not sure

Understandably the client is not expected to know much about the details of what our work entails, however, for a client to not know the first thing about anything is truly irritating. When you ask a client “How many pages would you like designed?” and they say “I dunno…erm…whatever is needed”. I would be tempted to say “Take the joint out of your mouth and maybe speak to me when your not so whacked out?”. It honestly baffles me and sometimes I think that if you told this person that you would also need a cement mixer to ‘build’ a website they may just order you one!

Every client should provide a detailed brief of what they need. It is confusing to work with pieces of information or in fact, next-to-nothing.

7. Another freelancer was cheaper

Whoever says this to you is a cheeky bugger! I know that when you go to a second hand shop you may say “I saw it cheaper elsewhere” and this may pave the way toward a discount. Unfortunately there are many clients who think that when we reduce our prices as much as we can then using a pathetic line such as “another freelancer was cheaper”.

I simply respond by telling the client to go to the other freelancer, who is obviously desperate for work and will probably not do a good job. With my experience it is offensive to compare me to a good young freelancer who is just starting out.

8. Do my first project cheap…I promise more work in the future

This again is an easy trap which a client with a snake-like tongue will say with a hiss. I am not saying that they are lying just that they are almost definitely not telling the truth! Again, these type of cheap lines don’t work with my professionalism. I know that haggling is part of freelancing and every aspect of business but it gets up my nose when clients think that I would fall for promise of more work in the future.

9. I forgot to mention this…

A perfect example of this is when a client says something like “I need a 5 page brochure site” and when you have completed it he will say “can you just add a blog in” expecting it to be for free. Perhaps this client thinks that adding a blog is like adding soundtrack to your ipod. This may not be as bad as when trying to explain the reasoning to them they say “But its just a blog, can’t you just add it?”.

10. The recession killed me…I need more time to complete payment…

The recession killed everyone but that doesn’t mean a level of trust where we can hand over files without payment. This would be like suicide because you have put all the work in and now when you are going to be paid for it the client will not pay.

This could be a genuine excuse, but under no circumstance should you send them the project until full payment has been made. I would try to arrange a payment plan and then when the final payment comes through, and only then, send the project files.


Clients can be a pain the gluteus maximus. What is the most irritating experience you have had? How did you resolve it? Tell us below in the comment section, we would love to have a laugh at your stories and cringe at the rest!

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This post was written by:

- who has written 54 posts on Freelance Apple.

Shoaib Hussain is an web entrepreneur who was formerly a freelancer. He is the main writer and owner on FreelanceSchool.com and aims to enlighten young freelancers with his vast experience and deep knowledge. Shoaib Hussain also spends his time giving advice to budding freelancers and helping web businesses.

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60 Responses to “10 Things I Hate About Clients!”

  1. Brian McDaniel Says:

    Thanks for this excellent, humorous and unfortunately true post! You’ve pretty much covered all of our experiences (anyone who has spent any significant amount of time freelancing has been hit by most of these.) I am happy to express myself vicariously through your post. ;)

  2. Kat Says:

    A previous client asked for a website with a contact via email link, despite not having an emai address, or, more impressively, a computer!

    Seems we resolved it ok, he’s asking us to do another website for him!

  3. Oli Says:

    Although I understand the goal about the article.. I will reply:”The ONE thing I love about clients”:
    They allow me to make a living doing what I love. Period. ;-)

  4. Shoaib Says:

    @Kat, LMAO! that is hilarious!

    @Oli, True, perhaps you could do a guest post ;)

  5. Oli Says:

    @Shoaib, I would just LOVE to write a guest post titled “The ONE thing I love about clients” ! ;-) How should we proceed ?

  6. Shoaib Says:

    Check your email ;)
    if you didn’t get it, email me… shoaib@freelanceapple.com

  7. Oli Says:

    Just emailed you .. I never got yours… probably caught on some spam filter …:-(

  8. boss Says:

    Your website looks really good. Being a blog writer myself, I really appreciate the time you took in writing this article.

  9. Daquan Wright Says:

    “How many pages would you like designed?” and they say “I dunno…erm…whatever is needed”.

    I’m sorry, although that is hilarious I would most likely reject a client like that. It’s much better to spend your precious time with a client that actually has knowledge of what they want, instead of being desperate and taking anything in that sucks up far too much of your time.

    Clients come in all shapes and sizes, you’re supposed to work with who fits your needs. Not doing this can just lead to frustration and worse yet, not getting paid.

    I’m working with a particular client right now and the guy just asks me to change things and change things…and to change them again. Now I don’t actually mind since I don’t have a contract yet, but I may end up dropping this client because it clearly is not worth my time nor my pocket (I experiment with freelancing, not a full-time or anything).

    It’s true that clients are your way to being paid, but under no circumstances are you guaranteed paid because you’re dealing with people. In order to get that money you have to find genuine people with genuine needs.

  10. Shoaib Says:

    @Daquan, you are right. Personally I do reject them as well but I’m sure when we started out we would have all been naive enough to take them on. Some good points mentioned Daquan.

  11. Jerrica Tibbetts Says:

    hey this blog is great. I’m glad I came by this blog. Maybe I can contribute in the near future.

  12. Oli Says:

    @Daquan, totally right ! I believe freelancers should learn the skills on how to properly identify these scope-creeps… and also learn to manage the finance aspects of freelancing.
    Some clients though.. are really best left unattended ;-)

    @Shoaib… looking forward to hearing from you (have emailed you but not sure you got my mail

  13. Arjan Says:

    “Could you finally change the goddamn button? How much work can it be?”
    This was sent at 8:30pm. Some clients think they’re the only client and you do nothing all day, except wait for them to email you to change something on their website.
    Eventually I did it, but I wasn’t very eager to call them…

  14. Shoaib Says:

    @Arjan, lol. I know how you feel!

  15. Jordan Walker Says:

    I have had clients string out the payments, that is really annoying. I ended up canning his ass. As for the article, I would have him pass me the joint, chief down, and try to get into what the client is trying to convey that they want.

  16. Shoaib Says:

    @Jordan. Yeah I suppose that’s what we all have to do isn’t it. It can however be rather annoying when they know very little! Thanks for the feedback!

  17. amanda smith Says:

    I loved your blog theme! Did you develop it yourself or is it downloadalbe from somehwere?

  18. David Says:

    Typical rant from bottom-feeders.

  19. Lesya Says:

    Thank you for interesting information. I was searching this information for a long time.

  20. SM Says:

    Yes, these things really irritate.

  21. Shoaib Says:

    @ David heinemeier hansson:
    This is a list of things which freelancers, or as you call us “bottom-feeders” genuinely find a little annoying about client. I would have expected somebody of your calibre to see that this post was somewhat tongue-in-cheek.
    Thanks for your comment though, please continue to let us know what you think and do subscribe to our RSS.

  22. SeriesEight Says:

    A client asked me to design a logo for him. After completion he was not satisfied with the final product, to my opinion and 13 other people to whom i tested the product to where all very satisfied, my client wasnt. I changed it once. he wanted it changed again, i changed it twice and guess what he wanted it changed again. I ended up changing it 23 times. And when I went to charge him the extra hunk of labor charge he refused to take the logo.

  23. Shoaib Says:

    lol, typical. I would have refused him after twice seeing as he was being so weird with it, but I suppose we learn from our mistakes.

  24. ashok Says:

    This is one of those excellent posts. 5 starts to the article. I particularly love your special mention for young freelancers. Yeah we do start for cheap (in-order to survive :-)), but ultimately we aim to be in your league.

  25. Shoaib Says:

    @Ashok. I always write mainly aiming for young freelancers…we are all in the top league ashok. Thanks for your comment, do subscribe to our RSS!

  26. Leisha Says:

    Entertaining post. Have already dealt with most of those situations so far… and it sucks. But my personal peeve is the type of client who doesn’t give any valuable or quantifiable feedback during the drafting phase of the design process but wants to go ahead anyway… then when it’s finished and online, that same client isn’t happy with the way it looks or performs. And yet, still can’t seem to explain why. I’m not telepathic, but I sure wish I was.

  27. Shoaib Says:

    @Leisha. Spot on! But, lol, the scenario you mentioned may seem comical but it is indeed true.

  28. robin Says:

    I agree that having your own clients can be a pain in the…
    But it’s also how you start off and agree with each other. And planning is a create way to prevent problems.

    I just wrote a small post to prevent arguee’s with clients last week.

    Have a look, great article by the way. On the spot :)

  29. Shoaib Says:

    @robin, thanks for your feedback.

  30. Rocky Says:

    Very true! F*ckin clients!

  31. Julien Says:

    It’s true that there are difficult clients to deal with out there, but your job as a designer is not only to design, but also to set expectations. Perhaps you’re not asking the right questions to begin with. Perhaps you need a more detailed contract to protect you against such requests. Don’t blame it all on the client. Looks like you need to revise your business strategy… I made the same mistake once.

  32. Ints Says:

    Great article!

  33. Angelo Beltran Says:

    LOL…item number 8 reminded me of someone I know from a while back…awesome post!

  34. NEESH Design Says:

    Yes, anyone in the business a while would have heard many or all of these. Loved the read and glad I don’t have to go through that “desperate” stage of starting off again where you have to take whatever comes along. I recently had a prospective client wanting “everything” on his site. When I asked him to elaborate he said “ecommerce, video (complete editing needed), music downloads, blogs, cms blah blah blah….yes he did want everything” and told me it was my lucky day that I would be getting paid out of sales generated from the site ROFL. I then told him a figure off the top of my head as didn’t want to waste any more time and he almost had a fit then told me his girlfriend had just done her own site for $300…it’s not hard to pick the time wasters.

  35. John Squire Says:

    Hey I landed on your page by fluke on bing while searching for something completely irrelevant but I am really glad that I did, You have just earned yourself another subscriber. :)

  36. Deshawn Shiminski Says:

    I just finished this particular post and had to say thank you personally. Specific and concise!

  37. Ishtar Says:

    No kidding! I got a client who scores 10/10!!! All the drama and excuses and haphazardness that leaves you doing twice the work than you initially bargained for!

    Somehow I am pulling through, and in doing so, I ‘ve learned a valuable lesson: Never work with clients of a certain nationality (I am not going to say which).

    I was really frustrated, but reading this humourous post really helped!

  38. J Says:

    Clients that start a response with ‘I love the design, it’s really good, exactly what we were looking for’ and then spend half an hour coming up with bad ideas on how to change it

  39. C.line Says:

    I’ve just experienced point 2, 4, 5, 6 and 9… for a same project!
    Oh my god, client are so unconscious…

  40. Dzyner Says:

    Recently I had a prospective client ask if I would do some designs for them on spec so they could decide between another designer any myself. I did not and the other designer did. Guess who got the job, not me. Here is the kicker, neither of us had a meeting with this client to discuss the project in detail. This was all over email. I guess I’m more bothered by the other “unprofessional” designer who did do the spec work than I am the client who asked for it.

  41. terra Says:

    the “can you copy this” one seriously pisses me off. it basically means the client has a) no original ideas and b) is getting me to do the work. he does absolutely jack squat. and yet i’m acquiescing and grovelling to him because he’s the one with the $$$.

  42. Eddie Haydock Says:

    Client: “It’s not what I had in mind.”
    Me: “What did you have in mind?”
    Client: “I don’t know.”

  43. Tabby Says:

    This is an interesting post. I see the humor in it, but I find it to be fairly unprofessional to rant about past clients in general. I think it’s perfectly acceptable to put a “Client Ettiquette” post in to encourage future clients to cooperate. But otherwise, this has kind of the same experience, in my opinion, as an indirect statement that is directed towards only one or two people but made to an entire room full of people, leaving the “innocent” ones, so-to-speak, wondering if “it was me.” This isn’t the kind of client base I want to have, and I encourage all of my clients to read my blog.

    Not that your rants aren’t true. But some of these things point out more of an issue with dipolomatic and good contract writing than it does, really, with the client having some sort of an issue. For many home grown businesses, it takes these kinds of failures to get the contracts tight. Rather than being annoyed, you could see it as an exciting moment to create an even better contract.

    In these situations, what is the real problem? Sounds like honesty with the client(s) is probably what’s lacking here. Honesty without an emotional undertone. “In order to work with me, you’ll be required to pay a deposit, agree to a mock-up and stay within scope of that mock-up, etc” It’s the freelancer’s job to know what it takes to build a website, especially when the client doesn’t know what s/he is doing. So its an error in process to assume the client should know. If you receive an “IDK” response from a client, back it up a bit and give them more data in order to help them make that choice.

    It’s called Customer Service. A client of mine is a Customer Service Guru and I’ve learned a lot from her: http://www.lisbethcalandrino.com/

  44. brad Says:

    i was asked by a friend to design a logo for her friends company over the summer, i contacted the woman, got the (very vague) design brief and sent her 5 designs, she chose 2 and asked them to be merged, sorted i though. but no, she then gave me what was basically a re-brief, i told her that this was an added cost but i would be more then happy to do it. at this point she started to question me charging her for my services when i had been told i would be paid. after about 30 emails sent with invoices and a 30% reduction in my fee for quick payment she still hadn’t paid me, so i got the addresses for her, the business partner and their registered office and sent letters to all 3, i got payment 2 weeks later, not the full amount but it was only 20% less and i couldn’t be bothered to argue over such a small amount.

  45. Bill Says:

    I have a client that I’m retainer with. They said there will be more work coming your way we’re going to need quick turn arounds on if you can bring more people into the fold to help you roll out these projects that would be great. The client never asked if this going to be an extra fee for the other people and naturally assumed it was part of my retainer amount. Had I agreed with there demands I would have working for peanuts be because the extra people would been subtracted from the retainer amount. I finally told the client if they wanted more body’s on these projects it’s going to cost extra. Then they said “well we’ll have to use somebody else and burden you less if you can’t turn these projects around quick enough” I said great! Go ahead! How’s that for loyalty! Cheap bastards!

  46. whatever Says:

    lol lol.

    u think working as a free lancer is bad? try working as a wedding coordinator. horrid horrid self obsessed evil bridezilllas who will probably be divorced within a year anyway


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