You've finally completed your definitive study of energy consumption in America and desperately need someone to edit the 500-page opus to meet your publisher's deadline.

You have 17 days in which to write a proposal for an HHS grant, but you lack the staff to write and type it.

Your usually efficient two-secretary office is thrown into chaos by preparations for the annual convention; help is urgently needed to prepare agendas, type papers and generate press releases.

With deadlines closing in, where can you find a printer who works all night?

A few years ago, the best you could hope for in coping with these office nightmares were the services of a few temporary secretaries. And then, the training and management of additional office personnel usually created more problems than it solved. Today, more sophisticated help is available; organizations that thrive on your office-related Excedrin headaches.

If your problem is putting ink to paper or polishing your prose, Editorial Experts, Inc., headquartered in Alexandria, could be one solution. begun in 1972 by Laura Horowitz, it was designed to meet a growing need: providing editorial services to government, trade asssociations and consulting firms hungry for writers and editors available at a moment's notice.

While Horowitz, a former freelancer, originally saw the company's mission as "writing speeches for Cabinet memberss," eight years and more than 10,000 jobs late, it's done everything but. Polishing government reports, preparing proposals, editing book manuscripts, writing monthly newsletters and even performing copyright searches are the everyday jobs tackled by EEI.

What distinguishes Editorial Experts from the many other organizations providing editorial services is its reliance on freelancers, not only skilled wordsmiths but also subject-matter experts, called on as projects demand. This allows EEI to keep its overhead low, maintaining only a small full-time administrative staff.

Typical of projects handled by EEI, says Horowitz, "is a call on Friday afternoon asking if we can edit and type a 500-page manuscript by Monday morning."

Last year EEI utilized between 200 and 300 freelancers to perform over $1 million worth of work. In spite of this volume, however, EEI is still essentially a cottage-type industry. Horowitz supervises this vast network primarily from her home, loaded with files, desks and a small computer. n

If Editorial Expert's forte is putting out office fires, General Communications, Inc., in Rockville strives to prevent them. It serves as a "one-stop shopping center" for organizations needing help with overflow office chores: typing, word processsing, management of mailing lists, transcription services and graphics.

It differs from other secretarial services by coupling these tasks with counseling to help clients plan for automated office technologies.

Victor Berlin, vice president, notes that GC sprang from the realization that as office automation became more commonplace, vendors could not afford the extensive consulting crucial to adaptation of the new equipment. The result has sometimes been equipment not meeting the organization's needs, and the under-utilization of costly technologies.

Working with GC, small firms may find that they are better off keeping their office staff lean, relying on GC for the more complex tasks requiring word prcessing and computers. Large organizations can test out a wide array of office technologies at GC's "laboratory" before investing heavily in equipment.

If you've spent time rummaging through a phone book at the 11th hour looking for a printer you could cajole into working overtime on a project you need by the next morning, Copy King -- which prints while others sleep -- could prevent a nightmare.

Barry Fribush, owner of Copy King in Silver Spring, explains that when he started his business 16 years ago, he realized that to survive in a very competitive industry, he'd have to offer something different. "We all had the same equipment, so what we had to offer was service."

While the shop is open all day to work with customers, its typesetters, graphic designers and pressmen work only at night.

Of the 140,000 jobs that Fribush's shop has handled, about 70 percent have been overnight jobs, the rest performed in a more relaxed fashion -- no more than three days.

Among customers who have come to depend on his overnight service:

Photo labs, travel agencies and bakeries subject to frequent price fluctuations.

Dinner theaters with repeated cast changes.

Trade associations with rush mailings to members.

Department stores, eager to notify customers of sales.

Think tanks with endless reports.

Copy King, unlike many printers, will work with handwritten copy. "often a customer comes in with ideas he's scribbled on some paper in the middle of the night," explains Fribush. "he doesn't really know what he wants. We help him develop the idea."

Does a man who has worried about other people's deadlines all these years expect to keep it up for another 16? Fribush expects to burn out "in another five years," after which he'll do something totally unrelated to printing.

"i'd like," he says, "the luxury of walking into a printer and saying, 'I need this tomorrow morning.'"