Editors want to work with professional writers. That means those who meet deadlines, deliver what is expected and except editing.
So what do you do if you can’t get the work done in time? Admit it.
I’ve had this happen a few times in my 15+ years as a professional freelancer. When my grandmother died, somehow I just couldn’t bring myself to work for a week or so. My editor, someone I’d worked with for several years, was completely understanding. She extended my deadline.
I’ve also had sources, promising, essential sources, called out of the office. Again, I let my editor know when they would be back. Because she very much wanted this interview as part of the article, I got an extension.
Last week, I had an editor offer me a contract which included a deadline for 18 pieces. The problem is that she wanted them 3 days after I had a deadline for another editor. With my previous commitments, I knew that I couldn’t do quality work for both editors. I asked for a week longer from the second. “Is that going to be enough?”
Editors get it. They have computer malfunctions and family emergencies.
That said, it is going to be a lot easier to get an extension of some kind if you already have a reputation for excellence with the editor in question. Also, the material can’t be incredibly time sensitive.
Act like a professional and most editors will treat you like a professional even when things get a little wonky. But, remember. If you want this courtesy extended to you? You have to be willing to do the same for your editor. She’s a professional too.