There’s a lot of work out there for freelance writers. While my editors don’t slather me with details about my competition, I’ve divined some reasons why people who think they could do it, really can’t:
1) Some just do not have the writing chops. Editors can edit but they don’t want to have to clean up all your work. You must be able to write in the way they want.
2) Some don’t comprehend deadlines. You have to have your work in by the deadline. No one cares why if you fail. Business is business. Do your work on time. Do not have crises. Do it anyway.
3) Some can’t deal with being edited. Sorry, but you will be, and it’s probably for the best. Sometimes not; I have had ‘fact checkers’ insert errors into my work. But as Kurtis Blow teaches us, ‘that’s the breaks.’
4) Some do sloppy research. Editors don’t want ugly surprises. If you don’t have the research skills, and especially if you rely on Wikipedia or other fragile sourcing, they will get letters. Back it up.
5) Some bitch. It’s that simple. Just don’t bitch. People prefer to assign work to people who want it. Be a pro, cheerfully confident and eager for assignments. If you don’t like to write, you picked the wrong line of work. Plus, if you always produce, eventually your editors will do what is easiest for them. “Let’s see. I could try and send this to Joe and Susan, and deal with their excuses and crap. Or I could send this to my trusty Julian, who never fails, is eager for the work and obviously likes it. What is to my best advantage?”
The distilled essence of ‘lancing is simple. Be the easiest option. If you are not the easiest and most attractive option for editors, you are doing it wrong. You should adjust your attitude and habits as necessary until you are the preferred writer. Be easy to deal with, be professional, be reliable. You think it’s overrated? I ended up writing about 70% of a whole book just because I was the only one who could cut the mustard, and kept yelling for more work. I did pretty well that year, owed a lot of taxes. Keep on message: “Or you could just assign it all to me, and just have it done and off your plate.” Say so often enough, and you’ll get your wish. And if you produce, it’ll come back to help you. Because thereafter, when you say “I can,” they’ll believe you.
(11/11/2020 update: I find that this applies to many fields of endeavor. On time, capable, and uncomplaining is a good overall look. It went over well with acquisitions editors and it goes over well at the 7-11, or in an engineering office, or teaching geometry.)