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Freelance Horror Stories

Ah, the joy of a boss-less, schedule-less job! You can wake up whenever you desire, you can chose to not wear anything but sleepwear for the entire day and have ice cream for lunch. You can probably have ice cream for lunch in any traditional workplace, but you will have to deal with the judgmental looks of your co-workers. Freelancing sounds like a Shangri-La of the Lazy, the Mecca of the Meh, the El Dorado of the Doughy, but is it all that it’s cracked up to be?

See Also: 8 Things NOT to Say to a Professional Freelancer

It’s Freakin’ Hard Work

NOOO! I chose to dispel the illusion at the get-go. It’s a simple concept; you work for yourself and the more you put into it, the more you’ll get out of it. On top of the obvious work, you will be the person looking for new advertisers, platforms for the work to be posted on, and new clients, where in a traditional workplace someone else would be in charge of that. So, you are the boss, the employee and – hooray for you! – you got a promotion to Lead Marketing Executive. Oh, add Head Accountant and Executive Assistant on top of that. Well, at least you can still wear pajamas to work.

It’s Hard at the Beginning and Towards the Middle, and at the End


One of the primary concerns of freelancers is that income can be inconsistent. Also, when you’re first starting out, you might have to offer lower prices to get new customers. Due to the demands of being a freelancer, this might force you to quit your day job, thus minimizing your income. You’ll have to cut corners, save money (NOOO!) and tighten your proverbial belt. The inconsistency of income will haunt you until you are a broken wreck of a human being that is forced to go back to their day job.

Now on to the horror!

The Ghost of Non-Payment


This is one of the most oft repeated horrors of freelancing:

The customer commissions a project. The freelancer delivers. The customer: a) disappears, b) demands a full refund, or c) shoots freelancer because of displeasure in the product.

This is the worst outcome that you can expect from the commission of a project and it’s exclusively to do with the client’s lack of perception regarding the amount of work necessary to complete a task. A professional freelance photographer was hired to photograph a wedding and, although the bride shared the photos she was given all over social media, she still demanded a refund because she was displeased with the outcome of the photos. She wasn’t displeased enough not to share them with all her friends though (#cheap #b*tch).

If you think I was being humorous with “c) shoots freelancer because of displeasure in the product”, hold on to your keyboards and camera straps. A photographer in Sicily asked the not-yet-newlywed couple to pose with GUNS as props. One of the two guns discharged, killing the photographer instantaneously. OK, so maybe I added a bit to it, but he was actually killed by the bride.

The Jack Russell Incident

A mild-mannered designer took on a job and after a little bit of back and forth with the client, said designer, well, started designing. He completed the job on deadline and the client loved it! Quaint, isn’t it? Well, the title is Freelance Horror Stories not Freelance Unicorn Farts and Cotton Candy Stories. So, per the theme: the client didn’t have any scratch (that’s ‘money’ for you non-mafia-lingo speakers) to pay the man. So, instead, the client offered his Jack Russell as a form of payment. Yeah, I have no idea what the client was thinking either.

The No Boss Conundrum

So, you got into freelancing because you like to be your own man/woman, be your own boss, do sh*t your way. Well, this client wasn’t going to have any of that. After weeks of constant changes, demands and runaround, he finally asked the designer if he could be present while the designer was working on the project’s materials. The designer politely declined this generous offer for free supervision, and was completely dropped from the project soon after. The same thing happened to this person’s (the client’s) PR team, so he had to have a family member (badly) design the remaining material. The event the material was intended for was predictably a horrible flop.

The Racist

So, a client wanted a Cinco de Mayo party invitation made. For all the people playing from home, Cinco de Mayo is Mexico’s celebration of their unlikely victory against the French at the Battle of Puebla. The client was well aware that the holiday was Mexican because when he added notes for the design, he/she asked that it shouldn’t look “too Mexican”. I understand that if you visually appropriate a specific culture, it can come off as tasteless and kitsch, but what this jackass asked for completely lacked taste to begin with.

The Copyscape Caper

Those who haven’t dabbled in freelance writing or content writing probably don’t know what Copyscape is, so let me widen your horizons, if I may. You take anything you wrote and then paste that into Copyscape, and it returns any possible plagiarism. The thing is that it can also display commonly used phrases such as “such as”. When a hapless copywriter was contacted by his client, he wasn’t expecting to get chewed out for using common phrases which included “to die in”, “likely to be injured”, and “times more likely”. The customer not only berated the author, he also belittled the author’s abilities and craft. The way the client chewed out our listless author? In an email which seemed to be written by a teenage girl, in which you was replaced with U and and was replace with N. Eloquent.

The Phototard


A photographer/designer was approached by a retail owner who asked him if he could replicate the same photos his competitor has. Like any photographer worth his salt, he happily obliged, but the client had other ideas. He wanted our friend to “create” the images in Photoshop – without any physical products or pictures of products. I think this client had no idea what Photoshop actually does.

See Also: 5 Incredible Places You Aren’t Allowed to Visit

If you have anything else to add, please feel free to let me know in the comments section below.

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