Or delivering what you promise, when you’ve promised it for.
Time management skills
I have met plenty of freelancers in the past who are completely unsuited to freelancing. They’re constantly in a flap, have no time management skills and always seem to behind for any number of deadlines.
Quite how these people keep getting work, I will never know.
If there’s one thing that’s going to make an editor reluctant to use a freelancer again, it’s a missed deadline. So if you say you’ll get something done by a certain date and time, make sure it is done by then.
Frankly, the editor will not care about what sort of workload you have. And he or she will certainly not care about your grandmother getting lost in the wash, your dog having the flu, the bus having eaten your notes or your computer being delayed.
Deliver when you promise
The simple rule is that if you promise something by a certain time, you deliver. You may have to bust a gut to deliver it, but deliver it you should do.
The time to negotiate a deadline is not after you have accepted it. If you really think it’s impractical, make the query before accepting the assignment.
Negotiating a deadline
I’ve done this in the past, and editors rarely mind a slight tweak of the deadline when forewarned. If accepting an assignment, I’ll occasionally say something along the lines of: “I’m going to be on the road until the 15th – would it be OK to get it by the 17th instead? If not, no worries, I’ll work something out and get it done on time.”
The key with this approach is that you have shown you’re prepared to move mountains to get it done by the original deadline. But, by offering another, very reasonable option that’s not far out of the proposed timeframe, you’re not losing anything.
Chances are that the initial deadline proposed was entirely arbitrary anyway, and another couple of days won’t hurt. It only becomes a problem when whatever deadline is agreed upon isn’t met.
So once you’ve agreed – meet it.