Paul, you need to pick up different clients. Ones who value your
time and skills. Your time is your most valuable asset and although
some wasted time isunavoidable, a client who consistently wastes
your time has got to go. Onlygetting estimates that are no go's is
probably a problem on the stores end. Ultimately you need to decide
which work is most profitable and which you enjoy doing, both. Then
design your business to focus on that work. Once you get that going
your biggest problem will be having too much work.
There are many more retail jewelers looking for a good goldsmith
than there are available goldsmiths. You just need to find good
independent stores to work with. Quit suffering and make the change
is my advice.