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A collection of client horror stories from designers and freelancers on CFH.

BYOE (Bring Your Own Exposure)

, , | Right | January 6, 2022

I am a freelance writer with particular academic expertise. My work is becoming more well-known and widespread, so my profile is rising somewhat. As a result, I am emailed out of the blue by an old acquaintance whom I’d worked with previously on a media project. He works in the media himself, and it shows.

Client: “Hi, mate. Long time no see. So, I’m putting together a new site, all about [subject]. I reckon it’ll be a really great resource, but I’m trying to get it off the ground. Would you be willing to write a piece for it? With your profile, it would really help get it noticed.”

I realise it will be a very quick job, and I bear the guy no ill will, so I am fine to do him a favour.

Me: “Yeah, okay. Sounds doable. I’ll send something over in a couple of days.”

Client: “Great, thanks. I’m afraid there’s no budget, so I can’t pay you, but it will be great exposure for you.”

Me: “So, you’ll get exposure because it’s me writing for you, and that exposure will be how I’m paid?”

Client: “Yeah. That all okay?”

I just sent him a quick piece in the end, seemed easier. Never saw the eventual site; presumably, it didn’t happen because his “pay me to work for me” strategy didn’t pan out.

Deadlines: Emphasis On “Dead”

, , | Working | January 5, 2022

I’m a year and a half into the development of a new web application for managing complex data sets. Our boss has never been able to provide proper specifications for what he needs, just a flood of vague ideas with no real detail and constantly changing scope.

My job is to try and turn this into a comprehensible list of tasks that the dev team can actually follow. Each month, I have a planning session with the boss where we hash out the next period of work. Each session, I remind him that changing the scope means adding more time.

We agree and sign off the work to be delivered by the end of the month. So far, we’ve hit every deadline.

I thought we had a pretty good system in place until:

Boss: “I can’t believe we’re so far behind and how poorly you’ve managed this project.”

Me: “What do you mean? Haven’t we met all the agreed deadlines throughout the project?”

Boss: “I’ve made a spreadsheet of all the dates I wanted each feature done by. So far, you’ve missed every single one of them.”

Me: “Excuse me? We’ve always delivered what’s been agreed on time. Where have these new dates come from?”

Boss: “This is how long I thought the work should take and I made up my own timeline.”

Me: “I’ve never seen these dates before, let alone agreed to them. At a glance, many of them seem extremely optimistic.”

That’s business talk for “f****** mad”.

Me: “We agreed at the start this would be at least a three-year project.”

Boss: “Well, I decided it should take less time and you’re late. I’m going to have to pull the plug on this project if you can’t have everything wrapped up within the next month.”

I politely remind the boss that there was at least another year and a half of work left to complete the project. I’ll probably be looking for a new job shortly.

Makes You Want To Throw The Book At Him. Literally.

, , , , | Working | January 4, 2022

My boss is a seventy-something-year-old man with barely a clue on how to get a computer to boot. He gave me an old book and wanted me to convert it into an ebook to sell. And mind, this was a thick, large-format book chock-full of maps and other illustrations with tiny blackletter script.

Me: “Sure, I can do it, but I’d have to scan it in a massive resolution so the detail isn’t lost. The final file would be massive; it wouldn’t be practical to download it, and a normal ebook reader wouldn’t be able to display it correctly.”

Boss: “So, we’d have to make it less detailed.”

Me: “How do you mean?”

Boss: “It wouldn’t be possible with the illustrations; you’ll just have to make the writing bigger on all the pages.”

Me: “…”

Boss: “As for the pages with only text on them, you will just convert them into a Word document.”

Me: “That’s not how that works.”

Boss: “Why not?”

Me: “It’s just straight-up not possible, at least not with the software we have.”

Boss: “Can you do it on the Internet?”

Me: “No.”

Boss: “How do you know?”

Me: “I know.”

Boss: “Show me.”

I showed him that it’s not possible to convert a scanned book page into a text document on some random converter found on page one on Google.

Boss: “Okay, so you will instead cut the text out in Photoshop, make it larger, and arrange it on a new Photoshop file the same size, with less of a rim around it so the number of pages doesn’t get much higher.”

I flat-out refused, telling him it would be months of absolutely pointless work. He didn’t believe any of my claims, anyway, so I just converted the whole d*** thing into an ebook, which, in the end, was like 8GB in size. Since our server had 10TB, he also didn’t believe me when I tried to tell him that it was an absurdly massive file that few people would want to buy on that account.

Ah, well. At least I didn’t have to rearrange like 300 pages of text.

So Not Worth It

, , | Friendly | January 3, 2022

A family friend asked me to work on her home computer.

Friend: “If you can’t fix it, I assume you messed it up beyond repair and will owe me a new computer.”

I stopped then and there.

That Better Be An Amazing Roast Dinner…

, , | Working | January 1, 2022

I was made redundant from my previous job as a design engineer. As such, I look for any work just to keep the lights on. I get approached by an employer who offers competitive rates of pay and other perks. It’s a small company but I go for the interview.

When I get there it’s the grounds of a huge mansion. The interview is completed in the drawing-room and they offer to show me around. I assume we would be in an office or factory or working from home… I am wrong.

I’m taken out of the house to a small shack with no heating; inside are stacks and stacks of paper. When asked about this I am told the employer doesn’t trust computers… for a computer-aided-design based business…

Instead of running, I ask one final question regarding the perks: “Oh you get a Christmas dinner with us too and it’s compulsory and unpaid.”

I left so fast!

I got something far better three weeks later!