You can set reminders on your calendar to follow up. It’s true that, as a freelancer, you don’t control the timeline. But most editors I know would rather be rushed in answering whether or not they want a piece than to say yes and find out you’ve already sold it elsewhere. And as with most things in the pitching game, a personal relationship helps. Just be real with your editor—explain that her publication is your first choice, but you need an answer by, say, Tuesday—and in most cases she’ll do her best to comply or reply with a more feasible timetable. The best case you can make for a timely reply is to have a timely pitch, so it’s also an incentive to find a good hook—which in turn will strengthen your pitch and the likelihood of its acceptance.
I’m an associate editor at a weekly paper looking to relocate to another state. Should I just move and hope to find a job? Should I lie and say I already live there? Should I just keep chugging along with my pathetic planning-to-move-there cover letters? —Anonymous
If you already know where you want to move, try to make some local connections first. Have you sent cold emails to journalists in that city to introduce yourself and ask for advice? Have you made a trip (or several) there for some informational meetings and coffee dates? Do these things first. It’s hard to get a job through a cold application. And if you’re applying from out of state? Sorry, sister.
It’s going to require a bit of financial and social investment, but you need to lay groundwork. If editors in your new city know your name, and ideally your face, the fact that your application comes from out of town will be less of an issue.