You're unemployed. Look in the mirror and say it, "I'm unemployed." Repeat it 29 more times until it sticks. Is it embedded in your memory? Good. Now let's try it in public.
It's a cocktail networking event and both industry bigwigs and smallwigs are in attendance. You enter the room, order a vodka tonic from the bar and someone who looks important approaches you.
"Oh shit. What do I say?" you think in your head.
She extends her hand out and introduces herself, mentioning she works at ACME Inc, a company you've had your eye on since the unemployment checks became a staple of your weekly mailbox. After saying her part, you realize it's your turn to offer your own elevator pitch.
"Oh shit. What do I say?" you think again. "I'm unemployed. I'm a low-life compared to her. She's a Director at ACME! What do I do? Ok, here goes nothin'."
"I used to work at Widgets and Co. but I'm freelancing at the moment."
I've seen this scenario play out far too often amongst people I know well. It bugs me enough that I have to write about it. There's a major malfunction here: UNEMPLOYMENT IS NOT THE SAME AS FREELANCING!
Out of some ego-driven, save-me-from-public-ridicule-and-spare-me-a-public-stoning fear, people find ways to avoid admitting they are unemployed. Freelancing becomes the go-to interim title that is supposed to make the masses put the rocks back in their satchels.
It's a fallacy to think and act in such a manner, for three reasons:
1) The unemployment rate is about 7.4% at the moment so if you meet 20 people at that networking event there's a good chance you'll find one or two other people in the same boat (Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics).
2) When you say you're freelancing, you start to believe you're freelancing, which means you no longer feel a sense of urgency to find employment. Hey, you're freelancing; you're doing A-Okay, right? WRONG. Believe in your unemployment, and you'll believe in your ability to find employment. Stop acting, and start acting.
3) You handicap your ability to find employment because you're not perceived as in need of employment. When you tell that person at the networking event you're freelancing it doesn't convey that you could use their help. What's the sense in offering a connection or passing a resume through if you're not really looking for work?
If you actually do perform freelance work on a regular basis, more power to you. I'm not knocking the freelance game by any means. But before you go about stating you freelance at the moment, first think about your last freelance project. A) Does this project even exist or is freelancing a complete façade, and B) if it does exist, was it recent enough that you could be considered a freelancer?
The answer to those two questions will tell you if you should start admitting you're unemployed.
Rajiv Nathan is the co-founder of Idea Lemon with a background in digital and mobile strategy. He is passionately curious, a people-meeter and lives by the motto, "you miss 100% of the shots you don't take."