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The All-Amazing Client.

Earlier this morning, I was reading a reply to one of my articles about our industry. The commenter went a little off-topic, and brought up some frustrations that most of us have experienced with clients at one point or another. Sadly, I think we could all relate to him. Some times you just need to get these frustrations with clients off of one’s chest – especially when we put this much time, energy, and passion into our work. Any battle-hardened industry vets share very similar horror stories.

Over the years I’ve been called names, I’ve been stiffed a few times, I’ve been repeatedly talked down to, bossed around, lead around, copied without permission, and clearly taken advantage of. I’m not even an employee. Some people treated me like I was working at a fast-food establishment and expected 5-star service (which ironically, I’ve always tried to provide.) At times, I’ve even tried to offer discounts to make them happy with little to no success. However, when I tend to look back at some of these negative experiences, I can generally just laugh it off. I find the way people comical – bordering on idiocy and stupidity (I’m actually wondering right now if these two terms are mutually exclusive.) It’s like a real-life episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm, with Larry David at the center of my subconscious.

I think if there’s one thing I’ve learned from my limited time on this planet, it’s that no two people are even remotely alike. Everyone has their quirks and hangups which drive them. Everyone has different management styles and like to inflict varying degrees of pain upon their subjects.

I think if you have to categorize people’s levels of annoyabilty (had to add that one to my spell-checker), they would fall into one of two containers:

  1. Reasonable. Easy to work with. Trusts that you’re going to be responsible. Can usually judge by looking at your body of work that you’re not incompetent.
  2. Unreasonable.  Royal pain in the ass. Must have looked at your work somehow in order to find and choose you, but somehow treats you like you’re mentally-challenged, which in turn must make them severely incompetent. It’s the worst kind.

It’s not enough that I can just stop right here. I’m going to share a story with you. This one is my all-time, all-amazing classic client-story so far:

Years ago, I landed this high-paying project. Without going into too much details, it was more money than most people make in a couple of years. So a small group of us are doing a tremendous job for this big architecture firm and their big client which is a household name. We have animations and tons of stills. We made changes galore for them – bent over backwards. We’re working 18 hour days, 7 days a week for several months straight.

So one day, I get this phone call from one of their designers who seems really upset. The President of the company yelled at her and ended up calling me grossly overpaid (to which I was accidentally sent the email by the lead Principal later on.) So, I’m trying to get to the bottom of what’s wrong, and she tells me that everyone in the office is complaining that my colors are drastically off and that they’re very dissatisfied with our work. Now, I’m going into panic trouble-shooting mode. I’m trying to figure out their operating systems, color profiles, monitors, image viewers, etc. I’m trying to explain that my monitors are independently calibrated by a special system, blah, blah, blah. I’m spending days trying to solve this problem before their big presentation.

I find out a couple of weeks later that she was printing our work through an old, non photo quality printer sitting on her desk onto regular 8.5X11″ sheets of paper, then photocopying them and handing them out to her whole office. I discovered this one day because I stopped be their firm, and saw my images hanging up on a wall near their section’s entrance and had to ask her about it.

I never said anything. They just haven’t called me back since then.

So, I’m interested in hearing some of your stories. If you’re reading this and you’ve got some, please humor us.