How should freelancer follow up on full-time opportunity?

Q. I’m curious what you think about following up after applying for a job.

The background: I’m an editor who freelances a lot, and I’m interested in moving to freelance work full-time. One of my frequent freelance clients has a job opening for a full-time freelance editor, and I applied (to the editor-in-chief) about three weeks ago. Since I applied, I’ve continued to get work from the company. If I had no business contact with the company, I would have followed up by now, but I feel that it would be inappropriate as I’m currently working for them on other projects.

I work closely with a managing editor there, but I also think it would be inappropriate to ask her if she has any information. Should I ask her for an inside scoop? Should I follow up with the editor-in-chief? Should I just chill out and see if they get back to me (again, it has been three weeks). On the one hand, I don’t want to do anything that would make me lose them as freelance clients. But on the other, they clearly like my work enough to keep giving me projects, so why not ask?

Help! I’m thinking too much!

I. B., Dallas, TX

A. You can’t put two different hats on the same head at the same time. Either you’re a freelancer doing work for the company or you’re a job applicant. You don’t want to confuse your roles, so keep them separate.

You are correct. When wearing your freelance hat, it would be inappropriate to raise the issue of your job application with the managing editor who is your principle contact. While she may have the “inside scoop,” it’s not her place to share it with you and it’s wrong of you to try to trade on your relationship to get the low-down through a back channel. And, you could be putting her into an awkward position by asking her.

As the job applicant, your role does allow you, after a reasonable amount of time, to ask what the status of your application is. The question becomes: What is a reasonable amount of time? My suspicion is that at the end of the interview you did not ask when you could expect to hear from them. (That, by the way, is a question I recommend be asked near the end of every job interview as it helps avoid the situation you find yourself in.)

If you were given a time frame, don’t call before that time has passed. If not, then three weeks seems like more than enough time to wait before calling the editor-in-chief and asking the status of your application.

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