Frustrations in Freelancing – “Sealing the Deal” or Wasting Time?

I get frustrated sometimes realizing the amount of time that goes into negotiations for each custom and freelance job I get.  The back and forth emails, the time I have to spend imagining how I’m going to make what I need to make, the online research to get an estimate on the cost of necessary materials if it’s something I’m physically making, sometimes sketching out the details  – all of this has to happen before I even can give the person an estimate and, if they agree to it, draw up a contract.  All told, it’s usually thirty minutes to an hour and a half of my time, and sometimes even when they say “yes, let’s do it” and I spend another chunk of time plugging in details to a contract, the initial 50% payment never comes.

This is, of course, the cost of doing freelance business.  But that time in negotiation (which still results in my probably undercharging for what I am doing) is time that could be spent working on my personal writing or art projects that become potential perpetual moneymakers.  So I resent it.  But there has to be a balance of money coming in NOW while building hopefully bigger profits for the future, so it has to be done. And I always learn a lot by doing projects for other people because it requires me to explore ideas and notions that I otherwise wouldn’t do.

Ideas?  I could build in a modest $10 or $20 contract or consulting fee to every project I do, even if I don’t mark it as such in the process, but that doesn’t make up for the deals that don’t carry through.  And it doesn’t seem fair to charge a paying customer something that a person that chooses not to follow through gets for free.

I guess what I really hate, beyond the time wasting and not making money, is imagining out a project in my head and then not getting the chance to see it through to fruition.  :-/