Click if you dare: 11 true client horror stories

client horror stories

Designers are a brave bunch. They give their all to a project with the risk of it being revised dozens of times, shelved, or worse: rejected. There are times though, designers are afraid of their future, suspicious bosses, and confusing design briefs.

We don’t like to talk about our client horror stories, but sometimes the season calls for it. 🧟‍♀️ 👻🎃

This article shares some of our designers’ dreadful experiences with previous clients and projects. These true-to-life situations were submitted by real designers and some names were changed.

The Paranormal Paycheck

In my previous design job, the paycheck was given late – very late. It took months before we received our salaries. Sometimes, my colleagues and I would only receive half of the amount, and the other half would be reflected in the next cut-off.

The payroll became so confusing that we ended up not getting paid for hours worked. I was happy to find another job that now pays me on time. – Story by Shai

client horror stories

12 Hours Later

My shift ends at 6 pm, but one fateful night, I went home at 11 pm because I had to finish a white paper. It was a tough deadline so I made sure it was ready before my shift on the following day.

That next morning, while I was groggy from lack of sleep, my boss happily and proudly said “I scrapped everything, I thought of a new concept!”. – Story by Jepren

Drag Me to Photoshop Hell

One of the best feelings a designer can have is to look at a well-done finished product. 

One night, I was admiring my work and as I was about to save and upload it, my computer hanged. My heart was pounding. I moved the cursor a little bit, waited for a while and an error popped out.

Photoshop suddenly crashed. I literally screamed!

Head swirling, I tried to remember if I had at least saved a version. None. I had to start all over again, from nothing. I was sad and angry at the same time but I was scared most of all because the client was waiting for it for 2 hours!

I ended up completing it again to beat the deadline and I swore to always, always save a copy. – Story by Marc

client horror stories

The Printing of Deborah Logan

I worked as a freelancer since I was a student. My father only earned enough money for our daily needs while my mother stayed at home. These were not related to my story, I just didn’t know how to make a proper intro. ✌️ Ok, here goes the real story…

I had an elderly client who wrote books for children. She’s a good writer, smart and rich. We always met at a coffee shop where I showed her the illustrations I made. She was often happy with my work because I knew what she liked.

Her book was a hundred pages long so the client-designer relationship ran for quite some time. Finally, when I had everything laid out with her copy, she loved it and was excited to have it printed and published.

I parted with her saying that she would hire me again for her next book. I was happy, I told my father he did not have to worry about my school tuition because I would be able to pay for it with my hard-earned money from designing.

After a few weeks, I received a message from her asking how I was. I cordially replied but I felt something was off. A few moments later, she called. I answered immediately. I could hear her laboured breathing as if in distress.

“Are you okay?”, I asked.

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A muffled warning sound made noise in the background.

“JR…,” she said, “I have been trying to print but my black ink is almost empty. Your pictures are coming out all grey. Can you send me a darker version of black so when I print it will not be grey?”

A darker version of black. 😳

No, I did not give her a darker version of black. I just went out of my way to buy her ink myself.

The End.

In case you are wondering, she paid for the drawings I made, the ink, and also the cab. – Story by JR

client horror stories

The “Behance” Which Project

I was a new designer then and I was eager to try new things out of my comfort zone. That time, I was dabbling into web design and landing pages. The client I was assigned to wanted me to copy Behance’s website.

I told him I couldn’t do it because it’s unethical. Copying is plagiarism. Besides, this is not just some generic website, it is a well-known one that features other creatives. He cried foul and said I just didn’t know what UI is.

He tried to request the same from a more experienced web designer but the answer was the same: it’s unethical.

We’ve had that client for quite some time and he always gave out negative criticism like candy. His lack of empathy was terrible. – Story by Rajesh

The Phantom of the Work Area

I had a boss who lurked and watched our every move. He wanted to monitor our work like crazy. When we shifted to working remotely, he forced us to send him screenshots every hour so he could see what we were doing.

My time was wasted providing those screenshots instead of doing the actual design work. I obviously left the company, he was really demotivating. – Story by Her

client horror stories

The Unfriendly Ghost

I had a high school friend who asked me to do a 5-page brochure for her online business. Since we knew each other, I did not ask her for a down payment as a sign of goodwill.

After spending 4 days on the project and a couple of revisions, she seen-zoned me when it was time to pay up. I felt cheated because I put in an extra effort and trusted a friend.

There were no updates, no message, no anything. Needless to say, she ghosted me. The experience scared me from accepting requests from acquaintances and friends ever since. It was traumatic. – Story by BFF

Word War Z

There was a client who gave me a whopping 20-page document, containing a lot of information for an urgent design. I read through it but it only left me confused as to what to do, what to include in the design, what to prioritize, and what the goal was.

I tried to read it again but I was caught in an ocean of words. I was literally drowning in words about the company but none gave me clear directions. To add to the stress, it was an urgent requirement! – Story by Him

The Nightmare in Vector Street

At the office in my previous job, there was a huge city map on the wall.

One day, my boss approached me and instructed me to create a vector version of it. It was a daunting task so I felt compelled to ask, what was it for. He simply said, “Nothing in particular, just so we have a soft copy.”

I had much free time then, but after a few days working on the project, I was already cursing under my breath. I almost memorized every alley in that city. 

Having completed 2 neighbourhoods, I showed my (slow) progress, and (thankfully) he gave me another more productive task.

My boss was right, we really used it for nothing. 🤷‍♂️ – Story by John

Shutter

Years ago in my first job, I was a fashion photographer and videographer. I had a side hustle on this annual fashion event. I was assigned to direct the photography for the runway shows, the models, and behind the scenes.

Before I began, I confirmed with my boss what angles he preferred for the models while on the runway. 

He said: “I want a tight shot but the whole body to be seen. I want it zoomed in but keeping the whole outfit in the frame. I want the focus to be on the model’s face but not forgetting about the clothes.”

“Is that possible, sir?” I asked, puzzled. He said, “Just do it. You can do it.”

The next day of the event, he called me and asked why the photos were terrible. I could only scratch my head in disbelief. – Story by Franz

client horror stories

The Others

My brother and I shared a nightmare.

Last month, my brother dreamt of my dead uncle. He vividly saw his face melt, then a lady in black suddenly appeared. He shook himself awake and when he opened his eyes, he saw the same lady in black standing by the doorway, near my room.

One night, after 3 days, I slept late. In the middle of my sleep, I saw my door open. I remember closing it before I slept. I was curiously staring at it when a black figure swooped in.

My eyes were open but my room was pitch dark. I felt someone was in my room. Slowly, a scent of flowers lingered, I tried to follow it to my left when I heard a spine-chilling whisper: “She’s coming…”

I jolted and woke up. For real this time. The scent of flowers still lingered. – Story by Yana

I saved this story last because even though it was not design nor client-related, this one actually gave me the chills for Halloween!

You have been warned!

We’ve all been burned by clients who have been impossible to work with or projects that are out of scope. 

We hope that by sharing these stories, we can warn you about some of the common problems you might experience if you are a designer and be wary so you can avoid them yourself!

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