Having Resources Ready
The easiest way to ensure that you can answer last-minute calls from desperate editors is by having your resources ready. Think for a minute about what your resources might include as a professional magazine writer:
Past articles you have written
Notebooks full of research from previous assignments
Transcripts of previous interviews
Materials handed out to you on press trips
Bookmarked Web sites
All of these things can be incredibly helpful to you in completing a last-minute assignment quickly — if, that is, you know where everything is at the actual moment you realize you need it.
Time Is Money
Having your resources ready — your files neatly organized, your notes labeled and dated, your handout artwork alongside important press releases — will be key to helping you juggle assignments effectively. The less time you have to spend looking for resources to complete an assignment, the more time you will have to actually write stories, and thus the more stories you can agree to take on.
Knowledge Is Power
Knowing what you have on hand will also help you to determine whether you should take on a last-minute job at all. If you know you don't have all the information you'll need to satisfy an editor's last-minute request, then you can estimate the amount of time that will be required to actually get the job done.
Fitting that necessary amount of time into your existing schedule then becomes a simple question of the hours in the day. If you know your editor needs the last-minute story in the next five hours, but that it will take you seven hours to complete the research to write it, then you will know not to waste your editor's time by accepting the job. Most editors appreciate this level of honesty.